Wednesday, February 21, 2018

David Russell writes


Would the new tribes now bulldoze layers of sand, to try and soothe, and harness, the last lava? Would the new blood of the next two interchangeable sides now redden the grey-brown mass, jeering at Mars’ eye-flushed surface?

This is the zone of no reflective detachment.

“There is a popular saying here: you can overturn any rock in Chile and find a poet.  This was certainly true of my trip to the middle of this sliver of a nation where verse and the visual arts are inseparable from a tumultuous land in constant evolution.   Telling of the national character that finds symbol as key to unlock life’s mysteries, the natives couldn’t get over the poetry of the U.S. President George Bush being hit in the head with a shoe flung by an angry reporter.” (Lisa Paul Streitfeld)

For anyone retaining a memory of 21st Century comfort and hygiene (a memory extremely hard to eradicate), those old galleons were floating hells and sewers: what a shuddering voyage! – with taut sails in that overcrowded filth – stale, weevil-ridden biscuit, scampering rats, in flight from the elements and humanity alike. Poor wretches suckled on sour, acid wine – through all those swathes of near-shipwreck and overboard mortalities, most of my fellow passengers seeming to be there far less of their own free will than I was, fleeing from starvation, dragged more ferociously by the promise of wealth and ease, the prospect of smug hindsight. Of course, most of the gains were blown in European wars. 

At the height of a storm, a savage wave knocked my head against one of the ship’s beams. I dreamed I was thrown overboard. I did wake up after all, facing that same beam – in the nick of time before that nightmare Leviathan swallowed me; lucky for me his teeth did not match his gullet, and I was blessed with the good fortune of Jonah before I woke. But now I’ve become really well informed. I certainly seem to have experienced enough for that to be so; my memory and imagination are absolutely choc-a-bloc, many of their data have to be relegated to submerged layers. 

Under massed leaden, silver-tipped clouds, the sea finally voided; on a razor’s edge from keeling over, our ship, waterlogged, careered to a shaky landfall, feeling as if it were a hair’s breadth from sinking in the harbour. Then came in a fresh, happy flood the feeling of at last being able to run wild in raw territory, the uncharted, the initial surge of conquest, the lust sated, the empty blessings to vacuous gods – a sweet abundance all too rapidly to turn sour – our blind brutalities generating their contrary, culminating in a never-ending succession of strokes and counterstrokes, a sickly stalemate with ever-piling casualties – followed by the polluted waves of a sick civilisation. The desperate lust for a golden paradise generated its stinking contrary, turned the world’s urn upside down, forever to pour out its sorrows. In more ways than one, the flood of bullion caused a drought of bankruptcy! Look at the shanty towns, jagged cardboard and corrugated iron!

As the generations ground on, descendants melted into their ancestors, unblocked by birth-pangs and death-throes, treading their pilgrimage around the rings. The trek was eternal, though their numbers shrank towards a solitary point, withered and perished from a unicellular organism, which cursed and gibed at them – a mirror shaft of transferred pain. Through balded scrubland, walls rose and crumbled, some through abandonment, some through demolition and desecration. The soft edges of perfect, blended stones sank to enrich their brother soil, heralding the sweep of the last waters. Through decomposition reared the ideal form. Plastic, the lava spilled around them. The greater fire, fire of the overlapping light – fed on the black flames. With temples and statues, mankind made a feeble imitation of this process.   


Partly through my own yearning I went on the rampage in the political casino, became a volatile ball on the grand pintable of the three hundred year war (witnessing its interim peace treaties), whose desultory end I could not envisage as a triumph of peace, only as a triumph of technology, the heliograph and the machine gun – setting the precedent for those ever-accelerating advances. Every jackpot of casualties was cancelled, curtailing all sense of gratification. The very earth expressed its disgust by emitting rumbles of impending earthquakes, as if to open up a greater mass grave than any human battle could fill. Sometimes the rumbles were bluff, sometimes warnings, sometimes the real thing. Forts had been erected and demolished like houses of cards, as if human willpower was echoing those earthquakes, which gave strength to the indigenous. Gold mining always had its ups and downs. One has to weigh each pan of gold against its weight in human flesh. 

“A Chilean appeals court has ruled in favour of local Indians who accuse Barrick Gold of contaminating their water downstream.

“The momentum of the present gold rush has been enhanced through the discovery of a series of sub-volcanic, mainly epithermal, gold deposits mostly located at elevations of more than 4,000 m in the Andean Cordillera.  In addition to these epithermal deposits, Chile also holds significant gold reserves in porphyry deposits. The epithermal gold deposits in Chile were formed during the Cretaceous through the Cenozoic, as a result of a non-collisional ocean-continent convergent plate margin. The crustal stresses resulting from the plate margin created long, sinuous north-northeast trending magmatic belts that roughly parallel the Pacific coast. These belts’ mineralization varies in a north-south direction, as a result of the timing of magmatism along the plate margin.

“Yesterday’s ruling creates more doubts about the future of the world’s highest gold mine — the Pascua-Lama mine on the mountainous border with Argentina.” So capital potential coincides with altitude – that’s worth a careful thought. Interesting to think of people getting giddy with wealth as the air thins around them – zillionaire asphyxiation. (I think one could get a special vibration if one was on top of a mountain with an earthquake revving up underneath. 

This land is rich in minerals, especially nitrates; it feels as if the abundance of bones through the millennia must have made its contribution. In the most desolate places, humanity sometimes repays its debt to the ecosphere. Could this be a warning for all? Some say that an angry God tilts the pintable of the earth when humanity does not buckle to his will. There seems to be a quasi-personality underlying a lot of disasters – they feel bizarrely personalised. Is this wrenching of tectonic plates some form of vengeance – retribution for some primal affront?

So often I narrowly escaped with my life in that tortuous terrain, with its treacherous marshes, its spiky scrubland and knuckled trees; perfectly blended with the terrain; my adversaries – with their deadly missiles – were so dogged, so elusive, and for that very reason so perversely alluring through being so intractable, so many scars and scratches. 

In perfect harmony with the desolate environment, they rallied so eminently – after having been seemingly broken by their first crushing defeat. They had thought us gods, then, when they sensed our human frailties, they really recoiled and ricocheted. 
Once one of my detachments was surrounded; all we slew with sword and arquebus were replaced by endless swarms, seemingly rising from under the earth, as if engendered by our destructive blows. All my comrades were hacked down by pikes, clubbed by maces. I was lucky to be in a warrior’s blind spot as he was dispatching the great Almagro, and rapidly side-stepped him before he could notice my presence. The dense undergrowth shielded me, for the price of a few scratches. Their evasive tactics had not escaped my notice; emulating them now was a life-saver. I struggled through the thorns and strands to open grassland, and, heavily scratched, saw a flickering firelight – saffron edged with red, in a hillside cave. Exhausted, I struggled towards it, knowing that this encounter could mean my doom. From reports, I understood that they could be very severe with prisoners. I had the usual advice of saving my last bullet, or my sword, for myself. 


The snake and the condor clinched; the snake had the lesser mobility of the two, but held the fluid of extinction and its vital duct. The snake seized the condor as it poised to take flight – stifled it, swallowed it, absorbed and applied its wings, took to all air – But its eyes dropped out, to grow as kernels of inner light. Each eye stood distinct, each a jewel of the inner fire: fire and light fed each other. Once a python swallowed a crocodile.

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