weekend-readsThe Splinter Groups of Breakfast

Albert Goldbarth


      Not even nothing existed yet.
      Emptiness, even, didn’t exist.
      And He-who-by-definition-precedeth-nothing
      said—well, you know what He said,
      in that grandiloquent King James way of speaking.
      And there was light. From language—light
      And then the heavens, then the earth: a sequence:
      a narrative. Fish; beasts; us:
      a story. The story,
      of God and of the power of the Word.                                                                          But
      at the same time—and by this, I mean
      at the start of time—Nainema shaped
      the forests out of his spit. At the same time,
      Bumba vomited up the sun,
      the moon, the stars, then “strained”
      (a euphemistic translation of “shat”?) out
      Ganda Bumba the crocodile, and Pongo Bumba
      the eagle, and the rest: and “lastly, men came forth.”
      At the same time, Khepri masturbated
      (“I gave birth by my hand, I united myself
      with my hand”) and Shu, the air, “came outward.”
      These are each
                                   the one true history.
      There are thousands of one true histories.
      And the God of the Winnebago Indians
      wept, to form the waters of Earth
      . . . from what I know of our lives here,
      that’s a very persuasive version.


      “Yeah, I know him. He sits at Dinah’s Diner
      every Sunday with his stack of books and notepads
      like he’s Jesus Christ deciding on whether he will
      or won’t resuscitate some poor dead dork;
      meanwhile, of course, his acolyte—excuse me––
      ‘girlfriend’ needs to flit to other booths
      for a scrap of human attention.” And I’ve seen it
      too: Elias self-absorbed, and Angie walking
      down that long sprue of an aisle, helloing
      gregariously to knots of eaters left and right.
      I have my own opinion about that chemistry, but first
      I want to say this week Elias is reading the Scientific American
      for January 2001, the “Brave New Cosmos” issue:
. . . If the universe’s acceleration is caused by vacuum energy, then the cosmic story is complete: the planets, stars, and galaxies we see today mark the end of cosmic evolution. From here on, the universe dilutes and cools, and space will stretch too rapidly for new structures to form. Living things will find the cosmos increasingly hostile.

      But if one believes

. . . acceleration is caused by the untapped potential of quintessence, the ending has yet to be written. The quintessence could decay into new forms of matter and radiation—protons and neutrons, perhaps stars and planets—repopulating the universe.

      —“believes” of course being the key word.
      As if now, in the new millennium, even
      astronomy is a matter of whether
      Wakonda chanted Existence into existence
      or whether Izanagi and Izanami
      “stirred the brine until it curdled”
      into what we call our world.
      Or Ea. Or Yahweh. Or Thunder Shaker.
      The Turtle God? Einstein? “Everything’s
      a belief-system,” says Elias. And what are we?
      —we’re one interpretation,
      we’re one possible interpretation,
      of ways of universe-patterning. One night,

      a few of us wandered out to the pasture—chatty,
      catty, insouciant over ouzo and retsina,
      and under a moon as full as the pinto rump of a pony.
      “Oh yeah. Angie,” someone said,
      “the bitch queen. Ever see her
      on Sunday at Dinah’s?—whenever she wants,
      she abandons her boyfriend, who sits there
      stuck alone with a book while she goes around
      granting audiences like the Pope to everyone else in the room.”


      If speaking the light into coming
      into being (as in “Let there be . . .”) is somehow
      more ethereally pure than, say, the firmament
      as born from the saliva,
      or the onanistic jisms, of a god . . . then surely
      even purer—even more abstract—is when
      the Indian “Divine Self” who “desired to produce
      all kinds of his own One, with a thought
      released the first forms.”
      With a thought: above
      the need of any secondary mediation.
      Isn’t this the genesis
      —the Matrix Egg, the template of all templates,
      call it what you will, the Big
      before the Bang—that’s such a breeding place
      of any-every-thing (including not-yet-things
      and never-things), it’s finally only
      what we choose to see it as?—not history,
      or myth, so much as somewhere we can read
      our own psychology into sky and mist.

      “I think it’s great. He studies if he wants,
      she sits with her friends if she wants, and they have this
      silent assurance between them. Fuck, if only we
      could be that happy in our relationships.”


A Fort Worth ball-cap manufacturing company, Pro-Line, was cited in 1992 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration: it provided what was referred to as “inadequate rest room facilities for [its] female employees.” That was the charge; the problem. Out of all of the possible ways to interpret “remedying the problem,” the Pro-Line management decided to [select one]: a) ignore the OSHA findings; b) augment its current facilities to meet the required standards; c) fire its thirty female employees. The answer, of course:

      is c, although that might not have been
      your decision or mine, had we been consulted
      by Pro-Line. And would we have seen the terra-cotta ram

      from Mali, West Africa (1,000 years old)
      as authentic or faked? (Its “glow rate”
      under thermoluminescence testing is inconclusive.)
      The slim Minoan “serpent priestess”
      overseeing the bull-leaper games: ancient;
      or forged? (The experts are divided on this.
      At a panel last year, two of them threw shoes
      at their opponents.) Or this warrior
      on horseback, as a sunset turns the folds of his clothing
      golden, thickly golden, like the run-off
      in a pharaonic smithery at the end of the day:
      is this the master’s hand at work; or a skillful
      Rembrandt imitator? (Two
      well-funded art museum investigatory panels
      disagree.) And the love your parents emitted
      in great, rock opera declamations for one another:
      sincere; or was it humbug love
      they purchased at the five-and-dime and memorized
      while you were asleep? (The jury’s still out
      on this one: you can witness the various rival factions
      sharply trade invective back and forth across
      the holiday turkey.) God;

      or evolution? In the window of the sacristy
      each afternoon as the light achieves a certain degree
      of slant, a lovely stain appears, an abstract shape
      of indigo and rose; unless, for you,
      it’s the Virgin Mary, if you squint, and if your faith
      controls your eyes. And Angie winks,
      and Elias smoothes a page and doodles in its margin.
      Or it’s neither vacuum energy nor quintessence:
      one respected group of maverick astrophysicists
      believes that the varying-speed-of-light theory (VSL)
      “remains a major challenge” to the orthodox cosmologies.
      And Elias folds a note and scoots it across a plain
      of eggs-over-easy greases, into Angie’s hand.
      They whisper, and the bones of Earth-Woman
      turn into rock, her blood to springs of water.
      They ignore each other, and Tepeu and Gucumatz
      engender the three-fold Heart of the Sky.
      They argue, and the universe tumbles headlong
      over the icy edge of entropy, into a stasis
      where its flames grow dark, and its interconnections fail
      to relay the codings of life.
      They touch, they stroke, and the universe wakens.
      They touch, they stroke, and the universe
      recalibrates itself; coheres.

Back to top ↑

Sign up for Our Email Newsletter