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Joe Milazzo

Every time one speaks one runs the risk of making sense

 

I answer the bell that is rung in ignorance.

       It is an empty bowl with tines and dippers rattling in it, yet I never know if the vessel has just been cleaned of its last licks, or if it is offering’s artifice, waiting to be reheated with the lukewarm curds of solicitude.

      I answer the bell that rings in ignorance.

      When it is not to be comforted by porridge’s otherwise assuaging indifference, this signal is the tardy augur of fire. Chasing its own clang as tiny hands fold themselves up, heads hide, hallways crouch, desks blanch. Should one simple baritone peal bring worship to the worshippers? Coins to the coffers? Matins to its Vespers? Can a knell congratulate the order with another helping of hours? But what of clappers set to this undisciplined sort of wagging?

      I answer the ringing of the bell of ignorance.

      I brush my hands free of sawdust, I pinch the loupe out from the lazier of my eyes, I fasten my garters, I button my collar, I take a long and tasteless drink from the ladle, I still the gray flapping at my tower’s lone window. And I answer the bell that is rung out of ignorance.

      Even at this height, I know that, peppered by such stupid reverberations, below me all the straw hats have been jostled loose. All the cattle have laid down in the fields; all the grass has commenced to visibly growing. All the fish in the streams have flickered into the inkiest, iciest waters; all the ants have begun preparing for the ascension of that war they have long wanted to wage; all the coffee has turned soporific; all the wireless sets have been split by silence, each disappearance of tone its own, and as unique as the shadow cast by its aerial. The ignorant bell rings. The air is an exhalation of troubles. And I know that all the village eyes are turning upward, and that the irises are sad brown moons waning in softened, bone-colored skies. I know this. They will make themselves supplicate. I know this before I even take my place on the window ledge. It is enough to make one hesitate before the notion that a restoration of services serves any good whatsoever. Nevertheless, I whose draw it is to answer the bell, I know this much, too. I will go up, and I will be benumbed.

      I will answer the bell whose rope the idiots could not resist putting to trial. I will answer the bell that rings as soon as cause has forgotten its twin, effect, and, stricken with panic by the sudden but amorphous absence of … well, that is just it. As if beckoning: “Come look what I have lost!” “Come see what was just, moments ago, right here.”

      I answer the bell. Knots are my footholds. The sun is not much more than the yellow rubber of a Mack hung on pegs of rain. I am mayor of the clouds, I am a very busy man. A man running in place, but nevertheless on the rise. 

      I penetrate the tolling fog.

      I need neither mirror nor camera to know how I must appear, backing out of our future. I am descending The Ladder, step after step, but only with much twisting of the stiles and many retrograde extensions. My sleeves are creeping up towards my elbows. I cannot look down, only out into windy strata. The bell that has been ringing: I can blame some bird, or perhaps some angelic mischief. As when some prayer that, intercepted, of necessity is misinterpreted. But, because I am controlling the plummet I must take through the element that only imagines itself clear, fiberless, frictionless, I can confess to myself this truth. The bell I answer has been rung yet again by a stranger so old he has begun to assume the posture of a friend. Palms up at the end of outstretched arms, hat tucked under one arm, his grin so unabashed it veers past charm and into the perverse, the motley of his beggar’s coat sweeps wide, if not generously. 

      See. Any retort to our dear pandemonium is bound to be slow in being defined. Perhaps the wavering approach I am taking feels to my grounded countrymen like the distant but irresistible pressure of a horizon’s prone heat. First it is as I am. A speck, then a pill, then winged, black skeletal, finally an acrobat contorting himself into alternate runes like consonant adumbrations: my resemblance to an H, an X, an I, a K, a Y. How tortuous? If no one canting back were to breathe, the sound of that bell would lose all sustenance. But, invariably, suspense cannot hold its own seal. 

      I tip my toes towards the dust, I turn to face the summoned, I wait for my soul— terrified of making a hasty misstep—to catch up (where I come from, waiting arrests whatever it cannot conscript), or at least to catch the catch in my breath, I wipe the nervous moisture from my forehead onto my hands, and then, tendered nothing, on the seat of my trousers, sagging a bit still from my exertions. I speak to receive their reception. Mute, but their mouths, now round and as ready to swallow as spoons, do not meet any words I am liable to recognize. So I tell them that, in approaching the upper vastnesses of this latest interruption, I may have ventured too near the horns of a primeval parenthesis. I too am gored of hearing. Or my own hearing has been torn loose from my head by the persistent swell of the alarm in which we are all submerged.

      I cannot decide.

      I accept that I have no choice but to harmonize with the din.

      I answer the bell that is rung in ignorance, by ignorance, chiming out but not outside of obtuseness, stolidity, boorishness, clodishness, stupor, puerility, sluggishness, oblivion.

      Yes, my friends, I  do proclaim that even my foundations are sunk dumbly.

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