Monday, March 26, 2012

First Feast, Last Feast: The Temporal Being And Non-Being Of Language In Dan Beakey’s “The Cave”

by Jacques Derrida
(translated by Jarrod Shanahan)

In the cave, there lived a little gray ape, which lived with a little gray snake.
They ate meat when they found it in the cave.
They drank the water at the lake.
They would lay down every time it was midnight.
They went to bed late, because they hunted every night.
And they did like it when they hunted every night.
They gathered around meat every night.
They had a feast with all of the meat.
They loved all the meat.
Then, the other day, they were all full from the feast.
They had what was the first and last feast they would ever have.

-“The Cave” by Dan Beakey, age 5

Imagine, for a moment, beginning the analysis of a poem with the question: “What is a poem?”. What would this mean? Or, to be perhaps a bit more precise, what would we mean, through the iteration of this questioning act? Dare we imagine that the poem in fact means us, through us and by us in our very mediacy? And if the meaninghood of the poem as such resides rarefied in the poetic act itself... how then are we to distinguish the act which calls into question the very meaning of the poem through which we mean, from the poetic act itself as we may understand it to be or not to be? The radical meaning of this foundational act--of calling to question the question of poetry’s questionably unquestionable being or nonbeing; of this volatile vortex of meaning and non-meaning by which the two come to resemble and recognize each other as inviolable doubles without concrete referent; of this precarious poesy which can never be repeated but is rather iterated afresh in each consecutive utterance, foreclosed by the very act which opens it to our possible intervention--this generative moment of poetry’s unhinging and hinging beneath our interpretative gaze crystallizes and appears before us naked in “The Cave”, the master work of the Quincy, Massachusetts poet Dan Beakey.

“In the cave, there lived a little gray ape, which lived with a little gray snake...”

Beakey’s Cave is the dwelling-place, in time and space, of a little gray ape and a little gray snake. Of course the gray ape, that uncannily unsettling figure of humanity’s modest beginnings amidst its double--the primate--haunts the present attempts of man to supersede animality toward a more perfect state. And the gray snake, the ashen accomplice to man’s descent from divine bliss since the time of Adam, is the natural companion to the ape whose animality cannot be hidden, and may be perennially bated to manifest itself despite the most earnest attempts at feigning perfection through civilization. Though the dis-identical twin figures are separate in their somatic constitution, the chasm which cleaves them apart vanishes in the face of their inextricability from the Cave which names them and sustains their life. And the diminutive scale of these figures is telling, a reminder of the humbling experience by which man attempts to measure himself with the yardstick of his eternal ambitions. Gray ape and gray snake, two ephemeral etchings embellishing an impossible coin, mark Beakey’s cave as a site of conjunction and disjunction, where identity recognizes itself only through non-identity with the disjunctive connection of of its own constitutive conjunction. This much, at least, is obvious.

“They ate meat when they found it in the cave.
They drank the water at the lake...”

Beakey’s gray ape and gray snake do not merely inhabit the Cave. As the provider of their sustenance of choice--namely, meat, or carne--the Cave in fact inhabits them, in their very corporeality. The meat they eat--primarily, anyway, and barring that acquired by hunting, to which I will return--is that which they find in the Cave. The finding of the meat is here distinguished from the hunting of the meat. Not hunted for nor obtained deliberately, the very found-ness of this initial instance of meat is central. And we see of course here an echo of Plato which the title forbids us to ignore. Sustained passively within the Cave by that which falls ready to hand, the gray ape and gray snake are seemingly only driven out of the Cave’s nurturing maternal loins by stronger and more implacable desires--namely, we can infer, water, the hudor, which they must acquire from the lake, and even more meat, a larger share of the carne, which they acquire from hunting. And is it hudor and carne, and their combined affective weight, which lures the gray ape and gray snake out of the cave? So it would seem. However, a close reading of this text reveals that never does Beakey specify whether the lake and the scene of the hunting act are outside the Cave, or deeper still within its bowels. So we find ourselves in the unexpected position of not knowing whether the gray ape and gray snake ever exit the Cave at all. In fact, in Beakey, there is no outside to the Cave to speak of. The ape and the snake, it seems, are always within the Cave which sustains them and without which they could scarcely be conceived of at all. Or so it would seem...

“They would lay down every time it was midnight.
They went to bed late, because they hunted every night.
And they did like it when they hunted every night.
They gathered around meat every night.
They had a feast with all of the meat.
They loved all the meat.”

Beakey’s gray ape and gray snake inhabit the Cave with remarkable regularity. Not unlike life for the prisoners of chateau Selligny in Sade’s Cent vingt Journees, the most basic somatic functions of the ape and snake alike are rendered calculable and regular in the hermetic vacuum of static identity which Beakey crafts in his Cave. In fact, compared with Beakey, Sade is in a rather minor figure. Note in this passage the dramatic coupling of hunting, the act by which lives are taken so that the life of another may be sustained for a short while, and sleeping, the act by which a somatic agent acts upon itself in order to refresh its very vitality. The act which strikes down the other so that the one may live, on the one hand, and the one’s action upon itself to the same effect, on the other; this pairing, folded over onto itself and doubled backward, both detonates and renegotiates the intersection of that which kills in order to live and that which lives in order to live and kill. Here we find an iterative act on the interstice of nourishment, aggression, defecation, and most importantly, jouissance: Beakey’s gray ape and gray snake did like it when they hunted every night, suggesting a complicity with this regulation of their very soma unmatched even in Journees save perhaps for in the figure of the cunning Julie, the only daughter of the Lords to escape Selligny alive.

“Then, the other day, they were all full from the feast.
They had what was the first and last feast they would ever have.”

In this unfolding and refolding of the text onto itself, here Beakey unravels in a grand spectacle the temporality of the domain in which the disjointed subject confronts itself as its own irreducible double. Here the timeless regularity of the Cave, which reduces each instance to an anonymous episode in a vast uninterrupted chain of iterations, is made particular and fixed within time. The other day: a day unlike any other, a day of rupture and of non-identitarian identity, a day which marks the emergence of the gray ape and gray snake as isolated nomads of somatic existence, distinguishable from each other, but only as they ultimately serve as each others’ bases. In this masterful climactic scene, the gray ape and gray snake are full from the feast, satiated in their desires in a way unprecedented in Beakey’s Cave, and this effects a break in atemporality which reveals their existence in time as such. This particular feast, we learn, proves to be the first and last feast they would ever have. The first, and the last. After we have been told that there have been many. The phrasing itself does violence to language, as too it shatters ordinary time. Linear time in this formulation, once renewed by the appellative act, is abolished but once more renewed afresh; identity is disrupted by the impossibility of its pretensions, but remains ultimately intact; reconstitution and decomposition functions simultaneously upon the agents which act within its throes against their static fixation within time... What, then, is Dan Beakey’s “The Cave”, if not the profoundest of commentaries on Nietzsche’s “Eternal Return”?


When the dust of modernity clears, Dan Beakey’s “The Cave” will stand as a monument to our age: an age of humanity’s dissimilarity to itself and its meaning, and the manifestation of this coupled rupture in uncoupled time. Fixed and fluid, unbounded yet inextricably bound, and breathing the air of a Cave for which we can only timidly postulate an outside, Beakey’s gray ape and gray snake offer us a novel response to the questioning question at the center of the poetic act. The poetry of Dan Beakey simultaneously questions the poeticizing subject’s questioning of poetry itself, qua poetry, while fixing this questioning subject within parameters outside of which it may question at its own risk. This poet is the actor in a dramatic struggle to found a meaning which acknowledges its own double in non-meaning as coextensive in time and space. And this poetizing act will always exist in relation to the possibility of its own impossible relationality. Embodying the countermand to the demand of poetry questioning its own very questionability, Dan Beakey is a poet who has yet to be born. But imagine, for a moment, concluding the analysis of a poem with the question: “What is a poem?”

[Both pieces originally appeared in DPLD III.]

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do I Love You? (Now That You Can Dance)

Dear Berry,

At your repeated insistence, I have finally listened to the song that you wrote for me, entitled “Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance)” Musically, I find this little toe-tapper to be pleasant enough. However, as the direct addressee of it’s quite peculiar lyrics, I feel the need to respond in detail.

To be perfectly frank, I’m at a loss as to where you got the idea that our breakup had anything to do with your inability to dance. Surely I was sometimes embarrassed by your poor attempt at the Mashed Potato, and a version of the Twist that more closely resembled someone impatiently waiting for the bathroom. Granted, you are a shitty fucking dancer. I am not disputing that the sight of you dancing made me ashamed to know you, nevermind be identified as your partner in sex which even the casual observer could imagine to be just as awkward as your attempts at the Alligator. And they would be right, without even knowing how you insisted on telling me to “work it work it” and asking me if I “like it like this”, lines you cutely inserted into your little song to remind me of the most boring limp-dick fucks of my life. And if I had a penny for every time you stepped on my toes, I’d have more money than you ever spent on me during the course of our loveless abortion of a relationship. Maybe you were saving up for dancing lessons? Well perhaps now is a good time to tell you that I don’t give a flying fuck whether you can dance or not, and I’d rather saw my legs off than spend another minute dating a half-wit man-child like you, even if you’ve turned into Fred Astaire reincarnate.

What am I saying? I told you all this when we broke up. I must have listed ten good reasons why I couldn’t spend another second with you. Dancing, if I recall, never came up. I stayed up all night practicing the nicest possible way to let you down--God knows why, given it was far more thought than you’d ever given me in the entire time we’d been together. Honestly I’d shit a brick if you could even tell me what color my eyes are. Remember the time you forgot my birthday? And we have the same birthday? Remember that $400 that you were going to get right back to me? Don’t worry, I’m not holding my breath waiting for that check to come, or else I’d long ago have passed out and smashed my head open, perhaps forgetting the miserable time we spent together and making it all worthwhile. And how many times did I make it clear that you weren’t having a three-way with me and your trash-bag ex, no matter how many of those sly little triple shot rum and Cokes you fed us? What were we even doing hanging out with her in the first place? Oh, right, gratifying your pathetic infantile insecurity, which was my full-time job the entire time we were together. My friends told me all this from the start, but, get this, I thought they were jealous! Jealous! Jealous of my playing handmaiden to a retarded toddler with bad breath, a baby carrot cock, and mommy issues that make Norman Bates seem normal. Who wouldn’t be jealous of that? But no, it must have been because you couldn’t dance. That was the reason. I don’t even like to fucking dance you self-obsessed maggot, but since when did I expect you to know anything about me besides the phone number to call when you needed something.

In case this isn’t clear already, and I wouldn’t be surprised given how fucking stupid you are, I will conclude by answering the song’s titular question, “Do You Love Me? (Now That I Can Dance)” The answer is no. Jesus fucking Christ no. No no no no no. I do not, and will not ever love you, even if you can now dance, which is probably a lie like everything else you ever told me. God I was so fucking stupid. And the mere fact that you thought that learning how to dance would somehow compensate for our differences reassures me that breaking up with you was the best decision I ever made in my life, even if it was made to correct the worst. In closing, if you somehow demonstrate to me a dance maneuver than simultaneously cures Cancer and AIDS, solves world hunger, and does my taxes for me, I will still never ever love a pathetic piece of shit like you.

That being said, congratulations on learning how to dance.

All the best,


[Originally resented at DP Reading Series #7.]

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Death Panel Reading Series Has Been Recommended For You

Based on your interest in feel-good apocalyptic romance. Based on your interest in family-friendly gay and lesbian snuff films featuring precocious talking robots. Based on your interest in controversial fight-the system comedy cartoons. Based on your interest in exciting military pornography. Based on your interest in anything foreign until it ceases to be. Based on your interest in steamy sentimental drug documentaries. Based on your interest in social issues for the purpose of seeming educated and compassionate. Based on your interest in Salo, you sick fuck. Based on your interest in unimaginative melodramas with a strong female lead and a weak ass dude (you). Based on your interest in heartbreaking World War II musical comedies. Based on your interest in anything inspiring, which you one day hope to encounter. Based on your interest in the Sex and the City movie... if that’s what you’re into... Based on your interest in dark, gritty, suspenseful, gut-wrenching noir, until it actually happens in your life. Based on your interest in violent revenge thrillers featuring one character alone in a room. Based on your interest in petty interpersonal dramas that alleviate the boredom of waiting for death. Based on your interest in Ryan Gosling. Based on your interest in historically accurate futuristic period pieces. Based on your interest in retreating from substance with the aid of substances. Based on your interest in general disinterestedness, which you’ve convinced yourself is cool.

[My introduction to Death Panel Reading Series #7, 3/13/12.]

Sunday, March 11, 2012

DPP: Coming soon to EIB Network?

From: Jarrod Shanahan
Date: Sun, Mar 11, 2012 at 8:55 AM
Subject: Advertising Inquiry


I am the assistant director of advertising and childcare for a magazine called Death Panel. In light of recent events, we are very interested in advertising on the Rush Limbaugh Program. We agree with Rush that he has been unfairly targeted by a cadre of National Socialist feminists. Aren't those the worst kind? And as a Catholic with over 50 cousins, my family puts a high premium on never ever using birth control, even when we have no idea how we'll take care of the van-load of screaming brats we already have. (Plus, who wants to bag it up anyway? Feels like wearing snowpants.)

But let's cut to the chase. I understand that you may have a few vacant advertising spots available at a bargain price. We are a small operation and our advertising budget isn't very much, but I assure you, we fit right in with the Excellence in Broadcasting banner. Please send us your current rates and we'll talk figures. Money figures.

We look forward to doing business with you.


Jarrod Shanahan
Assistant Director
Department of Advertising and Childcare
Death Panel Press LLC
"Where the meat falls off the bone."

Monday, March 5, 2012

I Can Do Such Things Right Now!!1

or, "Yes I Can!"

I can do such things right now. Yes I can. I can really shake things up in my life and the lives of others. And I mean it.

I can stand up, ceasing to sit where I’m presently sitting, and do so for good. I can board the subway and take it to Grand Central Station and then take the Metro-North Rail to some far-off place like Stamford, Connecticut. I can also steal a car, I suppose, but who can handle the traffic in this insane city? I certainly can’t. When I get to my destination I can stroll around for a bit. Or slumber there in some secluded spot. Or not. Or even come right back. On the way home, should I choose to ever return home, I can telephone unceasingly all kinds of crazy locations. I can dial any combination of numbers I can conjure up and chances are I can eventually reach someone. I can tell them my life story, or I can ask them for theirs. I can also do both, so that I can write an epic novel in which our stories intertwine profoundly. It’s a long enough train ride, and I can be an open book as well as an attentive listener. I can be... versatile. And I can be nice to whomever I encounter, but this is not required of me. I can remind myself of this as often as is necessary to preserve a modicum of sanity. Or I can let it all slip away and see what happens then.

I can get so fucked up right now. I can cease to relate soberly to existence, for a limited time or for good. I can drink alcohol excessively until my ego dissolves into the Eternal, perhaps bringing my very vitality along with it. And I can do this inexpensively. With further chemical assistance I can conjure up within my delicate psyche the most uncanny sensations and fearsome hallucinations, and I can hide my bedazzlement behind dark sunglasses as I slither undetected through my daily business in a world melting before my very eyes. I can seek my spirit animal in the desert, but it will probably turn out to be a homo sapiens from Boston. I can then pour the entirety of my earnings and savings into a desiccative cycle of uppers and downers that will reduce me to nothing more than a sad shell staring with sunken sullen eyes at a world I could once enjoy without the constant mediation of controlled substances. Doesn’t this sound like fun? Party! I can then clean up, and live out my life talking everyone’s ears off about my edifying story of recovery and maybe even write some boilerplate book about how You Can Do It Too. I can start this tomorrow. Or I can see my habits through to the end and condescend to those suspended in uncertainty as to just how they’ll die.

I can tackle the issues. I can read the newspaper every day, noting each morning the slight alterations of the previous day’s stories spurned by the passage of 24 hours’ time. I can form opinions on the private behavior of public figures whom I do not know personally. I can tweet about Bennifer. I can keep track of the casualty figures in the various wars I’m vaguely implicated in, and I can lash myself accordingly each night. I can say “Yes, dude!” or “No, man!” to the items I read, as one must in such a situation. I cannot remain neutral. I can memorize the most compelling points supporting my positions on these various issues and exchange them with those of different inclinations who have memorized the most compelling points supporting their contradicting positions. We can show up to the battlefield with our minds made up and we can politely take turns reciting our reasons why. I can then get angry with those who do not see things my way and attempt to account for this dissonance theoretically by bemoaning the false consciousness or sheer stupidity of whoever cannot see the world through my privileged eyes. And the following week I can forget all of this and move on to the next big thing. I can call this my civic responsibility and I can look down on those lacking a concise opinion on the latest thing I want to talk at them about.

On a more metaphysical tack, I can entertain Stephen Hawkings’ concession that should one undertake enough attempts to walk through a wall, it is not inconceivable that eventually one may succeed. I can attempt this, and should I fail, I can merely destroy the wall with brute force. Such a dash of ingenious vulgarity can make the ostensibly impossible possible, and I can always keep this in mind. Along these lines I can do something drastic, like rob a bank, to support some ultimately good cause or another. But frankly, I’m just sick to death of hearing about militant leftist bank-robbers and chic night-stalking ninja swashbucklers in general. I can conceive of better politics and I will. I can span the globe to learn the myriad ways humans exist politically. And not just the white ones! I can begin the study of languages utterly dissimilar to my own and I can someday speak them like a native son. Then I can be authoritative and endearing in everyone’s language and make everyone like me. And finally fulfilled, I can rest, for a single, blessed, day.

Construction thus completed of my grand edifice, I can turn to its destruction. I can burn with maniacal glee every bridge I’ve ever erected, and I can do so with haste. I’ve often played the arsonist inadvertently, so how difficult can it be to birth with calculating alacrity a roaring wildfire from the dried and dead and dying timber I have on hand? I can meditate carefully on the worst possible way to comport myself in each specific social situation. I can tell those closest to me all that I’ve meant to say all this time and let everyone know just what I really think of them. Some will be pleased, some will not. I cannot help this differential. I can wonder: “ What will most assuredly earn me the most indignation and the most infamy, and do so most expediently?” I can then say or do whatever it should be, to the horror and disgust of all, and then I can dare myself to cook up something still more vile to trot out for an encore. In social circles where victimhood is a virtue this will be easy, almost effortless. Among more vivacious spirits (or merely the apathetic) it will be more of a challenge, but I can elevate to this to this challenge as I have risen to meet all others. Afterward I can tell those I’ve offended that I’m sorry, or I can also tell them that I’m not. And of course I can keep quiet, owing no explanation. Yes, I cannot remind myself enough that I owe nobody an explanation for anything!

For a more, shall I say, Hollywood audience, or merely those with more medieval tastes, I can break all Ten Commandments--individually, in order, and then once more in reverse order--as preparation for breaking them simultaneously, in one big grand yet ultimately yawn-inducing show of unimaginative transgression. I can repeat this indefinitely, or until such a time as I’m “over it”. And we all know how short-lived the thrill of transgression can be. Driven perennially forward nonetheless, I can then research exhaustively the history of humanity’s holy texts and prohibitory codes and besmirch, defile, and desecrate the whole lot of them in a single day. Once finished with Earth, I can devote my life to the study of space exploration on the off-chance that there’s a civilization somewhere whose sacred cows I can slaughter to my evanescent delight. Eventually I can reach the end, and wonder: what now? And back on Earth, I can hold a fork however the fuck I want to until such a time as the “proper way to hold a fork” is demonstrated to me to be more than just the meanest technique in the rich and variegated history of humans holding forked objects.

And always, always, always... always I can handle with finesse and equanimity whatever follows from my actions or, worse still, those of others, even if--and, most likely, when--the repercussions are fatal. I can remain madly optimistic about my immediate prospect for survival, but I can also chasten myself that such a tenuous accomplishment may not be reiterated for good. To test this hypothesis I can easily acquire a high-interest credit card, and using it I can travel across the globe to any mountain that suits me and scramble heedlessly toward the peak, completely unprepared for such an effort. I can either die of exposure en route to the summit or reach the summit successfully and leap off in celebration. And I can select my final destination by tossing a dart absentmindedly at a spinning globe. If the dart is deflected, or if it strikes flat land, I can do it again. And again! And dead or alive, I can default on that credit card. Oh heavens, I can default on my credit cards!

[Originally appeared in DP IV, paper copies of which are still available.]

Saturday, March 3, 2012

DP Reading Series Returns!

This is going to be sweet. Thanks to Andy Folk, and Elysa from Cage Gallery. Come on out to what will hopefully turn into a monthly event. Those interested in reading in the future should def come and talk to me. For the same exact information posted here, visit

Thursday, March 1, 2012


by Brunk Edwards

Cast of Characters
King Hommlett – King of Homm
Queen Melos – Queen of Homm, wife of King Hommlett
Lily Rainwethur – Young Princess of Homm
Sir Baron St. Asgard – The King’s Hand
Florcari Denz – Head Servant
Frankenstein Werewolfenson, Esq. – A Noble
Lucious Potpenny – Merchant
Cal Ripken Junior, Jr. – Son of Cal Ripken Junion, Sr.
Blavin Computadora – Conquistador
Mandgold – Court Jester
Wendall Quallouard – Diplomat
Carr VelThule – Foreign Pirate
Zangeif Malfuyungsi – Gentleman Vampire
Mr. Bae – Royal Nightwatch (Whatever that is)
Nerrin and Ablo – Fellow mischiefmakers
Connifer Callus – Gardner
Bonesmoke – The prince’s dog
Radical Cat – The princess’ cat. Oft refered to as simply “Radicat”
St. Voligan’s Day – Holiday (Observed)
Queen’s Jubilee – Queen Melos’ birthday celebration

A King’s courtyard. Mid Autumn. Leaves rustle in the wind as guests of the Royals gallavant about unaware of the troubles and toils of the less fortunate just outside the castle walls. Scores of the prim and proper mingle and jest amongst each other. A feast of epic proportions is spread out on a long oak table in the center of the garden. St. Voligan’s day is upon us. The crowd has gathered beneath the banners of House Hommlett in a massive celebration of vanity and appetite. Guests of the throne are both seated and standing. Court jester Mandgold tumbles about the dining tables to the delight of all. A dog, possibly belonging to one of Sir Asgard’s twin daughters nibles on some mutton ‘neath the shade of a massive old oak tree. A farmer’s strike has driven the prices and demand for coffee beans to an all-time high.

I say, this coffee strike hath come at a most peculiar time, what with the Queen’s Jubilee coming uponst us next month.

I don’t like coffee.


Rejected characters
1.Q-VCR6000 – An experimental time robot. Always says the wrong thing at the wrong time with comical results.

2. Gary – A 20th century human from California. At the royal feast for some unexplained reason. His modern ways and manner of speaking clash mightily with the customs of the royal guests. Although at first he makes quite the fool of himself, he later wins over the court and even the royal family themselves after playing air guitar with a broom along with the courtyard musicians. He will later marry the princess and with her help, teach the subjects about “cool shit.”

Rejected plots
1. During the feast, a commotion outside the walls cause the guests to gather at the front gate. Looking through the front gates, they witness a 1961 Ferrari GT250 with California plates roaring by. It is driven by two men wearing “A1-EZ-OK Parking” uniforms. The theme from Star Wars is blaring from their stereo and the automobile rockets past in the blink of an eye. Although this incident only lasts for a moment, the guests are shocked. Stunned silence and fear ripples through the crowd. Nothing in their lives will ever be the same again.

2. During the feast, a U.S. fighter jet soars by high above the castle. No one notices it though, because they are all busy watching Bonesmoke chase his tail in a comical fashion.

[Originally appeared in DP I, and was performed live at the release gala for DP III, starring Jimmy Flynn (original bassist for Mind Eraser) as Gentleman Guest 1. It will be a major motion picture as soon as Hollywood realizes there's a script out there for a film that hasn't been made five times already.]