Marko's Oracle Can't Hear the Voices Anymore.
Thursday, March 24, 2010
A New Wave Rides into the Youth House at Györ.
The Good Comrades Are Vanquished. What Next?
By Dylan FitzDylan
Imre Washington the American landed on his feet amid the humus and concrete of Györ. Other reasons, too -- too numerous and cumbersome to mention. Divine direction. Raw rage and anger.
May Day came at the weekend it was a festival a time for confirmation of a recent liberation, dancing and children unencumbered in the spring. The very lightness of being. Imre wandered there among the happy trees on the lush grass of Novákpuszta, sipping nectar pressed by the feet of fleeing Russians.
Mister Washington in his militant black jungle hat and bespangled rainbow jacket determined on the sly to avoid a conventional voice. The journalists could do it better, the Press and the Video Camera had become the Holy Body and the Blood. Imre could see Count Viczai's riverine ghost engaged in casual mockery of the tilted red star, cutting out the eyes on the color portrait of Lenin, but Imre was loathe to watch the apparition do its dirty work, so he glanced around a corner of the castle, discovered the lightly whiskered mayor addressing the press conference with talk of nations, fragments of nations, hopes for protected human rights and more agreeable weather.
Hot lights on thin poles, microphones like blood sausages, expensive video cameras on broad and steady shoulders -- the trappings of the credible were designed to lend an illusion of importance, but Imre, he didn't believe a word of it, they couldn't gather enough documents and experts to prove it to him, they were speaking in the Hungarian language -- and with a name like Imre you would think he is Hungarian, see, but he is an American, see, melted out of the pot, didn't understand a sentence of it.
He wanted to do something audacious, their talk of minorities was driving him to the edge of anarchy, he would toss sandwiches and glasses of pálinka into the air, shout at them:
Beneath chaos, the city emporia burning, clash of ethnicity, is the unity of discord, the grimace juxtaposition, Hoxha's weary hustle. May Day in a shooting range, the gallery on planks, planks on rough poles, poles sunk in rich river dirt. Cool twilight breezes creep down the embankment where bullets from Young Pioneers' guns sink into muck, pop pop media wave, nauseous fumes of jazz from the English orchestra, statues in black and white with sepia leaves, crack crack bullets through their backs, martyrs on a square in Kolozsvár, clarinet like the fog horn, eye ball in the bird's next, azure with a global gleam, sky bleached of deep hues in the pale moment before the glory.
Imre sat in the pit, listened to the music, the chatter of a rude audience, waited for the glory of the sunset to spread across the sky, he could see the thin clouds up above the timbers, but the crimsons and pinks and purples never came, the day just faded with an airy dullness into black, sharp chords like a glassine lightening bolt frozen in the gathering dusk, drunken ones already tottering and besotted before the sun falls, folk jigs on the distant castle landing, simultaneous expressions of humanity's need to create fragments of meaning in the time of a gathering darkness, hail hail the henchman, practitioners of scissor cuts and prudent celluloid splicings as now the jazz horn blowers and sawers on strings, the banger upon ivory, inform us of the possibilities for forging ahead. The tune drives a listener to clutch her lame alphabet and race like a wingless Perseus beside the trenches and the gutters where a shadow from Babel's awful tower cuts across her path. She speeds ahead of the falling sun, longs for the baby boy she leaves behind, he is clapping his baby hands in father's stolid arms, a secure baby listening to the Transylvanian fiddler recall old refrains, a folk fiddle. The Englishmen's jazz gives the genre a bad name, it falls from the instruments with atonal soullessness, it is the death of all Art, the raging of a schizophrenic rather than the melody of the muse, schizophrenia and fires of Dresden compacted into a twenty-piece catastrophe -- with some redeeming touches, individual instrumental talent, the sonorous and reeling recurring melodic theme, but the composer's intellect slays the soul, strips away emotions and replaces them with materialist contortions and rationality; it is dry logic music, a knot of notes from a drain pipe in the inferno, histrionic, too, but majestic in its fallen way.
On Saturday the second day of May yesterday's visions, so dutifully acquired by stealth on the castle sward, are mysteriously lost to inadequate memory, and the stumps of cigarettes and empty bottles lay like bodies on the gravel, the cardboard stars and black amplifiers having escaped a hot death, and the Little Danube carries the revelers and gawkers back to Györ. At the Youth House Imre decides to disobey the editor's order. You be the Western voice, I the Mittle European. Cast your impressions of the festival in my direction and we will twirl them into a new genre, it will be like a cinematic montage, a string of distended cuts, rapid and quick like the bullets whizzing at Vukovar.
Was he Croatian, Transylvanian, or Hungarian, the portly and grizzled spiritual leader of artists, the gentle man who towered above other dancers and their attendant musicians? All of them twirled and stomped, some cried out, Imre heard echoes of a womanly climax, there was merriment in the pristine air of The Fantasy Eden, where ethnic origin was inadequate evidence and no one could be prosecuted for their genetic structures. The serpent with no feet had not yet appeared. Suddenly the tense switches, the spiral and the refrain of the players vanish in a slow dissolve, we have fallen into the foundry, a tall man drags his linked chain behind him, another pushes an ossified steel cage, the symbols are slapping you in the face.
Steel clanks against steel, it is an antithesis of brass steeple bells, the clanking, the horror of the sweating the clanking white hot nova of a welder's torch. Two men without names have arrived to electrocute our sensibility. The forge, the revolution, the horror, acetylene chimes ringing. A man clings to a drooping lifeline, he dangles above a bathtub filled with water, live wires like venomous snakes crawl on the floor, he risks death by electrocution. Let us rush-in to save him, ground him in sanity, we will ask the United States Peace Corps to do it, but the volunteer from America, she is horrified, she can't recall the polarity, she screams: What is the pole of the ground polarity? What does it mean? Why does it have to mean, Imre muses in his private tomb. He knows that the worker struggles to keep from drowning, knows he is going under. Futility and resignation raise a stench in the air like stopped-up sewage in the government towers. Strength is sapped, the worker dies in unseemly fluids of a post-modern industrial state, but naturally and assuredly it is a metaphorical death, the only avenue of death for the spirit, you cannot seize it with hands and choke it, you have to leach the life out of it slowly. The elastic cord stretches to heaven, it is anchored there, tied to a pearly gatepost, too slippery to allow an ascent to paradise. Instead, dripping, the worker climbs a rickety wooden ladder, it stands like a darkened lighthouse beside the bathtub, he totters to the top, but the horror! there is no sanctuary, only a precarious roost for the sighting of carrion. At the top one can only climb down the other side, wander again amid corrupted flesh. What are the meanings of the rampage, where are the symbols you would expect to find in its wake? The filmmaker from New York City, the student of brains, she's stolen them all, and she tells Imre: All is metaphor. I need all the symbols I can get.
In the swirl of a media vortex Imre kept hearing the words of an ominous voice:
Imre wanted to forget who he was in the act of becoming, drop his analog I into some winding ravine, confound all hope and order his ego to lay down on the stones and trip his best intentions. Day before yesterday he wanted to fall into the pit of desolation, some miles to the south, but they were conducting a war there and he couldn't find his ticket. He simply, just so, stumbled, caught his balance, figured he wasn't ready to end it all, couldn't bring himself to dive head-first from the ladder and smash his brains on the foundry floor. He didn't want the filmmaker from New York to take pictures for her next metaphorical feature. The scores of mirrors in every room forced him to face the festive, mocking truth, which he proclaimed in drawls and whispers to any in the throng who listened:
Imre's friend Ildie was a festival girl, wearing yellow and green to illustrate her search for new isms. "If we can only find them before the sun sets," she said, twirling her auburn hair with slender fingers, "find them and give them appropriate names." Last time we saw her, lithe panther on a gallery prowl, she was shooting the critics with a Japanese lens. Ildie, sweet as golden ears of corn, stalked the isms in a thin rectangular room, where saturated, shimmering images danced on a neutral wall, and faces of lost boys emerged from spherical prisons, and the excited pixels of chroma and specter revealed the genius behind the lens.
A sage at the theater door leans with a leftward list from too much Unicum and shouts a warning about decadence, says it shall rise again when the revival grows stale, when the players at the Györian Youth House go gray and let the spirit die, but an expert with a badge jumps up and says don't worry don't worry don't worry at all, I saw decadence an hour ago it was cowering in some future hole. It's true, the legion from Moscow and Alma Ata are previously and permanently slain, and at night you can hear the fallen good comrades wailing over the disappearance of their moon, and everywhere among the mirrors and lenses the liberated ones are receiving the breath of resuscitation.
An androgynous, raven-haired creature clutches a tambourine, dances impromptu on the marble floor. It is said she was Marko's silken oracle before the fall. Beside her in the Youth House the boys and men of the wrecking crew are gathering for the last act of the play. They shall march across the square, tear down the music hall with its ski-jump facade. Everyone knows the good comrades built it to lure the choreographer Marko back home from Italy -- and what a prize they won! His troupe of dancers, designers, musicians, and fools were renowned in Paris and Berlin as examples of a socialist miracle and collectivist art come true.
At sunset of his May Day weekend Imre walks from the Youth House into the shadows of Marko's ski-jump arcade, and the shadows are sharp and deep, and they are falling on comrades, falling on survivors, falling on the crew who've come to tear the building down. In the alleyway Imre sees the dance master's oracle, sees her dancing with bloody feet on a pile of bricks and sand, listens as she cries out, I can't hear the Marxian prophecies anymore. The old master, former leading light, is said to have fled to Italy or some place warm. Imre Washington the American stands, alone, watching. Night comes. Beyond the fallen shadows, a new band of masters rides the waves, arriving.
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