Michael Andrews Arts

See Announcements for details on publication of Archilochus poems in Arion Magazine.

Ges Periodos

A Current Project

 


Ges Periodos was the title of a lost book by Hecataeus of Miletus. Roughly translated it means something like Travels Around In The World. Which, of course, puts one immediately in mind of Joshua Slocum.
      Hecataeus was the first to formulate something like cultural anthropology. He is the true father of history, genealogy, geography, topology, cultural anthropology and sociology. Neither of his two books survive. His first book had several titles; Heroology (study of heroes), Historiai (histories), or Genealogy.
      His second book was Ges Periodos, or Journey Around the World, in which he detailed the geography, topography and customs of the cities of the Greek world.
      The interesting thing about Hecataeus is that he told this as stories and fables including the belief that the current mythologies were part and parcel of the world of facts. Although we tend to think that this fact places his work prior to and outside of the business of factual history, it still had the major advantage of tying the world of stones and wars to the world of thoughts, dreams and belief. In other words, his reporting of fact was tempered by an association with values.
      Pre-Columbian map makers indicated the edge of the world with vague warnings; either you fell off the edge into an infinite void, or monsters lurked beyond the pale of the known world – Beyond This Place, Monster Be.
      After leaving Vietnam, Flo and I traveled around the world looking for sanity and peace. It was my thinking that we could sit on the beach in Perth Australia and wash the war away. In forty years of living in the world of facts, the Nam has never left me for a single day.
      It is my feeling that humans are more related to one another than they are alien. We wandered around the world by bus and train and ship and plane and finally, by VW bus. Like Diogenes I was searching, not so much for the Good Man, but for a Good People, a Good Culture, and Good Geography. I was searching for a way to escape an America gone insane. I was, and still am convinced that every dollar earned, every dollar spent, and every dollar of tax paid is a form of rape. I wanted to find a quiet, sane place to become a self subsistent farmer. I also wanted to give Advaita Vedanta, monasticism and mysticism one last look in India. I wanted to see the world. It took a year. I found both human empathy and inhuman chauvinism – nothing new. And so, somewhat to my surprise, we ended up back in a place called The World or, sometimes, Home.
      Somewhere going over the Khyber Pass I read Camus' Rebel and gave up the idea of god. God, like government, was an impediment and an offense to a mature human being.
      
Beyond This Place Monsters Be
      
These poems and pictures are, in a sense, a refutation of cultural xenophobia. After leaving Vietnam, Flo and I traveled around in the world looking for sanity and peace. So much for sitting on the beach.
      Still, the world is a circular place. Ultimately, it is only your own backside blocking the view.


Poems

There Is No Comedy Club In Meshed
29 August 1971

It isn't far from Herat to Meshed
but the Iranian border is good for five hours.
It is designed just to piss people off,
to prove who is boss and to con bakshish.
Marc pays the necessary bribes
when we finally work our way up the line
of busses and trucks and cars and camels
all loaded inside and out with the worldly
goods of the passengers, while the Iranian
guards drift slowly from one to another
stealing and taxing and oppressing the unimpowered.

Meshed is a big enough town that
you can't see from one end to another.
No one smiles in Meshed, no one laughs.
All the clothes are black and gray,
sometimes white and dust--there is no
color in Meshed, there is no life.
The sky is gray in Meshed, the dust is
the color of charcoal, the streets are
ashes and tears, the buildings are
carved from blocks of coal.
Meshed is holy, Meshed is sacred, Meshed sucks.

As soon as the bus stops we are surrounded.
It is mostly the pseudo men, the kind of dogs
that Islam has beaten into timidity and
aggression from the moment of inception.
They are all dressed in charcoal and dust.
No one has bathed in less than six weeks.
They rush to the bus windows and press their faces
against the glass. They haven't seen this
much female flesh in their whole collective lives.
They didn't know that a woman has more body parts
than a nose and fingers. They have never seen
arms, elbows, mouths, ankles and yes,
Allah is great, women have knees and calves.

There must a hundred of them vibrating
around the bus. Many of them are tapping
on the glass, hoping that some female
will notice that they are alive.
The women all fidget and pull things
over their legs. Outside the bus we males
try to shoo them away and they buzz off,
circle around and settle right back
on the windows like hungry flies.
Michele and Marc and Jean Claude
are going to look for a restaurant.
Joachim and I have to stay and guard
the truck and the women. I feel like
and eunuch guarding a harem.
The usual local go-getters want to practice
their English on us. English is
the language to earn money in.
"Where are you coming from?
Where are you going?
What does that shirt cost in California?
Can I have your glasses?"

After the six thousandth time I get
tired of answering the same questions.
I decide that I do not speak English.
I say, "Garfnoogle lee balmblak
in ziner ab gaflushkin?"
They all scratch their heads at this
and the local language experts
scramble their brains trying to identify
this new language and how they
can convert it into money.
They try German, French, and English
and when they try asking where we are from
I act as though I have just figured
out what they are asking and I say,
"Ishlandia komen der zigerrfart."
"Ishlandia," the experts all repeat
followed by rolling the eyes and exhaling "Ah"
as if to say, "Of course, Ishlandia.
I knew it all along. Famous for
crab testicle souffle."
They turn to Joachim who gives them,
"Nikforgul die anscuper mushen gooben."

They go back to the women behind the windows.
One of them sits on his bicycle seat
and leans against the bus with forehead
pressed against the glass. He is staring at
Anne Marie's neck, Flo's arms and Mitsu's legs.
He is literally trembling with excitement.
He is breathing heavy and rubbing his
pecker through his pants, rolling
his forehead against the window.
Finally he spasms, arches his back,
throws his head, slips backwards
and fall over on his back in the street.
"Son of a bitch," I mutter to Joachim,
"the little prick just shot his cookies."
As he gets back on his bicycle
I shoo the scummy little roach away.
Today will live in his mind forever
as the apex of his sexual life.

Meanwhile another emasculated Islamic
has his face pressed to the glass.
He only has eyes for Anne Marie
who is frantically trying to cover
every inch of her body.
He has his whole face pressed into the glass
and his nose is smashed like human putty
into a pancake with two nostrils.
His lips spread out like wings
and he grinds his teeth against the window
like a rodent trying to gnaw into the pantry.
His nose is running and he is drooling.
Anne Marie faces away from him and sobs.
Finally he starts licking the glass,
his pink worm of a tongue slathers
the window with a froth of saliva and sweat.
Flo is so enraged with disgust for this
human slime machine she hurls a pomegranate
at his face and it smashes into the glass
just where his nose and eyes are pressed
and the sudden impact shocks him enough
to make him fall back two feet, wipe the slime
across his sleeve to see if his
teeth are still in place and he leaps
straight back for the window.

I grab him by the collar and drag him off,
shake him a bit and chase him off.
By this time the women are using whatever
they can find to cover the windows,
hanging towels and shirts and blankets
from anything they can hook them to.

Finally the crowd thins out.
I guess they were all either
rushing home to check out the encyclopedia
for Ishlandia or to change their underwear.
Michele comes back with news about a restaurant
and the women put on the only clothes
they have that will cover them--
nothing but heads, hands, ankles and arms
are showing. We surround them like
the cavalry around the wagon train
and head off for more tomato boiled okra.
A small old woman gets through our guard.
We let her by because we figure her for harmless.
She marches up to Flo and begins screaming
in hysterical Farsi and pointing
at her shamelessly naked arms.
Then she hauls off, belts Flo on the arm
and scuttles off toward the Mosque.

Welcome to Islam. Welcome to holy Meshed.
We eat our vaguely uninteresting stew
and I talk to Susan, who translates to Marc
about Bernard's foot. "It's infected," I state.
"It has been swelling ever since Pakistan
and the wounds and scabs are running
and he won't even bother to keep
the flies from crawling all over it.
Shit," I exclaim, "he won't he put a sock
over it. It's the size of grapefruit now.
By tomorrow it'll be gangrenous
and I just don't want to ride all the way
to Paris with Bernard sitting next to me
all dead and black and rotten."

We examine Bernard's foot and decide
to find a doctor. Michele scouts one out
down some dark little alley and the doctor
cleans up the foot, pumps his ass with antibiotics
and hands him a pile of pills along with a lecture
about keeping it clean, covering it up
and not letting flies crawl around on open wounds.
Bernard is another victim if Indian Lifeboy soap.
Bernard would just sit there and die of sepsis.
Bernard is also thicker than two fat bricks.

In the late afternoon we drive out of holy Meshed.
We drive out into the desert far enough
to where everyone takes a deep breath
and exhales the stench of Meshed from their lungs.
Marc finds an isolated stretch of barren nothingness
with adequate cover, pulls over and yells, "Pee-pee."

We all scramble for our individual spots.
I turn toward Meshed and piss a cheery yellow
stream its way, and I am wondering
how they describe this little bit
of Islamic paradise in the travel brochures--
"See the wonder of Meshed.
Feel the fun.
A desert oasis.
Talk to fun loving peasants.
Meshed is sacred.
Meshed is holy."

"Yeah," I think jerking up my pants,
"and my ass shits ambrosia."