This story has been drawn from the January issue of the American Reader, which can be purchased here. “The Poets Dwell in Musclememory” has been excerpted from the author’s work in progress, Agony: a proposal.
The Poets Dwell In Musclememory
The cameras used in the filming of Agony and all that precedes it are operated by the Poets. The Poets live in Musclememory, which is the term used to describe the exclusive (i.e. exclusive to Poets, that is) top three floors of a rather plain-looking 67-storey building located in the busy downtown of a large city quite far from The Frontier.
Musclememory is the (only) apparatus through which compelling detail might be brought to The Peep-Hole. Without the work of the Poets, a strong sense of Agony and all that precedes it would not be possible.
Like Country Doctors, Poets are exiled from Nameless Soul society so that they might fulfill one of the most important vocations touching on Agony. The Poets’ devotion to their vocation is so complete that they are never allowed to leave Musclememory, or to be in the presence of Nameless Souls who are not Poets. Poets have only one another, a small degree of fame, and the life of the work they do.
Poets are always Nameless Souls, but Nameless Souls are rarely Poets. A Poet is a Nameless Soul who has some degree of power over The Peep-Hole—the (admittedly very limited) power to shape what The Peep-Hole produces.
The supreme task of the Poets is the filming of Agony itself, but their secondary task—seeking and refining The Peep-Hole’s glimpse into The Covered Wagons—is by no means unimportant or without significant challenges. The work the Poets do, while it represents only a small percentage of their waking lives, is hardly restricted to The Big Day; it occurs all throughout the year.
Mention of the Nameless Souls who have become Poets—their names, their faces, anything about their (lost) Nameless Soul lives—is not allowed in the media. To refer to the Nameless Soul identity of a Poet by way of any kind of media is to invite prosecution as a Meddler.
It is altogether legal, however, to share one’s personal knowledge of a Poet (i.e. knowledge of someone’s having become a Poet) by word of mouth with the persons one meets in the course of one’s normal life. So long as one does not intentionally seek to create an audience that is unnaturally large—an audience inhabited by numerous strangers—and so long as one does not make use of media as one speaks (speech is not defined here as media because it evaporates without having sounded out in scenes other than the one the speaker inhabits, if that), one is quite free to discuss whatever one knows about the Nameless Souls who have become Poets. The community of Nameless Souls possesses, then, only sporadic knowledge of the original identities of the Poets. Knowledge of the original identities of the Poets is profoundly local.
The Structure Of Musclememory
In its interior—its amenities and its furnishings—Musclememory is a completely authentic 1860’s-era luxury hotel, except in one respect: its top floor (the 67th floor), referred to as The Tumor, is the modern Television studio in which the Poets work.
The two floors of Musclememory in which the Poets live—which is to say, the two floors beneath The Tumor—are completely authentic in their replication of an 1860’s-era luxury hotel, including a private, ornately furnished suite for each Poet. Each of these private suites is known as a Burrow.
No one may enter into a Poet’s Burrow, save the Poet herself. So long as she remains a working Poet, she is the only one who is EVER allowed in. She may have no visitors, nor may she herself visit the Burrow of another Poet. Ever. Should a Poet enter into a foreign Burrow, she—the intruder—is immediately struck dead. Game Officials ensure that this occurs by implanting a Death in each new Poet. This Death is identical to the Death implanted in the hand of each Gambler—the difference is that the Poet’s Death is implanted secretly, while she is unconscious, and when she wakes up, she knows it’s inside her, but does not know where.
Illustration of a police sketch female body outline, with 8 or so question marks all around, i.e. on different areas of the body—caption: the Death of the Poet.
A Poet’s Death also differs from a Gambler’s Death in terms of how it might be caused. For Gamblers, the cause of Death is Yahweh’s wielding of The Universal Remote (one could argue, too, that it is actually Being’s entering into Saying that causes Yahweh’s wielding of The Universal Remote). For a Poet, only one thing can activate her Death: entering into the Burrow of another Poet.
Only Poets ever enter into the residential area of Musclememory. The residential area of Musclememory, that is, permits no visitors of any kind, including Game Officials. Game Officials may enter into The Tumor if repairs become necessary therein, but they may never enter into the residential area of Musclememory.
Most problems in The Tumor can be solved remotely. Game Officials’ visits to The Tumor, when necessary, occur when the Poets are not working.
The residential floors of Musclememory are completely dark, save the sunlight and/or moonlight that streams in from its large windows, and the candle-light Poets use when that light is thought to be insufficient.
The rooms of the 64 storeys beneath Musclememory are kept empty and clean. Somewhere in the middle of this empty clean space there are modern housekeeping facilities, a modern kitchen, and The Academy Of American Poets, which is a modern old folks home (of a sort) for retired Poets (The Academy Of American Poets is discussed in detail below).
How Poets Are Chosen
The first 18 Poets are known as The First Poets. They are chosen by The First Torso-Painter. The process is as follows. The First Torso-Painter chooses ten high schools. Game Officials are sent to each of these high schools to indiscreetly videotape the graduation ceremony. Tapes of these ten ceremonies are sent to The Frontier, where The Torso-Painter views them. He chooses 18 young women from those ten graduating classes to be 18 of the first 19 Poets.
Nameless Souls expect The Torso-Painter to choose women who have excelled in one way or another (in their studies or in extracurricular activities), but there is nothing in place to ensure that this expectation becomes a reality. Who knows what The First Torso-Painter will be like? It is probably significant to mention that The Torso-Painter is always a man.
Illustration of 18 eighteen-year-old women standing together like it was a school photograph—caption: (18 of 19 of) The First Poets.
The 19th (and final) Poet is known as Pastor Jeff. The Torso-Painter chooses Pastor Jeff from a pool of small-town local-news anchor-men. Photographs of all small-town local-news anchor-men are sent to The Frontier and The Torso-Painter makes his final decision about which one is Pastor Jeff based on “a gut feeling.”
Pastor Jeff is the only male Poet. Though he is anatomically male, he may be spoken of as female, and thought of as a kind—a version—of woman. This policy stems from his immersion in women, and perhaps, too, from the weird falseness of his Nameless Soul vocation—his shamelesss obedience in terms of keeping up appearances. It isn’t that Nameless Souls think of women as weirdly false—it is rather that Nameless Souls mistrust Pastor Jeff (due to his previous Nameless Soul vocation), and so, doubt every aspect of his identity, gender included.
The first Pastor Jeff is not known as The First Pastor Jeff. There is no such thing as The First Pastor Jeff. Pastor Jeff is always just Pastor Jeff.
Pastor Jeff has access at all times, in his own Burrow, to Pastor Jeff’s Telegraph. He may send in messages/requests/reports to Game Officials whenever he likes, and he will get a prompt response when Game Officials feel a prompt response is called for. Pastor Jeff should only use his Telegraph in the case of an emergency—for instance, to request some kind of urgently needed medicine. A response, when a response comes, is always by way of Pastor Jeff’s own dumbwaiter.
Illustration of an anchorman—caption: Pastor Jeff.
The way that power is distributed in Musclememory is a very complex matter. Sometimes Pastor Jeff is wild and strong, and sometimes he is a flimsy shattered thing, manipulated by a strong community of women.
Pastor Jeff is immediately sterilized upon his arrival in Musclememory.
A Nameless Soul knows, with certainty, that she is not a Poet… when a year has passed since the day of her graduation ceremony. If she had been a Poet, she would have been abducted by Game Officials before that time and taken away to Musclememory.
When a Poet has been chosen and has arrived in Musclememory, a pregnancy test is administered. If a would-be Poet is pregnant, she is released from her calling, and another Poet is chosen to take her place (a waiting list for Poets is always in place, in case of this problem, but it dissolves—as if a dream—if it is not needed).
All Poets are barren of new life.
No one is ever born in Musclememory.
The Intense Loneliness Of The Poet’s Burrow
There are nineteen Burrows in Musclememory, all of which are located on the second (middle) floor of Musclememory (the 66th floor of the building).
A Poet’s Burrow is often a place of intense loneliness. It is probably better described as a residence than a suite, given that each Poet—and this cannot be said about each Nameless Soul—enters into it every day. She must enter into her Burrow… in order to eat. The fact that she will live her whole life coming into and out of the solitude of this one abode… makes the Poet’s Burrow a sacred (irreversible) space.
Illustration of floor layouts for the 65th and 66th floors (i.e. the residential floors) of Musclememory—caption: the residential floors of Musclememory.
Poets are encouraged to decorate the doorways of their Burrows so as to make them unmistakably their own. When a Poet is outside of her Burrow and drunk or otherwise seriously drugged, she is typically escorted to her door by a colleague. This ensures that she won’t wind up dead on the floor of another Poet’s Burrow.
The Poet’s Burrow, despite its lack of modern conveniences, is really very elegant and luxurious. A dumbwaiter system allows for the exchanging of dirty for clean sheets and towels, and the delivery of candles etc… every day, without the Poet’s even having to leave the Burrow. Another dumbwaiter is used for the delivery of meals. Poets may order (via their dumbwaiter system) their three meals each day from a gourmet menu, and they may even request foods that aren’t on the menu, though there is no guarantee they’ll get what they ask for. Game Officials try to allow the Poets to establish and control their own diets, and they see to it that the meals are well prepared. The high quality of the meals eaten by each Poet (alone) is an important contributor to the solemnity and the dignity of the Musclememory environment.
In her Burrow, a Poet also has access to a comfortable bed. This bed is the only bed she has access to. Need of sleep and need of food cause the Poet to spend time in her Burrow.
Not all Poets feel the same way about their Burrows; one Poet may feel that the Burrow is the only place that allows her to think, while another may find the Burrow stifling—a place of panic and ache. Poets are different.
What A Poet Has Access To In Her Burrow
As luxurious as their lives might in some sense be, Poets don’t really own very much. Only their instruments (discussed below), a handful of games to play (discussed below), art materials and tools (discussed below), and The Poets’ Library (discussed below).
There are two kinds of things a Poet might use her dumbwaiter system to ask for and receive on a regular basis: supplies (1860’s-era) to be used in the making of art, and supplies for consumption (i.e. food, clothes, candles, drugs). What Poets ask for cannot be meaningfully kept; it is forever raw material.
What a Poet enjoys is always fleeting: the warmth of a bath, the sound of an instrument, the feeling of clean sheets, the taste of food, the high that comes from some ingested substance, an evening with colleagues.
Each Poet is provided with her own Veil, which is a set of cotton pajamas (top and bottom), wool socks, leather slippers, cotton panties, cotton bras, and, for those who request them, corsets and/or petticoats. Everything involved in a Poet’s Veil is solid white, 1860’s-era, and fitted to the body of the particular Poet.
Poets may request, daily, whatever drugs were available (and legal) in the 1860’s. A list of the available drugs is provided to them at their request. The list is as follows:
Aloes & Myrrh pills; Amber, oil of; Alum; Alum Burnt; Ammonia aromatic and carbonate; Augustura bark; Anisee oil and seeds; Antimonial powder; Arsenic pulverized; Arsenate of Potassium; Barium Chloride; Belladonna extract, leaves and plaster; Bergamotte oil; Borax; Boracic acid; Bromine; Burgundy pitch; Calumba root, tincture and powder; Camphor; Canella bark; Cannabis Indica; Carraway seed and oil; Cardamon seed; Cassia bark and oil; Castile soap; Cascarilla bark; Castor oil; Chalk, prepared; Chamomile flowers; Chloroform; Cocaine powder or drops; Cod Liver oil; Colchicum seeds, tincture and wine; Copper sulphate and acetate; Corriander seed; Creosote; Dandelion extract; Dill seed and oil; Dragons Blood; Digitalis leaves, tincture and powder; Emetics; Ergot of Rye; Euphorbium; Galbaum Gum; Galls, powdered and tincture; Gentian root, extract, tincture and infusion; Ginger powder, root and lozenges; Glycycrrhine; Goulard’s Extract; Gold leaf and Choride; Hellebore; Henbane tincture, leaves and extract; Hemlock extract and leaves; Honey; Hops extract; Ipecacuhana root, powder, wine and lozenges; Iodine; Iron acetate and sulphate; Iron ammonia chlorate and citrate; Iron citrate with quinine; Iron, wine of; Isinglass; Ilap powder and tincture; Juniper oil; Lead acetate, carbonate and plaster; Lavender tincture, oil and water; Litmus; Lemon oil and peel; Linseed meal and oil; Lint; Liquorice extract, pipe, lozenges and powder; Litharge; Lobelia infusion, tincture; Lagwood extract and chips; Magnesia carbonate and sulphate; Matico; Mercury ammonia chlorate; Mercury chloride and bichloride; Mercurial pills and ointment; Morphia acetate and lozenges; Morphine pills or liquid (hypodermic provided); Mustard seed; Myrhh gum and tincture; Nux vomica extract; Naptha; Nutmeg oil; Olive oil; Opium powder, tincture, sedative, plaster and soap; Opium and camphor tincture; Orange oil and peel; Oris root and powder; Paradise grains; Pennyroyal oil; Pepper; Peppermint oil; Pills blue and sedative; Pimento; Poppy heads and extract; Platinum; Pomegranit bark; Potash liquor, acetate and carbonate; Potash and chalk; Potash cyanide; Potassium iodide and cyanide; Quassia; Quinine sulphate and unbleached; Resin yellow; Rhodium oil; Rosemary oil; Saffron; Sagapenum; Senegal gum; Sandarch gum; Sarsaparilla root and extract; Sassafras oil and shavings; Senna leaves, powder and confection; Senega root; Silver nitrate and cyanide; Spermaceti; Strontia chitrate; Strychnine; Squill root and powder; Sulphur sublimed, roll and precipitate; Tamarinds; Tannin; Turmeric; Turpentine; Varelian root and aromatic tincture; Valerianate of Zinc; Zinc sulphate.
Poets may request as many as 15 different drugs per day.
Drugs are important for many Poets. Nameless Souls accept the drug-use of the Poets, so long as it does not keep them from doing quality work. The idea is that Poets are something like oracles, and Musclememory is something like the chasm in the rock the Temple is built upon. A steady stream of consciousness-altering chemicals is thought appropriate for life in Musclememory.
The residential area of Musclememory is akin to Kingdom Come (Little Fuadie’s realm), in the sense that it is exclusive, and in the sense that its inhabitants live without medical care, save the medical care they are capable of giving to themselves. Poets are even more impotent than Little Fuadie, however, in that they they may only request, and will only receive, whatever substances and equipment they could have gotten in the 1860’s. Poets lack, moreover, the means to do research of any kind; the medical equipment they request, and the medical procedures they imagine and carry out, are profoundly amateur. Little Fuadie has access to more modern drugs and equipment, and he may do whatever research he likes, or at least is capable of. Little Fuadie is never a complete amateur, but he does always have the disadvantage of having to perform upon himself.
Poets may also request and receive smooth wooden dildos.
Masterpieces Are Authentic By-Products Of Musclememory
In a Poet’s really very lovely desk, in the main desk-drawer, there is a thick sheaf of loose Musclememory cardstock stationery (light sky blue), and ten brand new, sharpened No. 2 pencils. Poets may request replenishment of this stationery and/or their store of sharpened No. 2 pencils (100 sheets and ten pencils every 18 days).
Musclememory stationery, adorned with a Poet’s writing, may ‘‘fall’’ sometimes into the street. That is how Nameless Souls describe the way the sky-blue, written-upon paper moves from the sky down into the street: ‘‘falling.’’
Each written-upon sheet of Musclememory stationery that ‘‘falls’’ into the street is known as a Masterpiece. Masterpieces may be verified (as indeed themselves) not by what is written on the page so much as by the page itself, the insignia of which identifies it as an authentic by-product of Musclememory.
Poets do not keep Diaries. Or if they do, they do so with a No. 2 pencil on loose Musclememory stationery. In a pile on The Poet’s desk, it may be recognizable (or at least believable) as a Diary, but when it is dropped from a Balcony of Musclememory, it comes all apart, fragmenting into the many Nameless Souls who naturally take possession of its lost-to-one-another parts.
Because they understand that a Diary cannot reach Nameless Souls, Poets tend not to organize their writing habits in that way. Poets are more often inclined to consider each sheet of Musclememory stationery as its own whole, which is to say, as the Nameless Soul who picks it up will consider it.
Most Masterpieces are devised, then, to add up to something. A Masterpiece may be a poem or a small story. A Masterpiece may be a series of questions, a confession, a pornographic drawing, a doomed attempt to reach someone specific in the world of Nameless Souls, the sketching of a moment in time, a list of favorite foods—any kind of intentional marks will suffice.
Upon discovery of a Masterpiece, a Nameless Soul must register it immediately with The Masterpiece Registry. Every Masterpiece is worth ten percent of the average yearly salary. Its content, in terms of what is written upon it, has no impact whatever on its worth, so long as it has any content at all.
Blank Musclememory stationery, known as Encouragement, may also «fall» into the street. The Nameless Soul who finds Encouragement has three choices: destroy it, keep it, or turn it in to The Masterpiece Registry. To destroy it—so long as it is destroyed promptly—is pefectly legal. To keep it is to risk prosecution as a Meddler. To turn it in to The Masterpiece Registry is legal, too, of course, but it makes no sense. That is, The Masterpiece Registry is simply going to destroy whatever Encouragement it is given, and no Prize money will come of the gesture, so why not destroy it yourself and save yourself the trip.
What Becomes Of Masterpieces
The Nameless Soul who finds a Masterpiece is faced with the same choices: destroy it, keep it, or turn it over to The Masterpiece Registry (where it will be destroyed). To destroy it oneself—so long as it is accomplished promptly—is pefectly legal (though not explicable, perhaps). To keep it without registering it first at The Masterpiece Registry is to risk prosecution as a Meddler. To keep it after one has registered it with The Masterpiece Registry is completely legal. To opt to take instead the aforementioned Prize money in exchange for the Masterpiece is also legal (that is, after The Masterpiece Registry verifies it as an authentic product of Musclememory, and if the Nameless Soul in question has not found one before)
Once The Masterpiece Registry has registered a Masterpiece as authentic, said Masterpiece is destroyed. No record is kept of its contents, save in the minds of those few Nameless Souls who saw it. Payment of Prize money is conditional, however, and requires the «owner» of the Masterpiece to sign a document whereby he swears not to speak of its contents in any public way. Like anyone who speaks of the identities of the Poets in the media, those who speak of the contents of Masterpieces in the media are subject to prosecution as Meddlers.
Keeping a Masterpiece is common among wealthier Nameless Souls—framed and mounted as a curiosity—but not unheard of among the lower classes. It is hard for some Nameless Souls to part with a Masterpiece. There are no doubt even cases of Masterpieces being kept by the homeless.
The Masterpiece Registry is conveniently located a few short blocks from Musclememory. Each Masterpiece is given a number—beginning with one and going on consecutively from there—and has its status noted (destroyed, owned—and if owned, by who). The Masterpiece Registry always has knowledge, then, of which Nameless Souls have been paid Prize money, and which have opted to become registered owners of a Masterpiece.
Masterpieces, once they have been registered to a Nameless Soul owner, have no monetary value, and may not be sold. To sell a Masterpiece is to risk prosecution as a Meddler.
If the content of a Masterpiece has any value, it is only ever in the minds of the specific Nameless Souls who behold it.
Nameless Souls who own a Masterpiece often develop a strange relationship to it. This may be due to the fact that it was written by a Poet, i.e. an inaccessible Nameless Soul. The inaccessibility of the Poet seems somehow sadly (and uselessly) contested by the Masterpiece.
Counterfeit Masterpieces are not possible. The Masterpiece Registry knows more than enough about Masterpieces to detect a fake. The penalty for attempting to counterfeit a Masterpiece, moreover, is lifetime banishment to Meddlersville. Such a harsh penalty for such a hopeless endeavor, coupled with the relatively moderate value of the prize, makes a counterfeit Masterpiece a much much rarer thing than an actual Masterpiece.
The Life Of The Poet
The life of the Poet can be clearly distinguished, in some important sense, from the work of the Poet. When she is in her Burrow, she is alone. When she is at work in The Tumor, she is alone. These two solitudes seem polar opposites, somehow: the Poet alone in ‘‘radically’’ different worlds. Certainly the work of the Poet cannot be excluded from the life of the Poet, and certainly the life of the poet cannot be excluded from the work of the Poet. What is the difference?
Two main differences. The work of the Poet is more intentional than the life of the Poet. The work of the Poet is but an aspect of the life of the Poet.
The life of the Poet, let’s face it, is unintentional. The unintentional foundation of the life of the Poet makes her vulnerable to the sense that her life is coming toward her, as if sent.
The strangeness of the Poet’s vocation stems from her unique engagement with The Covered Wagons and with Agony—an engagement which implies chosen perspectives. The Poet’s unique engagement, however, and its implication of agency, before very long become suspect. What makes them suspect is the Poet’s immortality. At the end of Agony, no Poets die. A Poet comes to understand that she has, in relation to Agony, risked nothing. What comes toward the Gambler is not what comes towards the Poet, and the implicit equation of the two is something the Poet is often (unfairly) accused of.
Poets do very important work, but they don’t do it very often. Their work is not about quantity so much as quality. They are afforded a good deal of free time.
In Musclememory—inside and outside of her Burrow—the Poet suffers above all from not having a Television. The crudeness—the difficulty—of life without Television is known as Rough Living. Rough Living is hardly unique to Poets.
While being deprived of Television is the most profound deprivation a Poet ever experiences, it is obviously not the only deprivation inherent in living in an 1860’s-era hotel. There is no electricity, for instance. There are no pets. There are no athletic grounds. There is no access to the realm of Nameless Souls. There is no access to any life outside of Musclememory. The deprivations a Poet suffers go on and on. And yet, it is hard to think of them there, in their luxurious Burrows, eating fine meals each day, given the chance to make art, free of having to do work they don’t benefit from, having access to whatever 1860’s-era substances they would like (morphine, chloral hydrate, etc….), having a community of eighteen others who have been subjected to the same fate, and having access to (and even having some power to shape) The Peep-Hole—it is hard to think of their lives as lacking.
Poets, because they possess a fairly fulfilling relationship with The Peep-Hole, are usually able to endure more gracefully the crudeness implicit in living without a Television—more gracefully, for instance, than The Country Doctors living at The Frontier. Usually.
Beyond the Burrow (the home) and The Tumor (the workplace), each Poet has access to four distinct social spaces:
• The Drawing Room (a formal social space for gaming and hanging out)
• The Salon (a large art studio)
• The Balconies (nice open air space with wicker chairs and obsidian tables)
• The Baths (a large space with a variety of Baths and showers)
Most Poets spend a good deal of their time outside the Burrow, hanging out in The Drawing Room, The Salon, The Balconies, or The Baths. Poets tend to break into cliques: The Salon crowd, The Drawing Room crowd, the crowd that’s most often at The Baths, the east Balcony crowd, etc….
The Tumor: The Poet’s Work Space
The Tumor sits not separate from Musclememory—it sits within Musclememory. Even so, Poets do not live in The Tumor: Poets work in The Tumor (occasionally). Poets, indeed, may not inhabit The Tumor except when they are working.
A Poet at work is a solitary figure, fundamentally and physically apart from every other Poet. Each Poet, that is, has a private work-compartment, known as a Sleeping Car. The solitude of the Sleeping Car differs from the solitude of the Burrow; as mentioned, solitude at work differs from solitude at home. The Poet moves back and forth, back and forth, between these two solitudes. When her work is done, a Poet exits her Sleeping Car immediately. The Sleeping Car will not abide anything but work
The Tumor is actually designed to prevent social space. Its spiral passageway is extremely low and narrow—tall Poets have to bend over. Obese Poets may have a hard time squeezing through. Poets who become too obese to work must enter into Rehabilitation (discussed below) or retire (prematurely, if necessary) to The Academy Of American Poets (discussed below). Typically, Poets will fast, and will crawl to work, rather than pursue either of these other two options.
The Tumor’s passageway is completely dark. Each Poet must make her way into The Tumor in complete darkness, groping her way along the walls and trusting in the gradual, halting penetration that is necessary if she intends to do work.
Poets enter The Tumor completely naked, in shifts, in a concerted way. The Poet whose Sleeping Car is deepest in The Tumor enters in first, and she is followed by her neighbor, and so on, until all The Poets have entered in, and The Tumor is full. The Poets enter in a somewhat fluid, reassuringly plodding line, as if their nearness to one another on the way to work—the smalltalk they might make, the songs they might sing—might somehow lessen the darkness of the groping journey. Minimal is the society Poets are capable of on the way to work.
Illustration of a long narrow passageway shaped like a spiral, spiraling into the center of The Tumor, with 19 Sleeping Cars along the way (passageway should be black spiral on a gray square, and Sleeping Cars should be white)—caption: the structure of The Tumor.
The door to a Poet’s Sleeping Car can only be opened by the Poet to which it belongs (she has the key). The result of entering into another Poet’s Sleeping Car is immediate Death—the same as entering into another Poet’s Burrow. The fact that each Poet must use her own unique key to enter into her Sleeping Car makes accidental Death almost impossible. It is conceivable for a Poet to follow another Poet into her Sleeping Car—this is most certainly one kind of suicide she might commit. It is hard to imagine, though, why a Poet would want to die in someone else’s Sleeping Car, or in any part of The Tumor.
The Tumor manifests the immiscibility of Poets at work.
The Poet’s presence in The Tumor is serious; the Poet works in The Tumor to bring The Peep-Hole to life for the millions of Nameless Souls who have gathered to watch. The Poet understands that the stakes are that high
A Poet entering into The Tumor is like a church videographer arriving at church. It is her church, but she must stand apart from it—alone with herself—in order to film it. At the start of mass, she looks through the lens and composes her first shot. As she records the strange and wondrous rituals of The Church Of Agony (The Church Of The Covered Wagons Bound For Laughter, etc….), the danger she faces is identification with those in Agony. She gets so close to the congregation that she feels herself to be (somehow) one of them.
Sometimes a Poet is startled to think that her face would not be recognized by anyone in her own church. She is startled, that is, by her own anonymity, and the thickness of the locked door through which The Peep-Hole has been drilled.
The Poet may feel like The Peep-Hole is a ghost living inside of herself, or that she is a ghost living inside of The Peep-Hole.
Poets Throwing Dishes And Utensils Into The Streets
A Poet is required to return all of her dishes and utensils after every meal, except occasionally—i.e. eighteen times each year—when she receives dishes and utensils she may keep. These special dishes are sky-blue, as opposed to the usual white. The special utensils are the usual silver, but they have an MM engraved on their stems. These special dishes and utensils are known, collectively and individually, as Sleep.
The Poet does not decide when Sleep comes—that is decided by Game Officials. The Poet’s only power is to decide what she will do with the Sleep she gets. She may keep her Sleep, for instance, for decoration, or for use in a game. She may hoard Sleep, without any sense of why. She may also throw Sleep from a Balcony of Musclememory.
Poets are not required to throw Sleep from a Balcony of Musclememory, but they are expected to.
Nameless Souls in the vicinity of Poets should not feel entirely safe, and Poets understand that. The acquisition of a Masterpiece is always a dangerous endeavor. Masterpieces are not the only objects that ‘‘fall’’ from Musclememory; Sleep, too, ‘‘falls.’’
The streets around Musclememory are always very closely attended because Nameless Souls very much desire the remnants of Sleep. Upon arrival in the street, Sleep is shattered or mangled (though it is true that sometimes the utensils of Sleep are weirdly unmangled by their tremendous plunge). Nameless Souls even collect up the dust that often remains at the explosion spot—the dust of Sleep. Nameless Souls think of Sleep’s dust, like any of Sleep’s bits, and like all Sleep utensils (the more mangled, the more telling), as protection for the houses in which they are displayed.
Protecting a house with false Sleep—which is to say, with objects not actually from Musclememory—is thought to bring a curse down upon the house in which they are displayed. Nameless Souls rarely display Sleep in their houses when they have not found it themselves. To display Sleep found by another is a gesture of complete faith in that other; it is to risk disaster for the sake of that other.
Nameless Souls who suffer any kind of visible physical injury due to Sleep are known thereafter as Pathological Liars. The basic unbelievability of what has shaped them makes them appear deceitful, grandiose. They incarnate improbability pushing into its utmost realm, destroying the basic believability of the world around them.
Nameless Souls who are killed by Sleep are never spoken of again, and all evidence of their existence is erased from all records, public and private, insofar as this is possible. Their bodies are delivered to Kingdom Come and loaded into Despair. Little Fuadie guides Despair to Utterance and, above Utterance, drops the body to its final anonymity.
Sleep Is The Brutally Fragmented Gift Poets Give To Nameless Souls
It is illegal for Nameless Souls to use any media to report when (or how) the Poets have chosen to throw Sleep into the streets around Musclememory. Those caught doing so are prosecuted as Meddlers.
What are a Poet’s motives when it comes to throwing Sleep from a Balcony of Musclememory? She may opt to throw with malice, which is to say, from a concealed place, when the sidewalks are full of Nameless Souls. Sometimes a Poet will even accumulate Sleep so that she can throw it in quantity. Her intention, in such a case as this, must be to harm Nameless Souls. Many Poets are—at least to some degree—hostile towards the realm of Nameless Souls.
Poets may even work together on an organized assault, launching large stacks and handfuls of Sleep on to a bright crowded street. Often, when this occurs, they follow their Sleep-assault by dropping dozens or even hundreds of Masterpieces. Nameless Souls who survive in the vicinity of Sleep are in this way rewarded, or taunted—it isn’t clear. Certainly when Encouragement is dropped, they are taunted.
Poets may opt to throw Sleep in other ways, too. Concerning themselves with distance, perhaps. Or concerning themselves with the safety of Nameless Souls. For instance, a Poet may opt to throw only dishes, never utensils, thinking utensils too dangerous. A Poet may opt, too, to lean out over the Balcony and scream, waving her arms. She offers Sleep, in that case, like a gift. She understands that Nameless Souls have a strong desire to protect their houses.
Nameless Souls in the vicinity of Musclememory are probably wise to keep an eye on the air above them. While Sleep is not likely to come, it is certainly possible. And if Sleep comes, it may be possible to see it before it arrives, and to avoid its explosion radius. Sleep’s utensils can be more difficult to see, but present less explosion-radius problems. With Sleep’s utensils, a Nameless Soul has only to hope that he is not hit directly. He may remind himself, too, that a direct hit is likely to render him unconscious, or even dead. Coming into range of Sleep is a much less frightening situation than, say, running with the bulls. “When are we not walking in range of sudden Death, Encouragement, and Masterpieces?” the savvy Nameless Soul asks.
There are souvenir shops nearby to Musclememory where Nameless Souls may ask employees what they have been hearing about falling Sleep. These employees are something like the guys at the bait shop—the guys who talk to all the fishermen and hear about what’s being caught, and where. The souvenir shop employees are simply the most likely to have heard about the events they are in proximity to, and any Sleep-fall patterns that may have developed. They hear the ambulance when it arrives in the area, and before long they have usually heard if there is a Pathological Liar in its aftermath.
Some nuts walk the streets around Musclememory continually, praying for Sleep-utensils to take them straight out of this world.