One of the less-noticed scholarly conferences this year was at least unusual. For how often does a long-lost major manuscript, particularly that of an idiot, come back to light from the ancient Western world? Now that most of the murder-trials have cleared up over which PhDs would translate it into modern tongues, the half-mad Book of Peristalsis returns with a hemorroidal vengeance, to blow the dust off professors and their classics-shelves alike.
According to the conference host, Doctor and Professor for Life Hans Klammy of The Institute for the Study of Ancient Idiots by Later Ones (ISAILO, Alcatraz), Peristalsis (1000?-950? BCE? Oh, what the hell) is thought to have been the son of an early Greek mother from Crete (there were also many late mothers) and a Philistine father (with some nice habits, too), who plied his wares in the eastern Mediterranean in the early Iron Age. “We’re pretty sure Peristalsis used a boat,” said Klammy. “But this guy was a walking poison-pen. We only knew about his work from idiots of Classical times, so this is a true find. And, it’s mine. On sale in the lobby.”
The work emerged several years ago as Doctor Klammy was unwrapping some fish. Noting a level of stink that could only have a literary origin, he noticed the picture-like signs of an ancient writing system. When he showed the script to fellows at the Institute, every one who could get near it affirmed its authenticity, just to get away from it. So, the Institute’s tech-experts came to the rescue, filling their hot-tub with Chanel #5, bleach and a touch of Guinness to leach the manuscript back into workable shape. Then the wheels of translation and publishing started to turn, and this minion of mockery began to speak again, 3000 years after everyone told him to shut up.
But why was that? We hunted more information around the conference floor, and then spotted Senior Lecturer (there are no Junior ones) Fritz Mazo among the few on their feet. “Ahh, Peristalsis. Peristalsis, ahh. Ahhh,” Mazo intoned through his imitation-sable beard. “What?”
Into this void leaped Dean of the Institute Ima Mann, a harridan deeply involved with the font and page-numbers of the publication. “Peristalsis witnessed the rise of full-blown Western kleptocracy with its kings. As such he was ostracized as a killjoy, a real pill, a pain in the ass of criminal power,” she sneered. “This was a maverick, a horse never broken to the rule of smelly old men. And they hardly even had saddles back then. Want some more metaphors?”
Scholars said that until now, the best evidence of Peristalsis had been only another legend, one of the direct inheritors of this tradition: a Greek of Classical times called Sotades, who reputedly composed scurrilous verses against the nascent Athenian empire, and saw them all burned before the aristocrats (already no strangers to mass murder for money) threw him also into the fire, in concern for the city’s youth.
“We haven’t been sure if Sotades existed, either,” added Mann, “but it was said that Peristalsis was his master and rhetorical suppository.” Dean Mann then twisted her whole face sideways to demonstrate the infamous sotadic smirk, which made her resemble Dick Cheney with gas.
Ancient linguist and Idiot Emeritus Norm L. Freek delivered the keynote address from a rusty guard-tower, and assured this reporter that he’s only fifty-three. It seems that Peristalsis, as a young boy growing up in Crete, learned that his lineage had included a Minoan princess. This really depressed the youth as he helped his mother hawk seaweed at beach-resorts to Mycenaean tourists, the families of warlords who took their tans between rounds of chariot races, bloodsports, face-stuffing and pillage.
So it was that when Peristalsis’ seagoing father showed up again, he hid himself aboard the boat among a shipment of alimentary medications. There, he started to write, with a stick for his first stylus and, shall we say, unsavory ink. This couplet is accepted as his earliest work:
So long, sword-loving mainland mother-fucks:
Reap what killing teachers sows, you schmucks.
Once Peristalsis’ father and the crew stopped tossing the boy overboard, they took him under their wing, hoping to suffocate him. But the plucky stowaway took all they could dish out, and at last they spared little Peristalsis, unless they needed a drag-anchor. Times were hard.
Dr. Freek insisted that multiple Aegean, Canaanite and early Hebrew writing-figures used in the manuscript point to Peristalsis’ eclectic school-years as the bung-boy of a hermaphroditic lord in the Near Eastern port of Ascalon. The city was then a bustling seaside entrepot of multinational cultures, trade, and fist-fights, which is altogether weird because Charlton Heston’s Moses is looking off into empty land at the idiotic end of The Ten Commandments. Anyhow—By the time of his manhood, Peristalsis was master of his father’s boat. This worked well as he was kicked out of every port where he opened his mouth. And still the dogged craftsman ploughed on, breaking new ground even at sea. He improvised new patterns in his rhymes:
Our mothers’ lands were households feeding kin:
Your fantasy called profit smashed right in.
You business-pricks who cheat the farm and Earth,
You’ll find out starving what your gold is worth.
“Peristalsis’ world was changing,” Dr. Klammy noted in his interminable contribution to the conference, “Everybody Duck, Here Come the Kings: or, How to Make a Buck Till We Find the Philippines.”
“’Peri,’ as we fond fellow-idiots style him, had just begun to prosper on the Black Sea trade by way of windy Troy,” Klammy said. “And then his old enemies showed up for their one last big hurrah—the sack of Troy, which of course turned into the Mycenaeans’ own complete exhaustion and bankruptcy, besides Brad Pitt’s most unbearable film.”
Dr. Freek, who by then was drunk on fermented oak-moss, added: “Peristalsis watched with glee while the mainland warlords took each other down. Ahh, but little did he know that this only opened the Greek duh-duh-door for the dimwitted duh-duh-Dorians. Some say Homer himself took up from Peristalsis’ leavings. I have noted, in the index to my revised addendum footnoted in the coda to the afterword of my definitive history, Freek’s Greeks, that Achilles’ first epithet for the ‘great’ thug King Agamemnon was, ‘You wine-sack.’”
Hence the next turn of life for Peristalsis as an omni-exile. For some time after, marked by the rotting of his boat, he became a forest-dwelling nobody, a drop-caste, seeking out wild consolations in the Near Eastern hills beyond the newly-planting Philistines. Up there, he encountered the dyspepsia, cultural wreckage and fermentation left in Pharaoh’s wake—for Egypt’s wars with the Hittites to control this land, which belonged to neither one, had exhausted both of them and everyone between.
So far so good, great kings.
You’ve robbed and killed and now you’re finished too.
Hot poxes on the lords who kiss your rings,
and think us born to build and clean their loo.
“What Peri means in this insufferable quatrain,” observed the portly imported German scholar Hartmutt Tweedle, “is that in Canaan, the new crop of would-be petty kings wanted all these lumpen-folk hiding in the hills for slave-labor projects, for their own little dim day of glory. Indeed, many of these brigands had personally mooned Ramses The Third. I have slides.”
Thus, among these Canaanites, who chose exile over slavery to an asshole (defined by Professor Klammy as “a failed human being”), Peristalsis immersed himself in the kindred spirits of a real old-time religion—a pantheon of goddesses and gods that made his head spin worse than the music, but in a good way.
After all, the whole universe and Earth and Moon and Sun were still alive and awake spinning all around them through an eternal now of cycling seasons and stars and desires and there were “fertility cults” whose ways added up to making life good for children and from birth to joyous polyamorous ceremonial feasting and fucking with an occasional rumble and beyond death too there was a luminous river running through and shining out of everything so that being alive was, all in all, not bad, if you kept your burnoose loose, though there wasn’t even a ceiling-fan.
Through its last agonizing day, the conference explored Peristalsis’ late years. He came down into the coastlands again and there were Philistine farms and olive groves and towns well-advanced in their first-generation designs and music as wild as the hills interweaving with Aegean flavors too, and rites and festivals holding every fractious fuck together, girls and boys of all description marrying up and not a king in sight. They liked pork-ribs wine and seafood and being left alone and competing to see who could throw the craziest cosmic party. Perhaps surprisingly, this might have been the end of Peristalsis as the idiotic poet he had been.
For where, now, could he ply his old obsession—indeed, the idiotic tradition he had created—with so few calculating, brutal, parasitic slobs entrenched on thrones, camouflaged in gold and too much Old Spice? Ironically (another first in the Iron Age), Peristalsis had found a measure of content in Palestine, but he might have lost his voice. He’d never so enjoyed a civilization that lacked cruise missiles. The Philistines had settled mostly quietly into lands that old empires had broken, and called themselves lucky to be Pharaoh’s policemen on the East-West trading highways. At least it kept that perennial pompous putz off of everybody’s back.
This was the conference moment that led both people in the audience to the forty-six scholars’ major point—that an idiot, one might say, is one who will not be ruled by a murderous hollow kleptocratic culture, because it isn’t one.
What saved Peristalsis from cosmic harmony came along just in time. Into the vacuum, a rival and very different school of idiots was rising. There had never been anything like them, and that’s a quote. The Canaanites heard, and trembled in their pants.
…This will be the manner of the king who shall reign over you. He will take your sons, appoint them for himself, for chariots and to be his horsemen, and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint himself captains over thousands, and set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make him his instruments of war.
He will take your daughters to be confectionaries, to be cooks, and bakers. He will take your fields, your vineyards and olive yards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take your men- and maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen.
In the folks whose supreme abomination was idolatry, Peristalsis the poet found himself more than outmatched. Did he live to wonder why nobody listened to that guy, either? For, you guessed it—Starting with their first king “like kings of other lands,” in two mysterious centuries this new tribe of idiots had ethnically-cleansed away most of the Philistines. Of course they had options: they could be slaves, they could leave, or they could die, and the new folks would be happy to facilitate.
Circles and cycles and dynamic interweaving cultures would henceforth devolve into a worse-than-useless succession of frothing madmen waving flags toward nowhere (Utopia), generating “progress” toward a goal that, today, is still as unspeakable as the name of its volcanic god—who acts like a smelly old man with a burning bush.
And lo, in appreciation of the new management, good old Pharaoh soon came smashing back through the country again, to clear that tribe’s strangle-hold on the highways. The Philistines’ centuries of highway patrol had made Egypt rich, and of course “easy wealth” got by your own or somebody else’s violence becomes an addiction that must be fed, till its spiraling mental illness leads to self-destruction. Same crazy notion, same bloody pattern, same outcome in ashes: incompetent gangsters taking over millennia of life and enduring, themselves, maybe two or three hundred years. Thanks, guys. Heck of a job.
Peristalsis was living through an already-failed experiment that had only gone round and round in a vain death-dance of natural defiance dragging everything with it. What unifies his wretched scribbling (if anything) is that the history-progress scam will go on till everything is dead unless people dig it into the mud with other wattle-waggling reptiles called Rex. We have only one more apocryphal nugget, that Peristalsis passed gently at last in a cheap pension on Mykonos with the first sotadic grin frozen on his face.
But that new Near Eastern school of idiocy was nothing if not tenacious. Its main competition arose only much later in the days of Plato (a.k.a., “Fatso”), when Athens was holding festivals to thank Dionysos (the one demigod for a really good time) for not coming to visit. They had their own imperial “good soldier” reasons tricked out, besides, to banish poets. Having kicked all the angels out of town, they filled the forests with monsters, who soon ran over Massasoit and Tecumseh, then “settled” California.
There just wasn’t time to explore how Peristalsis’ works left Shakespeare himself scratching his Coriolanus. But Peristalsis may yet find new audiences in America, where the heirs of his foes have carried on the story with righteous frackin’ zeal. Coming soon is the 1620-2020 anniversary of Plimoth Plantation, whose dedicated loons called Separatists (i.e., separated from everything in their own psychotic-evangelical brains) and patriarchal Puritans, modeling themselves on schmucks of old, went off the deep end—burning the country’s first English idiotically visionary poet out of house and home, hoisting him off the continent in a cow’s harness, and then launching a mystical flaming fiasco at Native Americans. At living Native Anybodies, all the way through Saigon, Palestine and Kabul, until this plutocracy of putzes came round the planet and dipped its sucking-straws into the last people likely to fight back, as long as they have celebrity cable.
Clearly, if Peristalsis the man teaches anything, it’s that it’s one thing to be an idiot, and another to pioneer new ways to build or stumble into an insane idolatry of fascist selfishness and call it freedom. Perhaps he can speak from the lines of his last leaving:
When lo, you violent creeps, who live to lie
‘gainst human hearts and souls, have done your worst
We’ll heap your graves with fetid offerings high
And dance the living circles we loved first.
“We’ve honored worse. Thank you, one and all, and remember I take MasterCard,” pronounced Doctor Klammy, and the conference was adjourned into police custody.