The Müle-Pack

Another of us chimes in now, protesting that what has been neglected thus far is an address to the mule’s role as a vehicle or carrier – a vessel by which great distances are traversed and specialised heavy loads can be borne. We propose that care must to be given to these notions, paying particular attention to the techniques of loading: the correct method for packing a mule. Like loading a barrow. For the creature must operate beneath its designated package of material, assuming the role of fulcrum point, able to continue on its way if the weight is carefully distributed. But are these ordinary loads? Are there alternative principals governing the mule’s capacity for bearing weight? Surely loading the mule is a process that must take into account the creature’s size, attitude, skeletal and muscular structure?

But before we we go too far, we must admit that we are inserting this protest already with a view of aligning the process with that of writing. For what is all this but a process of tactical containment, the strategic distribution of weights and measures? It is up to us what is excised, what is strapped up; what is stored by the haunches and what is roped to the neck. Even if we don’t quite know what writing is, or what it does, we strap it to a back, fold it over the spine, in stacks that seem destined to topple over or crush the creature that struggles beneath them; mushrooming supplies, teetering, swinging back and forth with every hoof step, every ravine, yet never seeming to be disrupted when it is part of a mulish mechanism. What is this, then? An admission that writing can often be built on absurdly underprepared, apparently unsuitable premises? Or that an enduring strength can nonetheless be instilled in a vehicle that would otherwise seem wholly inadequate to the task?

We should recognise faith in the mule. Or at least offer our admiration for its ability to cope with our often overambitious attempts at composition. If treated right, the mule can take whatever unmanageable writing we throw at it. In fact, our efforts can become part of the mule, like additions to its skin, ornaments hung off the coat like trophies, or clothing it like a suit of armour. We might claim that our efforts shield the mule from the dangers of the world as much as its hinders or obscures its progress through it. But more than this, we might also picture instances where the mule is transformed into a vector through our efforts at writing, turned into a potent arrowhead dragging its way through an unspecified terrain. Then we might watch a train of laden mule mechanisms from the sidelines, as if hunched down behind boulder fragments, a single length of log. And we might like to think of an array of tracks being made across the dust-flats in such as vision, with a central trough made by shuffling, unbalanced hooves, which is flanked by two sharp-edged lines on either side. What passes by us is a formation of flying machines, then, swing-wings retracted for increased aerodynamics. That is, bear with us, the extensions of writing are being held close to the body of the mechanism for now, folded away for the journey. They will take to the air soon, these creatures. The mule’s role as a commissary of writing, as well as its implied potential range over the desert, blinds the animal to much of its surroundings, the vehicle’s viewpoint having been reduced to all but the narrowest passage by blinker-planks.

So, what if we isolate what is given to the mule-vehicle to carry? What we are left with is something of a diagram of the efforts of writing, perhaps some indication of its mechanism. We have an arrangement of careful folds and tucks, cantilevered segments, roped off portions. We have an image of composition that resembles, in some instances, a balloon – a hood designed to harness rising air, oh yes, the aspirations of fiction, all the overblown, easily swayed movement this writing is already emitting. Watch it turn into an explosion plume, sketched into the blankest terrain. It contains all of writing’s deliberations, careful placements, emergent formations, in its bulb head. What are we protesting about? What are we saying? That this concern must address something like Buckaroo-writing, or at least be aware of the trigger mechanism under the mule’s hide. This is a motto: Put on a shovel / Try a pick / If it’s too heavy / The mule will kick!