Camille Hoffman: Partial Animals
Camille Hoffman paintings, words by Edgar Garcia
Introduction to Partial Animals: A Gathering of Tribal Texts by Edgar Garcia
In the years of waste, when the last animals choked on the smoke of humans, and the last humans gasped in their self-made corrosive smoke, packs of creatures who could not remain human kept alive what ancestral rites they could remember. They could not remain human because they would not receive the covenant of the exogenesis. And they could not return to the world of animals because they disposed that invitation when they settled to gates and squares. They listened in the forests but to nothing. And they gazed at the open sea with blank stares.
The rites they could not remember they reinvented. A magus in a four-headed mask unweaves the ceremonial mat to open the gateway between this world and that. He communicates the size, material, pattern, and allowable cost of the mat to a spirit on the other end, who takes the order and sees it fulfilled. From the world of spirits the mat resurfaces, entwined with sentient propensity. It is its multiple, intertwined narratives that they burned, not the object itself, when these endangered hominids burned the mats. To hear and not to hear was their magic; to buy and not to have; to hold and not to touch.
The food of their dead was melted plastic. Its black smoke danced as if anointed with balsam in the funereal circus. My research leads me to contest the assumption that they were unaware of the ecological impact of their ritualistic actions. It would seem instead—from the myths that we have recovered of their sacrificed sky god—that they purposefully incinerated the hole in their sky. Their perpetual fires and elaborate combustion devices were a kind of complex ritual sacrifice. The pattern, meaning, and depth of this rite will perhaps forever be lost to time. But the tenor of its importance is vividly expressed in their fetish jewelry.
The dying islanders fashioned baubles from wood, bone, and stone. Slipping the baubles through holes that they pierced through their heads they gave these trinkets the honor of mimetic resonance with the terrific light and heat of the young, G-type star that radiated through their methodically punctured atmosphere. Uniformly wearing the marks of a penetrating star on their fleshy heads, they had a keen sense of the cosmic, intergalactic dimension of life. They tried, in their way, to reach out to the stars.
Perhaps, as in our own time, their teachers advocated the cosmological scale as the necessary scale for the relational protocols of the spiritual world. And, perhaps, if this is indeed the case, their disappearance from the category of the so-called mere human was not as accidental as might initially be supposed. In the below selections, the cosmological literature of seven hominid tribes are gathered. It is my hope that this gathering will support the thesis that humans were not absolute savages. In many ways, they attained a sophisticated degree of culture, civilization, and art. If they failed to outlast the pressures of a multidimensional cosmos, they did so due to the strong attachment to the partial animals that they carried inside and that we often forget we carry inside too.
Tribe Name: PAN Therion
Language: Ghost Stories
Where They Lived: Walled Villages, Semi-Nomadic
Kind of House: Wigwam
Interesting Facts: The PAN Therion were nomadic, meaning that they moved from place to place. Part of their reason for doing this is because, in their creation story, their chief god had punished their ancestors for building a temple in a sacred grove. For many years, the PAN Therion or panther people had lived happily from the abundant fruits of the grove. One day, a panther decided to build a temple to honor the fruit-giver. In anger, their god struck down their fruit tree and set them wandering for all eternity, never again to build a staid house. To this day, they paint their faces white in shame for their action.
From the Panther “Snake Dialogues:”
A raindrop falls on a beetle’s head perched wet on a mix of mulch and manure whose notched eye fragments the maroon whoosh at a distance pass by. In the whoosh of maroon men spiral like iotas of rain spiraled on the windshield prompting one of these three to note that it is “starting to rain again, isn’t it?” To which another replies with a flinched nod of the head, “looks like it.”
One of the three is a caterpillar, who dreams of a beating butterfly heart inside his squishing chest. He assumes it is a kind of poetry while he crawls and, in his dreams, flies up among symbols held high in the air by intelligences who are not butterflies. He wishes to consult those intelligences on the meaning of the symbols but, even when they are willing, they are not always compelled to answer truthfully. Iotas of rain disperse like cities through a hematite mirror, showing the planners, architects, engineers, masons, smiths, merchants, traders, servants, painters, sculptors, stone-carvers, crafts-persons of all sorts, not to mention the agrarians who feed them, the priests to whom they bow (devotees of the jaguar-baby), and the militants who collect tribute to police the boundaries. Trembling above a vast system of underground conduits, roads buckle the metropolitan stretches, nearly bursting under the weight of religion, militarism and cash rushing like virulent, green blood. Sculpted from a single green block stone, the jaguar-baby washes its stomach in a basin as far as your eye can see. Paws on its eyes flash silver in the eyes of the denizens there shivers sent tight down their spines of fish in a rapturous grasp. “Dry in here, at least.” “You said it.” Lightning pulses the dim early night sky phased to a peak in a peal of thunder and thickening curtain of frayed rain. The rear-view mirrors the driver is allowed a view of the pulsing glare on the back passenger’s head across from his own furrows form unscrewed crosses lengthways to the sound of rushing water at the far end of a hall. He stares in that direction and the naked body twitches back. There is a very depth of the human mind that cannot understand that the twitch in the mirror is its own, although the socialized mind seems to understand it. Water rushes all around the vision in alternating shades of black and yellow. Pantherous, he thinks, fishing himself from the net of abstractions he knots. The poet smiles proud to imagine a root in “pan-therion,” while the baby feline eats his guts.
Once long ago the saint cut down a tree that gave birth to a bed of roses in full blush of beetles leaping naked toward their new city. The beetles continued to worship the tree with happy pains shooting like branches from their antennae-tips. But the saint wanted them off all sixes and without covers on their bones. They noticed hat this creature had an eye formed atop its head sensitive to light, a necessary feature when moving secretly through low grass. Like the hundred eyes of the scallop (incapable of forming an image due to its primitive brain ganglia) it made mineral pigments for the writing of light in its dispersed axon cerebellum. Imagine reading a book written in a language without shape or form, beginning or end, communicated instead by tints and shades through which you flip. This is the book that the hundred-eyed scallop writes. And it is the book of the snake’s parietal eye. It is the book of the saint. Who drinks the fiery draught will read the text of shadow and light sweeping the water’s surface. New creatures introduced marks and form, unnatural and imagistic, drenching boundary stones in blood to signify expansion. But some continued to see with the fish in the neck and to walk as if with wings. Man, you are a kind of one-toothed octopus after all.