Norman Finkelstein: From “Inside the Ghost Factory,” Four Poems & a Note on the Forevertron

Instructions for the King
 This is a horse: you may not ride him, nor even look upon him.

This is an armed man: you may not converse with him, nor even look
          upon him.

This is a ring: if it is broken you may wear it, but if it is whole you may
          not do so.

You may not wash your body, but you shall be bathed in the night while
          you sleep.

You may not cut your hair, but it shall be cut for you by a free man with a
          bronze knife.

This is a goat, this is a dog, this is an ape: you must not look upon them,
          and you must forget the names for such creatures.

The same is true for beans, for ivy, for mirrors, and for the dead.

This is wheat flour: you may look upon it, but you may not touch it.

You must cover your head when you go outside, for the sun is unworthy,
          and may not look upon you.

You may not sleep during rainstorms, and if your wife hears thunder, then
          she is unclean until the new moon.

Upon wooden stairs she may not ascend more than three steps at once, but
          upon marble stairs she may ascend and descend freely.

Her shoes must be made from the hides of sacrificial animals, and she
          must attend to you when you lie down, so that the winds will not
          cease.

None of this may be written down, for it may be forgotten, and it is not to
          be forgotten.

This tree is called the tree of good fortune, beneath which shall be buried
          the hair cut from your head.

Do not look upon it.

 Forevertron
 I have built a machine to visit the stars.
I have built a machine to outlast the stars.
There is a glass ball inside a copper egg.

There are dynamos and turbines, Tesla coils and magnets.
There is a boy in Brooklyn, Wisconsin
and a boy in Eddington, England.

They are the same boy. There is a man in a hat
in Baraboo. They are all named Tom.
They are all named Dr. Evermor, which is now

their real name. Queen Victoria is watching
among the giant insects, the fiddle-shaped birds.
The stray voltage goes in the stray voltage

cages, all silver, red and blue. The music
will signal the ascent. This is the Overlord
Master Control, this is the Graviton,

these are the Celestial Listening Ears.
When you ask me what has changed my life,
I tell you motors, generators, compressors, transformers;

I tell you boilers, pumps, transmitters and flywheels.
When you ask me if I found them I say no,
I rescued them.

 Dub Version
 If you listen hard enough, you will see it.
Consider the case of David B., house organist,
who saw vehicles stuck on the plains of heaven,

their wheels spinning round. This was on
St. Cecilia’s Day, 2005. Consider the tragic
case of Harry Ashfield, a.k.a. Bevel. Consider

the condition of the river in each instance.
Consider the drought; consider the flood.
The earliest known record involves

the mysterious Mr. E., witness to
disturbances which have since been
corroborated in various desert areas.

Spectrographic tests continue to indicate
a wide variety of phenomena. Spontaneous
combustion, sudden outbursts of euphoria,

of euphony, viral outbreaks of bardic
scat. Flaming swords, swords tied
into knots, suspended by cords

to the accompaniment of suspended
chords. If you listen hard enough,
these chords will resolve. These

resolutions, these revolutions, turn very
fast. Tests continue to indicate that these
spectres may or may not be repetitions,

cyclic indicators of semi-permanent
crisis, as opposed to unprecedented spikes,
singularities, or the illusion thereof. Further

tests are indicated. Consider the case
of S., for whom reading Pushkin proved
unbearably difficult. Furthermore,

he simply could not grasp how the sunset
rumbled.

 Inside the Ghost Factory
 Inside the ghost factory there are many
small machines. They are very important
but they do not make ghosts. The ghosts

are in cabinets, though sometimes you may
meet them in open fields. No need to greet
them—they are shy and speak only with

the greatest reluctance. It has been said
that the living press down upon them, though
they press down upon us too, until we are

indistinguishable. At some point—
eating alone in a café, in a meeting at
work, shopping—you will realize this

and become part of the story. The discontinuities
actually count for very little. The off-duty
inspectors go home and watch TV. What else

did you expect? If anything had floated by,
they would surely have called in a report.
But now it appears that tensions have eased
.
They are hiring allegorists again.
__________________________________________
They are hiring allegorists again.

A Note On the Photographs and the Forevertron

 The photographs used in the design of Inside the Ghost Factory (Marsh Hawk Press, 2010) are of the Forevertron and related works by Tom Every (a.k.a. Dr. Evermor), a self-taught scrap metal sculptor from the area around Madison, Wisconsin. I first learned about Dr. Evermor around the time I began writing the poems that make up this book, and his work has become increasingly talismanic for me. Like Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers or the drawings of Martín Ramirez, other outsider art that I greatly admire, Dr. Evermor’s immense sculptural environment embodies a visionary combination of whimsy and sublimity; the myth that he has created about himself and his work seems to me a primal gesture of artistic rebirth, a literal rebuilding of the artist’s soul out of castoff industrial detritus and salvaged materials of modern life. Dr. Evermor’s art honors the spirits, both of people and machines, that inhabit the lost and overlooked stuff of the world.

 More information on Dr. Evermor’s life and work can be found in A Mythic Obsession: The World of Dr. Evermor, by Tom Kupsh (Chicago Review Press, 2008), which includes a bibliography of print and online resources.