James Douglas Morrison Poems >>
Notes On Vision
Look where we worship. We all live in the city.
The city forms- often physically, but inevitably
psychically- a circle. A Game. A ring of death
with sex at its center. Drive towards outskirts
of city suburbs. At the edge of discover zones of
sophisticated vice and boredom, child prosti-
tution. But in the grimy ring immediately surround-
ing the daylight business district exists the only
real crowd life of our mound, the only street
life, night life. Diseased specimens in dollar
hotels, low boarding houses, bars, pawn shops,
burlesques and brothels, in dying arcades which
never die, in streets and streets of all-night
When play dies it becomes the Game.
When sex dies it becomes Climax.
All games contain the idea of death.
Baths, bars, the indoor pool. Our injured leader
prone on the sweating tile. Chlorine on his breath
and in his long hair. Lithe, although crippled,
body of a middle-weight contender. Near him
the trusted journalist, confidant. He liked men
near him with a large sense of life. But most
of the press were vultures descending on the
scene for curious America aplomb. Cameras
inside the coffin interviewing worms.
It takes large murder to turn rocks in the shade
and expose strange worms beneath. The lives of
our discontented madmen are revealed.
Camera, as all-seeing god, satisfies our longing
for omniscience. To spy on others from this
height and angle: pedestrians pass in and out of
our lens like rare aquatic insects.
Yoga powers. To make oneself invisible or small.
To become gigantic and reach to the farthest things.
To change the course of nature. To place oneself
anywhere in space or time. To summon the dead.
To exalt senses and perceive inaccessible images,
of events on other worlds, in one's deepest inner
mind, or in the minds of others.
The sniper's rifle is an extension of his eye. He
kills with injurious vision.
The assassin(?), in flight, gravitated with
unconscious, instinctual insect ease, moth-
like, toward a zone of safety, haven from the
swarming streets. Quickly, he was devoured
in the warm, dark, silent maw of the physical
Modern circles of Hell: Oswald(?) kills President.
Oswald enters taxi. Oswald stops at rooming house.
Oswald leaves taxi. Oswald kills Officer Tippitt.
Oswald sheds jacket. Oswald is captured.
He escaped into a movie house.
In the womb we are blind cave fish.
Everything is vague and dizzy. The skin swells and
there is no more distinction between parts of the
body. An encroaching sound of threatening,
mocking, monotonous voices. This is fear and
attraction of being swallowed.
Inside the dream, button sleep around your body
like a glove. Free now of space and time. Free
to dissolve in the streaming summer.
Sleep is an under-ocean dipped into each night
At morning, awake dripping, gasping, eyes
The eye looks vulgar
Inside its ugly shell.
Come out in the open
In all of your Brilliance.
Nothing. The air outside
burns my eyes.
I'll pull them out
and get rid of the burning.
Crisp hot whiteness
Occupants of plague zone
(Santa Ana's are winds off deserts.)
Rip up grating and splash in gutters.
The search for water, moisture,
"wetness" of the actor, lover.
"Players"-the child, the actor, and the gambler.
The idea of chance is absent from the world of the
child and primitive. The gambler also feels in
service of an alien power. Chance is a survival
of religion in the modern city, as is theater,
more often cinema, the religion of possession.
What sacrifice, at what price can the city be born?
There are no longer "dancers", the possessed.
The cleavage of men into actor and spectators
is the central fact of our time. We are obsessed
with heroes who live for us and whom we punish.
If all the radios and televisions were deprived
of their sources of power, all books and paintings
burned tomorrow, all shows and cinemas closed,
all the arts of vicarious existence…
We are content with the "given" in sensation's
quest. We have been metamorphosised from a mad
body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes
staring in the dark.
Not one of the prisoners regained sexual balance.
Depressions, impotency, sleeplessness…erotic
dispersion in languages, reading, games, music,
The prisoners built their own theater which
testified to an incredible surfeit of leisure.
A young sailor, forced into female roles, soon
became the "town" darling, for by this time they
called themselves a town, and elected a mayor,
In old Russia, the Czar, each year, granted-
out of the shrewdness of his own soul or one of
his advisors'- a week's freedom for one convict
in each of his prisons. The choice was left to the
prisoners themselves and it was determined in
several ways. Sometimes by vote, sometimes by lot,
often by force. It was apparent that the chosen
must be a man of magic, virility, experience,
perhaps narrative skill, a man of possibility, in
short, a hero. Impossible situation at the
moment of freedom, impossible selection,
defining our world in its percussions.
A room moves over a landscape, uprooting the mind,
astonishing vision. A gray film melts off the
eyes, and runs down the cheeks. Farewell.
Modern life is a journey by car. The Passengers
change terribly in their reeking seats, or roam
from car to car, subject to unceasing transformation.
Inevitable progress is made toward the beginning
(there is no difference in terminals), as we
slice through cities, whose ripped backsides present
a moving picture of windows, signs, streets,
buildings. Sometimes other vessels, closed
worlds, vacuums, travel along beside to move
ahead or fall utterly behind.
Destroy roofs, walls, see in all the rooms at once.
From the air we trapped gods, with the gods'
omniscient gaze, but without their power to be
inside minds and cities as they fly above.
June 30th. On the sun roof. He woke up suddenly.
At that instant a jet from the air base crawled
in silence overhead. On the beach, children try
to leap into its swift shadow.
The bird or insect that stumbles into a room
and cannot find the window. Because they know
Wasps, poised in the window,
detached, are not inclined
into our chamber.
Room of withering mesh
read love's vocabulary
in the green lamp
of tumescent flesh.
When men conceived buildings,
and closed themselves in chambers,
first trees and caves.
(Windows work two ways,
mirrors one way.)
You never walk through mirrors
or swim through windows.
Cure blindness with a whore's spittle.
In Rome, prostitutes were exhibited on roofs
above the public highways for the dubious
hygiene of loose tides of men whose potential
lust endangered the fragile order of power.
It is even reported that patrician ladies, masked
and naked, sometimes offered themselves up to
these deprived eyes for private excitements of
More or less, we're all afflicted with the psychology
of the voyeur. Not in a strictly clinical or
criminal sense, but in our whole physical and
stance before the world. Whenever we seek to break
this spell of passivity, our actions are cruel and
awkward and generally obscene, like an invalid who
has forgotten how to walk.
The voyeur, the peeper, the Peeping Tom, is a dark
comedian. He is repulsive in his dark anonymity,
in his secret invasion. He is pitifully alone.
But, strangely, he is able through this same silence
and concealment to make unknowing partner of
within his eye's range. This is his threat and
There are no glass houses. The shades are drawn
and "real" life begins. Some activities are impossible
in the open. And these secret events are the voyeur's
game. He seeks them out with his myriad army of
eyes- like the child's notion of a Diety who sees
all. "Everything?" asks the child. "Yes, every-
thing", they answer, and the child is left to cope
with this divine intrusion.
The voyeur is masturbator, the mirror his badge,
the window his prey.
Urge to come to terms with the "Outside", by
absorbing, interiorizing it. I won't come out,
you must come in to me. Into my womb-garden
where I peer out. Where I can construct a universe
within the skull, to rival the real.
She said, "Your eyes are always black". The pupil
opens to seize the object of vision.
Imagery is born of loss. Loss of the"friendly
expanses". The breast is removed and the face
imposes its cold, curious, forceful, and inscrutable
You may enjoy life from afar. You may look at
things but not taste them. You may caress
the mother only with the eyes.
You cannot touch these phantoms.
French Deck. Solitary stroker of cards. He
dealt himself a hand. Turn stills of the past in
unending permutations, shuffle and begin. Sort
the images again. And sort them again. This
game reveals germs of truth, and death.
The world becomes an apparently infinite, yet
possibly finite, card game. Image combinations,
permutations, comprise the world game.
A mild possession, devoid of risk, at bottom
sterile. With an image there is no attendant
Muybridge derived his animal subjects from the
Philadelphia Zoological Garden, male performers
from the University. The women were professional
artists' models, also actrsses and dancers,
parading nude before the 48 cameras.
Films are collections of dead pictures which are
given artificial insemination.
Film spectators are quiet vampires.
Cinema is most totalitarian of the arts. All
energy and sensation is sucked up into the skull,
a cerebral erection, skull bloated with blood.
Caligula wished a single neck for all his subjects
that he could behead a kingdom with one blow.
Cinema is this transforming agent. The body
exists for the sake of the eyes; it becomes a
dry stalk to support these two soft insatiable
Film confers a kind of spurious eternity.
Each film depends upon all the others and drives
you on to others. Cinema was a novelty, a scientific
toy, until a sufficient body of works had been
amassed, enough to create an intermittent other
world, a powerful, infinite mythology to be dipped
into at will.
Films have an illusion of timelessness fostered
by their regular, indomitable appearance.
The appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death.
The modern East creates the greatest body of films.
Cinema is a new form of an ancient tradition- the
shadow play. Even their theater is an imitation
of it. Born in India or China, the shadow show
was aligned with religious ritual, linked with
celebrations which centered around cremation of the
It is wrong to assume, as some have done, that
cinema belongs to women. Cinema is created by
men for the consolation of men.
The shadow plays originally were restricted to
male audiences. Men could view these dream shows
from either side of the screen. When women later
began to be admitted, they were allowed to attend
only to the shadows.
Male genitals are small faces
forming trinities of thieves
Fathers, sons, and ghosts.
A nose hangs over a wall
and two half eyes, sad eyes,
mute and handless, multiply
an endless round of victories.
These dry and secret triumphs, fought
in stalls and stamped in prisons,
glorify our walls
and scorch our vision.
A horror of empty spaces
propagates this seal on private places.
may not appear
but the odor of her flesh
is never very far.
A drunken crowd knocked over the apparatus,
and Mayhew's showman, exhibiting at Islington
Green, burned up, with his mate, inside.
In 1832, Gropius was astounding Paris with his
Pleorama. The audience was transformed into
the crew aboard a ship engaged in battle. Fire,
screaming, sailors, drowning.
Robert Baker, an Edinburgh artist, while in jail
for debt, was struck by the effect of light shining
through the bars of his cell through a letter he
was reading, and out of this perception he in-
vented the first Panorama, a concave, transparent
picture view of the city.
The invention was soon replace by the Diorama,
which added the illusion of movement by shifting
the room. Also sounds and novel lighting effects.
Daguerre's London Diorama still stands in Regent's
Park, a rare survival, since these shows depended
always on effects of artificial light, produced
by lamps or gas jets, and nearly always ended
Phantasmagoria, magic lantern shows, spectacles
without substance. They achieved complete
sensory experiences through noise, incense,
lightning, water. There may be a time when
we'll attend Weather Theaters to recall the
sensation of rain.
Cinema has evolved in two paths.
One is spectacle. Like the phantasmagoria, its
goal is the creation of a total substitute
The other is peep show, which claims for its
realm both the erotic and the untampered obser-
vance of real life, and imitates the keyhole or
voyeur's window without need of color, noise
Cinema discovers its fondest affinities, not
with painting, literature, or theater, but with
the popular diversions- comics, chess, French,
and Tarot decks, magazines, and tattooing.
Cinema derives not from painting, literature,
sculpture, theater, but from ancient popular
wizardry. It is the contemporary manifestation
of an evolving history of shadows, a delight in
pictures that move, a belief in magic. Its
lineage is entwined from the earliest beginning
with Priests and sorcery, a summoning of phantoms.
With, at first, only slight aid of the mirror and
fire, men called up dark and secret visits from
regions in the buried mind. In these seances,
shades are spirits which ward off evil.
The spectator is a dying animal.
Invoke, palliate, drive away the Dead. Nightly.
Through ventriloquism, gestures, play with objects,
and rare variations of the body in space,
the shaman signaled his "trip" to an audience
which share the journey.
In the seance, the shaman led. A sensuous panic,
deliberately evoked through drugs, chants, dancing,
hurls the shaman into trance. Changed voice,
convulsive movement. He acts like a madman. These
professional hysterics, chosen precisely for their
psychotic leaning, were once esteemed. They
mediated between man and spirit-world. Their mental
travels formed the crux of the religious life of
Principle of seance: to cure illness. A mood
might overtake a people burdened by hisorical
events or dying in a bad landscape. They seek
deliverance from doom, death, dread. Seek possess-
ion, the visit of gods and powers, a rewinning
of the life source from demon possessors. The
cure is culled from ecstasy. Cure illness or
prevent its visit, revive the sick, and regain
It is wrong to assume that art needs the spectator
in order to be. The film runs on without any eyes.
The spectator cannot exist without it. It insures
The happening / the event in which ether is introduced
into a roomful of people through air vents makes
the chemical an actor. Its agent, or injector,
is an artist-showman who creates a performance
to witness himself. The people consider themselves
audience, while they perform for each other,
and the gas acts out poems of its own through
the medium of the human body. This approaches
the psychology of the orgy while remaining in
the realm of the Game and its infinite permu-
The aim of the happening is to cure boredom,
wash the eyes, make childlike reconnections
with the stream of life. Its lowest, widest
aim is for purgation of perception. The happening
attempts to engage all the senses, the total
organism, and achieve total response in the face of
traditional arts which focus on narrower inlets
Multimedias are invariably sad comedies. They
work as a kind of colorful group therapy, a
woeful mating of actors and viewers, a mutual
semimasturbation. The performers seem to need
their audience and the spectators- the spectators
would find these same mild titillations in a freak
show or Fun Fair and fancier, more complete
amusements in a Mexican cathouse.
Novices, we watch the moves of silkworms who excite
their bodies in moist leaves and weave wet nests
of hair and skin.
This is a model of our liquid resting world
dissolving bone and melting marrow
opening pores as wide as windows.
The "stranger" was sensed as greatest menace
in ancient communities.
Metamorphose. An object is cut off fom its name,
habits, associations. Detached, it becomes only
the thing, in and of itself. When this disintegration
into pure existence is at last achieved, the object
is free to become endlessly anything.
The subject says "I see first lots of things
which dance…then everything becomes gradually
Objects as they exist in time the clean eye and
camera give us. Not falsified by "seeing".
When there are as yet no objects.
Early film makers, who- like the alchemists-
delighted in a willful obscurity about their craft,
in order to withhold their skills from profane
Separate, purify, reunite. The formula of
Ars Magna, and its heir, the cinema.
The camera is androgynous machine, a kind of
In his retort the alchemist repeats the work of
Few would defend a small view of Alchemy as "Mother
of Chemistry", and confuse its true goal with those
external metal arts. Alchemy is an erotic science,
involved in buried aspects of reality, aimed
at purifying and transforming all being and matter.
Not to suggest that material operations are ever
abandoned. The adept holds to both the mystical
and physical work.
The alchemists detect in the sexual activity of
man a correspondence with the world's creation,
with the growth of plants, and with mineral
formations. When they see the union of rain
and earth, they see it in an erotic sense, as
copulation. And this extends to all natural
realms of matter. For they can picture love
affairs of chemicals and stars, a romance
of stones, or the fertility of fire.
Stange, fertile correspondences the alchemists
sensed in unlikely orders of being. Between
men and planets, plants and gestures, words and
weather. These disturbing connections: an in-
fant's cry and the stroke of silk; the whorl
of an ear and an appearance of dogs in the yard;
a woman's head lowered in sleep and the morning
dance of cannibals; these are conjunctions which
transcend the sterile signal of any "willed"
montage. These juxtapositions of objects, sounds,
actions, colors, weapons, wounds, and odors shine
in an unheard-of way, impossible ways.
Film is nothing when not an illumination of
this chain of being which makes a needle poised
in flesh call up explosions in a foreign capitol.
Cinema returns us to anima, religion of matter,
which gives each thing its special divinity and
sees gods in all things and beings.
Cinema, heir of alchemy, last of an erotic science.
Surround Emperor of Body.
Bali Bali dancers
Will not break my temple.
suck eyes into the head.
The rosy body cross
secret in flow
controls its flow.
in body weights dance
and music, mimesis, body.
sweet dangerous thrust flow.
The Lords. Events take place beyond our knowledge
or control. Our lives are lived for us. We can
only try to enslave others. But gradually, special
perceptions are being developed. The idea of the
"Lords" is beginning to form in some minds. We
should enlist them into bands of perceivers to
tour the labyrinth during their mysterious noc-
turnal appearances. The Lords have secret entrances,
and they know disguises. But they give themselves
away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in
the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a
The Lords appease us with images. They give us
books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas. Es-
pecially the cinemas. Through art they confuse
us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns
our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted
Dull lions prone on a watery beach.
The universe kneels at the swamp
to curiously eye its own raw
postures of decay
in the mirror of human consciousness.
Absent and peopled mirror, absorbent,
passive to whatever visits
and retains its interest.
Door of passage to the other side,
the soul frees itself in stride.
Turn mirrors to the wall
in the house of the new dead.
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