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An Authentic Gnosis

by Boris Kokotov

First, I checked endorsements written in the style of Cellar Notes, the wine-tasting gig on WYRP:

Some of the poems achieve an authentic gnosis in a rapt mode of negative transcendence.

Then I opened the book that Jenny, my girlfriend, talked me into buying. It had been ordered on Amazon and delivered to our studio almost as fast as a pizza from a local restaurant but not quite as hot.

Reading and talking about books was her thing, not mine. After she moved in with me a few months ago, I tried my best to avoid literary discussions in the evenings when we were at home. Occasionally I succeeded; this time I was certainly out of luck.

“I like the title,” she said, “Frozen Zodiac. I like how it sounds.”

“It sounds like an aphrodisiac,” I said. “Doesn’t it?”

“What a lame joke!”

A few minutes later, I put the book aside and began reading The New Yorker’s story about field research on bonobos: lovemaking as a pacifying factor among colony members. No kidding!

“Guess what,” I said. “Oral sex was not invented by a certain WH intern.”

“I thought it was a French thing,” Jenny said.

I told her about field observations, in more details.

Jenny was indignant: “Dirty monkeys!”

“All natural. One hundred percent organic.”

“Have you read the book?”

“Too destructive. Can’t stand it.”

“So you found a more entertaining topic in the magazine.”

“They are exceedingly social creatures.”

“Dirty monkeys,” she said again.

“Peaceful, smart, and resourceful,” I said.

“Let’s discuss poems!”

“What poems?”

“From the book!”

“I read a couple of lines on page 8:

Melancholia got me. Pains in abdomen, pains down the left leg and crotch. I’m sick and tired of my own complaints...

“And I am also sick and tired of those complaints. Do I really want to know which particular leg was giving the poet a hard time? Or what went wrong with his sorry crotch? The only crotch I care about is my own. Well, yours, too, occasionally.”

“You took these lines out of context," she exclaimed. “You should’ve read the poem to the end!”

“There is no end to his laments: ‘Some afternoon, or noon, it will be all over...’”

She grabbed the book and read it quietly for a while. I resumed reading The New Yorker.

Finally she said: “I still like the title.”

“I still like the endorsements,” I said.

“Put the damn magazine down, will you?”

“Sure,” I said. “Shall I open a bottle?”

“Get the one you bought yesterday, the one Hugh Sisson endorsed.”

Flamboyant, opulent, big-nose, but not intellectually satisfying...

“That’s what he alleged?”

“More or less.”

“We aren’t looking for intellectual satisfaction right now, are we?”

“Hell, no! We would rather enjoy the big flamboyant nose.”

“We may,” Jenny said.

* *

[Author’s note] While the story’s characters are fictional, the quotations — including the endorsement — are taken from Charles Wright’s book Black Zodiac.

Copyright © 2018 by Boris Kokotov

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