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Opus OperandiCiaran Carson
Vol. 15 No. 10 · 27 May 1993

Opus Operandi

Ciaran Carson

527 words


Fatima handed out twelve teaching modules of the ‘empathy belly’
To the variously expectant fathers. Some were Paddy, and some were Billy.

Today’s lesson was the concept ‘Orange’. They parsed it into segments: some were kith,
And some were kin. They spat out the pips and learned to peel the pith.

Then the deep grammar of the handshake, the shibboleths of aitch and haitch:
It’s a bit like tying knots, whether Gordian or sheepshank, clove or hitch.

In the half-dark of their lapidary parliament, you can just make out the shape
Of chimeras and Minotaurs. Anthromorphic goats are blethering to the demi-sheep.

It seems the gene-pool got contaminated. Everything was neither one thing nor the other;
So now they’re trying to agree on a formula for a petition to the Author.

He’s working overtime just now, dismembering a goose for goose-quills.
Tomorrow will be calfskin parchment, then the limitation clauses and the codicils.


Jerome imagined Babel with its laminates and overlapping tongues
And grooves, the secret theatre with its clamps and vices, pincers, tongs.

It’s like an Ark or quinquereme he prised apart, to find the little oarsmen
At their benches. They looked somewhat surprised as he began the seminar

On hieroglyphs, using them as prime examples. They began to strain
Against the shackles of his language, his sentences, his full stop and his chain.

He tapped the clinker-built antique and it disgorged its clichés.
He upturned it and it struggled like a turtle full of cogs and helices.

A school of clocks swarmed out from the Underwood’s overturned undercarriage,
Full of alphabetical intentions, led astray by braggadocio and verbiage.

Typecast letters seethed on the carpet, trying to adopt its garbled Turkish
Convolutions. They were baffled by the script’s auctoritas.

Bug-like, they attached themselves to the underside of the rug and hung there
Bat-like, colonised in non-pareils and minions, hugger-mugger.


Dr Moreau contemplated the Doormouse. It was wearing an elegant penguin
Suit. Moreau handed it his hat and went on in. He hoped the operetta would be sanguine.

Die Fledermaus was dressed up in his usual bat-suit. Crocodile –
Skin shoes. A cape for wings, and an absolutely Dracula-like

Dicky-bow. An as-yet-unbloodied bib. He bared his fangs as far back as the epiglottis
And began to aria an echolalia of aspirates and glottal stops.

Eventually he found a disguised Countess, and sunk an umlaut in her jugular.
He gargled in her tautonyms and phonemes, her Transylvanian corpuscular.

Her eyes drooled and grew as he imbibed her, as they glided through the mirror
And came out on the other side; then, clinging to each other, dimmed into tomorrow.

Moreau’s yesterday was their tomorrow. His fossil study of the pterodactyl
Had led him to believe that man could fly, fuelled by iambics, alcohol and dactyls.

Jerome drank the vision in. He put on his airman’s snorkel and got into the bubble.
He gave the thumbs-up sign, and set the ultrasonic scan for Babel.

In his amphibian, the hero limped home in a grand Byronic
Gesture; Fatima dismissed the Twelve; it was the end of therapy and embryonics.

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