A snippet of the story "Jabberwhorl Cronstadt" from Black Spring

by Henry Miller, © Grove Press 1963

"Don't like that at all," says Jill. "Neither do I," say Jab. "I like the one about the little soulworms that fly out of the nest for the resurrection. Jill's got one inside her too... it's sprouting and sprouting. Can't stop it. Yesterday it was a tadpole, tomorrow it'll be a honey-suckle vine. Can't tell what it's going to be yet... not eventually. It dies in the nest every day and the next day it's born again. Put your ear on her belly... you can hear the whirring of its wings. Whirrrr... whirrrr. Without a motor. Wonderful! She's got millions of them inside her and they're all whirring around in there dying to get out. Whirrr... whirrrr. And if you just put a needle inside and punctured the bag they'd all come whirring out... imagine it... a great cloud of soul-worms... millions of them... and so thick the swarm that we wouldn't be able to see each other... A fact! No need to write about China. Write about that! About what's inside of you... the great vertiginous vertebration... the zoospores and the leucocytes... the wamroths and the holenlindens... every one's a poem. The jellyfish is a poem too _ the finest kind of poem. You poke him here, you poke him there, he slithers and slathers, he's dithy and clabberous, he has a colon and intestines, he's vermiform and ubisquishous. And Mowgli in the garden whistling for the rent, he's a poem too, a poem with big ears, a wambly bretzular poem with logamundiddy of the goo-goo. He has round, auricular daedali, round robin-breasted ruches that open up like an open barouche. He wambles in the wambhorst whilst the whelkin winkles... he wabbles through the wendish wikes whirking his worstish wights... Mowgli... owgli... whist and wurst...." "He's losing his mind," says Jill. "Wrong again," says Jabber. "I've just found my mind, only it's different sort of mind than you imagined. You think a poem must have covers around it. The moment you write a thing the poem ceascs. The poem is the present which you can't define. You live it. Anything is a poem if it has time in it. You don't have to take a ferry-boat or go to China to write a poem. The finest poem I ever lived was a kitchen sink. Did I ever tell you about it. There were two faucets, one called Froid and the other Chaud. Froid lived a life in extenso, by means of a rubber hose attached to his schnausel. Chaud was bright and modest. Chaud dripped all the time, as if he had the clap. On Tuesdays and Fridays he went to the Mosque where there was a clinic for venereal faucets. Tuesdays and Fridays Froid had to do all the work. He was a bugger for work. It was his whole world. Chaud on the other hand had to be petted and coaxed. You had to say "not so fast," or he'd scald the skin off you. Once in a while they worked in unison, Froid and Chaud, but that was seldom. Saturday nights, when I washed my feet at the sink, I'd get to thinking how perfect was the world over which these twain ruled. Never anything more than this iron sink with its two faucets. No beginnings and no ends. Chaud the alpha and Froid the omega. Perpetuity. The Gemini, ruling over life and death. Alpha-Chaud running out through all degrees of Fahrenheit and Reaumur, through magnetic filings and comets' tails, through the boiling cauldron of Mauna Loa into the dry light of the Tertiary moon; Omega-Froid running out through the Gulf Stream into the paludal bed of the Sargasso Sea, running through the marsupials and the foraminifera, through the mammal whales and the Polar fissures, running clown through island universes, through death cathodes, through dead bone and dry rot, through the follicles and tentacles of worlds unformed, worlds untouched, worlds unseen, worlds unborn and forever lost. Alpha-Chaud dripping, dripping; Omega-Froid working, working. Hand, feet, hair, face, dishes, vegetables, fish washed clean and away; despair, ennui, hatred, love, jealousy, crime... dripping, dripping. I, Jabberwhorl, and my wife Jill, and after us legions upon legions...all standing at the iron sink. Seeds falling through the drain: young cantaloups, squash, caviar, macaroni, bile, spittle, phlegm, Iettuce leaves, sardine bones, Worcestershire sauce, stale beer, urine, blood-clots, Kruschen salts, oatmeal, chew tobbacco, pollen, dust, grease, wool, cotton threads, match sticks, live worms, shredded wheat, scalded milk, castor oil. Seeds of waste falling away forever and forever coming back in pure draughts of a miraculous chemical substance which refuses to be named, classified, labelled, analysed, or drawn and quartered. Coming back as Froid and Chaud perpetually, like a truth that can't be downed. You can take it hot or cold, or you can take it tepid. You can wash your feet or gargle your throat; you can rinse the soap out of your eyes or drive the grit out of the lettuce leaves; you can bathe the new-born babe or swab the rigid limbs of the dead; you can soak bread for fricadellas or dilute your wine. First and last things. Elixir. I, Jabberwhorl, tasting the elixir of life and death. I, Jabberwhorl, of waste and H2O composed, of hot and cold and all the intermediate realms, of scum and rind, of finest, tiniest substance never lost, of great sutures and compact bone, of ice fissures and test tubes, of semen and ova fused, dissolved, dispersed, of rubber schnausel and brass spigot, of dead cathodes and squirming infusoria, of lettuce leaves and bottled sunlight... I, Jabberwhorl, sitting at the iron sink and perplexed and exalted, never less and never more than a poem, an iron stanza, a boiling follicle, a lost leucocyte. The iron sink where I spat out my heart, where I bathed my tender feet, where I held my first child, where I washed my sore gums, where I sang like a diamond-backed terrapin and I am singing now and will sing forever though the drains clog and the faucets rust, though time runs out and I be all there is of the present, past and future. Sing, Froid, sing transitive! Sing Chaud, sing intransitive! Sing Alpha and Omega! Sing Hallelujah! Sing out, O sing! Sing while the world sinks...." And singing loud and clear like a dead and stricken swan on the bed we laid him out.