CAULINE AURIC’S NOTEBOOK
by Diane R. Wiener
Content Warnings: racism, metaphysics, alienation.
Cauline initially thought her name derived from Kali, inferred it was related to cauliflower, and, regardless, was grateful that the second choice of Waif had been rejected. The name stemmed from itself, an incomprehensible notion when her Jewish metaphysician parents had attempted to explain this to her as a child. Friends, when she had them, called her Caul for short. She didn’t mind, until High School biology, when she’d learned this meant the fold of fat covering intestines or the amnion portion covering a foetus’s head. Hoping to avoid the expansive tendency towards imagined suffocation, she opted for the revised Cal or Caw, because she was, after all, a fairy.
At approximately the same time, she began the unoriginal but, to her, seemingly bewitching process of identity formation which grew out of separation (from her family, and altogether). She wrote self-referential, occasionally pedantic verse from prose, not immediately knowing this made her a metaphrast. Pre-verse (‘stage 1’) prose pieces were like this:
You can have the keep-away last strands of snapped umbilicus I’m
reminded of upon seeing the threads hanging from the ceiling fan
as they unravel (since cotton is said not to break) then become
wrapped around and stuck among the blades.
A Writer was what she was and would stay – not become. Also a researcher, correctly interpreting research’s indispensable alliance with fine literature. She concluded, based on hypotheses formed via empirical reasoning, that M was the most important letter because (among other reasons), being at the alphabet’s significant halfway point, it initiated mid-life (a time of presumed peace), began all words having the prefix meta- and, as the thirteenth letter, metaphorically represented lunar stages.
During bored moments among peers in history class, carefully using her margins and pocket dictionary, she gradually converted all known words beginning with meta- into narrative forms, imagining the day she would publish a catalogue of her favourites. These narrations revolved around her perceptions of the intrinsic relational patterns among and between geological and biological entities.
Some excerpts from Cauline’s tenth-grade notebook follow.
1. Metamorphism (the line up of chromosomes during metaphase)
Writing lenses span
regions people unconcerned
if a particle or wavelength
defines when they are
rapture-held pitch-tight containers
inside emitting words
Rocks can be sustainers or killers, rocksteady or rockslide. They can, like Kali, destroy or create us. Our hands are isomers, but which one is measured against which is not necessarily clear. To reconstruct igneous rocks and possibly earthen crusts using isotopic patterns, Silicon Dioxide, Calcium and Magnesium Oxide need to form, and if Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen are available, life might form from rock – simulating the first rock would lead to the conifer, creature, beast, and then breath.
Keeping track with carbon dating pushes away the fear of death even if alleged life can be repetitively, ‘artificially’ created. We conjecture that a so-called re‑enactment of the origin of earth and its species would be artificial and not natural as we simultaneously presume that the beginning of life among rocks and organisms was natural and not artificial. However, we are uncertain and cannot really prove what happened or even, at times, what now happens or is happening. This confusion is also often true of our memories of the past (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t believe survivors – of course we should). Nothing can be kept constant; even as we walk near and away from the trees, their leaves break and limbs incline; they are growing silently within themselves, ring-forming. The trees are not the same the second after we look at or touch them – they have changed as soon as we have been there, and while it is not because of us that this change occurs, our human language most easily allows and possibly encourages us only to express this experiential observation in terms of the human and not the arboreal ‘point-of-view.’
During metaphase, chromosomes line up along an imaginary plate. We don’t really know against what they have lined up or what, if any, standard is being met. The ‘decisions’ that chromosomes make are not within our realm of understanding, even if we aren’t anthropomorphic about them in our conversation, and they ultimately decide virtually everything about us – except the choices we make. It appears that we cannot conceptualize, even with innate, sophisticated genetic material and readily available, diverse scientific information, the origins of our identifications as unique and essential, sentient beings.
2. Metafiction (self-reflective fiction; a unit of fiction and its contents)
Each street has its own meniscus. Going around the same block over and over again can’t ever really happen. We go around the street, and it’s a corner of a country into whose life we are now potentially privy.
I walk up the street. I am in Fort Green. There’s the subway, just three steps away from me. The third step and I’m in Calcutta. Beside me is a family in hunger. Up the block are the university, a movie theatre modelled after the Thalia, and too many white people to count. Tripping into the gutter, I turn my head and see the San Francisco skyline. The requisite fog foams over the bridge’s lips. Squinting, I want to find the sun. Leaning towards the left on the top of Twin Peaks, I bump into a stone with my binoculars, and it’s mid-afternoon in Palestine. It’s the northern rim, Rosh Ha’Nikra, near Lebanon, where two bombs have imploded the grocery bags of a civilian chef on his way home to make dinner for his now-widowed wife and fatherless children at whose table I am seated, eating bread and unseen. I bend down to pick up a crumb, notice the mountains out the window, then a crack in the 1930’s European import tiles.
I touch a damaged tile and am bitten by a spider on a hill in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Cold, slipping on ice, and shocked from the bite’s sting, I slide down into an oak grey and maroon bank. Squeezing the pain which has shot numbingly up my arm, I am sitting in a Public Health Clinic getting my pressure taken in Yuma. My PPD test is negative, but the bloodwork hasn’t come out too well. I shake my head, and a lizard has alighted in my hair. The mango trees shade the birds in Kingston. They fly close to my watch, and as I turn to caress them, a lioness charges towards an ibex in the Kenyan background. Ibex blood spatters my glasses, and, cleaning the lenses, I wipe my shirt against the grass by a mangrove whose roots are filled with bugs not much bigger than I am. Not wanting to deliberately create harm, I don’t remember they might eat me and wince at the reflection from headlights on a Land Rover in the outback. Looking up at the night sky, the northern lights spinning towards nothing in particular but, of course, profound, I spin myself towards remembering things that never happened to me, and I miss the train.
Notes for Entries-in-Progress
3. Metempsychosis (transmigrate–animate–soul; reincarnation)
Lava. not meta-, but not ‘crazy’ either
4. Metathesis (double decomposition in chemistry; old form of modern English)
metaphrases translate analogies from geo to bio to geo rock stemming
5. Metaplasm (non-living materials in protoplasm; transpose, change words)
cyborgs do have feelings
6. Metasomatism (replacing of one mineral by another with melting)
the Middle Passage
Fighting Fish breeding in foam nests
Diane R. Wiener:
Diane R. Wiener is a GNC, Neuroqueer, Mad, Crip, Ashkenazic Jewish poet/writer, editor, musician, artist, disability rights advocate, and educator who lives with two rapscallion cats in upstate NY. She is Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature and Assistant Editor of Nine Mile Literary Magazine. https://dianerwiener.com/