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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Syntax Lost in the Forest


Doctor Syntax on the Road (detail): Thomas Rowlandson, c. 1812 (Art Institute of Chicago)

Something in the loving plumpness of the abundant, energetic line
in the satiric tour-book drawing, a near perfect simulacrum
of the natural energy of life itself, winks back behind its hand at us,
knowing, as life does, what neither we nor Syntax yet know,
seeing, as life does, what neither we nor Syntax yet see,
of the misadventures that must inevitably befall,
for the moment insidiously biding their time,
waiting now viperishly coiled in each next obscure thicket,
concealed round each next blind corner
of that deceptive bucolic misrepresentation,
that fraudulent map of the insubstantial surface topography
draped over the harsh and grinding natural order of things,
the discursive sentence

His worst mistake, the same every time, stopping to ask for directions.

We like Syntax may have often been blind and vain

in our persistent foolish quest for a picturesque element
in the stark and grim picture of actuality:
this element is the dream of almost-reason which language constructs for us,
employing its misguiding signs to divert us toward impossible pleasures,
advertising its illusionary rest stops to deceive us into thinking there is relief to be found,
offering its delusive pretences to a destination
when the real world contains no such convenient thing,
only more of the same, more of the going on,
more of the stupid expectation of some meaningful conclusion,
some sensible and pleasing shape to the whole project,
which is, with its endless extenuations, its insistent aggravations,
of its nature formless and inchoate,
incapable of being shaped into even the approximate semblance
of the true and credible article, the meaningful tale, the bright history,
the shining evidence of greater purpose, as promised
in the compliant gestures and winning smile
of the charming milkmaid who comes forward to greet one
from the unidentified building beyond, perhaps a congenial inn,
with a quiet fire in the hearth and a kettle upon the hob,
or then again, perhaps a den of cunning highwaymen,
lying in wait to set upon the unsuspecting traveler
and shunt him off, without a by-your-leave, into that labyrinth
of digressive clauses that will lead him deeper and deeper
into that sepia forest from which, originally, he had emerged,
always confused, always silly, always lost, but never more so than in this moment,
in which the final sound to be heard upon the pointless pointing of the period
is the gentle and completely senseless lowing of a cow.

Doctor Syntax on the Road: Thomas Rowlandson, c. 1812 (Art Institute of Chicago)

This post dedicated to all who have been badly guided


Anonymous said...

"the natural energy of life itself..."I like this a lot...thanks!

TC said...

Thank you Sandra, very glad you like it.

Phanero Noemikon said...

I need all of this! So wonderful.
So excellently shaped, so profoundly voluptuary in reticence. Dr. Syntax is COOL!

Julia said...

Isn't is better to be badly guided (to the adventure) that be strictly led to a predetermined and frequented path?

TC said...

Claro, Lanny!

Dr Syntax is the Way, the Truth and the Light

on a dark morning in the Forest,

sort of.

TC said...


Yes, I think it's definitely better.

(And that we definitely have no choice in the matter, in any case!)

TC said...

...Well, someone here is reminding me that we DO have a choice... we could have done this or that differently... and I suppose this is true.

All the same, if we were to arrive there, at that point, in that forest, at the end of that sentence, with Doctor Syntax, things would probably turn out exactly as this.

The last thing we would hear would be the lowing of the cow.

All the turnings of the road would have been taken differently, and yet, the outcome is the same.

(For Doctor Syntax, that is.)



Yes, words (in such unfolding sentences) to live by: "only more of the same, more of the going on" --


orange edge of sun rising below shadowed
branches, motion of green leaf on branch
in foreground, sound of waves in channel

which in a certain way this,
how to say more about

green against bright greens,
these things, what is

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
whiteness of gulls gliding across ridge

Ed Baker said...


that when you get to a fork-in-the-road
...take it


when lost in the mountains
follow the stream down

which is THE Meaning of

"go with the flow"

or or or

to echo (sort-of) Nanao Sakaki:




TC said...

The fork in the road:

In one direction lies

in a certain way this,

green against bright greens,
these things, what is

and in the other direction lies...

We are blindfolded, which path do we pick?

Sing, dance, leave -- or fall on our faces?

Ed Baker said...


in this mountain
in this dirt-floor hut
in this Emptiness-room

What does Blind Girl see?

One kiss &I will tell.

(Stone Girl is coming!)

TC said...


Old movies are the best ones.

Blind Girl & Stone Girl
in the One Kiss

and leaving

while Syntax is still
in the Grotto

Ed Baker said...

there REALLY is a Stone Forest

that s where Stone Girl ... lives

Blind Girl is her little sister

they lead tours through
the rocks

they call me by my real name: Walking Mind

Full Moon
I think I'm in love
with a rock

Stone Girl
in her garden

Walking Mind
watching thinking
come & go

Blind Girl
in Sai Gon
will I see you again