Michael Heller

Into the Heart
of the Real

-Abtransport der Sphinxe (Removal of the Sphinxes), 1945

The Sphinxes have beautifully outlined breasts, and they stand proudly on their taloned feet. And their taloned feet rest proudly on stone pedestals. Wood for crates is stacked nearby, and a sister bird has taken flight. Each Sphinx, from its platform, tells a seductive tale. Each one makes a liar out of one of the others. Whether on the pediments of stone or placed for shipment on the tumbrels, they insist on whispering silky words in one’s ear. Little breezes are stirred by their sibilant words, little swirls that are worse than typhoons or tornadoes. Big storms, hurricanes are the exhalents of the world’s turning, of massive pressure gradients at the poles, knocking down buildings and flooding streets. But the tiny voices of the Sphinxes enter through the ears like silkworms; each weaves a gummy dream to the bones of the skull as though it were a shadow on the wall of Plato’s cave. Each tiny voice blends in with the sound of the real, urgent, unappeasable. There’s an official monitoring each skull who, even as he listens, is already insisting on the dream’s removal. The Sphinxes must be carted off. One thinks that the officials would organize deliveries of this nature in secret or at least elsewhere, but no, I have seen each one at the embarkation point eagerly straining on a rope, gleaming with sweat, pulling the crates toward the outgoing barges.