A Suspension of the Müle

Already we find ourselves addressing the Müle’s death, perhaps admitting that we have been concerned with this point of crisis for some time, waiting to figure the delicacies of speed involved in its passing. A previous parable pictures the Müle absently sliced open by a unseen blade, yet our thoughts, still insisting on another re-telling, resort to focusing on marginal details of the account, hoping to find alternative formations of reasoning that would allow different conclusions to unlock, permitting us to propose altogether different Müle endings. Our concern falters between the absent field of winter kale and the clouds of dust seen moving about in the daylight writing. We think of the farmer’s idling interests too, his judgment of pace when parsing his animal over the ground, the grasses likely reaching up to his chest as he leads. All these details are there for us, vibrantly available in the still text. Still it is not long until we return to that force of resistance that stands at the head of the fatal moment. We weigh up the drag of the plough in the soil against the press of the blade on the Müle’s pelt. We assess this as a function of crossover, an exchange between forces of application and acceptance – a distinction between work and death that the Müle is in no position to discern. We begin to realise how the Müle serves as an address to a state of suspension. We see it as a figure that outlines its own withdrawal, as diagnosed in its inability to differentiate types of resistance – a quality that may come across as trustiness and naivety, but could equally relate to the Müle’s proverbial stubbornness and indifference: a reluctance to ‘judge’ through a disinterested eye. It is at this point that we are interrupted by asides, diagrams, sotto voce. Nonetheless, we recognise the Müle – specifically the Müle at this very point, positioned at the tip of the blade – as a point of multiplicity: an image vehicle, both static and dynamic, positioned according to the atomisation of specific yet untraceable power, at a burst point… Perhaps it is possible to propose another parable, or to frame one in images. For one there is the short fragment of Kafka’s, where the narrator discusses his pet ‘crossbreed’ (and perhaps it doesn’t matter as to the exact animal combinations involved, or which identifiable attributes are preserved in the hybrid), suggesting that when he is faced with questions from curious children (questions he suggests “no human being could answer”) he satisfies himself by never settling things: “I never trouble to answer,” he says, “but confine myself without further explanation to exhibiting my possession.” (Kafka, F. (c.1919) ‘A Crossbreed [A Sport]’ (trans. Willa and Edwin Muir) The Collected Short Stories of Franz Kafka. London: Penguin Books, 426) And what of the description that appears like a knot in the text: “Sometimes it jumps up on the armchair beside me, plants its front legs on my shoulder, and puts its muzzle to my ear. It is as if it were saying something to me, and as a matter of fact it turns its head afterwards and gazes in my face to see the impression its communication has made. And to oblige it I behave as if I had understood, and nod. Then it jumps to the floor and dances about with joy.” (427) The fact that the narrator and his crossbreed contemplate the butcher’s knife – a hidden blade – in the final paragraph further disturbs our thoughts.

But still there is the underlying notion that the moment of paralysis between different forces of resistance, as encountered in the grasses, outlines the Müle’s relation to suspension. And that it is possible for images to take this up still further, either to crudely hammer flat the subtleties of such thoughts, but perhaps also to impress an altogether different colour on the status of such potential suspension… After all, what if there were handwriting to accompany an example of such an image, sloping rightward: “… This mule has been used around the building for some time and when the iron work for the last story [sic] was put up they hoisted the mule up to the platform that you see and she made a speech a la mule. Could she have talked no doubt she would have used some strong language.” Upon the platform, the Müle is called upon to speak, in strong language, yes, in strong formations of imagery. An animal possessed of an aptitude for visual remarks.

So it is possible, however lightly we tread here, how much we avoid fixing ourselves up, to suggest that the Müle is, on the one hand, subject to suspension; but on the other, that it is an agent of suspension also. Not only an entity held up between designations, the Müle also serves to transport into multiple space – delivering multiplicity. But, even then, does this multiplicity discount the possibility of stasis or sterility, unavoidable deaths, incoherences and writers’ blocks? We should not trouble to answer. But then, as with the labouring mule in the field of grass, caught for that moment at an impossible point along the cutting edges of indistinct blades (one ahead, one behind), so it might be for Absalom, hopelessly caught in the canopy of a tree as his mule rides on without  him. [2 Samuel 18:9] Absalom remains suspended in the branches – and how much it matters to the precise vision of the tale to consider whether he is caught by the hair or by the head, whether the tree is called oak or terebinth – able only to wait for death to come.