Christian Bök


for Hans Arp


Awkward grammar appals a craftsman. A Dada bard as daft as Tzara damns stagnant art and scrawls an alpha (a slapdash arc and a backward zag) that mars all stanzas and jams all ballads (what a scandal). A madcap vandal crafts a small black ankh – a hand-stamp that can stamp a wax pad and at last plant a mark that sparks an ars magna (an abstract art that charts a phrasal anagram). A pagan skald chants a dark saga (a Mahabharata), as a papal cabal blackballs all annals and tracts, all dramas and psalms: Kant and Kafka, Marx and Marat. A law as harsh as a fatwa bans all paragraphs that lack an A as a standard hallmark.
Hassan Abd al-Hassad, an Agha Khan, basks at an ashram – a Taj Mahal that has grand parks and grass lawns, all as vast as parklands at Alhambra and Valhalla. Hassan can, at a handclap, call a vassal at hand and ask that all staff plan a bacchanal – a gala ball that has what pagan charm small galas lack. Hassan claps, and (tah-dah) an Arab lass at a swank spa can draw a man’s bath and wash a man’s back, as Arab lads fawn and hang, athwart an altar, amaranth garlands as fragrant as attar – a balm that calms all angst. A dwarf can flap a palm branch that fans a fat maharajah. A naphtha lamp can cast a calm warmth.
Hassan asks that a vassal grant a man what manna a man wants: Alaskan crabs, alfalfa salad and kasha, Malahat clams, lasagna pasta and salsa. Hassan wants Kalamata shawarma, cassabananas and taramasalata. Hassan gnaws at a calf flank and chaws at a lamb shank, as a charman chars a black bass and salts a bland carp. Hassan scarfs back gravlax and sprats, crawdad and prawns, balks at Parma ham, and has, as a snack, canard à l’ananas sans safran. Hassan asks that a vassal grant a man jam tarts and bananas, jam flans and casabas, halva, pap-padam and challah, babka, fasnacht and baklava.
Hassan can watch cancan gals cha-cha-cha, as brass bands blat jazz razzmatazz (what a class act). Rapt fans at a bandstand can watch jazzbands that scat a waltz and a samba. Fans clap as a fatcat jazzman and a bad-ass bassman blab gangsta rap – a gangland fad that attacks what Brahms and Franck call art: a Balkan czardas, a Tartar tandava (sarabands that can charm a saltant chap at a danza). Bach can craft a Catalan sardana that attracts l’Afghan chan-tant à l’amant dansant. A sax drawls tantaras (all A-flats and an A-sharp): fa-la-la-la-la. A maraca rasps cantatas. A lass as sad as a swan twangs a glass harp.
Hassan can ask that a barman at a bar tap a cask and draw a man a draft (half a dram, a glass): marc, grappa and armagnac, malt, arrack and schnapps. Gangs that act as crass as Harvard grads at a frat (Gamma Kappa Lambda) clack tankards and gawk at a gal, as a gal dabs at black mascara. Rash lads that harass vamps and bawds catcall a brash tramp: ‘caramba – what a tart’. A bacchant lad asks a madam (as drachmas pass hands): ‘what carnal acts can a man transact?’ A gal can grab a man’s balls and wank a man’s shaft; a man can grasp a gal’s bra and spank a gal’s ass. A clasp snaps apart, and a scant shawl falls.
Hassan wants a catnap and grabs, as a calmant, hash, grass and smack, khat, ganja and tabac – an amalgam that can spark a pharmacal flashback. Hassan falls slack, arms asprawl, and has a nap that spawns dark phantasmata. Satan stands back, aback a damask arras, and draws a fractal mandala – a charm that can trap what a Cathar savant calls an ‘astral avatar’ (part man, part bat – all fang and claw) – a phantasm that can snarl and gnash at a carcass. A fantast chants ‘abracadabra’ as a mantra, wags a wand, and (zap) a sandglass cracks. A hag as mad as Cassandra warns a shah that bad karma attracts phantasmal cataclasms.
Hassan balks at all sacral tasks – a mass at Sabbath, a fast at Ramadan: ‘what Kabbalah and Brahmana can match blackjack and baccarat?’ Hassan brags that a crackajack champ at cards lacks what knack Hassan has at craps. A cardsharp, smart at canasta, has a scam: mark a pack, palm a jack. (A cardmatch can act as a starchart that maps fata arcana.) A shah hazards all cash, stands pat and calls. A fatal pall wracks a casbah, as a charlatan fans a grandslam hand (‘damn, darn, drat’ rants a braggart). A rascal salaams and thanks Allah that a bank can award a man a stash that dwarfs what alms a raj can amass.
Hassan drafts a Magna Carta and asks that a taxman pass a Tax Act – a cash grab that can tax all farmland and grant a dastard at cards what hard cash Hassan lacks. Hassan asks that an apt draftsman map what ranchland a ranchhand can farm: all grasslands and pampas, all marshlands and swamps, flatlands and savannahs (standard badlands that spawn chaparral and crabgrass). Hassan asks that all farmhands at farms plant flax and award Hassan, as a tax, half what straw a landsman can stash at a barn. A ranch-man at a ranch warns campagnards that a shah has spat at hard-and-fast laws that ban cadastral graft.
Hassan can tax a Saharan caravan that carts packs and sacks past bazaars at Aswan and Rabat, Basra and Dakar. Stalls at all marts hawk Baccarat glass. Stands at all malls hawk Macassar brass. A haggard almsman can drag a handcart and hawk glass jars (racks and racks): agar-agar – dammar lac and balsam sap (half a franc, a flask). A drab washman, half-clad at a washstand, can wash afghans and caftans, sandals and tabards, as a ragman darns rags and hawks ragtag garb: slacks, pajamas and pants, scarfs, cravats and spats. A chapman at a standard hatstand can hawk panama hats, canvas caps and tartan tams.
Hassan can tax all banal trash that vagrants at a plaza pawn and swap: ant farms and lava lamps, rat traps and lawn darts – chaff and draff that jampacks all trashcans. A trashman and a scrapman can pawn scrap parts: fans, amps and a dashlamp, rads, cams and a camshaft, gas tanks and clamps, car jacks and straps, hand-cranks that can crank a crankshaft. A lampman at a lampstand can hawk Argand lamps (all brands): arc lamps and gas lamps, flash-lamps that flash at half a watt. A sawman can hawk all handsaws and hacksaws, all bandsaws and back-saws, sharp saws that saw apart a flat-sawn plank.
Hassan at Arab talks can canvass all satraps and ask that Arab banks back what grand plans Hassan has (dams and canals at Panama, arks and wharfs at Havana – tasks that, as a drawback, warrant what Hassan calls ‘a harsh tax plan’). Hassan lacks tact, and (alas) a rajah’s blatant sarcasm sparks a flagrant backlash as rampant as a vandal’s wrath. Hassan grandstands at a grandstand, as all thralls lash back, wag placards and rant a clamant rant. Arrant gangs clash and start brawls that trash rattan cabanas (what a fracas). A maharajah asks that a hangman hang all bastards and laggards that a lawman can catch.
Hassan can watch, aghast, as databanks at NASDAQ graph hard data and chart a NASDAQ crash – a sharp fall that alarms staff at a Manhattan bank. Hassan acts fast, ransacks cashbags at a mad dash, and grabs what bank drafts a bank branch at Casablanca can cash: marks, rands and bahts. Hassan asks that an adman draft a want ad that can hawk what canvas art Hassan has (a Cranach, a Cassatt and a Chagall). Hassan can fast-talk a chap at a watchstand and pawn a small watch that has, as a watchglass, a star padparadschah (half a grand, a carat). A shah can pack a bag, flag a cab and scram, catch-as-catch-can.
Hassan has a dacha at Kazakhstan, and at a small shack Hassan can hatch a dark plan.
Hassan wants back what past landmass a shah has had (vacant tracts that span as far as Khanabad and Ashkhabad, Kandahar and Samarkand – landmarks that Kazakh anarchs smash apart and sack). Hassan can scan an atlas that maps Madagascar and all lands afar: Java, Malta and Japan, Chad, Ghana and Qatar, Canada and Lapland, Rwanda and Malabar. Hassan can scan an almanac that charts facts and stats at Dallas, Savannah and Atlanta (Kansas, Arkansas and Alabama). Hassan asks that banks at Warsaw and Gdansk fax Hassan a fax.
Hassan can start a war. Hassan marshalls an armada that can attack Javan wharfs at Jakarta. Hassan asks that all sampans trawl canals and chart thalassal hazards (sandbanks that can strand a small bark, cataracts that can thwart a balsa raft); catamarans as fast as narwhals dash past a sandbar and ram all naval craft that lack ballast at landfall. Masts snap. Spars warp. A gangplank cracks as backwash slams a carrack and swamps a canvas tarp (splash, splash). A raftsman and a hatchman bark ‘avast’ and clamp a hatch, as all hands man a capstan and tack landward, hard abaft. A damp flag flaps at half-mast.
Hassan can watch as all hands land a small warcraft and camp at a lava sandflat – a basalt strand that has tar sands as black as magma ash. Wasps and gnats swarm as all hands stack sandbags and start a spartan camp. A campman, smart at campcraft, can spark a match and warm an ashpan that thaws what hardtack a clan wants: bran mash and lard, spam hash and salt, ballpark franks and flapjack stacks (all starch and fat). A packman at camp packs a backpack, a knapsack and a packsack. A watchman stands watch, as all ranks at dawn act as pawns that can marshall adamant brawn and march a harsh warpath.
Hassan can watch as a marksman tracks a stag, a hart and a fawn, and at last bags a ram (a bwana as smart as Tarzan can trap all mammals: alpacas and llamas, caracals and pandas, aardvarks that can catch larval ants). Hawks and larks dart past tamaracks, as jackdaws and mallards flap past catalpas and land athwart a larch (sparhawks and caracaras scrawk at blackcaps and avadavats). A bantam jacamar can stand athwart a jacaranda branch and catch all scarabs that gnaw at sassafras bark. A jackal stalks an addax. A Manx cat nabs a pack rat. A black asp crawls past a sawgrass marsh that has algal tarns.
Macaws caw as a phalanx tramps past a tall alp (a stark crag that dwarfs all scarps and
chasms), and at a dark pass all ranks halt, stand fast and attack a vast barracks that has ramparts and catwalks. A Spartan axman as stalwart as Ajax grabs an ax and hacks at a swart clansman: whack, whack. A Rwandan man-at-arms grasps an atlatl and casts a fatal shaft that can stab a grand marshall. A Slav warman as gallant as Galahad (and D’Artagnan) clasps a scabbard and draws a katana that can smash a man’s brassards and slash a man’s flancards. A sharp hand adz can bash a man’s arms and gash a man’s gams: swack, swack.
Alarms clang as a radarman tracks an attack craft that can jam radar and dart past flak at half a Mach: ack-ack-ack, rat-tat-tat. Vaward attacks blast apart hangars and tarmacs: blam, blam. Plasma blasts scald asphalt; napalm blasts parch macadam (glass shards act as haphazard abradants that sandblast all landwrack). Tanks clank and clack, as halftracks attack flatcars and tramcars: bang, bang. Cars and vans crash. A Mazda hatchback and a Saab smack a tram: wham, wham. A mad labman at a lab crafts an anthrax gas that can waft past all walls at a stalag and harm war camps that lack standard gas masks.
Hassan gags and has an asthma attack – a catarrh as fatal as lhasa and hanta. Cramps as sharp as darts and barbs jab and jag at gastral tracts. Carpal pangs gnarl a man’s hands and cramp a man’s palms. Hassan asks that a shaman abstract a talc cataplasm that can thwart a blatant rash (raw scars that can scar a man’s scalp and gall a man’s glans: scratch, scratch). A warm saltbath can blanch all plantar warts and stanch all palatal scabs. A transplant can patch a basal gland. A bald shah barfs and farts as a labman bawls: ‘plasma, stat’ (alas, alack: a shah has a grand mal spasm and, ahh, gasps a schwa, as a last gasp).


Published in Dossier Konzeptuelles Schreiben, Edit 63, Winter 2013/14


Eunoia originally published by Coach House Books Toronto, 2009