The Founder Effect – no. 6


I need to clear my mind. The Amazon is exhausting. It’s like talking with a computer. It perceives my every utterance as a thrust it needs to parry.

But more and more I get a feel for it. The glances of my blows give it shape, relief. I can feel its force there behind the words, the direction it’s coming from. The angles of deflection are telling. Like chipping away at a block of marble.

But who am I to judge? After all, isn’t that the extent language affords? Are any of us more than merely the words issued forth on our behalf? Is there really a there there? Beyond words? Is not being conjured through words? And is not every word of our being an approximation, an approach to the limit, of who we are and not the exact definition, floating and bobbing, never quite one with the current? Perhaps this is the quantum physics of language. That all we are are the traces we leave.

And if genius is measured by the width of our analogies, the Amazon certainly qualifies. It rants constantly, pausing only to eat and drink, a living almanac of irony.

Eve has quickly grown accustomed to the Amazon. She sleeps easily with her snout pressed to the pedestal.

I imagine the amphibian that crawled onto the mud, abandoning her slippery batch of eggs, gooey, translucent, dappled eyeballs twitching dreamily inside, a thousand clones, two of which, someday, somehow, a billion generations hence, would find themselves reunited, reconstituted, in my flat, as dog and bird. Abandoning them with no conscience. Perhaps even with what one would call faith.

Faith. If there were ever a word to sink to the lowest depth, it’s faith.
The Amazon demonstrates how language is woven from the strands of faith. It never says what it means or means what it says. Its speech is all feints and gaps, illusions of substance. The Amazon magnifies the slippage of words, their repulsive charges, their deference.

Only faith holds them together. To make sense of the Amazon is to ignore a truth: that meaning is absurd.

Yet another word I like. Absurd. And faith. And deference. Three things worth grafting onto myself. To slap them on the hunk of clay and pedal faster. Materials to be a maker, a poietes.

I would like to be a poet in a past life, for only a poet, in his curious poiein, could reconcile such competing ideas about language. The philosophers of poetry have provided a spectrum: on one end, Jacques Derrida’s pessimism of différance; on the other, Giambattista Vico’s optimism that language, poetry, and song ‘sprang up by the same natural necessity.’ Meaning may be absurd, but absurdity has meaning. One cries when hit, laughs when tickled – all utterance in between is splitting hairs. So I listen to the Amazon, listen to and make the Amazon.

‘Linguistic unity may be destroyed when a natural idiom is influenced by a literary language.’ Ah, well. Professor Saussure didn’t have a person like me in mind. A thing like me, a manifestation, a phenomenon of words.

Raat! What’s my name, fool?

I pour water into the bowl through the bars of the cage. I respond, Tell me who Carmen was.

House mother of all the fierce children.

She was your owner?

“…This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man…”

I say, I see. I think: Yes, indeed you made her. You made her from your words.

Raat! “…That’s the waaay we becaaame the Brady Bunch!”

Carmen was your mother?

House mother of all the fierce children.

There were more of you?

Raat! “We have a warrant.”

My thinking quickens. The Amazon demands I shift gears, from syllogism to intuition. I say, You were confiscated by authorities because Carmen kept too many of you.


I sit. Eve sniffs my ankles. I place her in my lap and scratch her head in senary waves.

I’ve been thinking about giving you a name.

Oh jeez.

No need to worry, I’ve taken into account what you’ve told me, your wishes.

Raat! Something with panache.

Yes, I know.

Let’s see…Ru Paul. Divine. Liberace.

Indeed I am aware of your preferences. Your preferences and your persuasion.

Raat! There is no I in team.

You are beautiful.

Golly gee whiz aww shucks Big Boy.

You are transgender.

“…I’m every woman / it’s all in meeeee…”

I apologize, that was rude. You are a woman.

Raat! “…Dude looks like a lady!”

And of what was once your flock, it appears you have been chosen. Picked by me for what I promise will be a greater, even lofty purpose.


Let me finish.

You don’t have to yell.

I’ve also gathered that you have watched a great deal of television, listened to a good deal of music. Have been raised on media, if you will.

Raat! “Cay-bull Guyyyyy…”

Do you know Carmen’s full name? Her surname?

I don’t pay the bills. How the fuck would I know.

Fair enough. I was just asking. That said, her name was Carmen. And you are her son – daughter, rather. The daughter of Carmen. Beauty. Exotic. Pop. Sassy. Television. Radio. The daughter of Carmen. What do you say I name you Electra?

The Amazon’s rainbow wings flutter and flap in a raucous display that makes Eve’s head pert.
“…Hohhhhh! Sweet mystery of life, at last I have found yooouuu!”

I take it you’re pleased. Will this do?

Electra! I like it! Electra! I like it! Boom chicky boom chicky boom-boom-boom!

May I call you Electra from now on?

Oh, thank you.

You’re most welcome. Although I did have other names in mind, more suggestions, if you like.

Don’t ruin it. Electra.

There were in fact other names, other possibilities, other identities that would have met her with other fates. Or maybe not fates so much as other referents, signifiers, signs. Illusions of choice.