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Fickle Muses an online journal of myth and legend

“Santa Monica Pylon” by Amy Bernays

“Santa Monica Pylon” by Amy Bernays




Two poems by Buff Whitman-Bradley

The legend of unJim

The story goes this way
This is how they tell it
It’s an old story
Now it’s starting

There was a poet
Or maybe he was a painter
This was a long time ago
He drove everybody crazy
Yakkety-yak with his poems all the time
Or maybe it was splashing paint all over everything
It made everybody nuts
They didn’t like it
All those poems keeping them awake half the night
Or maybe it was pictures every place
Even on their furniture and their dogs
At least that’s what they say
That’s the story
And everybody said, Stop it!
Just cut it out!  Don’t do it anymore!
All the yakkety-yakking
All the paint flying around
Stop it! they said. Get a job! Do something useful!
Beat your word processor—
Or maybe it was paintbrushes—
Into plowshares!
Grow wheat!
But did that poet (or maybe it was a painter) stop?
You already know the answer
Nope Nein Nyet unh-unh No way

The story goes on
It continues
Here’s what happens next

They grab that poet
It could have been a painter
They grab that guy by every arm and leg he’s got
And probably some other parts
They grab him and pick him up
About which he is not happy
About which he feels his personal space is being rudely violated
Invaded, trespassed upon
About which he is pissed off  
Notwithstanding and nevertheless
The crowd, the throng, the as-it-were mob
Continues the grabbing and lugging and hauling away of this guy
Jim could have been his name
But I doubt it
And they tossed him in a hole in the ground
Threw him down a well
A deep one, really deep
How deep?
A thousand turtles at least
Maybe more
That deep
You should have heard him as he fell
What a racket!

Now the story is about half-way through
More or less
Although as far as that poet who could actually have been a painter is
He’s probably thinking at this point that the end is right around the

And he’s singing
All the way down
Singing The Waltz of the Sugar Plum Valkyries
He just belted it out
And the Grand Inquisitor’s Aria
All the goddamn way down
To the bottom of the well
A thousand turtles deep
Maybe more
Oh and by the way
They threw his wife down with him
You can call her Estelle
Although her name is Debbie
What’d she ever do to those folks up there
So they’d throw her down a thousand turtle well?
Marry a poet? Marry a painter? Invent Phenomenology?
Tell the Assistant Chief of Protocol and Conventional Morality
To go fuck a watermelon?
She doesn’t sing down the well
She’s pondering Heidigger and Jean-Paul Sartre
Being and your basic nothingness

Thump! They land
Surprise! They’re not dead
They put their bones back where they belong
And look around
Could this be Hell? the poet/painter reputed to be unJim but not bloody
           likely asked
Hell, said Debbie, is an elevator full of existentialists
Not half bad, says nonJim, unJim
Nosing around the place
A guy could get used to it here
See, there were fruit trees everywhere
And cellos and brooks and tame gazelles
And plenty of naked people
Oh, you bet, there was nakedness and downright nudity
Just all over the place
In every nook and cranny
And a kind of rosy-fingered light
Just suffusing and suffusing
And those naked people
Oh it was hard to take your eyes off them
Getting to know each other better
Whoopee! howls notJim
And ungarments himself post haste
While Debbie begins deconstructing Jacques Lacan
And wouldn’t you think our purported Jim
Would mix it up with the other nakeds?
Hump a little
Bump a little
Fondle someone’s rump a little?
Not him
Hard to believe
But that’s how the story goes
That’s the way it’s always been told
Since the beginning

We’re getting close to the end now
It’s almost over

So naked Jim he just yakkety-haks
Well, he’s a poet, what can you do?
Or maybe a painter Hieronymous Bosching the whole damned place
People included
And you know it drives those naked people nuts
Stop it! Just cut it out!
Don’t do it anymore!
All the yakkety-yak all the flying paint
But did he stop?
You guessed it
So then all the naked people grabbed that guy
And his metaphysical ontological wife
By their various and sundries
And 1-2-3
Tossed them up that well
A thousand turtles high
Maybe higher, who knows
They fell up and up
Imagine that
Up and up they fell
You wouldn’t think anybody could fall that far
So-called Jim he’s singing up a storm
The Internationale and the Victory March of the Swans
And Debbie does zen koans
You know, like Does a dime have Buddha nature?
And Nanquan cuts the cheese
Things like that
They land on the ground
Right back up there where all this started.
Let that be a lesson to you

Now they story’s over
It’s finished
There’s no more to tell
What’d you expect?


In the myths of parrots

In the myths of parrots it isn’t clear whether God created parrots or the other way around.

The name of the first parrot was All-Over-the-Place, because there was nowhere that parrot wasn’t. All-Over-the-Place has feathers of every color and was not male or female—that came later.

One day All-Over-the-Place thought, “I want to go somewhere.” But since the parrot was already everywhere, there was nowhere else to go. Still, All-Over-the-Place couldn’t get rid of that thought—“I want to go somewhere.”

Then All-Over-the-Place got another thought: “I’ll make a place to go.” So All-Over-the-Place pulled out great clumps of blue and brown and green and gray feathers and bunched them up and threw them away. And those feathers became the world. The blue feathers were the waters and the gray and brown feathers were the land and the green feathers were the trees and grasses and all the other plants.

“Terrific!” All-Over-the-Place exclaimed. “Now I have somewhere to go!” On the way to the new world, All-Over-the-Place noticed something. “Hey, I’m smaller.” It was still a vast parrot, to be sure, but no longer an endless one.

Standing in the very middle of the world, All-Over-the-Place looked around and said, “Not bad. But it needs something more.” Now the parrot pulled out a mass of bright yellow feathers and threw them far above the world, where they became the sun. A smaller bunch of pale yellow feathers thrown in the opposite direction became the moon. Thousands of little white downy feathers became the stars.

“Better,” said All-Over-the-Place, flying around the shiny and shimmer world from east to west, from north to south, from day to night and back to day, admiring the place. And as it flew, All-Over-the-Place noticed that it had grown smaller still.

Days and nights came and went—too many to count. All-Over-the-Place started to get a little bored. “Isn’t this a dazzlingly beautiful world I’ve made?” the parrot asked itself. “Yes, of course,” it answered. “Then why am I feeling so out of sorts, so blues and blah?” it asked. “It’s because… well…I imagine it’s ah…Wait! I know! I know! It’s because I’m the only one here! There’s nobody else to enjoy this with me!”

All-Over-the-Place got busy right away thinking up creatures to fill the world with. That’s when the parrot got the idea for males and females. “I’ll make the first ones, but if they want any more, they’ll have to take care of it themselves.” With its marvelous feathers, All-Over-the-Place began making creatures of every sort. To each one the parrot gave a name and a task.

“Your name is Giraffe,” All-Over-the-Place told the giraffe, “and your job is to rise quietly into the trees.”

“Your name is Human.” All-Over-the-Place said to the human, “and your job is to pay attention.”

“Your name is Starfish,” All-Over-the-Place said to the starfish, “and your job is to live in the sea and to move as slowly as the great constellations.”

“Your name is Heron,” All-Over-the-Place told the heron, “and your job is to know the shape of water.”

All-Over-the-Place created thousands upon thousand upon thousands of beings and gave every one of them a name and a life’s work. And each time it made a new creature,, All-Over-the-Place grew a bit smaller.

In the myths of parrots, it is not clear what All-Over-the-Place did when it could not imagine any more creatures. Some parrots believe that that is when All-Over-the-Place created God and said, “Your name is God and your job is to remember.”

Finally, All-Over-the-Place chose to be female, because she had given birth to the world and everything in it. After she created a mate for herself she saw that she had become the size of an ordinary parrot and she knew that her great powers were spent. All-Over-the-Place changed her name to Just Here and with her mate flew deep into the rain forest to live and die the way everything does.

In the myths of parrots, the humans do not pay attention.

In the myths of parrots, the world breaks and flies apart.

I the myths of parrots, it all becomes parrot again.


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