for Robert Bégouën
bundled by Tuc's tight jagged corridors, flocks of white stone tits, their milk in long stone nipply drips, frozen over the underground Volp in which the enormous guardian eel, now unknown, lies coiled--
to be impressed (in-pressed?) by this primordial "theater of cruelty"-- by its keelhaul sorcery
Volp mouth--the tongue of the river lifting one in-- to be masticated by Le Tuc d'Audoubert's cruel stones-- the loom of the cave Up the oblique chimney by ladder to iron cleats set in the rock face to the cathole, on one's stomach to crawl, working against one, pinning one as the earth in, to, it, to makes one feel for an instant feel its traction-- the dread of WITHERING IN PLACE --pinned in-- The Meat Server masticated by the broken chariot of the earth
* "fantastic figures"--more beast- like here than human--one horn one ear-- one large figure one small figure as in Lascaux? (the grand and petit sorcerer?) First indications of master/ apprentice? ("tanist" re. Graves) the grotesque archetype ___ _________ _________ vortex in which the emergent human and withdrawing animal are spun-- ____ grotesque = movement (life is grotesque when we catch it in quick perceptions-- at full vent--history shaping itself) the turns/twists of the cave reinforce the image turbine-- as does the underground river, the cave floats, in a sense, in several senses, all at once, it rests on the river, is penetrated by it, was originally made by rushing water-- the cave is the skeleton of flood images on its walls participate, thus, as torsion, in an earlier torsion-- Here one might synthesize: 1) abstract signs initiate movement brought to rest in 3) naturalistic figures (bison, horses etc) In between, the friction, are 2) grotesque hybrids (useful--but irrelevant to systematize forces that must have been felt as flux, as unplanned, spontaneous, as were the spots/areas in caves chosen for images--because shadowing or wall contour evoked an animal? Any plan a coincidence--we have no right to systematize an area of experience of which we have only shat- tered iceberg tips--yet it does seem that "image" occurs at the point that a "naturalistic" ibex is gouged in rock across an "abstract" vulva already gouged there, so that the rudiments of poetry are present at approximately 30,000 BC-- image is crossbreeding, or the refusal to respect the single, individuated body, image is that point where sight crosses sight-- to be alive as a poet is to be in conversation with one's eyes) What impresses at Tuc is a relationship between river hybrid figures and the clay bison-- it is as if the river (the skeleton of water = the cave itself) erupts into image with the hybrid "guardians" (Breuil's guess) and is brought to rest in the terminal chamber with the two bison i.e., naturalism is a kind of rest--naturalism returns us to a continu- ous and predictable nature (though there is something unnatural about these bison to be noted later)--takes us out of the discon- tinuity, the transgression (to cite Bataille's slightly too Catholic term) of the grotesque (though the grotesque, on another level, according to Bakhtin, is deeper continuity, the association of realms, king- doms, fecundation and death, degradation and praise--) on one hand: bisons-about-to-couple assert the generative what we today take to be the way things are (though with ecological pollution, "generation" leads to mutation, a new "grotesque"!) * to be gripped by a womb of stone to be in the grip of the surge of life imprisoned in stone it is enough to make one sweat one's animal (having left the "nuptual hall" of white stone breasts in which one can amply stand--the breasts hang in clusters right over one's head--one must then squirm vertically up the spiral chimney (or use the current iron ladder) to enter the upper level via a cathole into a corridor through which one must crawl on hands and knees--then another longish cathole through which one must crawl on one's belly, squirming through a human-sized tunnel-- to a corridor through which one can walk haltingly, stooping, occasionally slithering through vertical catslits and straddling short walls)-- if one were to film one's postures through this entire process, it might look like a St.-Vitus dance of the stages in the life of man, birth channel expulsion to old age, but without chronological order, a jumble of exaggerated and strained positions that corres- pondingly increase the image pressure in one's mind-- while in Le Tuc d'Audoubert I felt the broken horse rear in agony in the cave-like stable of Picasso's Guernica, at times I wanted to leave my feet behind, or to continue headless in the dark, my stomach desired prawn-like legs with grippers, my organs were in the way, something inside of me wanted to be an armored worm, one feeler extending out its head, I swear I sensed the disintegration of the backbone of my mother now buried 12 years, entangled in a cathole I felt my tongue start to press back- wards, and the image force was: I wanted to choke myself out of myself, to give birth to my own strangulation, and then nurse my strangulation at my own useless male breasts-useless? No, for Le Tuc d'Audoubert unlocks memories that bear on a single face the expressions of both Judith and Holofernes at the moment of beheading, mingled disgust terror delight and awe, one is stimu- lated to desire to enter cavities within oneself where dead men can be heard talking-- in Le Tuc d'Audoubert I heard something in me whisper me to believe in God and something else in me whispered that the command was the rasp of a 6000 year old man who wished to be venerated again-- and if what I am saying here is vague it is because both voices had to sound themselves in the bowels of this most personal and impersonal stone, in which sheets of myself felt themselves cor- rugated with nipples-as if the anatomy of life could be described, from this perspective, as entwisted tubes of nippled stone through which perpetual and mutual beheadings and birthings were tak- ing place-- * but all these fantastic images were shooed away the moment I laid eyes on the two bison sculptured out of clay leaned against stuff fallen from the chamber ceiling-- the bison and their "altar" seemed to be squeezed up into view out of the swelling of the chamber floor-- the sense of culmination was very severe, the male about to mount the female, but clearly placed several inches behind and above her, not in contact with any part of her body, and he had no member-- if they were coupling, and without deep cracks in their clay bodies, they would have disappeared into their progeny thousands of years ago, but here they are today still, as if Michelangelo were to have depicted God and man as not touching, but only reaching toward each other, caught in the exhaustion of a yearning for a sparking that has in fact never taken place, so that the weight of all the cisterns in the world is in that yearning, in the weight of that yearning is the real ballast in life, a ballast in which the unborn are coddled like slowly cooking eggs, unborn bison and unborn man, in the crib of a scrotum, a bone scrotum, that jailhouse of generation from which the prisoners yearn to leap onto the taffy machine-like pistons of shaping females-- it is that spot where the leap should occur that Le Tuc d'Au- doubert says is VOID, and that unfilled space between two fertile poles here feels like the origin of the abyss, as if in the minds of those who shaped and placed these two bison, fertilization was pulled free, and that freedom from connection is the demon of creation haunting man and woman ever since-- we crawled on hands and knees about this scene, humbled, in single file, lower than the scene, human creatures come, lamps in hand like a glowworm pilgrimage, to worship in circular crawl at one of the births of the abyss-- if I had stayed longer, if I had not with the others disappeared into the organic odors of the Montesquieu-Avantès woods, I am sure that I would have noticed, flittering out of the deep cracks in the bison clay, little winged things, image babies set free, the Odyssi before Odysseus who still wander the vaults of what we call art seeking new abysses to inscribe with the tuning forks of their wings . . .
From Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the Construction of the Underworld, as yet unpublished. Copyright © 2000 by Clayton Eshleman. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.