Tall Stories: On poetical and non poetical prose and rhythms in fieldwork notes, July 2003, Colombia

Michael Taussig


For Jimmie Durham
A Postscript to Our Discussion on Rage in Berlin 

(Apologies to Homer and his Iliad)


What leaps to mind is the urgency
Starbursts of leaden shot
Promissory notes to one day make the transition
From notes to non-notes
But that day never comes 

Coated with that thin film of despair
that the more one writes about something in one’s notebook
the more it disappears

In my line of work
A diabolic problem exists with its own whiplash rhythm
A spin-off from the exotic
Meaning that the banality of horror exists
Side by side with its wide-eyed attraction

Which is actually only half the problem
The other being muckraking
Exposing oppression
Black-rimmed suffering

Yet it is a fact
An all too easily insulated fact
That for millennia, I guess
People have been able to hold this suffering of others
On the far side of consciousness

‘About suffering The Old Masters were never wrong,’ said Auden,
‘How well, they understood 
Its human position; how it takes place 
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; 
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting 
For the miraculous birth, there always must be 
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating 
On a pond at the edge of the wood’

And if that’s not enough
There’s the problem of joining art with revolution
Or more modestly put
With doing good, battling evil
Wooing the gods with something other than sacrifice
Namely facts, impressions, stories, and fragments

But don’t they say, ‘Great Pan is dead?’
Where are the gods now?
To whom do we write our notes, our poems?

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