The Mysteries of His System
The Verses in His Life
A Love Story
by Barry Grant
After the clanging in his head had ceased
and the tears had dried stiff in the corners of his eyes
and the tremors of ecstasy had folded back to their source
what had happened
and what would happen
"I am not the man I once was, but who am I now?" he said to himself then, and since. He did not know. He did not know, who he was now, and, as he thought about his, situation, he doubted he ever knew, who he was.
"What does it mean," Audie would ask himself "I?" and "Who am I?" and "Who am I now?" and he would sigh and open a notebook with a picture of a famous painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on the cover and write poetry in the blank pages.
A summer evening
The voice of Prudence
The waves of the System
The music of everything
Audie closed his notebook against his finger and looked over at Prudence.
"I like that poem best of all your poems, although, it is a little, abstract," Prudence said. She slid her hand the across the kitchen table and clasped Audies hand in hers, feeling its weight against her palm.
"It is a sort of fat haiku. Like that famous frog poem from the East, except in my poem the frog jumps into the entire universe."
Prudence furrowed her brows and tightened her lips. "Audie," she said, "I can see that is nonsense." She relaxed her features into a sly smile, and continued, "but I think it is the right kind of nonsense." As her smile broadened, Prudence pulled Audie toward her and kissed him, hard, on his lips. She often said these words to him, in just this way. Audie loved it.
A few weeks earlier Audie and Prudence had purchased a reconditioned oak table for their kitchen at Edith, a shop in their neighborhood that sold what the owner, also Edith, called Harmonically Correct Furnishings for the Home. A tall wiry woman with a large mouth ringed in a red blaze and hair in mounds about her neck and shoulders that looked, as Audie once said to Prudence, "like excelsior spilled from a packing crate," Edith sold things in the category of things for the home. These things included:
Place settings of six plates per setting, each different in shape
and color. (Six was the "absolute minimum." Some of Ediths
more "advanced" customers owned settings of fourteen plates
and bowls or more.)
Cutlery not unlike Tinker Toys that can be reconfigured en
Salt or pepper shakers (never both together).
Lamps that tune themselves to the relative humidity of a room.
Tables of peculiar organic shapes, some with tops that vary in
height according to a formula Edith had devised using Tarot
cards, a protractor, and compass.
Carpets and tablecloths in the shape of ovals and rhomboids
and triangles and hexagons and other ideal forms. (Things that
go on top of other things must be of a geometric shape.
Things that other things go on top of must be of an organic
shape. "A perfect rule," Edith often said, "often misunderstood
by people who dont understand things.")
Audie and Prudence would often stop by Ediths shop to look over recent arrivals and listen to her talk of "rectified harmones" and "contingent placidities" and "tuned placements" as they drank the decaffeinated French Roast she served in red glazed wooden mugs to her favorite customers.
"Black and red," Edith once explained in a voice ground to a coppery rasp by thousands of Turkish Specials, "were synesthetic occulites, colors, which, when contiguous, enhance tastes and smells, but not sounds. Wooden vessels are best because wood being organic has a natural resonance with the human body, both vibrating at the wavelength of carbon molecules. Ceramics, being harmonically orthogonal, give a sharp metallic taste to foods and liquids and are often a source of illness."
"Poetry," Prudence said to Audie as they walked home after their last visit to Edith. "Edith speaks poetry."
"Poetry?" Audie said.
Audie stood in the center of the kitchen. He moved his arms in two slow arcs, paused as his hands met palm to palm at a point above his head, and moved his arms down along the path they had traveled up until they were parallel with the floor. He breathed slowly and evenly as he repeated this motion several times. With his hands joined above his head, Audie turned to Prudence who had been watching from the doorway and said, "Poetry is one thing, empiricism is another."
"Maybe," said Prudence, who thought they were probably the same thing.
"Edith said the table would make the room easier and smoother. If it makes a difference, it doesnt make it here, I think."
"Shes fallen asleep again," Audie said to himself. "Last week Invisible Choirs, and now, Atonale Musik."
Audie noticed that Prudences copy of Jane and Prudence had tipped into her lap and was slowly sliding or seemed to be about to slowly slide onto the floor. The book was one of Prudences favorites, a present from her mother, Jane.
Audie reached across from his chair and took the book from her lap. He slipped her postcard of a Japanese Buddha between the open pages. Before he closed the book he read:
"I thought I heard a sound, said Miss Clothier, opening her tin of biscuits.
What kind of sound? asked Prudence idly.
The sound of running water.
Did you say rushing water? asked Miss Trapnell seriously.
No, no; running water, said Miss Clothier impatiently."
Audie said to himself, "What is the sound of rushing water?" He set the book on the floor and kissed Prudence gently on her lips.
As the system played the music of an Australian star chart, the last piece of the night, Audie imagined an immense network of connections, every node and every link random and at the only place they could be. He thought about this and about how it was that things could be accidental and systematic at the same time, and how, once you thought about it, everything was this way, and how once something happened, however it happened, it became part of a system, or was already part of system, and how all music was systematic chance or a chance system, and how Cage was one and not the other, and how the difference between a symphony and waiting for a while is just a matter of when the coins are tossed.
As the brief rhythms of the spheres continued, Audie thought about his, situation. He thought to himself, "All things are perfect in themselves, Prudence, wise Prudence, sweet Prudence, celestial Prudence spoke to me, that morning, in the kitchen, as I sat bowed at her feet, and in saying those words brought me to who I am today, who, that is, I do not know. Things are only what they are and not something else. As each thing is the only thing that is the thing that it is, how could every thing not be perfect? And if all things are perfect in themselves, how, can, I, be, un, hap, py, with, my, sys, tem?" Audie choked back a whimper, raised his head, and gazed at the source atop the equipment rack. The gap widened. The vapors returned. "A new system. I must have a new system," Audie moaned.
Audie rose stiffly from his chair, shambled over to his system, and stopped the recording. He clutched one of the steel crossbars of the equipment rack and lowered himself into a quarter lotus. He closed his eyes. He placed a hand on the hot metal of his system and shuddered as its warmth streamed into his body. His life with his system passed before him.
The bright moments of expectation when he brought his system home, the dreams for their life together, the hope that his system would change him, deepen him somehow, make him new.
The disappointment that
he was still the same.
The magazines that gave him new hope.
The leap his heart took with every band, cord, cable, wire, cone, trap, pillow, conditioner, jacket, pyramid, dot, and brick that he put in his system.
The disappointment that always followed.
Prudence who made everything perfect and now disappointment still.
"Prue, Prue, Prue," he cried as his head slumped against the two inch thick MDF top shelf of the rack.
Audie felt the warmth of Prudences body as she hugged him to her chest.
"Prue I must have a new system," Audie spoke in rush.
"Then you must seek it. I will help."
"But. . ."
"Things are perfect in themselves?"
"True. Youll see."
"Everything is OK?"
"Everything is OK."
Audie sighed with relief. He leaned back, pulling Prudence on top of him as he wheeled her to the floor and rained soft kisses on her eyes, her nose, her lips, and her cheeks.
Several nights later, together in bed, limbs and torsos twined in gentle flowing curves, Prudence thought about Audie and Audie thought about things.
"Prue," Audie said, "things are only what they are and not something else." His words fell warm and moist against Prudences neck, rustling the downy hair that grew close along its length. "What some things are is something else. My system is such a thing. As matter, extension, space, it is only what it is. As a meeting of idea and matter, a junction where ideas flow into matter, as a kind of what we humans call, machine, that is, a device in which idea and matter meet to transform waves of one kind into waves of another kind, there it shows a nature that is one yet two."
"Audie that is complete nonsense." said Prudence.
"Perfect," said Audie, as the curves began to shift.
Audie stared into the darkness of his bedroom and asked himself, "How will I know when I find the system I seek? The happiness of a domestic relationship cannot be foreseen in an audition, even in the home." Audie felt the darkness of the room crowding his thoughts to the edge of his mind, leaving a blank space in their wake. "Maybe this is progress," he thought.
Prudence stirred beside him. Her hair fell against his cheek. Her bare shoulder pressed against his forearm. Audie continued thinking.
"Perhaps a certain, attitude, a certain, consciousness, a certain, connection, enables one to recognize a thing as the thing that it is. The man in the magazine who sits in meditation and receives the subtle vibrations of his machines, the emanations of their capacitors and wires and transformers and diodes and transducers and the rest. Would that work?"
"How would I know?" Audie answered to himself. "One cant know in advance the truth conditions for such an operation." And then with a firmness that surprised him and awakened Prudence, Audie declared, "Luck and love have brought me here. Luck and love will take me onward."