from SHEEP MACHINE
Out in June from Black Sun Lit
Sheep curves to the will of time, to the will of binocular vision. Do not un-derestimate. The eyes of the creator manifest movement. Wheat bends to the will of the wind, to the will of the camera, to the will of the painter. Is the gaze an abductee? Or an abduction? All blades, all wheat fall to the left. The fall is choreographed by the wind. By the gaze. By the abductee? By the cam-era, inanimate, directing movement without wind? The fall holds its breath, holds still, stiller, not falling, yet falling. The fall, unquenchable, ungovernable, satisfies the wild and the hysterical. The irrepressible wind has delivered a histrionic performance of pantomime. The fall without falling. In the frame of twelve seconds. A feverish fall utterly composed, coolheaded. Leveling.
Wind brushes aside, Yodas remain. Wheat arcs to create a makeshift gate for the bending sheep to enter the king-dom of the same field. This new king-dom does not reinvent the new king-dom. When the sheep matches the skin of grass, of the new kingdom, one is led to believe that a gate or a door can-not invite a coffee mug to experience insomnia. Sometimes grass bends into itself to experience paradise.
Grass and blades of wheat scattered by the wind. Silence. Two pink needles. One slightly invisible. Piercing out of the earth. Many centimeters apart from one another. Their vice? Their device? It has appeared before. Fea-tures long before. Eyes, mouth, nose. A face emerges from the vertical pasture and dirt. The face of a young boy. A boy with rocks as freckles. Boy stares straight into the binoculars.
Wheat shaped like the letter “H” rides on the sheep’s back. Is it “H” for Hun-ger? “H” for Havoc? “H” for Ham-burger? “H” for Harbinger? “H” for Haddock? “H” for Haywood? “H” for Habitat? “H” for Haha? Some blades of wheat become darker in tone, almost dipped in a thin coat of sepia. The tone of the earth.
Chaos reigns. “H” the alphabet letter gets unscrambled by the wind. Yodas disturbed, remain undisturbed.
More flares created by wind and gaze. More sepia-toned blades of wheat. At times the blond lines drawn by the wheat resemble the road up the pas-tureside of the mountain. Even the tips of the wheat create cul-de-sac path-ways. Who is going to stop the gaze from driving up or down unlavished turnpikes?
To crawl slowly. To ride that aerial railway. A coffin, seemingly to trans-port solely gods and dogs, not humans. It’s Doctor Who’s second vocational home, where he time-travels to. The sheep in the field alters slightly, a touch of corrugation, of wildlife, beastly se-nescence, and gains a wheat-based horn. Not bone enclosed in keratinized skin. Still, the stillness, the airlift, the parallel-ness of cable wires. To dangle.
The monolithic coffin makes slight progress, blocking one eye of the mountainside boy. Refractions imbued on the opaque window panels suggest a miniature cinema of future centu-ries. The theater of atmosphere, stark in contrast, televises itself outdoors in broad daylight. It replays the same homily of Mihály Vig’s sadness-borne euphony. Sheep bends, still bends. Only in a passing glance, monkey Yodas remain the same.
The boy of the mountainside ceases being a pirate, sees with both eyes, not navigating its gaze like its eye-masked companionable coffin. Now, our invest-ment in the creature of freight and con-veyance is directed to where the bin-oculars fetishize their own focal point. Here we know. Here the elevation is high. The coffin refuses to break out of tune; refuses to be bleak and impracti-cal. In one second, the coffin alters the face of the monkey Yodas. The coffin, tucked beneath the armpit of the rap-id-fire bow, remains soundless and un-obtrusive.
The coffin is ushered forward, con-cealing itself behind the rapid-fire bow. Such repressed disguise bestows on the monkey Yodas two mechanical boxing gloves. The multiplication table of five monkey Yodas ambushes the sky of the right binocular lens with ten boxing gloves for the boxing ring of me-chanics. When stars demand padding, the wheel of existence ceases burning. When symmetries multiply, we adapt quickly to their convolution. The sheep buried in grass relays heedlessness. Sheep buried in grass. Even wheat be-comes wild. Whiskful and airless.
Coffin exits out of hiding; coffin sepa-rates and becomes cubes of conjoined twins. Five sets of twins protect the chest of the monkey Yodas. The main metallic-based star refrains from pad-ding and embedding. When one man-ifests prosperity instead of scarcity, the new flourishing, burgeoning world compels the skin of viewers to grow fear. In this unnatural world of abun-dance, the eyes scream intolerance and terror. Even Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling untrembles before the onto-logical site of warped profusion. When freakiness meets unity, doom-laden sphere becomes beauty and eye-appeal-ing glamour.
Nearly out of the protection of the rapid-fire bow, coffin becomes robots and replaces the monkey Yodas. Held and suspended in mid-atmosphere by strong metal wires, the chests of the monkey Yodas display their nebulous tongues. A shift, a slight movement, can engineer another dimension and suggest another reality for soul-driven coffin passenger. This is to say: pas-toral beauty through the lens of tech-nology accelerates changes. Some so despicably precise and beautiful, only an apocalypse could invite such man-ifestation. From this point of view and exchange, a coffin can stick out its cloudy tongue and maybe wiggle its ears. Maybe. Maybe.
When coffin moves closer to the right edge of the right binocular lens, coffin transforms into a spear designed by the Celtic warlords. Five stained-glass spears overlap the monkey Yodas’ heads, altering their identity. Alien fac-es dismember the energy of the atmo-sphere. To pierce is to face alienation. To ride the coffin till its completion means it’s possible to 3-D print binoc-ulated cavity. The wheels of perception do not make their daily rotation. Still. So still.
Nearly out of sight of the mountain-side, coffin returns the faces of the monkey Yodas to their original state. The main star defines their minor radiance through white dashes as it traces the pentagon. The sheep bows, wheat stands straighter than usual, and the wind is a little defied. This return gives the inaccurate impression that things will be restored in time. But this is far from the truth. When one mode of transportation launches its encased mortal into the sky, it only indicates that disappearance is an invitation for more abnormality. This is just the beginning of different surfaces of ex-istence exchanging ontological blows with one another. Two spheres not wanting to be the same remain not the same.
Coffin enters, and not re-enters, the at-mosphere of Lens Left, thus redefining the texture and not the design of the spears. New coffin favors a miniature elevator of some sort. This coffin is more sophisticated, and possibly more suicidal.
Five gods gaze down, pensive and calm.
Under the awning of the rapid-fire bow, the coffin seeks temporary shad-ing. Under such protection, the coffin mirrors and creates symmetries of it-self. In this M.C. Escher’s world, the paradox of symmetry offers inflation and humor of an unworldly kind.
Mouth, pointed, as if preparing to whistle. Stars don, are kept warm by, mittens or gloves. From afar, climate changes indicate ridicule of cartoonish proportions. I remember now: these ef-fects that encase the extremities of one star bear resemblance to ceramic whis-tles. You blow and something striking, slightly, comes out. My nephew, when he poops, makes such whistle-induced faces. So many things are born from having two eyes that meet at the center.
Now there are two of us. Our heads to the ground, masticating. The ventrilo-quial wind. The ventriloquial wind.
Two of us, heads lowered while the coffin’s corporeal composition has the veneer of Darth Vader’s mask. Two of us, friendly foes swimming in the grass. The buoyancy of our wool. And the blades of wheat and the sweet mellif-luence of the air. Blades of grass, stalks so compelling, blink and blink, bating their blond rustic eyelashes. The flick-ering is infinite. The reduction inescap-able. Two of us and it seems no more.
Who weeps? Two sheep and we are a small cluster of blinding, blond joy. Heads bowed; coffin on a mission. Five black hearts carrying the weight of the Sheep Machine. To aim. To fire. An ablation. A battalion. Even an auto-mated star wears tripods to capture the heightened imagery of its asteroidic imagination.
Goosebumps, matters of the subcon-scious, drive the front wheels of the hu-man skin. Here, everything about the Sheep Machine invites terror. To gaze at the black centipedes of the rapid-fire bow. Closer inspection of the monkey Yodas’ headdress, an empyrean im-bued with soundless white dusk falling, evading, staging the scenery of the sky. When the wind invites the sheep to at-tend a party of wheat, the sheep blend with another so that two wooly bodies become one. Wheat offers the semi-va-cant crowd a cocktail cereal. It’s a soft, soft party.
One blade of wheat in particular has contravened the logic of gravity by bending itself at a trapezoidal angle. The wheat attempts to overcompen-sate for its lateral, provincial demeanor with a more ballistic flair. Parallel to the earth, the wheat expresses its philo-sophical, romantic stance by telling the grass: “Not infinity apart, but I vow to walk side by side with you until death fully unites us and collapses us into one.” The coffin brings its own interior coffin: no need to mask my own funeral when I am the quintessence of funeral. The coffin, an Emily Dickinson in dis-guise, declares, “I felt a funeral, in my brain.”
An accumulation of frames reinvig-orates the silence all over again. To start from the very beginning when two sheep meet to rewild the Swiss ecosystem. When the sheep eat and eat, George Monbiot hides in their tongues to lure the wolves into having a non-cosmopolitan feast of their own. But no allure or ardor is necessary. The sheep is bilingual, one leg in agri-cultural high heels and the other leg in a Tourette ski boot. One moment, the sheep is serene as a lake; the next, an interior neurological disorder, ward-robing the massive mechanics and fix-ing the incandescent body of five lumi-nous points.
By this time, social blades of wheat turn towards themselves for warmth, com-panionship, and emotional stimulation. They twist and intertwine double-he-lix-like and the surprise of concordance gives wind and gaunt wheat pleasure and coordination. Time is satisfying and the thirst reimages itself on the esophageal center of the monkey Yo-das: teardrop-shaped black keyholes. Time walks slowly into black apertures. Keyholes, keyholes. Minute, minor de-tails of an image of another image. No memory can substitute a hug for a hug. Time seizes infinity tightly like it was a strayed lover.
Craning its viper-like head, the wheat awkwardly curls. It wants to feed itself on the ennui of priestly ingestion. To be quiet when there is no snow. To be so quiet as if to breathe resurrection. The grass inhales the tongues of the sheep. As the industrial revolution stands next to organic matter the earth rotates. The clouds turn their quiet, ambient shoulders. Monkey Yodas remain.
We begin to see the neck of the sheep to the left more clearly. Amoeba-like in design, the sheep waxes the grass with quiet intent. As if to say: One day the snow will grow a beard, yellow and gold. Fruits of demon and Lucifer’s par-adisal den. And slow, so slow, the sheep whispers into the grass: You are so wild. The grass replies: Even on the hills my roots are trapped in the earth. Wild, so wild, but I am a balloon held down by rock. The sheep adds, “Do you know I read Bhrigupati Singh and Nietzsche?” The grass replies, “I wish I could smoke some weed while you read to me. I re-ally wish. Man. I really do wish I could smoke some weed.” The sheep re-sponds, “I have a high tolerance for co-caine. I just do. I just do. You are going to have to take my word for it. I just do.”
Dr. Bhrigupati Singh begins his essay on geo-philosophy by inquiring, “How is desire attracted to frugality?” The land-scape of Sheep Machine also begs this question of pseudo-frugality in the backcloth of abundance. Nothing shifts, but words eat words; the earth is dangerous when concepts make absurd remarks to fill the quota of a precise discipline. In the wind, the wheat tosses and turns as if standing while sleeping is the next pastoral fashion for the high population of cereal makers. Language and clergy sometimes make love. In poetry, it’s never good to become Catholic. Monkey Yodas remain despite drastic changes in the sheep’s jugular allocation. Beware of the Ides of March that has no eyes. Beware of time lapses. Beware of the certainty that arrives with technology.
ContributorVi Khi Nao
Vi Khi Nao was born in Long Khanh, Vietnam. She is the author of Sheep Machine, of the short stories collection, A Brief Alphabet of Torture, which won FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize in 2016, the novel, Fish in Exile (Coffee House Press, 2016), and the poetry collection, The Old Philosopher, which won the Nightboat Books Prize for Poetry in 2014. She holds an MFA in fiction from Brown University, where she received the John Hawkes and Feldman Prizes in fiction and the Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Award in poetry.