We the People

We the People

By John J. Liptow


The once-lost scripts of the legendary personage Häämän have been recovered and restored and recounted and, as such, revisited countlessly there in its present resting place in the stalwart middle tower of the great cathedral at Gacê. It is in that place where the doctors and the pá gaust Jer'çae of many knowledge-hungry regions celebrate the valor, notably the twelve-thousand laborious journeys betook, of the legendary personage Häämän. Now the stories are undergoing a transformation of induction into the more common populations. It will be by many, many sessions of the moon yet to come that the heroics of the legendary personage Häämän will have been learned and preached and ordinarily celebrated within the customs of a people entwined with a great need to understand their struggle within the grand scheme of the universe. Häämän centralized that struggle. Glory be to Häämän!


I came to this land about 3 billion years ago, staying out of a sympathy for its people. The land spreads, so far as anyone has been able to tell, half of that distance to its moon and one-tenth of that to its sun. The land is a wasteland (excepting a marsh some thirteen trillion miles from my primary residence I do not know of any place on this planet borne of hospitality). No agriculture. I have witnessed no economy. These people are not the hunter-gatherer sort. Nor could one detect, among these people, any sort of parlance. Yet, among these people, have I been privy to a great breeding ground of ideas.

I have been enclosed inside the building for nineteen or twenty years. My feet ache with their inactivity. I jump up from the chair that is nearer to the door, and far from the window, and withdraw from the room, advancing along the narrow stairwell at a pace with which I am satisfied.

The gray face of the moon hangs ten degrees above the horizon as I pass between the two battling vendors. I am not wary of them. They do not see me. Their debate will go on until one has dropped dead of malnutrition and the other, I have no doubt, remaining a slave to his convictions. I will be far from here before then. I am curious, though, I am always curious—who keeps what candle burning on which concept, thought or idea. I pass by with the long-legged stride of a person of important business; yet I lend my courage toward understanding both sides. The fatter and simpler one takes the notion that soup, if given in proper proportions with a certain leaf to be found seventy million miles away on the bough of a tree, this tree growing on a mesa of land like the last stop before eternity (I have been there myself, I have known the tree) and if the juices of this leaf were to be boiled down and added to the soup then to the one who drinks this soup will wings sudden sprout on his back and every night while he sleeps will he night-fly out to the nomes of Gamïr and wake up again in the morning in his bed. I would admit, he had a strong argument. I wanted to hear its retort before bound to leave the vicinity. So the smaller being who wears a hat I have to say I've never seen the likes of says that if, indeed as he said, the soup with the leaf (in the right proportions, addended the fatter, simpler one, a cousin of mine from several eons back, we'd shared the same baptismal dune twenty-thousand kilometers above a city made of tin) was given to him (did he have to be about average intelligence, have a green wart below the clutch of his chin which caused him great embarrassment though never did him any physical harm and so decided he'd not have it cut off and did he with the green wart have to know the Story of the Yinca Little Boy which everyone should know but then you might be surprised or should he interpret the books of Roolf in such a manner as would please both you and I?) and this person agreed to do this indelicate thing then would he as you say sprout wings and make night vigils out to the nomes of Gamïr, or wouldn't you say that he, upon drinking this mixture, would drop dead where he stood. So it is interesting to note that my cousin responds to this well-formulated response with a laconic reasoning and articulate acidity, and in all my journey I do not think I will ever know the resolution to that debate. This is, I'm sure, by good fortune.

I have become a derelict from the mountains by the time the sun reaches the other side of all creation as I. A good degree of warmth slips down through the atmosphere from the Spinning Deity, there from its habitat of oblivion. The Spinning Deity throws it out upon us like the Yä's of the Múr region throw their feces day after day after day into the faces of the travelers through Múr. I do not worship the sun as many do: mine will come as a more practical association with it: contented am I with the knowledge that it is.

I am beside a dead Æpui in a lake of hardened glass. Deceased Æpui's do not leave a trace of themselves after a few cycles of the moon. I am convinced this one had wandered in here less than fifty-thousand years ago. My flames stay low to the cinders this night. There has been a death of flammable oxygen throughout the day. In many provinces upon this apocryphal world will this happen. The treachery of this propel only the foolish or devil-hearted to travel. The black night rests upon my shoulders as I crouch beside the fire.

I extend the broad tuba bark over the heat and the MëT food fries up with the smell of black earth and groves of prÿhs' innards. The delicacy is very ancient on this planet and to one who tries it will soon enjoy why. Most times will it suffice one for several journeys through life, as it is suggested that the blood digests the amalgam and enriches itself in a mineral that can be found in few places upon the planet.

After the nourishment, I relax. The fire consumes itself and in its doing an absolute state drifts over the area. The whole of the land watches the sky: the purest of ebonys communing with the darkest of nights. A handful of lights accentuate this empyrea: lone pioneers at this far, quiet region of the universe. I often conjecture while staring into the deep blackness—down through this terrible well of space must be those space-faring species whose co-existence and unity trivializes the customs of many lower dominions of life. They buy and sell goods, these cultural species as different as the tiny gymn is to the gigantic Åkaaallaala. The dark charcoal of space becomes weighted with my contemplation; at night we live in the shadow of our sun and with little light coming our way the universe seems like something pushing back at us, pushing us further away.

I grab a lying tree and rolling upon my back, I aim at the star glowing but a dim twitch in the south and calculate my position in relation to it. My computations are not accurate, as perhaps the star's worth is not accurate. I throw the stick to the ground and roll back upon my chest. My exhaustion from the day's journey worms down to all my limbs. The earth trembles. The first sign of trouble can be interpreted as that time when the ground beneath you begins to tremble. My sleep is halted. I console myself with the knowledge that there will be other times for sleep. I am in repossession of the stick and telling myself that if the land would wish to have me it will gain a belligerent, fighting opponent. I stand upon my verve. The earth pounds with fevered exhortations.

I warn my feet as they stand beneath me of a need not to be gripped by fear nor enticed by a state of complex nervousness to flee. The entirety of my hope will evolve out of the nature of these good, well-trained feet abiding with me.

The earth dances.

Time and repeated time again in the rotation of a life the momentum of a mass upon the fixedness of that life will create a spark of so large a magnitude as to either shatter outright that life or its dynamics will enhance the cumulative quality of the life. The span of the idea is intrigued with many interesting thoughts and theories. But in the whirlwind of this vast philosophy I am no more than an unschooled accessory, thereby lacking the sagacity to enter this intermediary

I wave my stick to receive the onslaught.

Several large beasts break free from the earth. A formidable collection of straight, narrow horns extend from oval heads, while a formation of bright, circular shapes upon their chests give credit to the distinction of their species. A star, with circumspect patriarchal purpose, mark the left shoulders of a few.

I thrash the tree across the back of one of the horned beasts and in doing I part company with my club and take up transactions with a short spear. Hurtling from the locomotive approach of a young but still massive beast I drop onto the path of another. Rolling clear of the animal, raising the spear aloft—

With great regret have I been handicapped with stunted limbs and so my effect upon this beast is a minor scratch of which will give it no worry and will not set it onto the path of immediate attention but to tell all of its comrades of the wound it received in the war... Enticed by the effort of one knowing pain or knowing joy, I attach myself to the collar of one of the thundering beasts; it shakes itself of this particular nuisance, but my resolution being undeterrable it resolves itself to my presence.

So is how it goes, for forty-four nights, for forty-four days: without rest the animals thunder in and thunder out of sundry geographies, as if they alone were the mechanism by which the world revolved...

Upon the wide expanses of land there are times when a figure addressing all that will come to a conclusive end. Such times are assured to be epiphanies, moments of unequaled, unrivalled perception. For some the moment may arrive at the instance of their death, not to be assumed as a fragility upon the wisdom of the cosmos, for a manifest destiny will ascend beyond the height of such wisdom; nothing is lost. As a review is taken many reclaim the atrophic nature of their restless souls. A presence with far greater width or weight oversees this reclamation. Nothing is lost.

So, does the little gymn give reverence to the gigantic Åkaaallaala for His great size? It is because the little gymn cannot understand such size that it cannot pay tribute. One gymn defers to another gymn for the power that its size wields over it; this is to be accepted among the gymns as they, as others, are driven by small, sightless natures.

How difficult becomes the understanding of the light that exists beyond the dark womb that is now! As soldiers at the edge of this dark we, the people, take up the task of our march to ostracize what prevents us from gaining that light beyond this womb. So how will the cataclysm of our universal deaths be projected: as masters of the infinite—or as slaves of the finite? I fall from the neck and become inseminated into this small, cool well. The herd passes by. Without fail the earth begins to quiet; I am alert to their distant passing and then I am alert to nothing. The reception of this renewed solemnity joins the pages of my mind, as the wine that those in Nêsos ingest to deliver them from living in Nêsos. It has been many millions of years since last I visited the poor state of the town of Nêsos. I wonder what now could have become of it. So considering, my travels lead me down a dark and darker road to a country we sometimes call sleep and sometimes call death. Mine lies somewhere between the two.


Two arrive at the same time, both clothed as two who arrive at the same time might be clothed. An alikeness appears about these two. Could they have once shared the same familial lineage? If two should arrive, announcing themselves, at exact the same time, and both wear clothing befit of these circumstances, and further, both resemble something innate of the other, should the hospitality be spent toward only one, though doubled on the account of the other's presumptive presence, or should both be recipients of the pleasant hospitality of the host—or should both be driven away and the pleasant hospitality be spent upon the next visitant venturing your way, excepting of course they fit the criteria?

I scrutinize the two with an extreme trenchant eye. I mention that if one will go and return a short time later and, in return for this favor, my most pleasant nature will be expended upon him, then I would not soon forget his courteous action. I invite the remainder of the party into my establishment. He sits close to my Rut juw and I shut my eyes and open them...and he sits very far from my Rut juw. I smile at him; and he turns and does not look at my Rut juw. I have the finest, craftiest Rut juw in all of this region and I am sure this stranger has realized it. I exit from the room to tidy up my den. I return before the second visitor returns. I carry in two vasks of Múr wine. My guest surveys the establishment, being cautious of approaching my Rut juw. He looks at me and I smile, looking at my Rut juw. He bustles across the floor and busies himself in discerning the history of the establishment. Though of no recollection to myself I act in other, knowledgeable manners. He tells me that a great warlord once visited here and thereby came to reside for ten and one-half millennia. I nod and say that it was the great warlord Ergaña, during the time the war was breaking out in In. He says, yes he thinks that was it. And then returns the second visitor, whom I nod to and observe how he steps away from my Rut juw; I smile without smiling. It is a good day, I tell him. Good to be here in my establishment. He points to the floor, and I smile and nod and thank him. The other says that there once was an earthquake just over the hill (which is the horizon) and from it, he says, reviewing a particular artifact on the wall of which I had never favored, this here artifact had fallen from this here wall. I stare at him as he says, yes this here artifact. The other says, there once was an earthquake around here, one. So I look at him. (Does one grunt once or twice when upon his quiet establishment two come, claiming earthquakes to once have occurred near? I am of the solitary mind to launch the question upon these two visitors...or to launch them into the belly of the next earthquake.) They talk amongst themselves. Their expressions portray hostility; but I am unconcerned: the establishment, after all, is under my rule and these two but servants within that rule.

I stand close to my Rut juw, emanating all the pretense that I do not see these two in their cabalistic scheming. I am privy of their approach to me. With a sudden, shocking recognition I claim to notice them. He who came second says with a demeanor of one who knows he came second but will not so much as argue upon it says: yes there was an earthquake here—right over that hill. I look through the window, out upon the horizon, and wonder if maybe an earthquake did occur there.

Two came to visit my warm, friendly, hospitable establishment and claimed to know of an earthquake that once occurred near, and so in such a context and of he who knows that earthquakes sometimes occur and sometimes occur near establishments will he wander from his establishment, hoping to configure a basis for two coming to him and informing him about earthquakes that once occurred near?

For many centuries have I felt safe and content within this establishment. Now, as a warm dusk settles over this country, I leave these places and set out upon a world worn down by principles and theory.


Almost nothing is known about the death of the legendary personage Häämän, much more being known about the life. In the time of the Päo terror from the time of Olstt there lived a particular wizard who chortled that he could see backward in time and forthright knew the complete and indissolvable history of the sacred and legendary personage Häämän. A certain story went that Häämän, upon retrieving the seventeen gorgeous daughters of seventeen abhorrently ugly residents of the townhead of Neem, fell in love with one of the daughters and married her and unbeknown to Häämän this daughter being the daughter of a witch and she herself being a witch and possessing a trait of destructive vindictiveness also, with a fondness of Häämän but a jealousy of his prestige and superiority with the people of Neem, she contrived to have him killed and upon a hundred and ninety-seven schemes at last was successful to her task and so was poisoned the legendary personage Häämän. Another story, whose provider is only known to have come from the isolated town of Ken, begins with Häämän entering through the high gates of the walled city of Drymutpa where the citizenry is in constant bitterness and malady and have been since before the city of Drymutpa was begun. So as Häämän, with no prevailing knowledge, enters the city, the league of citizens—in an unusually high bitter state that day—pounce upon the hero Häämän and fight one another for his few effects. So is the knowledge of the death of the legendary personage Häämän.

Peace be unto all the servants of Häämän...


I came to Nêsos many, many solemn moons ago, somewhere in the distant past. I had walked for eight-hundred years. I was gaining upon exhaustion. The good people of Nêsos turned me away. I returned. They celebrated my return. Now I have returned. For many, many solemn periods of the moon I have returned. The very good people of Nêsos, sometimes, wish that I would relieve myself of their vicinity and never return. But very glad are they to have me here; within the decayed boundaries of the sorrowful town of Nêsos they laud me as the hero who has returned. So we progress to this very dawn. As the graveyard diggers were finding their ways back to their homes, I traipsed up the alleys and back avenues and across the narrow boulevards as in the suit of the beggardly. A few offered up me leavings from their professions. The gravediggers dug deeper into their pockets than the others and were sometimes of the inclination to leave me with some of these items, and sometimes shoved me aside, grumbling and going home to their beds. I came to an intersection where stood others of the trade. They looked in many ways in the way that I stood and looked to them: an ignoble, dispirited, harsh and wretchedly composed person of extreme indigency. I gave a brazen slap to each of their foreheads, six or seven, sure, and stumbled out across the street, leaving them to mumble amongst themselves of my brazen treachery, who is the hu'shahs who thinks he can—

The voice that rises behind me is lacking in strength. I turn upon my back and the figure a mere shadow behind those he stands amongst, calling my name and imploring upon it. Those whom he stands amongst stands now in their silent perplexity. He begins by beseeching of me to take him to the mountain the name of which he is unable to pronounce nor even remember, so that he might again be filled with hope. I say that I am sorry but that I did not know such a mountain existed and should it exist it is plain that it will not exist by the time we arrive. I am certain that this will deter this shadow among his companions from further entreaties.

The shadow breaks from those companions, and as I continue along my route the shadow, who is no longer a shadow but a fully-clothed being now with forty-five arms and sixteen legs, pursues me along my route. I dash ahead of his vociferations and imprecations and for many hours his pursuit is relentless: sometimes redoubles and lags off, but nonetheless relentless.

Pausing, I turn and see him many meters from me.

My pursuer approaches. Sir, says he, and proceeds to configure a story whereby, says he, he has just lost many daughters, stricken down in as many days, and his mate of whom he had watched melting in her bed until at last she was gone and his homestead of which is as much fallen to the ground as we two are standing upon it and, concludes he, now this. I look upon him and note the shape which it has brought him to, the whole dismal business of it all. I confer numorous apologies. He thanks me and, bending down, begins to again implore upon my good name and my good honor and my good virtue and the goodness that is within me and with me and in which I myself can validate by bringing himself to the above and unnamed mountain. I bend even lower than himself and assay that even if I could bring him there, there is still no guarantee— I, says he, have lost everything else and have yet to lose my life, and may yet lose that, and so a guarantee would not seem any more agreeable.

Yes, says I, wouldn't I be of better aid to your quest if I possessed but a bit more information on the object of your quest.

You, says he, would be the surest prospect to come to that conclusion; do they not tell me of your fifty-thousand laborious journeys? You, concludes he, are overqualified.

Yes, says I, so I am—and as I am, you will have your mountain.

May you never be without an empty mind, says he.

That would be beneficial, responds I.

And so becomes of the hero of Nêsos, and with this individual of extraordinary misery will I betake of another journey.


For these six-hundred thousand and forty-nine years have we searched beneath every kueroshá and every roosting place of the quiet but deadly Yër all for a mythical mountain that purveys cures to agonies. The journey itself becomes an extension of the agony. More travelers than could be cast down into the dirt in a fortnight have discovered this agony. We labor on, into the cold, the south.

Warmer, better, he said, if we held each other. So we held each other.

Not much warmth. Not much better.

Like the kiijdrytjí that I sensed we were, we continued on.

A few years later he began to see...calamnities. He said, yes he was blind, but he saw terrible destruction, the world coming to an end, lone journey's without a purpose, wouldn't it have been better if we'd all been blind? I have a point I would make but viewing his condition I could not push myself to alter the course of one history in pursuit of another in order that I could make it. I wait—as he confronts, in his dark night, the spectator that sits in front of all the world's population, condoning what is right and negotiating what is wrong. While his confrontation ensues, I shiver in the cold.

Many centuries have gone by and I am still in the cold. On several occasions he has awaken to refind me as I huddle in the cold. I tell myself that now he will break from his bondage, the confrontation ended, the spectator gone. But he stares off into the distance where I look and see nothing. He brings his focus around to me. He stares at me...beyond me. ‘‘It is you,'' he says and his sleep continues, the confrontation re-begun. There are many centuries when I would have risen and walked away—let him seek out his mountain himself. But with unwilling heart, I remained in the cold.

I bring back to mind a story overheard about one who had walked ninety-million years. Not many stories are to be heard about those who have walked ninety-million years. Yes, ninety, millions. Nine-hundred, thousands. Nine-thousand, hundreds. But one, to my frozen mind, of one who had walked ninety-million years. I heard it told in the small isolated town of Ken. I had passed by that way about a billion years ago. I listened to six people who did not know each other begin talking about he who had walked ninety-million years.

I tell you it is true.

It is half-true: he had walked forty-five million.

No, no. He had walked ninety-million and I am telling you it is true. Upon his shoulder he had worn an ebony—

It was a ke. It was azure.

It was ebony. Maybe it was a ke. Maybe it was not.

He did wear hgio-iop. They were old and they had belonged to another. He did know how to wear hgio-iop.

He did not wear such a thing. He was old and he had belonged to another.

How could he have ever belonged to another when the other he had known was old and had belonged to another?

What did you say he had come to belong to another?

There was no other he had known. He was old.

No, no. He was young when I had known him. Later he became old.

No, I had never known him when he was old.

He had become old later. Perhaps you had not known him at all.

He had known me.

Listen. I would not be lying to you now. It was, I tell you, a ke and it was azure.

Are there any now who belong to another?

There was only him, and I do not believe any now to be living in that capacity, and he had walked ninety-million—

It was half of ninety-million.

You are half-thinking. It was half-twice.

No, I think he is right.

No, no. He is half-right.

Then you are half-wrong.

If I am half-wrong, then he had walked not at all.

He had walked half that.

Then would you say I had walked ninety- million?

No. You are not even half that.

I will be half tomorrow.

No. You are half-deceiving us. You will be—

This stand of strangers stares past me and at me and around me and above me and beneath me and aquaints me with the idea of my presence among theirs. I am no longer a small thief of their private dialogue but have risen to Idolater. I slink along the wall and out acrossthe bridge and away from the small isolated town of Ken.


He looks up. His head floats there before me.

‘‘It is so cold,'' he reports. He shakes endlessly as he tries to stand but cannot and is forced to remain chained to the frozen ground. ‘‘Have you no pity. Have you no sympathy, traveler.''

‘‘I have only what I can carry.''

There is silence between us: a silence of two who are grasping at great inner truths and will not will them out into the open.

I begin by asking if the great spectator had gotten his bounty? ‘‘He has taken all—'' And has he returned to the windy halls of the palace at—? But my memory lacks for wanting; I am uncertain of the palace name, recalling only that there is but one of this world who could reach— ‘‘Å-qwee. It is far away. There is but one. He who lives and yet has never lived. Is of us and yet is not of us. The J'set d-kae. He will come to the palace walls and the protector of the palace will beckon him in. He will go in. But that is a dream, a myth. A story told by raucous crowd to take many laughs. The ¡J'set d-kae! We laughed about him the first time we heard him. J'set d-kae: is a joke, yes you see?''

‘‘What is a joke? The one who brings the universe here? Or the one who quits this place and goes out and finds the universe? You see it as a joke. Yet, will you ever become discontent with the present and seek out a future? Someday we will all be thrown into the soil with death. Do laugh for that. It will be a long laugh. A long laugh.''

‘‘But J'set d-kae, traveler. You do not see as joke?''

‘‘I seldom laugh. I cry at jokes.''

‘‘And you do not find funny?''

‘‘Only you. My face waters with your comedy.''

‘‘End this trick, traveler. You have given me much to find comedic about. J'set d-kae is no less and no more than prancing fool disguised as hero in story told infants to make them eat their bubusta. It is a trick...and you have fallen into it, traveler .''

‘‘Is it a trick if the bubusta gets eaten?''

‘‘Did you ever eat yours, traveler?''

‘‘Once.'' Bubusta tastes like the sour stench of urine: there is no joy in tasting one's urine. I close my eyes so that I do not relive in that experience with bubusta.

‘‘Someday,'' my comedic friend departs with, ‘‘you will see how laughable it is. You will laugh, yes, and you will not stop until you have choked upon your last laugh. J'set d-kae does not exist and someday you will know this. Till then, traveler, do not make many enemies by talking of these convictions of yours.'' He walks off into the dark. ‘‘You are a hero yourself!'' he is shouting his words back to me, ‘‘and, who knows, maybe you are J'set d-kae!'' His laughter races across the wastelands to me long after he has been swallowed whole by the dark.

Copyright 1998 by John J. Liptow
116 W. Washington Street
Madison, WI 53703

e-mail: jjliptow@hotmail.com

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