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WHITE ON WHITE: a film noir — MONUMENTS OF FIRE
rufus corporation

MONUMENTS OF FIRE

Was it among men? Or in the lines and shapes, in the dust and colors. In the things blown and blowing. The shallow waves moving over pebbles and coarse grains where once great things stood. In the hazy sky and the memory of grand architectures. In the blunt and illegible forms stood like crude arithmetic against the shimmering playa. What did you seek to retain and hold dear in the palm of your hand like a creature in the safe pool of your deepest sympathy, in your nostalgic future. The thing that you were looking for. Is invisible. Awaken from your slumber.

When I returned, I spent days inside, wrapped in blankets and furs, with very little in my brain and nothing on my voice; chemicals that don’t know what they are yet, just sounds and some words that are not in any proper order. Very alone, with all the time and real coffee that I could want, and no idea what to do with myself. But I feel I owe it, because it is not enough to be a phantom; a scorned and dishonorable affliction, the brujo, whose mismanaged tempers and discontents drive him down private godless lanes from which it is impossible to return to a state of grace. It is too late to be a white devil. Believe it or not, that world is over. The world is absorbing, everyone, as it ceases to astonish. I wish to be in a room with tobacco, but that room is gone. The place I am from is not that place anymore. I have no name, and I come from nowhere. This is true and not true. But in that space, it is true. Out on the open lands, where the fires are built.

On the Kazakh Steppe there is the legend of the Mankurt. A strong, young man who is captured in battle by Mongols and taken out into the desert. There he is beaten and starved, but not killed. His head is shaved. A nursing milk camel is executed and her udders are brutally sliced off. The flesh of the camel breast is stretched over the fallen warrior’s head like a skull-cap where it dries in the desert sun, tightening and constricting about the man’s cranium, sealing itself permanently to the living. His hair grows but the camel dermis, which is now like a second layer of grafted leather, does not permit the hair to grow outward, so it turns back on itself and grows into his own scalp like dental syringes, afflicting him with unimaginable pain. This added to nakedness, beatings, starvation, dehydration, sunburn, sunstroke, heatstroke, bites, infections, infestations, sleep deprivation and isolation reduce the once-man to a primal state of perpetual agony and with it, absolute madness. If he survives the ordeal, as though passing through fire, his memory has been erased, and with it his identity, he has no more self. He is no one. And good for nothing, or anything. A slave; a laborer, or selfless herdsman, wandering and blank.

by Jeff Wood