Mything Persons

A Review of Adam Engel's Topiary

“Call me Plantman.”

Or Tammuz, or the Trickster, or El Loco or Le Mat or the Fool. The Green Man has many names. In jolly England, long before Jesus stole Easter, Green George – the Fool dressed in leaves – was celebrated as Spring. Because, after the terrible death of Winter, despite all evidence to the contrary, Spring does return: the Fool believes this. As son and lover of the Moon, this Madman or Lunatic was, long before Jesus, the archetypal embodiment of the original Death and Resurrection, after 3 dark lunar days.

Call him – literally – Dionysus, who does the Saturday night fever dance of drunken fertility. He brings the wine, he brings the dance – he is the wine, he is the dance.

On every continent of the ancient pagan world – Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas – the Green Man was Earth’s beloved Clown. He walked over cliffs while playing his flute, and vice versa. He carried on his back, and in his groin, a bag containing all the seeds of every thing that grows. Flowers ferns trees grains nuts fruits, and their coming and going on the seasonal Wheel: the Green Man is the energy surge of vegetal life on the planet, and as such the Holy Fool is the Holy Food of all animal life.

After death, the souls of Mayan men and women must carry bundles of all the genitals of a lifetime’s lovers; this bag of penises and vaginas is heavy and burdensome, but once arrived in the Underworld, the more sex organs the better! The newly arrived dead soul flings them at the World Tree – a Fig Tree – to dislodge its fruits, the food of the Afterlife. Thus sex, death and vegetation enact our mortal energy exchange with the gods. I knew once a real life Mexican god of rain & fertility. He was always stoned. A freelance gardener in Tucson, he loved to stand with a hose for hours watering desert yards and dusty bushes – on somebody else’s waterbill; or when really drunk he’d spray piss all over your frontdoor or livingroom carpet; or when horny sneak around all hours impregnating barrio women – every child his garden blossom, he supplied all the seeds.

Yes, that’s our boy. But those were simpler days.

Topiary‘s Plantman incarnates in the City of the Near Future as Keeper & Protector of office greenery. He waters and trims and tries to sustain the sad life of “corporate flora” in the cubicles of tall huge busy dead buildings where only money lives.

As in the Grail myths, the whole planet is Wasteland. On a dying planet, the pure knight searches for the Holy Grail. Who is The Missing Girl. (Grail and Grrrl throughout Western literature are variants of the same thing.)

Plantman, of his nature, in daily life and work encounters “trials” which are the collisions of a death-binge culture with creatures born alive into manufactured terms. Each character and situation is condensed saga, a handful of seeds. Plantman’s terrain compacts the modern techno-dilemma in its recurrent mythic guise: The University of Vigor & Ambition, The Hall of Hoaxes with its resident Giant Hoax, The Indian Museum, The Museum of Women. Within the city’s cynical parody of “culture” real agony occurs: the Possessed Man (a brilliant update of Thoreau’s Desperate Multitude) is “neither good nor bad. He is terrified, alone – even among friends and family. Though he works to support his family he is not sure, exactly, what he does. According to his Job Description he ‘Administrates Creative Product Strategies.'” Lucky to have a job, doomed to Kafka’s prediction. “He’s reached his final rung. He knows he hasn’t the energy to kill, the visceral burning to climb further. The remaining energies of life will be directed toward hanging to the rung on which his life precariously clings. Long, grim struggle to maintain his place on the limitless ladder to the sky. He can barely see the people at bottom, but he would need a powerful telescope indeed to even glimpse Movers and Shakers at the Top.”

Before incarnating as Savior of Greenery, Plantman worked at the Ad Agency: “What was I doing, me and my false words? Degenerative lingua-phobia. Overexposure to corrupt grammar of ‘the sell.'” In his journey around the vertical icecube trays composing the high- rise city, Plantman is more or less androgynous, able to sense the doomed bio-romantic stasis of females once twined naked, with him, under a rhythmic Moon. Female office workers, the Datists, work for a world of male world managers: “Computers sucked girl juice dry from cunt to womb. Terrible brightness of the afternoon (or was it night?) under florescent suns. What is a girl’s desire in the world of men?”

His empathy with every life form & human type – like his plants, struggling to stay alive in synthetic space & mechanic time – is real, but helpless. Plantman’s “condition” – terminal anemia – signals the energy fluid of Life itself dying from the biophobia of the World. A world in which The Death Squad, a “weekly documentary for the war-juiced public,” is the favorite hit network tv “live-action series.”

The Death Squad ventured into neglected quarters of the City retrieving corpses. Many a corpse corpsed under suspicious circumstances. Asked the neighbors. Investigated the area. Chauffeured corpse to the morgue. Autopsy. Exposed TV audience to the gruesome, gruesome. ‘The dead, the indigent dead, accumulated with a rapidity that taxes the city’s ability to dispatch them’, the Celebrity Commentators explained.

The Morgue Men dismantled bodies. Hearts, kidneys, colons, yellow livers, sooty lungs. Spongy gray cerebra had known Life in Time. Impressions intact, llke etchings on a disk?

Could memories be called, reanimated? Beyond admission of heat through meat circuitry before wet ware desiccated to dust?

The Commentators said, ‘Stories of the dead in artifacts they left behind. Knick-knacks, papers, baubles. Take pleasure in life.’

Uh-huh, yeah. Now the commercial.

The narrative is discontinuous but this is more than PoMo strategy. The archetypal world is cyclical, not linear, and its story is one of seasonal appearances and disappearances. Heroes demons mazes and epiphanies popup, delete, reappear in a quantum peekaboo process throughout human/historic time (story time) but are not of that time.

It’s a smart trope (and Tropism) to orient this biodata toward the larger energy source of myth and cosmic agenda, just as the earth’s vegetal realm is oriented towards the sun & moon cycles.

Plantman carries water, does what he can to nourish the material roots & blooms of vegetal lifeforms in the humanoid city. This is not a far-fetched Future but Now, of course. The human heart mind spirit isolated in its simulacra cubicle from the primal juices of planetary life is Wilting unto Death, and we all feel it.

Plantman is sick. Red blood going pale. Green blood growing thin & desert dry. The planet is sick with poison & deranged consciousness, and the rejuvenation skills of millions of evolutionary years are failing. Like every lifeform on the overmanufactured planet, Plantman is alone with his mythic destiny. Carrying a bag of fading cells, he must look for The Missing Girl in this classic scenario: in search of the Only Real Magic which can refresh & refertilize Earth, he also seeks his own resurrection from impending Death.

He will journey out of the City, westward to the Desert. There, an oasis where the Missing Girl comes cyclically to renew herself, as Youth, by eating the Fruit of the Tree of Life. To rebirth herself, as this ancient scarred Earth, into the dream of another Generation.

‘Thus she remained both Missing and Young.’ ‘How do you know She will come?’

‘She always comes. She will remain sixteen. Always and forever.’

If you pass Plantman on the highway, with that bag of seeds over his shoulder, trudging drunkenly Westward – that’s the Direction he’s going.

Always and forever.

Barbara Mor is author of The Blue Rental, a collection of 10 texts published by Oliver Open Press in April, 2011. Her work has appeared online at,,,, & Earlier work in Sulfur, BullHead, Mesechabe, MS. OrpheusGrid (US); Trivia: A Journal of Ideas (Can), SpectacularDiseases, OrpheusGrid, Ocular, Ecorche & Intimacy (UK). Mor is the author of The First God, marketed NewAgedly by HarperCollins (1987, 1991) as The Great Cosmic Mother. Mor is the product of the Southwest desert & coast (SoCal, NM & AZ) & sees the rest of America as a weird mirage. Read other articles by Barbara, or visit Barbara's website.

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  1. Kevin Childers said on October 28th, 2009 at 10:33am #

    May I please have contact information for Barbara Mor
    I would like to write to her regarding her book, The Great Cosmic Mother – life changing read!!

    Kevin Childers
    Asheville, NC