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Knock Our Hats Off Contest Winner
Catherine Borders & Lily Robert-Foley
Honorable Mention Fiction

Telephone

 

Did I tell you this story before? French for thread is fil, like I finished sewing, cut the thread and its needle, the e, the needless e. That’s my way of beginning. Of saying what is truly said: that the mirror has an inside too, Cath, like I do, a center that surrounds bone, teeth, hair, flesh, in that order, but its combustion is inverse, internal, penetrating (and by penetrating I mean burning, as one sometimes says <red>space</red> and means <blue>time</blue>) outwards, like the rings in an animation explaining the origin of an earthquake. An earthquake that makes weather in me. That moves me because it moves everything around me. And then what’s peripheral, everything going up, everything going down, everything going side-to-side. The thing, the reference, the something else, everything moving as one, like the world as I’m falling, I never have time to think about what I say, maybe I say, “fuck me” or “oh god” or “help” or, on the rare occasion, I might say what surprises me, a word my mother used to use, or a phrase from another language, something I never say anymore, or perhaps don’t yet or just ever say. Not why, Cathy, not why. If you vote for yourself, who are <i>youse</i> really voting for?

I’m voting for change, but that’s such a cliché at this point I can’t stand typing it. If I had said it, rather than writing it, it would already be gone by now. Like when you said fil. And I heard <i>fille</i>. Like the thread of some poor girl, about to be cut by Atropos the sometimes blind hag. She cannot be turned, she who cannot be turned, snipping at the threads of life. But, luckily for the girl, isn’t the world of the looking glass Opposite Land? Or is that just the little girl in me? The one who wants to be Alice, running in place with the White Queen. The one who’s afraid to die. [Thanatophobia —› Astrophobia —› Kenophobia —› Kolpophobia] I can see why you equated space with red and time with blue. Well, that’s how/why I would’ve done it. Because time does fuck space. That is, if one takes Heidegger at his word, that human beings are embodied time, and if we are also to assume that human beings have mass, then we can assume that they take up space. Thus, penetrating space. Blue in red makes purple. This is why we’re such a melancholy race. That and we can’t possibly say what we mean OR mean what we say. For instance, I do not want you to think that I am afraid of my own vagina. I was trying to show you how <i>one</i> could go from fearing death to fearing space to fearing voids to a fearing vaginas. See, this is all such a cluster fuck of a problem.

Once upon a time (a phrase that has become something more than a cliché, an idiomatic expression, a suffix, a signatory of a style), in the front of a big truck, my uncle said to me, I think each human has a center, an authentic self, a core around which the rest of being circulates. Note the difference between memory and history. But, when you said, “let’s make each paragraph a translation,” I was pulled, as though by gravity which emanates from a center, towards being semantic—towards translating your meaning, or some dense intersubjective core I’ve imagined orbiting your text. A purple orb looking like light from down here. And then you go and say, “we can’t possibly say what we mean OR mean what we say.” And perhaps all meaning in language is metaphorical, based on some “natural” connections between words and the lebenbahn, or even between words and other words. And when I was younger I used to, when I was younger I used to such, I was younger I used to such a, was younger I used to such a cluster, younger I used to such a cluster fuck, I used to such a cluster fuck of, used to such a cluster fuck of a, to such a cluster fuck of a problem.

Once upon a time…

Literally: “This one time in a time I recognize as a time before this time, but, certainly, a time after another time.”

It also could simply mean, “I’m going to tell you a story now.”

Or even Shhhh!

What I like most about Once upon a time is the acknowledgment of the buffet of time, as if time were an object, a stick, and this story that we are about to hear is one blip on this stick of time. What blows my mind about God is that God sees all time all at once, which I always thought would be very boring. So boring that it would be impossible, unless God had a creator, a prime mover (ha! Then that would make God a sub-prime mover!), and now aren’t we in a cluster fuck of a matryoshka doll.

I’d rather talk about your avuncular lesson. But first, at what age do we grow out of holophrasis? The minute we learn grammar? Even if you were too young to understand linguistically, your uncle could’ve pointed to his heart and said, “Me,” and I think you would’ve understood him too. (You would’ve had to be advanced beyond Lacan’s mirror stage though.) Because your uncle would’ve been making the point: “I am that which is underneath this skin, bone, and sinew. I am something more than material. I am immaterial.” All this can automatically be expressed in his pointing to his heart and saying “Me.”

Me: Soul. Ego. Personal snowflake that won’t melt.

Whatever’s in one’s heart.

Because, the heart, in all its symbolic glory, signifies the self. This is why Mary Shelley kept Percy Shelley’s heart in her writing desk.

As a body orbits around this invisible spot, to the little girl, an uncle would orbit around her parent. He cannot be at the center, not unless he moves from uncle to father.

And the best way to do that, spluh, is through ear poison.

Which will right stop a heart before you can say intersubjective.

Which reminds me how funny (and awesome) it is that you recognized my celestial body as purple. (Do you still loath the color?)

Oh my, how many people will get the wrong meaning there?

I see your celestial body as a white orb with a red stain, kind of like the Japanese flag, but the red wouldn’t be centered, or so, so menstrual. It would be a lot like the regressing red string in your Omnia Vanitas Review movie. Not to say that you regress. Just that there’s a spot of trauma on your immaculate sphere. Just as mine’s regal and bruised.

It may be possible to retain the paragraph form, if we only think the paragraph differently, as a <i>para</i>graph, off to the side, marginal, beyond graph, as in <i>para</i>normal or <i>para</i>site or <i>para</i>mnesia. Rather than <i>para</i>graph as in <i>sub</i>graph.
<i>Para</i>chute.

For instance, I love the idea of our two orbs (as I often translate soul as orb so the word soul may make sense in my writing), a white orb with a red stain and a purple bruised orb orb<i>iting</i> within a galaxial structure. And what color is Jil’s orb, for instance? Our mothers’?
And an uncle is a <i>para</i>father?

And the sun?

Wouldn’t that make God rather a <i>super</i>prime mover, rather than a <i>sub</i> one? If only it could just be a <i>para</i>God, instead of a God who asks you if you knows what eminent domain means, never without a paper and pen in hand, God.

How many people will get the wrong meaning here?

There once was a time when my father and I were talking about the acceleration of life, that perhaps it does not appear to move forward so much as it seems to get faster. My father says, “it has to or else it gets boring.” Meaning that the signs of the body aging are also signs of the body becoming more and more familiar, each body’s orbs peculiar repetitions.

And now I have greater unities, in the linguistic sense, I am more interested in meaning, which is the infinite regress of revisions possible from a syntagm, and although I’m still trying to coordinate the precise correspondences between meaning and grammar, my uncle, my parafather, told me once, when I was 20, that there is an authentic self, did I tell you that story already? At the time I thought it was a bunch of old man hippie bullshit, something my parents and their gang stole from Daoist philosophy, or from some undigested mixture between existentialism (meaning Cartesianism) and Buddhism or Daoism, but time does not go forward it goes down, it rolls down, and as it rolls it accumulates properties of the landscape: grass, rocks, dirt, snow if there is any, stains, color, and therefore gives the illusion of being a ball.

Let us consult the OED.

para5
2. para (or Para) red, any of various dyes that consist chiefly of the coupling product of diazotized paranitraniline and ß-naphthol and are used in printing inks and paints.
para6 (1 pærə). Obstetr. [the ending of nullipara, primipara, multipara.] A woman who has had a specified number of confinements, as indicated by a preceding or following numeral.
        nullipara: a woman who has never given birth. Compare with PRIMIPARA.
        primipara: a woman who is giving birth for the first time.
        multipara: a woman who has had more than one pregnancy resulting in viable offspring.
para-1
1. Terms (substantival or adjectival) chiefly of Anatomy and Natural History, denoting or relating to an organ or part situated beside or near that denoted by the second element, or standing in some subsidiary relation to it; of Pathology, denoting diseases affecting such parts, or designating disordered conditions and functions (often Latin in form); and of miscellaneous other terms in the sense ‘analogous or parallel to, but separate from or going beyond, that which is denoted by the root word’ .
|| para-anæst’hesia Path., anæsthesia of both sides of the body, esp. its lower half. (Billings 1980). […]
paranomasia, obs. erron. f. PARONOMASIA.
[…]
Linguistic harmony from infinite regressions? Why regression? Why must it only move backwards? It reminds me of that red string again, perpetually moving backwards. Confined by this dimension, by the infinite (and therefore blank and static) possibilities of the future, by the back and forth restrictions of living in 3-D.
Syntagm: A syntagmic relationship is one where signs occur in sequence or parallel and operate together to create meaning. Like letters in a word. Like words in a sentence.
Paradigm: A paradigmatic relationship is one where an individual sign may be replaced by another. (Gin, Vodka, Tequila, Rum…)
Syntagm and paradigm govern how signs relate to one another. Without them, all signs would be utterly meaningless, useless, as an individual sign, on its own, has no separate meaning.

RELATIONSHIPS
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→Syntagmic ←
|
a
bird
pooped
on
a
chair
Paradigmatic
the
cat
sat
in
the
poop
|
that
man
ate
near
this
cat

para’normal, a. [PARA-1.] Applied to observed phenomena or powers which are presumed to operate according to natural laws beyond or outside those considered normal or known; also absol. Hence paranor’mality, the state or character of being paranormal; para’normally adv. Cf. SUPERNORMAL a.

Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died.
Santa has risen.
Elvis will come again.
paradigmatic, |ˌparədigˈmatik|b. Linguistics. Belonging to a set of linguistically associated forms…
…† B. sb. One who writes lives of religious persons to serve as examples of Christian holiness. Obs. rare. 1847 in WEBSTER.
para…dogmatic: inclined to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true.
        The disorder of dogmatism…
        Or as Dorothy Parker says, “You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.”
The obvious emphasis is on old.
Christianity is old.
Dare I say decrepit?
[Decrepit.]
Christianity’s orb, all mushy yet covered in metal spikes, is rolling down the hill, squashing cities and other orbs as it goes. Christianity’s orb is the reason my orb is bruised. And I’m sure Jil’s orb is nicked in some way. She, too, is a recovering Catholic. I picture her orb, Jil’s orb, as mossy, earthy, completely organic. Jil’s mossy green orb is hard, solid earth. It’s strong like her, except there’s this one spot, a complaint under the skin, like a bruise on an apple, a bruise you didn’t know was there, where your finger can feel the damage, her sore spot.

Compare below and above:

Christianity’s orb, all mushy yet covered in metal spikes, is rolling down the hill, squashing
Islam’s sphere, total malleable but enveloped with ore points, is turning towards the base,
Credo’s world, complete fungible except wrapped by core centers, is becoming in direction
communities, perfect substitute aporia snow ball. Belief loci become siginification is targeted
metropoles plus para balls like that rolls. Islam’s balls exist a meaning this ball is contusioned.
cities and other orbs as it goes. Christianity’s orb is the reason my orb is bruised. And I’m
metropoles plus para balls like that rolls. Islam’s balls exist a meaning this ball is contusioned.
heart more allegory love this continues. Allah’s testicles may be perceived through desire, that
clear steal root is honored until the end. God, in addition, once was an addict. In my mind that
certain Jack’s bulb is jewelled to some extent. He, also, used to be an Alcoholic. I imagine his
sure Jil’s orb is nicked in some way. She, too, is a recovering Catholic. I picture her orb, Jil’s
certain Jack’s bulb is jewelled to some extent. He, also, used to be an Alcoholic. I imagine his
heimlich bean stalk is encrusted the free range. John, additionally, has grown yet remains. Oz
planet, with lichen, like ours, wholly hormone-free. John’s lichen like durable emerald planet is
globe, like fungi, hearthy, totally natural. Jack’s liverwort-like jade globe is firm, dense hearth.
orb, as mossy, earthy, completely organic. Jil’s mossy green orb is hard, solid earth. It’s
globe, like fungi, hearthy, totally natural. Jack’s liverwort-like jade globe is firm, dense hearth.
theater, I’m a fun guy, fire side, ultimately mythical. Sailor’s moldy olive ball has hardened, burn.
sincerity he’s fun loving, rescued by the straw man’s dog, justice concealed within corruption,
hearty love him, save everywhere but here, a lawsuit beneath a membrane, lick the wound over
strong like her, except there’s this one spot, a complaint under the skin, like a bruise on an
hearty love him, save everywhere but here, a lawsuit beneath a membrane, lick the wound over
core desire the object, somewhere outside existence, a court of law under a tent, go on fighting
chest, the desire I unknown beyond existence, a field where I signed a declaration of war, at night
breast, the pain one had no idea existed, in what place one’s digit touches a disaster, those weary
apple, a bruise you didn’t know was there, where your finger can feel the damage, her sore
breast, the pain one had no idea existed, in what place one’s digit touches a disaster, those weary
myself, my love object’s love object is, cogito ergo sum, there is in disaster, the hungry, the poor
that thing there third person present indicative to be all that exists one i one s rhymes with knot
it is what everything else is not
spot

I have read, that Derrida has said, that, “a ‘good’ translation must always commit abuses.” It gives permission to the text to narrowly escape banality by asserting itself as a translation.

A translation is both aggressive and demure.

A translation must continue “seeking the unthought or unthinkable in the unsaid or unsayable.”

I look at your text, your words, and I read them aloud. To illuminate, and to disappear: used as both verb and noun. One syllable crashes into another, leaving the former a memory. A memory that is never remembered accurately, like a feeling. Is a feeling. Can (also) be a feeling.

A feeling that’s locked in a box. Trapped. From head to paper through pen. Trapped again. Inside a box. Inside a dresser sometimes, like the time I found that pack of cigarettes you meant to throw out (one of my trauma boxes, you could say, nestled within my father’s trauma box, as he cannot bear the sight of Lucky Strikes), next to your trauma boxes. One word written on each cubic side. A terrible memory of yours locked inside.

First roll: On me • down • to • away.

Second roll: Don’t tell • I’m • him • running.

I keep them upstairs with me, scattered around the lamp that used to be in your bedroom, near the yellow table, where I now write again, and it’s still like writing on the surface of the sun.

Because we live in a sphere, the heat from our fireplace floats to the top then trickles down the walls. Sometimes my office is unbearably hot. Sometimes my desk is unbearably yellow.

Sometimes the snow piles on the windows, turning day into gray dusk.

Because we live in a sphere, there are windows on our ceilings, because our ceilings are walls.

When I arrive at the “aporia snowball,” I am confounded. The impossibility of wrapping something in its core: to turn something inside-out and still keep the then outsides as the insides. Two plus two equals five only if words are fungible. This is something you taught me.

I still struggle with the fungibility of words. But I’m supposed to. I’m a novelist, not a poet. I prefer to think of words as containers. Really, really big containers. Like the word now, for instance, holy shit.

Now is everything right now.

And then.

A spot is what everything else is not.

The end result would look something like this:
[img unavailable]

 

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Catherine BordersCatherine Borders has a BA in English from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the New School in New York. In 2009, she started the literary erotica press Omnia Vanitas Review where they believe there's nothing more arousing than the desire to write. A great deal of Catherine's work can be read there, as well as various journals and zines such as the Ampersand Review and Doorknobs and Body Paint. She blogs, critiques, and reviews at www.EideticTraces.wordpress.com. Currently, she lives in Chicago where she's working on her first novel, A Suburb of Monogamy, and the ongoing project of Telephone with Lily Robert-Foley.

 

Lily Robert-FoleyLily Robert-Foley was born in San Francisco in the later part of the last century to an acupuncturist and a musician/painter. Currently, she resides in Paris where she is pursuing a doctorate in General and Comparative Literature at the University of Paris VIII and teaches English at the Université DesCartes Sorbonne. Her creative and scholarly work has appeared in various online and print journals including critiphoria, angelhouse and Fabula. Selections from her graphemachines project will be published this year as part of the Xerolage series, a division of Xexoxial Editions. She also transcribed and annotated The North Georgia Gazette (Green Lantern Press, 2009). She is co-editor of Omnia Vanitas Review.

 

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