Doubling Back


Doubling back on itself the tongue can explore the uneven inner surface of the mouth. Some portions are out of reach but others accessible. The task of distinguishing through description one of these from the other is hindered by a natural antipathy of this cavity to the usual grids of orientation. Should the points of the compass be employed, or some other system? In a piece entitled ‘Analecta: My Body’, Paul Valery remarks that the interior volume is characterised by points of distance not sitting in relation to one another in the way we expect. Two relatively remote locations – a point near the ankle and one in the shoulder for instance – may seem to be separated by a distance no greater than the ankle is from the knee. A similar observation can be made concerning the mouth, although the conditions are complicated here by the mouth and tongue seeming to be at once inside and outside.

There is a point at which the bony support of the roof comes to an end. With a little pressure from the tip of the tongue this surface, consistent as it passes from the gums and over the palate, might be found to separate the cavity of the mouth here from another (higher?) internal space into which the tongue has no access. And further back the tongue finds itself out of contact with any surface. The idea that this empty volume now surrounding the probing organ is dark might warrant an entirely different line of inquiry – not because another truth is likely but because of the insistence with which the image of this space presents itself as dark. But groping around, other surfaces can be found. Avoid the rough portion which is simply a more remote section of the tongue itself and note that, unexpectedly, other parts even seem to come forward to meet the tongue’s tip, doing so as if the exploration is supported by a team of muscles the specific contributions of which have not been appreciated until now. The tip of the tongue is an organ more appropriate amongst these to accept the mantle of the ‘self’ that might, more conventionally, be felt to be possessed by an homunculus in the dark cavity of the skull. (Again the theme of darkness in the body presents itself.) The surface that comes to meet you, like other portions of the roof of the mouth which are less given to even this level of dexterity, is textured by folds. But here the folds are found to hide fissures which, in turn, contain matter foreign to the body. A piece of food is involved now in its own transformations. The tongue with its superior faculties of sensitivity is able to discern as much. Wave-like in articulation the tip passes to and fro and the multiple peculiar sensations give birth in the mind (in the mind in the tongue) to a model which, while bearing faithful witness to the exact peculiarities of movement and matter, deviates from these in significant ways. The foreign article is the focus of the tongue’s fascination. Its difference from the folds of the surface in which it is caught demands resolution. Since there is a play of looseness in its entrapment, although the tip of the tongue is a tool too blunt now for the operation demanded of it, to free the particle is the goal that establishes itself. While the tongue strives towards this end the image of the hidden state of affairs establishes itself too. The foreign article is white, of a texture and resilience that can be likened to the sinewy flesh of a sea mollusk. If a more adequate device could be found by which to grip on its available end, with care the article could be pulled to reveal that it is long – indeed longer and thinner than expected, and that it bifurcates into a ramified structure penetrating in multiple directions deep into corresponding cavities in the body. To remove in its entirety this white vain – increasingly appearing to be neither wholly foreign nor quite of the body – would involve some care. Its internal strength is sufficient for the maintaining of integrity but its fragility is such that it might be compromised leaving part of the organ behind, broken off in a passageway and beyond retrieval.

In any event the unsuccessful removal of the whole string would not be a matter for too much concern (apart from the question of pleasure derived from such success). Certainly if you leave some behind the thing will establish its presence again all the sooner, growing by asexual reproduction in the fissure in a way that suggests evololution for the opportunities that this kind of space provides. But the tiniest of portions left behind after the most successful of extractions would have the same effect, only taking a little longer.

* A version of this text is published in INVENTORY Vol.5 Nos.2&3 2005

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