Tale of the 336th Heart

Darley Jest

Almost very likely there is no seduction, almost very likely there is no stream, certainly very likely the height is penetrated, certainly certainly the target is cleaned.
                            — Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons
There are two different kinds of fuck.
The fuck that's fucked, and the fuck that's fucked.
                            — Ben Mazer, "Monsieur Barbary Brecht"


Sometime before the end of the world per se, I dreamt I met a lass, who was a plutocrass. A plutocrass with throat of steel! Ms. Steele, said I, I knew you were a lass but had no notion you were a plutocrass—and I said this looking deeply into her pharmaceutical eyes, causing me to perspire, that 24-hr pharmacie selling to me all the chromium germanium tantalum silicon and sodium a modern heart could desire—and now that I know you are a lassie plutocrass, I do not say that you are plutocrassy because you are a lass, or lassie because you are a plutocrass, for it is clear that you are a lassacrass with plutonic overtones. And you might add, replied she (much sassafras), with throat of steel. O such appeal! thought I, such feminine appeal! So I took her out for an expensive meal. But the meal, I insisted, was to be had in the grass, which she seemed to like, as one might expect of a plutocrass. It was then that I decided, with emboldened a priori nerve, to cop a feel, namely by holding her throat while sucking her heel, and this she did not like, or so I feel, as in the alchemical night the squeals from the steel of her throat became polylingual, and, no longer panting, I went off flamboyantly in search of several dictionaries.


Upon my return I burst into inner song no. 6:
I thought of taking her back to 1933
so that she might have a different picnic
at the Rhinefall of Schaffhausen, specifically,
becalmed by gratuitous boot in the thick
Her face should melt
Her thighs should pelt
Her eyes should belt
(Her taste should … send her back to motherwords!)
For all those nouns in the night
would only bring us to fright.

I thought it strange that she could not hear me.


How I long for the vocables of the mysterious plutocrass; how I yearn for her in the grass. Was I a German exile in the jungle, she asked, with such riddim I could not oblige her with a bungle. Or an answer; should I lance her? True these lone verbalisms were solace, finer than rye Manhattans, though I thought it time to call old Wallace, who may have known Ms. Steele to serve herself in a vessel. What hassle. Above or below the cloven tongues, I knew not where I was, but for the bright plastic tassles. (They teased me from underground, costing me a British pound. And would this take me to the deepest words of Blackpool 1931, or to a time when Rosemary bore a son?) O! If only we had known each other longer, might I cradle my head in sprouted digits of telephone white Bakelite, to hear of valueless urban murder and conundrum growing stronger, to reach inside throat of steel with super-tongue to parch myself upon her glossolalia tight fight lighter.


Mary had a little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb little lamb


Would she challenge me to a duel? If my flow were to decrease from 95 m³/s to 1,250 m³/s, would that entail my backwards navigation of time? O a fish will simply not do, not a fish or two, a fish, single or double, is not the same, not the same as a knish shingle or bubble, when all a person thinks of is the oyster and when reality calls for nothing short of an eel. Which brings the question back to Ms. (or Mrs.) Steele. (I did not think to ask her if her vers libre were stuck in castor. A genuflaster! Done faster! Fabulative and master!) Lecteur, I certainly would have given a farthing to hold the heart of the woman of the throat of steel, in my mightiest hand, to break the monotony, at no cost but that of the sal volatile, which I brought from another land. Which land you ask? It is of no concern, inquisitive lecteur, for the present concern, at that present and not this present, is or was not the land from which the solution came but the nature of what was revealed, through the lucid method of removing a shirt, gracious of gracious, upwards from the body across the long throat of steel, and can you imagine how much that would reel? For if the throat was of steel then the chest, now so bare pink pale I could shoot it through; chest, paratactic axletree shot through with my yew! Strew on her Moses, said a passing hypocrite. It is all that I could do before I composed a thought regarding the joy that Ms. Steele had brought to so few. Her heart was pink purple blue clematis, if there is such a quality as blue, though I am aware of at least 325 species of clematis, implying that this unusual cadaverous heart must have been the 336th. I cannot be criticized on account of my mathematical conclusions, for it would threaten my gossamer malaise: to be assembled by bishop with talent for papiers collés.


Now that the heart had been reached, all questions could be asked of it.


There. Percy has an idea. Percy met Ms. Steele in a saloon, the details of which we cannot discuss by the use of words; the sophistication has always loomed too viscously. They were the pearls and the acanthus, who is to say which was which? Percy is insignificant. He had read of the 336th heart before I had written of it; a shock to the system. Percy's wind is a novel, or was it that his novel fell open to the wind? I cannot remember which it was. More than whiskey the idea of it fatigues me. The idea and the whiskey were one, according to the genius of Percy, and Ms. Steele was not unaccustomed to the fusion. According to the notes taken by the 336th heart, Percy was strictly sober. Void of idea, attitude, and trouser, the wild body of his brain a disciplined disruption to all forms of social organization, his mouth, once again, a dirty sock into which the following items poured, of their own accord, and flourished by meticulous citation: rock, an apple, carved sandlewood, seraphim, half-curtain, refugees, a sexton, Cicero, three crickets, five disposable pens, one Schadograph. His brain was terribly beneath the wiry trees of an unknown forest; 336 reported that brain had once been a tree with large searching roots, thicker and whiter than the knuckles of the greatest giant, while the mouth busily catalogued all items received and sent. We want to see Percy, the idea of Percy, in a new light. The demand comes, so that there are at least two remarkable individuals in contest to fulfill it, neither too aware of the rules of the game or of their close surveillance by the louche heart. One is a loser. The curved thorns of the thought of death, so swiftly requested, are at naked angle to the roots of the Percival brain, which map onto the points of an opalescent night sky. It is a fact.


What can I do for the 336th heart? Chattering does no good: the heart shatters, a candy heart for the silky Jubilee, the cotton candy of the reincarnated dandy, the mouth of Percy so taut and sandy. Wholly impossible to please it in one location; to think that I had once been so concerned with the acidic workings of a plutocrass! BLAST! It is only imaginable because it is factual! And a year begins ends with nothing to show for the heart.

The 336th heart: I am a learner both hyper-structured and erratic, and so I have read all the iconoclassics! The important thing was that I was once willing. Of which I am thoroughly sick and tired of hearing, all the made-up words in your made-up head. It is time that I put our conversation to bed. I have wasted three-hundred and thirty-six years, said the heart, with them the last crush of the bouquet of the Italian churches, roselilies, citronniers, so I confess the only memories worth putting to work are from the last three-hundred and thirty-six microseconds. I the 336th have looked upon Ms. Steele's feet, the composition of ten toes, Lolita's incubator, wishing to dream in them, on my best behavior no matter the century they were in, so that her feet made no sound.

With this I agreed in audible song:

Her shoes so slick and tight,
how I envied her significance
her legs were information
her feet were stimulation
and Ah Sin those toes!


The 336th heart said, drearily, anxiously, in a tone just outside of a trance: I am quite certain that I would have lived five careless lives on another plane; on this, I am confined to less than a quarter of a most careful one, whilst the knowledge of the life in me is undeniably greater than that of ten men.

Are you quite quite certain that it is the life in you? I replied, most afraid to speak to the heart.

Where else would it be? I am the heart! said the 336th heart.

It was the most terrible string of words I had heard.


Feeling syphilitic, the heart shrank into a corner, and as I glanced about, the room looked uncannily smaller. The heart admitted that it was mortified by time, the way the brain was too fast for the body, the way it trapped it all, so that there was not a gap or a dissolution, those words with all those special synonyms (such as self-erasure) with which the heart was familiar; instead, the constant feeling of not enough, never enough, always too much for the enough. With these hedges all around, how could there be a sound? How could there be a SOUND! And yet there might always be vision, from within the precious prison; so there would more reliably be smell, the vision of the nostrils, olfactory cognition! Never mind pen and paper! And its technological equivalents! It was enough to go around and smell, to smell all these familiar smells that should swell. These were smells that would swell in the joints of the brain. They would become blood in a stomach that could smell smells. They would become smells that were fair. The heart asked what was most recently developed at Oxford, and who was writing what where.


I showed the heart Dostoyevsky, Notes From Underground. It replied, three-hundred thirty-six times two is six-hundred seventy-two (336 x 2 = 672).


It was then that my other half appeared. By this I could only mean Ms. Steele. The primacy of our silent understanding was, as always, terribly demanding.


Remove the 'I'; speak only of the man, she said. When you were a child, said the ineffable Ms. Steele, I watched as you played on the playground. Were you a man then? You buried little capsules in the sand. They might have been filled with insects and coiled letters. You did not retrieve them. Were you my little man? Let me tell you a little story. The mouth (open), lower lip slit through, by a long sheet of metal, balanced in the cut; inside, a tiny cave, mostly of new teeth not intended for chewing. A mirrored wall, gold and marble, with red panels; the woman stands without clothing and prances before the wall, that woman being myself, said Ms. Steele.

Do you suggest, Ms. Steele, said I, that the heart has a mouth and a mirror?


I could not resist tearing into the second inner song no.3:

I would like
I would simply like
a bit of—


The 336th heart had eavesdropped upon the conversation. That I cannot give you, said the heart; the fate of kindness is a tale you would not like to hear. For it is the strangest thing, that perfect object, that common shop, and arrives once every few years in the oblong pyre, not to be seen or heard from according to the sun, who was missing nothing but the shadow, never recognized in the moment, being time's dark nebulae, or Percy's orientalia, oh god is it a form of delay! And I am one too quick.

I turned to Ms. Steele in her absence so queer and felt I had aged no less than a thousand pet years.

Was the 336th correct; could nothing kind be done or said?

Percy hit his brain against the wall: "The idea is dead!"


You may as well ask to hang your hat upon the ceiling. And then Wallace called, most unexpected, old Wallace, nearly dead. And he said, "I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I washed my hands, I—" and I saw where this was leading

          was it right to hang up
          on such an old man
          to hang my hat
          with so little feeling—



There could be no question of ethics in face of the task.

Goodbye, Wallace

I said


What is a harbor? I asked my barber.
This was the heart's idea of a joke.


If only there were a maeterlink to the past; this house is much too hot, let me out! I screamed. The reflection of a photograph of a famous spring garden in a glass of clear liquid calmed my nerves momentarily; entrevoir. The scent of yellow deer or mice filled the air; I breathed. The minerals and biomass, their corpulent shades, were new digestible magic! It was imperative to share it . . . where could the heart and I speak in private, away from the humming Percy, of course, and the thing itself, Ms. Steele? There were too many Hollands to enact our Flemish scenes, and this was no time at all to hoard objects, porcelains, and silks, nor in mephitic charade of detail to caress.


Here all is hand-made; I provided the 336th heart with proof of my scenes of Flemish life. As the heart was taken in by the gesture, I heard a low-pitched kicking at the door. Door was unlocked long ago, no need to kick it open, I said. Nothing less than the world! shouted Percy with big spittle. He promised nothing less than the world to kiss, yes, so serenely and torrentially, just as the sea—and I stopped Percy who, it seemed to me, was swearing. There was only one man who could swear in whispering gazes and his Englyssh was the most beautiful illness I had heard. I stopped Percy from playing a fool. Was the least I could do, yes, to prevent him from being hounded and shut up in glass. (Isn't there something you'd like to surpass? insinuated the plutocrass.)


I wanted life to be great. It dawned upon me that there must be an inner song no.8. But the heart corrected me; request for inner song no. o! I saw no reason not to cooperate. I sang inwardly:

Shelve me behind Shakespeare
but do not let my name pass by in jest
for was it not an Austrian
Hofmannsthal, [Hugo (von)]
who said it best:
          He could not rejoice.


That isn't it, said the 336th heart. You should know that I know your repertoire.


The song I had sung before the heart appeared? Not a chance.


I once confessed to the plutocrass that my sole aim was to please; I cited stuffed owls, African slaves and the Peloponnese. O that Chinee! She did not believe. You know that means not being perfect, I explained; behind the red curtain there are too many choices of perception to grieve. In desperation, I shaved my head like a man. She looked the other way with her dusky throat; I did not know what she was after, though I was certain she would get it as she can. I saw then that what she was wearing was a true frock, all grown up and unabridged and tan.


Can Ms. Steele be injured? You may have wondered by now, dear lecteur, with your intentions so fanatical. With the soft dead shoulders and crown of secret desires, she was certainly meant to be admired. Did I mention, I was once on sabbatical. That was when I met Ms. Steele, in the grass, a simple summer book, like any other, but inverted, surrounded by glass bees and seven farts with tulips tucked under their tweedy arms, and that was when it struck me: it was spring—spring holiday—in a fallen city! I thought it high time to do something classic, to ignore the columns of metropolitan traffic. So, in big red lights lit with white glow, I sat myself down in the counterfactual snow and reminded myself to stay very still and watch trains. Come out of your garden of boys, I called out to Ms. Steele. Be liberal! Join the men and Gods!


O why could we not find a language for Ms. Steele, who was so much greater than her actions and name revealed. She sat there so severe taking the curls straight out of her hair, gagging on her first name, refusing to introduce herself, looking Cinderella-pale; we all wanted to know, once and forever, was that first name male, or female?


I cannot connect, said Ms. Steele, sounding vaguely like an elephant seal, and with those three words—we had hoped for more—she left.


So we have come round to the first and original inner song no.3.

I recorded as much as I could in the rush:
dirty clean dirty clean
I asked to see her clitoree
of which she said there were probably three
only to realize, only so much memory
served by the lunatic remedy
my best my best, said she
you will not suck it out of me
(I felt confident that I could make her
or at least have a glimpse in Sodom
of the bare banana bottom
of Ms. Baker—until Ms. Steele said the following,)
I do not wish to be second best
all her ambition was in reverse
which I found most alarming
whereas another man, good mince,
would have thought it charming
and which made me feel quite terse:
o honey hush!


So exactly as they said at Eton, it was a process of elimination. I had been told never to pay much attention to what I was told, but I could not help but pay heed to what my eyes called a creed—of looking and looking. They were accustomed to philosophizing, you'll see, see. As the poor have their riches in perceptual knowledge because there are no constants—the night is hot cold hot cold, in the night they are asleep awake asleep awake—the eyes could reasonably be called poor. This time they saw that Ms. Steele had taken Percy with her, saw him in her handbag; what was the point of that? I asked myself uncountable questions to ignore the fact: I was left alone with the heart, fully intact.


In parentheses, she sent me a look most unforgiving. "I will send you my memoirs; you are on page 336." "How much of me have you included?" "Less than a sentence." "A clause?" "I treat you too well." And though the acknowledgment was brief, our parting was endless.





I fell asleep in the sun that gave me new life.


Is it cold enough for you? quipped the heart. I'm the heart, by the way, and it's zero degrees. Last night the wind had wind.


I did not see why the heart had to speak like that. That was when I understood, really understood: there's more than one way to skin a cat.


forgotten recovered faces I remembered her eyes so sweet warm and shelled









DARLEY JEST is a coastal phenomenon estranged from his Welsh roots in all but name, and may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for literary reasons.