"As for those who don't wish to pay the price, who don't desire twenty million
years of life eternal - let them live a hundred years increasing and
-Geza Csath, "Opium"
A magician's garden, as dreamt in the morphine haze of an empire's death-wish,
by child prodigy, neurologist, champion of Bartok, and scribe of decay, Geza
Csath. 1917, the Austrio-Hungarian border shot through with war and disease.
Geza, of thirty-one years: country doctor, opium user, fresh from the theater.
Paranoia: following his family, wielding knives, attacked by giant toads.
Some of his best material. He shoots his young wife and lands in an asylum. After
attempting suicide he eventually manages to escape, heading for Budapest on
foot. At the new border he is stopped by Serbian soldiers. I am a writer he
says let me pass. A futile struggle. He steps back, swallows a packet of
arsenic, crosses into death. A garden.
And: Bill Lee, bastard son of American ingenuity, adding machines, ripe corn.
Flatfoot border-crosser, addict, writer of reports. Sandman to the collective
dream that is our century. Killed his wife once or twice. One of his best
So then: an encounter in the garden of this century. In my search for Geza
Csath among the walking dead, Bill Lee is my mole, the rusty hinge. Or
perhaps both are the foci around which I plot an elliptical hothouse. At the end of
the end of the world. Count from zero to ninety-nine. Again. The soil pushes
upward. Here's how.
I first discover the garden outside a small cottage near the Rhodesia-Zimbabwe
border. A fawn of a boy named Stefan sits on a couch dealing tarot cards,
speaking wanly of forestry and nursery rhymes. A yellowed map hangs upon the
wall. The air dense with some Afrikaans brand of tobacco. Leonard Cohen
imports, Maputo seafood, wind chimes. His right foot, crossed over left knee,
shakes feverishly for hours. Strange magic of bastard white Africa. Lost
of inbred aliens and shapeshifters. Here's the map.
He proposes to me a garden across time and space, as foreseen by the cards.
Dreamy boy. The last remnants of a fading colonialism: the increasing and
multiplying of subdistinctions, cartographic wish-fulfillment, unstable
hybrids. Mapped out by tarot and the logic of rime. Adding machines run on moonlight.
He suggests we go into his yard, which is overgrown with scrub and brush. A
stray dog made of ribs and string can't bark. Stefan removes his shirt,
revealing a concave chest with childlike markings of obsidian knife, into
which he rubs a mixture of dirt and spit.
I am dying he says, eyes wide. We all are, over and over; dust to dust. He
sighs, smiles to himself. There is nowhere for us, for me. I ran junk in
Cape Town when I was a kid. Coke, X, PCP, acid. My best friend Graham took it in
the neck. Rave on said Johnny. I slept on the beach, or with my dealers.
Small time pimp, seven stone. I got conscripted; shoot the kaffirs they say
die for us. I got cut up, I went spooky they say. So I came here, to the garden.
There are others here, I've seen them, I've read their reports. He hands me a
clay pipe and some photos. Here is your pass. Come. Look.
The dimpled pocket behind a young girl's knee, as glanced sidewise
by late nineteenth-century bourgeois realism.
The boil-festered armpit of late adolescence, feasting on the leftovers
of summer in the Hamptons, as feared by the Eisenhower years.
The pointy hips of a mulatto junkie put into service by a Cape Town
pediophile, as filtered through 1970's Technicolor.
The garden lies: on the isle of Madagascar, Royal Dutch Malay, beneath the
straits of Bab el Mandeb, circa 1660, 1898, 1956, contained within the back-
alley shadows of a sidestreet in Vienna. The garden is limned by a thin
membrane of history; its margins are those of the collective psyches of its
inhabitants, who vary from epoch to epoch. Each age constructs and maintains
its own garden plot, with borders porous and diseased. Time filters through
each era via the lineage of beast and plantlife; its markings are rent with
murmers of a self-enfolding Darwinism and planned obsolesence.
No sun, no rain. Weak fingers of light extend through fog. A fine ghostlike
mist carries stale incense verging on the point of steam. Amid stone ruins
creep serpentine vines, reaching out with hidden intent. Giant trees pour
forth saps of honey, KY Jelly. Sepulchral gloom, marble fountains; red pepper,
cubeb, wormwood. Nothing dies. Peacocks.
Need it be said that the center of the garden contains an infinite labyrinth,
a maze of such reach as to enfold the garden itself within its own lush green
vines? And that this labyrinth lives, pulses organic, creeps to an uncharted
subhuman time? Underground currents burrow through febrile soil soaked in
rosewater and grenadine, charting seasonal zodiacs of virility. Here we find
Geza Csath, flirting wistfully with a greater death, a ghost of a ghost
feeding on poppies and shadows.
His eyes water in dreary splotches. The landscape is faded; ringing ears,
nosebleeds. Gestures worthy of sunbathed lillies, as his entire frame bends
lithely toward sources of gratification, driven by a semi-conscious ache in
the heart of his stomach. Barefoot, he pushes his toes into the moist soil,
feeling the grubs burrow beneath his ticklish feet. Distant birdcalls and barking
monkeys. Mm, heavenly. But the hunger gnaws. Stefan and I stay in the
margins and keep watch.
The atonal gypsy music of Kodaly, as celebrated by Geza, libretto'd by
von Hoffmanstahl, performed by serfs on Swiss reindeer.
The timeless seeping of toxins into body and blood, as echoed through
the poetics of contemporary TV advertising.
This garden as glimpsed through a shower of urine, splashing warm on
face, issued forth by sibling cock or fountain.
The eating of tender pheasant. Anise oil, lemons, overripe tomatoes; almonds
and grapes. Honeymead wine in chiselled alabaster. The scene tinged with
empty and bittersweet nostalgia, the food powdered with ash and dust. Romance
unable to maintain itself; a sort of melancholic exhaustion played out in jejune
gluttony and narcissism. Geza stands off to the side, quaking softly as he
vomits out small offerings of bilous meat and sour olives. Bill makes
wisecracks about homosexuals to no one in particular. He must sleep in that
Time for a fix. Pock-marked face of red-aproned butcher, soiled with pigmeat
and excrement; nearby young child, deflowered, hanging in the meat locker with
silver hook through its neck. Touch. Meanwhile, Geza on his knees in grass,
digging into the ground with bony fingers. He cuts himself and feels his
blood pulse forth, spurting into the meat of the earth. You must die for us, again
and again. Count to 99. He squeezes handfuls of the bloodrich soil, rubs it
into his chest. The new black mead. He leans forward and presses his hips
against the ground, feels ecclesiastical. Stefan giggles from behind a hedge.
Live some more, write about it.
Outside the garden. Awakened as if from sleep. Sun's rays burn into me.
Sameness: Budapest, Cape Town, Mexico City. To get back, what price. It is
Stefan and the others like him that this garden is for. I try to reach out to
them through the dense thicket of time and make-believe. You have to die to
The tomboy redhead of fourteen years, discovering her colt with two
busted knees, as forecast in tomorrow's airline disaster.
The singular wail of a polecat with a finger up its rectum, as heard by
the nightsoil men and walking dead of wartime Morocco.
The population growth of rats inside the mass graves of Bosnia-
as mapped by the League of Nations, 1917.
Budapest, 1910. A brief report from Annexia, as read by young Geza in the
reflection of an absinthe decanter. Dear Joan, from this location it appears
that I am alien STOP I was able to cross the border today, but not without
severe consequences STOP My aim is not what it once was, meaning I suppose my
marksmanship is off STOP My continued exploration here depends upon my
writing, which thus entails confronting the mark inside STOP Perhaps I will then cross
the border for good STOP But they will not let me cross until I kill you again
STOP I have poisoned myself to the core, but this will not satisfy STOP Do not
think that I don't appreciate your position STOP The end STOP of the world
For Bill, space is the place, new polychrome frontier of an erotic and
biological need. Great black hole in ass of cosmos, all consuming blank page
of night. But can only look, can't touch. Dreamfever seeps through his gums and
rots his teeth. Too much of a good thing. Cross into territories of
nightmare and oblivion. Nourish. Live to write home about it. Sweat.
There is no one here but me. I come here alone. How does your garden grow?
Look at my penalty Stefan says. Inchworms, the burping of toads. You have to
sacrifice to make it live more. Take notes, see how the other writers.
Meanwhile, 1956; political shake-ups in Hungary. Fetid winds rustle velvet
curtains; shapeshifting. Bill Lee travels from Tangier to a clinic in
Budapest on the Haile Selassie Funeral Train. Upon arrival he meets with a Dr. Benway,
who has taken over the hospital from Geza's mentor Dr. Moravcsik. True to the
times: shady deals, parastasis, secret handshakes. Bill thinks all Eastern
bloc types look like amphibious aliens or ... (mumbled) "latent homo-sexuals, by
which I mean, lazy faggots." Toadies, goulash communism, parataxis. Despite
the language barrier, Bill successful in acquisition of Geza's remains: heart,
brain, and liver, ice-packed and ready for the push. Departure via
underground railway, headed towards Yass-Waddah. Bill will need to present an ink sample
upon arrival at the border in order to cross. That night he feeds on the
heart and brain of Geza Csath, yum yum victuals. He writes in a fever of sweat and
inspiration. Some of his best material. Memory courses through him like a
venom; he be hypnotised. "How folkloric." The train pulls into St. Louis on
a dull ache of morning in the late 1970's. The liver is for Billy Jr., drown'd
in gutrot, not too late. The transplant takes, but only for so long. What
sacrifice, for what. Death is painful; Bill, Sr. moves to the center of
nowhere, Lawerence, KS. Works on his marksmanship. Lives to write about it.
At the end of the world of Cronenburg's Naked Lunch, Bill approaches the
barren border of Annexia. The Eastern Bloc-like guards ask him his profession; he
answers that he writes reports. Prove it. I have a writing device. A pen,
shifty eyes, language, trade gap. But let us see you write, yes, write
something for us so that then we will know. So Lee wakes Joan, his rescued
wife-muse; time for our William Tell routine. Once more, the glass on her
head, the single report, the mark, her forehead. Dead again STOP. The border
guards eye one another; yes, you may cross. The frontier is dry and grey; the
soundtrack swells mournfully. The lighting dims like the whole world's going
on a nod. Fade slowly to-
The blue fingertip of a mustached gentry, as discovered in a tincture of
opium, retold in a Viennese parlor, circa 1906.
The sun's glare as reflected in the blade, as spent in the split rectum
of a young Tunisian boy, found dead in the alleys of late-60's Empire.
The black-blue lips, speckled with saliva and blood, of a noose-bound
youth in the death-throes of orgasmic doubt, as kissed by Stefan.
The borders of the garden shimmer in feline heat. Geza wishes to pass. Die
for us they say you must die first. Then you may write the site of your own
escape. Tincture of pantopon, meager doses of .002, got to make it last. Death by
degrees. Whoever agrees to this also agrees to die before he is ever born. I
am poisoned by an understanding of timelessness. I am a doctor, I can excise
time from within your brain. Witness: Raspatory for the pariostal! I have
now reached bone. Auger, please! Trepanation. I have made the hole... I am at
the dura mater. I carefully cut the membrane, fold it aside. With my fingers I
penetrate one of the folds, the one I alone know - and extract time. Pass the
absinthe. You may cross.
A new translation of Geza Csath as invented by Bill Lee. The languid stupor
of afternoon. I cross into dreamsleep and journey through an orchard of
tangerine blossoms. The ground is covered with black and purple berries which pop under
my feet like ripe pimples on a junkie's back. A child appears from the
shadows, takes my hand and leads me into the village. I am taking you to the penalty
says the child. Yesterday we captured a peacock from Miss Seward's farm and
plucked out each of its feathers while its feet were tied. Toothsome, huh,
mister. We come upon the town square, a small garden with a tall fountain in
its center. The child turns to me. Will you help me prepare for my penalty?
The tender removal of clothing, with requisite childhood mix of reverance,
shyness, fear, excitement. Pale skin, tiptoes, nipples. A crowd of children
gather, a noose hangs from a gargoyle's teeth atop the fountain. The child
must straddle the fountain and shimmey upwards, rubbing its sex on the cold wet
marble. Wisps of body odor, rutting sounds from beyond. The supple expanse
of virgin skin stretching along the neck as it reaches out for the rope.
Exquisite. Look at me, look at my penalty! Gravity.
Similarily, psychoanalysis. As used towards an art-nouveau kind of willed
decadence. With or without: Lacan. Representations of "violence" not
themselves violent. Sites of cruelty become shrines drained of risk.
Affectation and detachment. Stefan yawns; nations sleepwalk. It'll be on TV
tomorrow, the new celebrity murders, the new drug. Complacency. Read all
about it. Little happens. Time for a fix.
So: the Great War. States disappear, borders collapse. Geza, soldier for the
Emperor, trodding through the carnage chasing after healthy supplies of
morphine. The smells, the sounds. Dr. Csath extracts a bullet from the dura
mater of a corpse of indeterminate sex. Wounds increase and multiply. One
night a leg falls from the sky into his tent, waking him. He never heard the
blast. Take extensive notes, or just pay close attention. The light of each
moment is a gift, thinks Geza as he stitches a nipple back on to a soldier's
soiled chest. Blood seeps into the thirsty ground. After the war, there is
home to go home to. A century ends, another begins, again.
Still, death. Or, the living death of the addict. With each shit Geza's
intestines empty out the morphium, leaving him in sweet hunger. Got to stay
out of the cursed light. How times change. Sallow cheeks and rotten teeth shroud
him with an impotent dullness. The years go by while he remains, in wait.
More things show up like this to make their reports in the sun's withering rays.
Until the next taste, nothing, pain of nothing. Thus, the diary:
1. All human endeavors, industriousness, dilegence, work, seem to be
ridiculous and only hate-provoking.
2. All talk is tiring and stupid.
3. All plans are unrealizable and terrible.
4. All great, beautiful and noble things are unattainable and
5. At times like this I smoke one cigarette after another until I no
longer feel the taste of smoke. I eat oranges till I get tired of them.
Disgusted, I play the piano. I wash. Visit Olga. Find life
6. Look at photos. Write back.
The hermaphrodite child astride a two-humped camel, sleepwalking
through a desert of kif-smoke, as dreamt by Isabelle Eberhart.
The inhalation of the smoke of one's own opium-laden excrement, a
tasty cut, as choreographed by Nijinsky for a sanitarium tea-party.
The clean spike of needle in a virgin vein, puncture point ticklish like
genitalia, soon to be soiled by overuse, as savored by Stefan.
The death of the magician. A vast black silence encroaches. Geza prostrate
on ground, chewing on the garden soil. Atop a fountain, the Sandman watches and
waits. The earth is pulsing with heartbeat. The maze of green continues to
grow, capturing rodents and young children in the tight weave of vines and
branches. Snails, crabs, and giant toads increase and multiply. Cockroaches
feeding on young boys. Time to make like a tree Bill say and leave. The soil
pushes upward, against the borders of sense. Sleep says the Sandman sleep. A
nursery rhyme for all time. Die for me. The end of this state: the world at
the end of the world. Pass. It begins to rain: fingernails and patches of
dead skin falling from sky. Whispers, heat, sentience. Geza gasps my garden
my penalty my hunger my death. Return.
Le Siecle de Fin de Siecle