The final thrust of faith which had swept the world was unable to save it. New prophets had arisen in vain. The mysteries of the will were expounded to no end; it was no longer a question of controlling it, but rather its quantity seemed simply to diminish. The energy of all living things dissipated. It had been gathered in one supreme effort toward a future religion, and the effort had failed. All withdrew into a very gentle selfishness. Every passion was tolerated. The world was as if in a hot lull. Vices bred there with the frenzy of great, poisonous plants. Immorality, become the very law of things, with the god Chance of Life; science obscured by mystical superstition; the Tartuffery of the heart, which the senses serve as tentacles; the seasons, once distinct, now mixed together in a series of rainy days that incubated the storm; nothing precise, nor traditional, but a disarray of old fashioned things, and the reign of the vague.
It was then when, through an electric night, the omen of devastation appeared to fall from the sky. A heretofore unseen tempest blew on high, engendered by the earth's corruption. The colds and warmths, the brightnesses of the sun and snows, the rains and the confused beams of light, had birthed forces of destruction which broke out without warning.
For an extraordinary cascade of aeroliths became visible and the night was scored by dazzling lines; the stars blazed like torches, and the clouds were heralds of fire, and the moon a red brazier hurling varicolored projectiles. All things were infused with a pale light that limned the last hovels, and the glare of which, however softened, caused tremendous pain. Then the night which had opened, again withdrew. From every volcano columns of ash blew into the sky like volutes of black basalt, the pillars of a supraterrestrial world. A rain of dark dust fell backward and a cloud emanated from the Earth, which covered the Earth.
And so passed the night, and the dawn was invisible. A gigantic wash of deep red coursed through the sky's embers from east to west. The atmosphere became fiery, and the air was pocked with black dots which clung to everything.
The crowds lay prostrate on the ground, not knowing where to flee. The bells of the churches, convents, and monasteries chimed uncertainly, as if struck by supernatural clappers. There were, from time to time, detonations in the forts, where siege cannons fired rounds of powder in an attempt to clear the air. Then, as the red globe touched the west and a day had slipped past, the general silence set in. No one had any more strength to pray, nor to beg.
And as the incandescent mass sank below the black horizon, the entire western sky burst into flames, and a sheet of fire retreated along the bygone route of the sun.
There was an exodus before the celestial and earthly fires. Two poor little bodies slid along a low window and ran wildly. Despite maculations from the rancid air, her hair was very blond, her eyes limpid; he, golden skinned, with a bright curtain of locks, where peculiar glints bore violet light. They knew nothing, neither one nor the other; they were hardly beyond the confines of childhood and, as neighbors, felt the affection of a brother and sister.
And so, holding each other's hand, they walked down the black streets, where the roofs and chimneys appeared to be rubbed with a sinister light, through the men laid out and the splayed, twitching horses, then on to the outer walls, the dispeopled suburbs, moving to the east, away from the flames.
They were stopped by a river which suddenly blocked their way, and whose water coursed rapidly.
But there was a barque on the riverbank: they pushed off and threw themselves in, letting it go with the flood.
The keel of the barque was seized by the current, its walls by the hurricane, and it shot off like a stone from a sling.
It was a very old fishing barque, browned and polished from use, with paddle-worn oarlocks and gunwales shiny from the passage of nets, like a primitive and honest tool of this perishing civilization.
They lay themselves down deep inside, still holding each other's hand and trembling before the unknown.
And the quick rowboat led them out to a mysterious sea, as they fled below the hot, swirling tempest.
They awoke upon a desolate ocean. Their boat was surrounded by mounds of pale algae, where the sea foam had deposited its dry slime, where iridescent creatures and pink starfish putrefied. The small waves buoyed up the white bellies of dead fish.
Half the sky was veiled by the growth of the fire, which crept sensibly forth and ate away at the other half's ashen fringe.
The sea appeared dead to them, like everything else. For its breath was pestilent and its clarity was streaked with veins of blue and deep green. Nevertheless the boat glided over its surface with unrelenting speed.
The western horizon held bluish flickers.
She dipped her hand in the water, and immediately withdrew it: the waves were already hot. A dreadful seething was perhaps going to cause the ocean to quake.
To the south, they saw the clouds white with pink aigrettes, and could not be certain that this was not ignited gas.
The general silence and the growing fire transfixed them in a stupor: they would have preferred the great scream which had once accompanied them, like the echo of a wheeze made total by the wind.
The far reaches of the sea, where the dome of ash, still half dark, had plunged down, were opened by a gash of light. A portion of its pale blue circle seemed to promise the entrance to a new world.
“Ah! Look!” she said.
The wispy steam which floated behind them on the ocean had just lit up with the selfsame glow as the pale and trembling sky: the sea itself was burning.
Why this universal destruction? Their heads, pounding from the overhot air, were filled with this multiplying question. They did not know. They were unaware of faults. Life clutched them; suddenly, they were living more quickly; adolescence seized them amid the burning of the world.
And in this ancient barque, in this first instrument of life here-below, they were such a young Adam and such a little Eve: the lone survivors of this earthly Hell.
The sky was a dome of fire. Nothing remained on the horizon, but a single distant blue point, over which the eyelid of fire was poised to close.
She stood up and undressed. Naked, their pale and willowy limbs were limned by the universal glow. They took each other's hands and embraced.
“Let us love each other,” she said.
: : : : :
MARCEL SCHWOB (1867-1905) was a French symbolist author, remembered for his numerous and varied short stories, literary monographs, newspaper chronicles of fin-de-siècle Paris, and linguistic tracts on medieval slang, much of which sprang from his fabled devotion to archival research. While his work has fallen into relative obscurity, it was hailed in his day by writers as various as Colette, Remy de Gourmont, Alfred Jarry, Stéphane Mallarmé, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Paul Valéry, and the personal influence of his writing has been noted and explored by a number of modern luminaries, including Roberto Bolaño, Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Fleur Jaeggy. and Chimako Tada, among many others. In 2012, Wakefield Press published Kit Schluter’s translation of his 1895 work, The Book of Monelle. “The Earthly Fire” is part of his 1892 collection The King in the Golden Mask, forthcoming from Wakefield Press in Kit Schluter’s translation, the first ever complete edition of this book in English.
KIT SCHLUTER was born in Boston.
Touch the wall:
it is alive.
see the coast.
Let someone dream;
I will watch them play
on the avenue.
Land of caress, a nest
in the mouth, a hive
made of cries.
I can see the future;
it lingers through moss
with fingers of shelter
that brushstroke the ocean,
swallow a bridge above serpents
while snow falls on the faces
of geckos and sparrows.
She can hear me
from the redwood canopy.
I whisper but leaves carry
my voice, a glowworm,
through the ribcages
A city is a pasture,
our body the sky.
We live where
there are no roads.
To think is a posture;
we gave up on the solid mind.
Don’t cut out the ghost or
electrify the vague.
Enjoy the soft tissue;
we can sleep there
where every metropolis
is a library.
Not clean but chaos:
an electric perfume of tongues
from all regions of ether, or
a blur of abdomen and panther.
Outside above our secret
navigates the perverse safety
of a smiling disagreement,
curled hair tangled with afternoon
blood from every lust and prostration,
hundreds of idols dissected and
reconstructed into one pagan fuel
to guide us through the babel
of cannons and orchards.
The beast meets the angel
beneath the shadow of
they taste the static
serenade a geyser of honey
where hooved hearts sip
They enter through a blink,
the eyelid a doorway,
into coral castles and
rooms built from veins
and petals where
even cadavers can kiss
the toes of newborns:
cold as a wrinkle,
hot as an apple,
lifeless and perfect.
An island is nude
The eternal orgasm
of the metropolis
is a secret room inside
of a hideous place.
An ivied arch collapses
over the cobblestone womb;
there, a child grown from
a severed root plays
The forbidden dome drifts
alone and golden atop
windless forest fog over
a parade of silver eyes
and dragons squirming
on the beach
as torn celebration falls
like a volcano.
We don’t need word:
along aspen nurses
into catacomb homes;
a warm grasp
all is between.
we don’t need
An observatory seeking
a halo of problems:
the dismantled face
chants the sick from the bone
while the bay shivers
emeralds from its sleep.
The rot beneath
a thin layer of iridescent foam:
invisible plankton transforms
the past into a schizophrenic
bloom of nomads.
Melancholy is only one form of peace;
the book lists others.
Hard to imagine
a better world
with cold hands.
Bodies shake and
follow wild stallions
into the empty night.
I see the devil smiling;
he has it easy.
But we befriend him
because we befriend
in the blue sun;
starfields reach our thatch
bazaar of marigold.
A crackle of crickets
and fireworks dance
in oldtown. Underwater,
starfish encrust my sister’s
skull. I can’t breathe
but that’s fine. The heart
pumps without oxygen;
my lungs are full
Near Atlantis, some scholars say,
emerges the carefully built
ziggurat, a good place for
the euphoric womb.
Written on the uterine walls
glyphs of our ancient nature,
like purity but funnier
and a little naughty.
Leave the room. Enter
the golden plaza. Talk
to the elders
about the erotic.
People should bleed
in empty cities;
my mouth is your hole
in the head.
Aura is projection
from nebula, a trans
migration. I haven’t seen
anyone for days but
this dog. He taught
solace and chemistry.
is a town of
Woven through the scales
of the siren, a hushed
recollection of steam
from the watering hole at
the center of the sun.
The hermaphroditic muse
taught us not to fish
but swim in the river of
are never only
two things. A thousand
mirrors grace the mosque.
: : : : :
BRYAN EDENFIELD was born in Arizona but has lived in Seattle since 2007. He is the director a relatively insignificant literary arts organization, Babel/Salvage. He also hosts and curates the Glossophonic Showcase and the Ogopogo Performance Series. His writing has been published here and there and he has published the writings of others.
All eyes drown in a forest of noise listening to listening how a paper makes honey winded into shrub. With needles on my knees scuffed wet I wretch into a bowler. Beyond the trees there’s a road where lights string out in slow lines of whip. The power of sirens is an awareness crossing through how each storm ends in a drop. I remember the time I make is everything at once and no homes would burn if not for meteors like tonight says if you go out looking for trouble you’ll find it. So I fall back to a clearing. Truth in life a narrow band of frequencies in each breath maybe one part per million. Last night I dreamed this would happen. Eagles fly in memory of lightning. Water hisses how every moonsong ends in cock.
Sometimes I forget the last thirty years and drive to your house. I start a bonfire in your yard and dance around it singing Don’t You Know What The Night Can Do. I invoke the name of Ablaza, the one true eagle. When your sons come to check on me I get them stoned and laugh at their pot bellies. Their cough is the sound of greed. The creek is our mother returning from battle. I take a knee and ask to speak to a crucifix. You emerge from a vehicle. I am wet silver inside.
You taste like war a car showroom floor poorly made freebase bubbling on foil the black air of plastic melting nearby my tent my trailer the convention center drawing flies like shit while I meditate in the creek. I am made of tiny stones that melt in the sunlight. I am made of the energy I smoke in the dark with. Thirteen billion years ago our mother got a hard-on for watching us die. Once you smell a landfill you will always smell a landfill. I am made of mostly nothing a white vinyl tablecloth with flowers on it and the juice of a pomegranate dripping down your arm. This way of being is the perfect pear and the way it rots. Always is a shortcut home.
Leaving the room your naked arm brushes a half-dead yucca. We all forget our names. A body is lost track of. There is no gas leak. There are no pills. Walls are made from human brain and stormclouds. The stars are bullets. Your church is built in silence.
I will write my name for you across the earth and back. The never ending name of the map to my home. The never ending name of all weapons that took my father and uncles. The name of a memory only we have. I will cover these walls in the name and the road I will walk and throw money in the air as the scum follow me back to my burning home. This is why they move like ants fucking. And so we will fuck with the power to lift one hundred times our weight and we will fuck with skinny legs beneath us across the celery and onto the stranger’s blanket we will fuck as the family of humans looks upon us and all of this will burn until all the banks are emptied.
When they come to you with a picture of me ask How do you cook Ask how do you cook and mean it more than anyone can understand. Mean it as a new way of life. Mean it as a prayer. Mean it as a new body as yours falls away like the sea in each direction. Enter a tidal wave of blood curling at the lip, the stain into the skin and out again like no one could own you.
: : : : :
ADAM TEDESCO is a founding editor of REALITY BEACH, a journal of new poetics. He conducts interviews and analyzes dreams for Drunk In A Midnight Choir. His recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Funhouse, Souvenir, Cosmonauts Avenue, Hobart, The Nervous Breakdown and elsewhere. He is the author of several chapbooks, most recently Heart Sutra (REALITY BEACH 2016) and ABLAZA, forthcoming from Lithic Press.
Don’t trty to emaiel me anytmore. I anm pissed at you and I don’t’le care what you have to sayo about the times you have made life seems harder than it it was csupposed o to have been because I am smore angry at you now than the daydsoyu I went utside and aofudn my fatehre r down on his d nkjnknees before adf the fires trying to feel himself where he had flet himself there in his ow mind once in some life, like how he could have rememmered be me as a a person and a friend and then he could not because of what you allowed for him to have had happenec to him. Why. Why awould you let this happen to me and my family when we have given all of athep roroper guidances of mondeya and belief to th your image and your family as we asked asnd we have logged the prorper hours in the windows of hyour son’s light awith te holograms the statute of our leaders has provide in your image ain and in his name. I don’t want to wake up waitingni anymore for your address to come to tell me hoow tto lived again because I dineeeded more mhelp sooner than you were allowing yourself to be given to me and what I am I supposed to do witith not monly dad’s blood on my hands but my sister’s s and brother’s and cmothers’ and friends’ and alll the people I would have wanted to see my collection of the greatest animated gifs on file in outr country. I thought they were all so funny and they filled my time enough to make it feseem like laife was going to be fine again at least for the hours through them the dogs barking d beyond my window like therey werew waiting to get in and rip me too and at least ethten you did protect me me and kept me eme alive from them during the eanight whiel I was sleeping and dreaming and waiting to rise again and type into the browsers and machines waiting for to understand what you had given me to survive eon always refreehsing the same pages and the same ideas waiting waiting waitinf rog you to come again and provide ameaning of why I had to do it all again and not just lieve bsides you in your light perhaps not so ulninke the nlight of the macheins tyou had provided in your absence, my eownly friend, while the rest of all the men witehrh hnoly mouths went to the jail and were praeyed upon by sickly animals like the dogses but who had also learned to replicate htierfrom so that they could not be stopped from procession through the h houses of us like me too here in the darkness typing into this only box of furtive light. What else can I do today to understand you beesdies this. What else can I be buat besides this. The buttons I pres don’t make the right ideas come out, no word or fictures in the savior light I knoew you will eb sending like a promise from myself. If ntohigne sle you can you at elast have removed from our house the ability to tell the difference bwetween pleasure and pain so that when I looked upon the dead archives of my family recoredded I couldn’t have to feel anything like that again but could contienorue to leive in the light you blessed us with with the fires rising in the absence of the books I never got to read, the machiens in competition with each other already for celebration status and new pose as the leadre of our lands, please lhelp me to appreciate them while yoau rennot not hera yet pelase help me to see enmy nieghirbo and wish them well and to not remember all the awfula thigns they had imagined in your name, had wished in your neiame, had asked in your name, adhh lkkiled in hoirue name. It isgetting hard to even see it is getting harder to want to stand up again but I iknow I have to barricade the doroor and have teo show my lastl living child half made of orbots how eto feed himself and how to access his email too as maybe it is him n you will be contacting on behavlf of our faimly, perhaps this is whay he was evere even boerne, a question I also found myself asking when you do not come, and a question I kcan already hear banging around in hiss head too like a leather where thye world ends as dthe veil ecomeas from out of him spekaing his dreasm inteo mlanguage in to the machine ito teach it how to write the ending to this story before you come so that we can get out into a world of our own ideas. If you re intent if s for me to lnot let this happen and to sacrficie him to the dosgs as fodder ofor blood fore your hojly benfneite pelase send me a sa signal so I cnan prepare mye hearte but don’t do it by the end emeail because I am not sure our wires are not down and that I havent been acoutelay communicating anyething yet this whole time I belived I was online instead with my manifestation of death as best described in commerce and secx lives, you wil l have to reach me by way of another form of beauty or shattering imagintoijory blise and I will wbe wating and il will be waiting and wi will be waiting can I poealse get I right yet I will be waiting iwliw l.
(photograph of a man holding a child up high against his chest standing waist-deep in glimmering mush)
(photograph of an ocean clustered with red gas; miles of congregating wires stemming from floating orbs that strobe sick light)
(photograph of a church so large it seems to fill the entire horizon, windows all the same color as the ink of the star-shaped tattoo you had been born with)
(photograph of a backyard full of breathing mold, a woman standing in it with her back to the camera, raising both her arms high up above her screaming)
(photograph of the father’s wheelchair tarnished as in a fire, his legs all mangled and locked into place by state-stamped devices; gold grills)
(photograph of a drawing of the family in the child’s hand, none of whom have faces that aren’t bleeding, the ground the same color as the sky)
(photograph of still frames of massive metal insects beating the shit out of each other in an arena, hooded nude human bodies)
(photograph of miles of miles of identical cubicles engorged with frozen-solid piss)
(photograph of the moon with a hole blown through it, the strangely colored machinework revealed behind shaped like a mouth)
(photograph of misshapen diamonds, the silver fires, black grease)
(photograph of a wireless keyboard without markings and no screen)
You still haven’t didd the word yet. Why ntoe? I imagine I unndertsnad still why you are beinge evil to ues and still don’t want you to try to contecat me until you are are going to exaplkein. Sinceinmymt last cumonnuincaiton, Bill had diedc and Rob ahas died and my itehr friend whwose name I can’t rmemeber nowe has died too and all them died by waeking up in the wrong room. Like they weetn to sleep where they always would usually and when they appeared iagain they were not where they had been before and everything wahs burning and gnasnghinhg at them and thwere were some ofe the machiens trying to have sexc with mthem and kill them and eat them and I don’t know what this is wmanea t to mean comigne from your plan. The poliace at least did email me to tell me who it happened and that I would not be bable to compete in bowling tournament with them as we had planned so I caneould finda new team, and uet I don nnot see how this ahs not change dyour lposition of not email ing as they have. As I said: Why? I am ga godo person I think and I try to help my friends thorugh their times of struggle when it is within my grasp of coginiton unlike this last fit of rashes that have come wfor them and even my son too has locked his door in fear and will not answer for me evne to bring him the food or verify his machine is still conenected to the transmitision modluel so that we mighte receive our word if youw ouare goin to send it and I lavowe you and have always lvoed you but I anm very tired now and my hadns are ahching and I am not sure how much longer I can keep going in this absence without some kind of blink or wink o fe tht eye at least to knowe that you area there, someti kind of kinvidudail inspriiatoin like the old men in the old books had had, not that Iexpect bto be a profphet despite what I maight have belive donc eas I young man in the clergy and the faith, which I doe hope you udnersatnd athat despitee movinge waway from in laster years to come does not emean that I do not expect you to still provide me with the fabric onf a life. I do ask that if you are planning to communicate with my thorugh the spawn of my semen as might hav ebene suggeste in the wrriten tablature I dreamed of several weeks before the child was born then please let him know that he hneeds to unlock the doror again so I can come in and also take part in witness of byour spiritual beauty. Alsio I take back wheat I said about don temail me eanymore ill take your word where can I can get it even when I stomeistiems knowe it iesnt’t real and hase only evere been provided by the satete asa a meanxse of falses comforte created by bots, I stitl believes, and I am very sorry oafuor having addressed you within anything but eh purest of beautuadn and relif I love you I love yoi love yoaud as my mother would have also said if she still had lips and if I still could remreebre ranayhting about her besides the word that everyone else also uses for their mother in the ae way we all clall you god as ydouoar are ogd.
Latst and noat not teh smelallest thank you for the chicken paeramsdnre dinner you adh the police drelviere to me in my time of dneed as I can cno longer move my lower body as you inow and I really enjoyed the flavor of hdthat form of the chieckan if it was iendeed chidkren.
(photograph of a very old man’s hands covered in petroleum jelly over heavy rashing)
(photograph of a revolving silver planet over the darkness where there had once been a satellite that held all of the copies of our country’s information safe)
(photograph of the child with both legs removed, as if to match the father, his face is covered with lesions)
(photograph of a fat black book laid on a bed, spread open to a pair of pages the same color as the cover, illegible)
(photograph of a similar book but filled with sequential numbers, unclear what they are counting)
(photograph of a mask that could be worn over a small head, the glass of the face designed to narrow the features to match a specific pre-set build; photographs of thousands of bodies wearing the masks, prone or hiding, doing their jobs)
(photograph of piles of dead computers the persons kneel before)
(photograph of piles of copies human bodies dressed in gold arranged to reenact popular historical moments for no audience)
(photograph of the mother, very young, looking very much like the child had early on, no longer, a necklace so tight around her neck how can she breathe)
(photograph of bloodshot eyes devoid of white, the pupils massive, spiral-shaped)
(photograph of a map of the land on which no water sits, holes that open and fall into indexes of deeper holes, each a choice)
(photograph of severely mangled trees, their limbs all bent so far apart they cover the ground completely, while from beneath them pours scab-colored smoke)
(photograph from within the smoke spreading to reveal nothing)
(photograph of endless mounds of human leather)
This fukcin hursts , andI aodnt wnean to use the F fwrod when I mas tlakign toa you as I know you don’t like that but I ams in pain now and I no logne rfeel in control of my action or nmy thoughts. I hoep you na ucnderstan d that as maybe you were said to understande us all even if you have never experience dif for yourself diredclty as you are my creator and thefroe mstue have createded also rage beffroe I had it and happiness before I had it and all the bdeath between, or did you ? Perhasp theose production of emoetioens are only that what can be felt in people, and you don’t actually knowe it feels to feels. Or meayyabe you know it only concteputally, as in oyur could feel it as an idea but not as acntuael feeling, and therefore this is why ou awould continue to allawoe us to go on alone and in such vaipid dpeths without at athe last very least some sort of reale signal saying sometienge like, I am here and ait will be okay, soon all your pain will be washed away again and we can live togerher in the light I have created for you. What I would to do to receive an email that just said that and nothing else, one I coulde knwoe fore sure was from you and note an adverstiment or a haox. As it stands the only correspondesence I have received in the past tsevnety two hours since my last ocmminctiaotn has bee n coupopns for lfie uinsruance and osme angry letter freom a cmopanay ethat seems to believe I am in debt. If those were you trying to contact me furtively, like in a personal code teo be translated in secerete, I have missed the connceciotn and I will need tyou wil to be amore specfiic. Perhasp once I could have reads betweent the leins and usnderstdood what you were after and aobereyed but I am older now and fater in the haede now and ai don’t want to have to hurt anymore so please either way make a choice and move frwoard with it for me before I have to do something hat isn’t as godoa as what you would rdhave decided for me I am certaian becasuse its cpouuld be the only waye. Itei is geteeing leater and latere fastere.
P.s. My sons sstil hasnot ulnocke his room to come our oiuf it in manye days I coan no longere count, sand I am beging to worry about him aand his well being. If i have not heard form you fore sure in the next seventy two hours I am going to have to ahire someone else to find out the answqer of wahte teo do for me drielcvly, which I fear could aturn sours as I know my somn is terrfified onf sstrangers and owns a thousand guns and i myself still cannot moved.
(photograph of a blue door leading into a room overflowing with what appears to be milk)
(photograph of the woman on the man’s lap in his wheelchair, wearing white uniforms and posing as for official photos without smiling, their waists chained together, their wrists chained together)
(photograph of seven silver keys, cut to no longer have teeth, which are known by all as the keys that the president may one day use to initiate Reset)
(photograph of the child appearing to have aged thirty years, looking out through a glass partition in his bedroom’s door onto a hologram of a lake)
(photograph of the child sleeping with the black book)
(photograph of ancient leather ripped to shreds)
(photograph of aisles of one product, a shard of mirror in unmarked packaging, thousands in line)
(photograph of a sky filled edge to edge with jelly-colored platelets that mutate and reconfigure in the next picture, and the next, to form the weather)
(photograph of a bird without eyes beside a bird with one hundred eyes)
Everywehre I Looke ai see the rot we werwe once gglwoieng. Ioonly wante my chdila to have a livefe to live agaidn onea day erjhwen I acm no longer ehreh to ehlepp. Is dthat too mcuehahtoo asksk?
(photograph of the child at a very young age playing a game alone at the kitchen table manipulating small black tokens around a black board, markings on his arms)
(photograph of the mother in the yard dragging a bale of dirt across the dirt toward a pile of other bales of dirt, toward a tower)
(photograph of a mirror burning in the sunlight in the dark)
(photograph of column of ash in the bathroom while the child reads the black book in black dust)
(photograph of a square of flies floating over the absence of the wider waters)
(photograph of machines coming out of a tunnel through a pile of trash)
(photograph of an unending line of persons in black uniforms waiting to enter an unseen building on the horizon)
(photograph of deformed embryos laid on an anvil, kissed and kissed and kissed)
(photograph of homes cobbled from human shit, exploding)
(photograph of you)
I GQWER IMPATIENT ADNF I BROKE INTOE MY SONS’S OWNE ROOM DEPSITE MY WPROMSIE TO LETTE HIM HEAL. I USED THE AGNERE YOU GAVE ME ADNF I CARWELD MYSELFW IN PAIN ALOGN THE GROUND. I HAVE RUG BURGNS ALL OVOER MY WOUDNS NOW SO THANK YOU FOR TEHA ADDATION OF THS ANGIUNES. THE DOR OPENED WITHOUTE ME EVEAN TRYING AND THROUGH THE WAEVES OF LIGHT OF MYE OWN PAIN THEN I FOUND MY SONE WASN’T ENEVEN IN THERE ANYMORE, IN HIS SICKROOM, AS I E AMM SURE YOU ALREADY KENW. THE ONTLY THEING WLEFT WAS HISE OMPCUTER. THE COPUTER WAS LIKE FIFTENE STIMES THE SISZE OF WHAT IE REMMEBRED IT WHAS BEEN. THE MCAHIENE WAS BLACK NOW AND COVVERED IN INSECTSE AS I AM SNEORUE YOU KNEWE TOO. ITW NDID NOT NEED TO BE PLUGGEDA INTOE THE WALL. IT GLWOERD AND GLWOED AND FEILLED MWE WITH THER WAKIGENGE PRESSEREUE OF THEE REAL FEALING OF FEAR I HAVE BEEN WAITING T RO ECEVEI FOR CERIATNA IN THIS LIFEA, ASA HAD BEEN PAOROMISED IN YOURE DSERMONDS DEWLVIERED THORUGH THE PRESIDENTE, ON THATE OVERCOEMS ALL OTHERA EMOEITONS LIKE MYE DOUBT AND SINN AND DIVDES THE DAY. AND I AM SURE YOU ALWAREAYD KNOW E THIS BUT I CHECKED CHIS MEAIL AND ODUNF ALL THE WORDS YOU HAVE BEEN WRIETING TO HIM THIS WHOLE TIEM, WRODS YOU AGAVE TO KHIM INATEAD OF ME, THE FATHERE, WHO HAVE SEURFERED SO MUCH LARONGER THAN HE HASEA, AND I COUDLNRE NOT UNDERSTAND THEMA, NONE OF LANGUAGE OAREA ENVVN THE SYMBOLS, YOURE BEAUTIFUL ACTAUL COMMANDD. IFE YOU INTINTED TO HAVE YOURE WORK DONE AS THROUGH OUR FAMILYE BLDOD ONUPON THIS EARTH, AS YOU EHRAVE SAID, I INSIST YOU COMMUNCIATE WITH OANLY ME, THE ELDER, WISERE, STROENGER, MORE HUGNERY, MORE LALIVE. IF YOU BELIEVES MY SEONS WAS GEREATER THAN ME, YOU WEREWA MISTAKENS. ALSOE I HAVE DECEIDED WHEN I FIEND HIM I WILL ENDE DMY SON’S ABLITY TO SPEAK. I MA SHIS FATHERE EVEN IF YOU ARE ALSO HIS AFATHER AND I HAVE DECEID HE WILL NOT BE ALLWOED TO INTEFVENE WITH WHATE I KNOW IS MY ETREU FATE. I NEED SOA TO KNOW HAT YOU WANT FOM RUS, FROM ME. I ALONE ACAN MAKE IT HAPPENF OR OUR FAMILY. I ALONE CONTORAL THE MONEY AND THE TIME. AGAIN, I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE MARKIGNS EITEHR ATHATN YOU PALCED ON MY SON’S COMPUTER, AS I HAD NOT UNDERSTOD HIS BODY DEFOMRED FROM ISCKNESS FROM BITH, NORE THE WRODS YOU IMPLANTED IN HIS OMUTH ALL THE YEARS HE SETILL HAD SPEAKING AVILAITY, UNTIL TODAY. TI ISN’T WRIGHT TO TELL MY SON THINGS YOU DO NOT TELL ME. I WUDLD RAHTE DIED ALOEN AND OLD AND FUCKED FROM AREL YOU GRAECA THAN AWKWLOE THIS REALAITONSHIP BWEWEN MY SON SONE AND WITHOUET ME TO CONINTEU WITHOUT MAY EKNOWEDG. ALSO I READWHAT YOU HAD HAD HIM WWRITEH EDOWN IN YOUR NAME UDNER SHISONW NAME IN THE TABLATEURE HE HAS PROVIEED AS TO OUR EHISTORY. ID OTN KNOW K IF THIS IS AMEANT OT BE THE FUTURE SCRIPTURE BUT IAD M NTO OKAY WITH HOW YOU RPOTRAYED MY FAMILY AND OUR WHOEL CIVALIATIOZN, WHETHER YOU ARE OUR CREATOE STIL LRO NOT. I MSUT LET HOU KNOW THAT WHAT YOUA RE ODING IS INSAEN AND IT IS NOT WRIGHT, IT HAS HAD DIRE IEFECTS ON THE SPIREITE OUR YOUR PEOPE, ALL OUR PEOPLE, OURE BLODODE, OURE BODY, OUR WISHE FOR PERESVEATION, EVEN OUR POTENTIAL RELATIONS WITEH YOU AS HAVED BEEN PROMISED ANY DAY. WERA AREI NMUCH GREATER ANGUISS THAN WE OACUODL HAVE EXVE PREICETED, EVERYE FAMILY. THIS IS NOT WHAT WI HAV EBENE WOIATING FORR RAND NOT WHAT WORKS. I AM DHE RE TO INFORM YOU ATHAT I AM SUDPENDIN GMY SON’S EMAIL AND A COJMPUTER PIRVLEDGEDS WHEN HE RETURNS FFROM WHEREVERWAE HE HWASD GONE INSIDE HIAS SDISCKNESS, AND ALSO AI M DISONNECTIN GOUR HOME’S INTERENET SO THAT THERE ISN ON WAY FOR ME TO BECOME DESPERATE AGAIN AND TRY OTO CONECAT YOU AS I CALN TELL YOUR INTENT IS NOT AS I HAD ALWAYS BELVIED THAT IT WOULD SEEM. I AM NOWE BEGINNING TO BELIEVNAGINE THATE YOU AREE AN EIVEIL AND YOU ARE ONLY PLANNINGAD ON CONTINUNET TO DNESTORYEDINGG USD. I WEILL NOT LET YOUE. I AMA GOALSO GOING TO DELETE WTHE FIEL SOF ALL YOUR WORDS THAT WYOU HAD GIDEVEN MY SONN AND NOT ME, AND I AM GOING TO DELATE AS WELL THE WREOTDS I WROTE DONEWN THINKGIN THEY WERWE YOU FORE MY WHOLE LIFE, WHICHA HAVE ONLY CCASUED US TO BE INETINEIAONTLLYLE CINFLITECTED WITH THIS BRUDEN THE ALL OF OURE EXITSENC. I NOW BELIVE ITE SIE NOTE HWOE IWT WAS HAVE BEEN MEANTE FOR US TO BEEN. EVERHITNG I KTHOGUTH SBAOUT YOU AND OUR WOELR DIS ENDLESSLTJL RDRIVEN APRAT FORM ITSELF. I WIELL NOTE LONGER LETE IT. I IWILEL FIDNE MY SEONS AND CAUSE FORE US BOTH THE FAINAL ENDING.
TEHREA AEW ONLYWE AHOURS LEFT NOWE LEFT. PELAS ELHLI IDF YOU CARDD ABOUT SU AT ALTL APLEASE SHOWE ITS IN THIS ES LAS TMINTUES BEFORE I COMMITTE TO MY NEW SHAEP, SO THAT I CAN AGAIN LEAREN TO EBLEVIE IN OUY BEFOR EIT IS TOO LAATE. I MSUTE ADMITT I AIM ALREADY AFEFARID OF WHAT WILL HAPPENEN TOO MEME NOWO THATAT I HAVHE SPOEENN TO YOU SOO CLOSELARLY, I DOFNONT WANT TO BEBE DAMEND OR LOSTE IN FLAMEE. I ONYLE DON’T WANT TO FELE THIS. IA OENLY EFVER.
(photograph of you again, as old as the man was, outfitted in the same costume, with braces on your arms)
(photograph of the unfinished dirt altar in the backyard, into which thousands of human names have been scratched by hand, not one you know)
(photograph of millions of blank screens)
(photograph of silver liquid rolling over the face of lands unrecognizable)
(photograph of the bodies of the man and woman and child all split apart and sewn together, as in a dream, parts of the black book laced between their burnt fleshes, all doors open)
(photograph of massive piles of diskettes burning in a silver arena)
(photograph of photographs of the pages of the black book zoomed in up close on the screen of the father’s computer, the book itself placed on the desk beside the screen open to the same page)
(photograph of flashbulbs waiting to trigger in your face)
I ahahve clammemddownn now and I ams sorery for whatoi ive said. I havea found my seon where hae had hdided from youe, but by thean I was soa hot I could not stop it. I belive ite was my eson for sure but as you knowe there are so many whoe looke alike now and yete I didn not recovnise hise screaming till ite wasw too late. The bloode is aonm ymind hadns and so is also on your hands and as I am guilty so must eb you guilty, as I understood fbfrom the beginignng in your wrod. And again I seekf your conserel. I do onout mean to bea mean to you and I hopea yoeu understand ath an dfigoveig me as I have forgiven aeyou and you racan help mea allevaigte my actionse. I dnitn set fire to our homea as I had threatened through I did set eifre to the altear you adh asked my wife to build before she died and which she deied in labor over, though I hope you an cfind reason to understand why such an act might take palce in my body duringa a moment of furye. I mreaind humble in your service and am waiting ro whatever it is that you intend. If youre intent is for me to finish writien g the words of prochey that you put on my son’s computer for him, as hwe is no lgoner able now to write hismefl, then ismpyl do ntohign and alwoed me to continue and iw ill do the very best I can. I am famiflar with many troepes of the ways of storytelling and would be happy to assist you in figuring out how to issue your commands to the world of the whuman so that we might all together live in harmony and peace as your creation ewaitngi for a single moements of redemption. You have always been my fonyl friend, and the only want I have oin m ywhole life ise still to come to grips with and stand beside your in youre design. I eremian you humble serveant until ylu signify otherweise and aeven then I wiell remain impossible to shake for sucha is the extent of my fiath ine eveyry future you have scriptede and evey blessing you contineu to refues to bequeath, in yorus lighte alone and yorsu foeureve and amenn.
: : : : :
BLAKE BUTLER lives in Atlanta.
The grain is neither varied enough nor organized enough to delineate a seam in the surface. A man and a woman, a Gyre and a Connie advance. They match footfalls, moving parallel and complicit. Each rock clicks in a carpet swallowing the whole terrain of flowing blood bright with aerated jetsam, the blood gulping combed hair, fingernails, tissue, glassine fascia tattered, the hair softened at the corona of the forehead, the threadbare eyebrows of a child, pancreatic curds, soft continuity of albuminous foam prickling giving way to asymptotic sand. A hamlet of cabins breaches the vista. Wind pried gaps in double hung windows set loose subtle surges of composted boy breathing. Gyre and Connie, listening at the thin material of a kabin door, surveying flies roosting on oilcloth curtains in windows that are heat stricken. Gyre pulls down an oilcloth curtain. With its pullcord he binds it up, impermeable side in, as a great sack. In each disinterred kabin is a similarly inchoate scenario. The infinity fingered open tomb of the daylight dust illustrates the liturgy of their harvest.
They move and they take each after each. The poses and gestures grow elaborate, shedding the natural physics of their origin. They farm twenty six boys from twenty six named kabins. They leave twenty six boys bound and forgotten but for the totems added to a great oilcloth sack. They gather the misshapen and mismatched bits, the correct shapes that add up to something miraculous and obscure. A nose comes first, from Cairo just an ear, Crites a sparing bit of fat, Horine those slight hips, Regal precious jewels small enough together to be one, Doctrine delicate distals rattling, Crystal Heights one’s still to ossify occipital, in Mississippi the retreating penis is purloined by a swift raven and is absent from their collection, Little League the myocardium only of a small heart, Festus Centre an anus, in Dublin they acquire unctuous kidneys, Sunshine a tongue, Leisure gall bladder, Cliff intestines, under an early rising moon in Cave the lunulae of both pointer fingers, Ozark a rib, Henry a few zipper teeth of vertebrae, Roy quadriceps, Second they take a colon, Third a uvula, Melvin a scrotum no more extensive than a pruney fingertip, Alexander a patch of wenis, Thomas wreaths of youthful xylem, Richard what yellow marrow can be scraped from a cracked tibia, the boy being too old and marrow shapeless, Stephen the vagus and accompanied shuttering branches, Jerome the blood that pumps not the blood that pools. The great canopic sack stands on its own in the rocks outside kabin doors, its aggregate of boys sloshes, struggling to self assemble and murkily lifeless against the luxurious smothering sheath of oilcloth.
Multiple points of significance dwell apart in time, are noteworthy for what occurs upon them, as them, but not for the ether lying between. Yet something must bind these points. It may be a gesture. It may be an action. It may be a phrase. It need not be a vector. Whatever these interstitial practices may be, they have one overlying goal, to calm and purify the interstices between the points so that the illusion of a connection between them may arise, so that their articulated flesh may become apparent. In what ways may these points and their flesh be studied and practiced? First, the point itself should be understood and its content put into practice. Second, there must be single minded concentration on the rote practice of the point. Third, it is suggested that the practiced interstices be devoid of intention, that not even the intention to connect is present, but empty motion, pure distraction, afterthought over forethought, be indulged. These are the name equivalencies between the points and the flesh: Anus/portal; Blood/toilet; Colon/cabriole; Distals/mirror rosettes; Ear/peephole; Fat/grout; Gall Bladder/desk; Hips/molding; Intestines/shower bath; Jewels/glass block; Kidneys/backsplash; Lunulae/window sill; Myocardium/fitted sheet; Nose/weatherstripping; Occipital/mirror; Penis/drawer pull; Quadriceps/pillows; Rib/hexgrid; Scrotum/bedspread; Tongue/mattress; Uvula/lamp; Vagus/pullcord; Wenis/topsheet; Xylem/carpet; Yellow Marrow/toilet paper; Zipper Teeth of Vertebrae/valance.
Outside the setting a lamp hangs. The lamp is to draw moths. The moths are to draw bats. Bats are a vehicle to infuse the dwelling with the Lyssavirus, a Mononegavirales, a Rhabdoviridae, transmitted especially via a fluid medium.
(In the lines that would indicate the audible meter of time utilizing the small bell inside the telephone, no markings should be placed, and silence should be observed as thoroughly as possible.)
The Service of the Virus
Breathe into the portal. Turn to face the glass block. Prostrate to hexgrid. Anoint the hexgrid with sweat. Bow to the toilet. Turn to face the curtain. Be seated at the desk. Place palms onto the laminate. Reveal the mirror behind the curtain. Anoint the laminate with saliva. Place hands to bat bites. Face the shower bath. Face the door. Align with the peephole. Place palms onto the laminate. Shuffled paces on hexgrid. Shuffled paces on carpet.
The Liturgy of the Sack
The sack is centered on the bedspread. The sack is moved to the carpet. Sit on the sack. Fold the bedspread back. Fold the topsheet back. Center two pillows on the fitted sheet. Untie the pullcord around the sack. Spread the sack flat over the fitted sheet. Unfold the topsheet over the sack. Unfold the bedspread over the sack.
The Liturgy of Apheresis
(The practice of this is incumbent solely upon the characteristics of swelling developed in the body of the practitioner instruments, iterations, and duration are to be practiced per the impulse of the practitioner and the necessity of their body to become the space of the interstice.)
Offering of Cakes
The Service of the Virus is completed with the offering of 3 primary contingent cake figures. Each of these must adopt the negative space of the next, though each of a different formal vocabulary. In addition to the contingent cakes are a series of impulse cakes, marking the passage of time whose increments are to be determined per the virulence of the setting.
The open portal below the window draws hot air into the room, not as a draft, but another full body of breath in the room. Gyre struggles to stay upright. The medium of the air is sediment dense. A nominal window opening in the watercloset above the toilet is filled with ribbed glass blocks. Slumping into a doubled over, wobbling mass, Gyre's face luxuriates against the tepid tile cooled with oily sweat. Thin pools spread around areas of bare skin. Salt stains, salt corona out from his ankles, corona out from his hands and wrists, salt and rainbow from his face, from his neck and hair, salt oil with decayed feathered edges where frail mineral dams restrain the sweat flows until greater deluges crest and crumble. The surge weaves through grout hexgrid. Where fabric covers the skin, the sweat is sopped, leaving the tile clammy and gray. The puddles ebb and flow. His skin and hair drink from the fabric. His body takes on water and his skin becomes taut and glabrous. Cognitive minerals leach into the grout, suspend a solution in its grain, though reuptaken with the laced ephemera of iron and sand, naphthalene, and alkaloids of high desert flowers, lingering poison eczema, beard trimmings, lime, mold, toe chaff. Fluorescent light graduates through a green rainbow in the greasy slick. At critical saturation, starting with a delicate stream combed by his beard, stillwater saliva runs over the vertex of his lips. His cheeks sink and tongue ferrets through black mustache in lubricated reconnaissance. The clear fluid drips to the tile from the tips of individual hairs. The drips spread and merge into frail magnifying domes pierced by the beard hairs. His palm rises from the tile by fleshy swelling under his forearm. His head lolls and legs kick the wall behind the toilet. He crawls out from the watercloset along a thread of milder air drawing across the carpet entering a void where the sound of the air conditioner would sprawl. Because it is nothing, it is able to enter the body and there, gaining dimension, exert pressure. He rises and grapples with his bisecting waistband and shuffles to the long, unadorned desk. The hem of a striped curtain lies still just above its laminate desktop concealing a taupe shadow within which, after sitting for some time, an animate marbling of light effervesces. He sits with his chest pulled hard against its flat front and elbows and forearms on the desk with palms flat. Saturated flesh presses under and laps onto the laminate. He sits, waits, fidgets. Behind the curtain is a mirror. Gyre is in the mirror as a face wandering over the brown chafe of a shadow behind his figure. Saliva pools delicate bubbles on the false woodgrain. A reach to the face stutters interrupted, to scratch the throat thicket, dab the mouth corner, sidefinger the lip nostril seam, trace the eyebrow arc, fingertip to damp point of pursed lips, extract mustache errants from mouth corner, the wick of saliva onto the chin, press flat the pursed lips. His skin, where exposed, is fraught with smooth, blotchy blooms over rolling undercurrents and foreign armatures. He scratches, growing agitated. He pulls his shirt away from suppurating circles of tooth stars all through the red shift of his distended skin. Hot air parts to his pacing from the shower bath to the locked outer door, pulling back curtains, peering through the peephole, squatting for a moment, hands on the toilet, drawing hand across the desk surface, opening drawers in the credenza, dulling the tile with his shoes, beating down the carpet.
The edges of a bloated oilcloth sack quiver against uncertain floral bedspread renderings. Gyre sweats his clothes black pulling the mattress just away from the wall. He heaves the sack to the carpet and sits unsteady on its creamed hemorrhage, bloated arms outstretched for balance against the resistance of its flexible volume, knees rubbing together slip viscous and bulbous toppling him to the carpet. He moves the sack into the watercloset, in the curtained shower bath, sweats cold shivers, and leaves it. Gyre folds the quilted bedspread over and over and the topsheet over and over into two stacked straps across the foot of the bed. Just over halfway up the length of the mattress he folds the two flat pillows to build a rampart. He retrieves the sack and recenters it on the bed to begin picking at the swollen knots. Sweat runs down his fingers. Acrid saliva frothing forth draws his beard into his mouth. The string loop growing tumescent seals the knots tighter but expands the circumference such that it slips up the neck of the sack and over its distended orifice. Both hands grip the four corners of the curtain and slowly come apart from one another, each gripping two corners, lowering as they part. Saliva in his beard raked with the side of his pointer finger is flicked against the wall while still pinching the oilcloth. His wrists caress the exposed, moist tegmen of the sack opening and shy away. The outermost black curls of his hair reflect in the contents of the sack. Folds clotted together peel apart with crusty flaccidity. The flat black surface inside widens and lowers with the hands spreading through sweat to preserve every drop and glob, adjusting as the surface flows into sagging pleats. Where the hands can no longer clutch four corners, he releases the head side two corners to lap over the pillow rampart but not spill. The foot side two corners remain in his hands and he unfurls them flat, the thick substance flowing slower than the sack expands, slow enough that when flat he kicks out the pillows and returns to the two head side corners and draws them flat to the head corners of the mattress, a great, black perfect mirror follows. The ceiling reflects and confuses the clotted augury of saponified black fat traces on black blood. Thick sheets of saliva flooding over his beard daub on his shoulder keeping the fluids distinct. A low relief in the mattress, the imprint and location of the averaged human figure alone on the queen mattress, undetectable beneath the leveling surface of the black substance, sends a canal outward to breach the piping of the bed plateau. A thread of liquid there steams continuously until the level of the substance drops below the elevation of the overflow and stanches the spread of the black stain on the carpet, flown under the bed endless into shadow. Maintaining an angle of incidence to avoid his reflected face, Gyre unrolls the top sheet fold by fold by lifting the entire coil aloft and setting a single layer down into the liquid impregnating the thin fabric, one crease at a time, until the entire black slick is wick'd and pressed. He pulls all four corners against the lustrous matte and tucks all around. He lofts the quilted bedspread, slowed by the cushion of moist air and a trained wave of forearms, into a billow falling dark across the sheaf of dim viscera.
A blood man presses against Gyre’s skin from inside, another man. He finds a thicket of rusted pins and slender nails in a coffee can on the window sill behind the drawn curtains. As complete as Gyre is, so is this other man. Striped upholstery scrolls. Shadows cast gestures against the wrong side of Gyre’s clothes. His fingers swell and his dappled skin threatens. Gyre sizzling circling his fingertips over cracks in the painted wall, cracks lacing into a cloud, indistinguishable from the wall and from his skin where surfaced capillaries arabesque anoxic blue, fingertips darting along flesh creases and fabric subduction, tilted head earing the air, a roar swelling in the room, sucking through the helical and anithelical canyons, toes climbing over one another inside his shoeboots. The clothes grow so tight that he cannot walk or sit, trussed into parallel by his skin. The fabric weaves around his knees, cotton fibers scream clinging, clutching against him fading to a shallow squat lashing into a tighter hoop between forced together thigh and calf bringing him toppling to the carpet. In spasms on the floor that propel him toward the watercloset he labors at disrobing, tearing seams that throttle and cinch the fragility of his engorged flesh and tick taut tegmen, sausage red and burned human skin blotchy. The clothes cannot be fully removed. Pants are caught up around his knees. With the impediment of bulbous fingertips and straightarms, his shirt can only be unbuttoned and slung down to the elbow fold. The room is dark. Black steam extrudes above the bed. Nothing so slender as a fingertip prods the verso webby depths of his seminude fascia. Valley folds rise to mountain peaks. Ocean floor rocks are held aloft. The skin is washed over by driven dust. Tangential biceps within biceps, abdominals within abdominals, knuckles behind knuckles, eyes behind eyes loiter with the passive resistance of plutons. He straddles the toilet with the coffee can. The floor is a monolithic slab. The rhythm of night and day is scaleless. He pushes the most slender pins into his perineum and the small nails into the undersides of his thighs. Reflexes of muscle draw in the finer lances, their butts lost just beneath the skin welling and dripping incorruptible blood clots into the water. The larger nails and snipped bits of heavy wire he inserts, the first several entries with a squeaking pop, deep, while maintaining purchase with dull fingertips, and slides completely free. Clotted blood collars remain bound to the lances and flake into the toilet bowl. The used and withdrawn lances drop into the toilet bowl. The larger gauge apertures flow free to noticeably alter the color of the toilet water, first in nebulous marble diffusions, and collecting to thin abattoir floor pink, to deep ruby, opaque and velveteen. Slowly he lowers to sitting. The blood form grows as long as it flows from the rush warm beneath him, not overflowing but rising high until the apertures scab on the undersides of his thighs and scrotal consoles. Down between his withered gray legs reflects a black sky half of an egg shaped stone cleft flat by veins of sweat hot night ice. A bearded, withered face, black wild wax hair, pursed lips, dull black eyes, and the open collar of a sweat black chambray shirt looms. Gyre lies back in thin and slouched awareness. His eyes wander over the lucid details of the watercloset. Do not speak and still it is not real. The dead and all the neglected remain forever so. The hexgrid tile grout resolves into the floor.
All the lights in the room are on. The decrepitude of furniture and appointments is denuded. “From the realm of emptiness a space drips dry in my heart. I don’t say this. This is silence. Therein a crescent moon nestles, above which is a citrine syllable, ÇA. Its cavern expands, cleansing my willful obscurations.” Toiletpaper wadded to Gyre's groin is bloodsoaked through. He shivers. He adds another compress of toiletpaper. Foam bubbles burst into liquid. Surfaces are wiped clean with benevolence to distinguish relationships between things, whether true or veneer, how they abut one another. “I become your body, vividly and perfectly manifested, colored a mild green, having one head and two hands. Your right hand I hold to my chest, your left I clutch a dry stickpen, its nib beside my ear. You sit in the flattened posture of royal attention, your two feet bound together in a sheet and your head ornamented with black feathers blown from solitary marble biers in high canyons. Light radiates forth from the seed, ÇA. The rituals were not meant to generate your slender body, nor could they sustain it, rather they evoked and employed its timid power, and in your absence, even in your presence, to revere your benignity and youth. Don’t say this. This is silence.” Dawn invites thinness in living things and hemophilia of thought. A lost dendrite of dead skin floats through the air passing vertical striped fabric appearing and disappearing in rapid succession. Gyre sits hard, arms crossed at the desk. The sheet at the top of the bed is folded over the rayon blanket black blushed. The black toiletpaper is extracted from between his legs. Its red edges catch warm lamplight. He massages it into various shapes. Blood clots beneath fingernails and grows raspy and gummy. Damp velvet stuttering slows the action of his fingertips against one another. He works quickly, improvising as areas lose pliability to coagulation, to achieve a surface wrought fully by the impression of his thin hands. Saliva running over his lips and clicked out from his throat slakes the fibers and softens the scabbed icons with sour smell. The composition of additive shapes, wrought as deft reconstructions of a negative afterimage, employ chance combinations, the negative space of the palm, but not quite evocative of the hand, the space between the fingers, but not quite evocative of touch, the addition of nail grooves, but not quite evocative of self defense. “I treat you as though you are myself, the failure, with the inability to find form, the inability to close the circle. This is impolite. This is presumptuous. This is selfish.” Several small, bloody components emerge, more blood than fiber, a ball, a bottle, a sort of egg cup encrusted with beads and beaks. The remaining clotted dregs he squeezes tight in his fist leaving peaked waves of his grip. They dry, set aside on the desk in an ornate tableau cake. His boot taps the carpet with such long rests that it is not tapping. From the tip of his tongue dripping viscous ampules of saliva, enzymes squealing on the clot feathered plastic laminate. The bedspread is frayed and worn. Black, red, yellow, green, blue, and white stripes are interrupted by sways of loose plastic quilting. Gyre leans back in the desk chair to extract long threads from apocryphal needle puckers. On the desk to surround the blood cake he manipulates the thread into a diamond, vertices kinked in the plastic warmed by his thumb and forefinger, and arranges several more diamonds into overlapping patterns on the desk then throws them back over his shoulder to the bathroom floor. “I don’t say this. This is silence. If something was not at hand, or was defiled, or if I manipulated you with a mind clouded over, may you recall me with tolerance. If my devotion was under the sway of defiled thoughts, if I was drowsy or distracted, if the implements of my idolatry lacked tenderness, the offerings were impure or too few, my cleanliness was suspect, if I was unable to follow the ritual, I ask for your toleration toward my faults. I ask you, right now, empower me to subdue my cryptic tendencies that this obscurity may arise no more.” Gyre drops the blood clot icons into the toilet full of blood. They swell and unspool, tracing out blood and tissue into the matching medium. Appended baubles and flourishes break down, contort, and float away, in their swelling take on rifts of blood. Lakes rise to split and break down the icons. Heat pushes moisture on his breath out the airconditioner portal. The wind makes an inescapable picture. Air mummifies in the room. The hands are clumsy. “I expected reliance and fortitude but did not exhibit it. I expected greatness and have not provided a measure for it. I put challenge in place of nurture because success requires adaptation, though I neither challenged nor succeeded. In this pattern is both obscurity and illumination. I have thought only to provide the obscurity. I saw failure, and trying to best it with its own voices, have adhered to the rules that cause failure. I have not been honest with myself. What did you expect of me? I provided nothing more than being abandoned to your senses would have. ÇA. Judgment, though, is impossible. What I do is only for the best.”
: : : : :
JOHN TREFRY is an architect, educator, and writer of the novel Plats, the caprice Thy Decay Thou Seest By Thy Desire, and the forthcoming Apparitions of the Living. His other writing can be found on the Fanzine, Entropy, Minor Literature[s], and Full Stop.
a manner of handling
the body bagged
the first cut
will the real body
Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns
(a rent in the curtain through which)
i need to be
much sweeter, and liquid.
pollen nestling deep in the comb. live green
things i break at the stem, bleeding green blood.
this event a
yes, this event somatic
of coming apart and of
a graceful arc of an event or
a rat a tatttack
a cut/it cuts
it cuts so deep, so very deep.
this secretive slice
(why would you do that on purpose?)
witness this private transaction as
with a familiar insinuation
shiny shiny, oh my shiny
under your skin?
are you looking away?
a glistening delicacy
a dream all decked out in crimson
probably you too.
because we are
delicate balance. upsetting applecarts.
courting the un
all the insides on the outside and vice versa.
(my name isn’t abject for no reason).
this means nothing.
from scar to wound the end invokes the beginning
and all the parts between.
alive. alive. oh.
i stop in the middle of a blizzard of leaves,
dancing in the sudden hot wind. close my eyes.
(this isn’t happening)
nature’s abstraction performs distance,
wilderness, estrangement. in the smoke haze, in
the finch frenzy, in the snapping whipbird call,
in the hot (still) breeze, in the glittering glittering green-there i fall together in grace.
(this isn’t happening)
in this moment of bursting free of the infinity of
suffocating folds i am beautiful
“ok, now you’re going to get stabbed”
[The Body Bagged]
slice myself up
on the ragged corners
of this precarious life
swerving like a drunk driver
from one moment of invention/intention to
i grab onto moments as they fly past at speed
to slow down my careening
out of control
but moments are sharp and dangerous
i close my fist around them, too hard.
they are double-edged
and slip out of my grasp.
a crimson ribbon describes an arc in the air.
i run the treacherous gauntlet
walk the razor’s lip like a high wire
(a tight and nervous wire)
such a slippery red dance
i glide along the sharpening edge of dark,
where dark red looks like black
in the dying of the light
at the hour when
through gilded clouds.
and remind me of
beauty in danger and danger in beauty
as the guillotine of night beheads the day,
with one blinding brilliant fall of the sun
dark quickens and
i ride the wild night_mares
(the pounding of my heart,
like the heart of a horse)
cloud-birthing hours before dawn.
i dream a litany of mishaps
marching across my skin
dragging their steel-capped toes
each toe-scraping slit turns inside out.
the hide is wet on the inside and the edges curl
delicately, lips parting wetly then
dessicating, darkening and dying,
unaccustomed to the scrape of ordinary air
(i’m holding a rose petal)
see how the edges of the rose petal curls?
look at it now. here.
the petal, the skin of the petal, is plump
while the edges darken and wither.
an ecstacy of sighs leakage is
escapes me salvation
hissing out through the salvation
slits in the bodybag leakage is
a susurrus of voices salvation
freed and flowing, redly— leakage is
a noisy crimson mist filling the air salvation
the voice of abjection speaks: salvation
it’s unseemly, you know, salvation
to leak leakage is
through the small flesh tears salvation
puncturing leakage is
this tight drum of skin leakage is
where, we, i, me, you salvation
fight for containment and selfhood leakage is
such leaking is unseamly salvation
the body of abjection speaks: leakage is
our mucosal expectoration leakage is
our menstrual excesses salvation
our lacrimal overflow leakage is
our lactation salvation
our micturation leakage is
our exfoliation salvation
our perspiration leakage is
our ejaculation salvation
our salivation leakage is
our defecation salvation
our respiration leakage is
our weeping gashes salvation
our seeping slashes leakage is
our trickling slits salvation
our gushing lacerations leakage is
our laughing tears salvation
our sorrowing laughter leakage is
the inside is inside and the outside is outside
but the inside is outside
and the outside is inside
the inside craves the outside
and the outside reviles the inside
the struggle is red and there is
there is no
but through the gash of transcendental longing:
this body no longer has edges
i am breaking containment
for this body no longer has edges
i may be drawn with bold outlines
but relief comes
when i color outside the lines
for this body no longer has edges
to leak the burden of love and other pains, pinkly,
is to lose
and become myself
all at once.
there is redemption here
is my transgression
in this beautiful crimson mist
there is redemption here.
i give it to myself, as a gift.
i can have it.
thank you. I will take that.
: : : : :
VIRGINIA BARRATT is a writer and performer based in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia. She is writing a PhD at Western Sydney University in the Writing and Society Research Centre. Virginia is a founding member and slime-sister of the cyberfeminist collective VNS Matrix, which still undertakes occasional projects. Her research focuses on panic, affect and deterritorialisation. Through fictocritical and experimental poetics, she is exploring the positivist aspects of ontological destabilisation and how to remediate panic from a transcendental pathological narrative.
When eventually the flesh fell off her bones, the poems she’d written in life didn’t see it happen. They became a small book that continued to yearn. Every year a few people read that book. A thousand years went by.
Finally a farm-boy called One Straw read that book of hers. It was written in the language of his village. It was a speech from the alternate world. It didn’t have anything in it of farming. It was silence, it was being alone. It was a gaze that doesn’t tell what it sees. She wrote it so One Straw would find her and know her.
Our carnal life floats upon carnal food. A blind man will eat, but a sighted man will eat without looking. After you’ve been blind for twenty years, you start hallucinating: a floating pink dress will appear vividly to you, or a parrot, or a tiger, or a girl with flowers growing from her head. You really see that, and you praise its beauty, praise the astonishing color pink, praise shape, praise light. We listen to the blind man talk about it, and we envy him, even though a carnival of colors is in front of our eyes every minute.
One Straw grew up and failed. He broke his ability to work. He got married, and hurt his wife so she finally hated him. His son then also hated him. He misunderstood. He believed he was a priest, he believed he was a master. He believed that mere life was contemptible. He felt he was above considering bicycles, faucets, mangos, rats. He waited for these things to pass from him. He waited for his wife and child to pass from him. He loved time the destroyer, he loved growing old.
He believed there was another world, that this plain world was “unreal.” He said the word unreal plainly, without questioning it. He made no friends, friends talk about food and cricket. He felt no cricket player was human. Anybody who could write or make music, One Straw called a saint. He saw gods in the eyes of beautiful girls, he waited for such girls to notice him. But he never spoke to such girls, so he wasn’t noticed. He got angry.
Anger in a saint feels like righteousness. Anger in a young person is energy. Anger in One Straw drugs his conscience, it blasts past goodness. After anger retreats, he feels nothing. That’s the beginning of his exile.
His problem is, he remembers an old book he can’t remember. Remembering it’s remembering himself as a kid. The book started out with a description of light coming through colored stone and creating gratitude. The book created the kid, and he could never be uncreated, only exiled, distracted by the misunderstanding.
Lots of times he tried to translate this unremembered book. He rethought it in English, like a story. It turned into a joke, eccentric and entertaining. He thought it in Sanskrit as if it were highly serious. He walked away from it and believed its opposite. He blamed it for his isolation. He came back to it and tried to express it simply. He modernized it. He tried to tell it as a parable. He tried to live like the book was his Gita. He never came close to feeling the book the way it felt when he was young. He blamed reality for his unhappiness, and clung to the shifting, amorphous book. His exile got worse.
The book’s written in his own voice now. When he’s alone, and not thinking in words, then he hears it recited, he hears it sung. When he used to talk to other people, that was a bad translation. He’d say, “Put that over there,” or “What’s the matter?” because that’s the only way to say those words. It wasn’t what he meant. For a long time he kept trying to talk the way he felt. Now he doesn’t talk.
To tend plants, to protect them, to let them become food, to rake their soil and worry over the weeding, to feed them with water, to defend them from rats: all this, he finally said, is viperish. One Straw said, I won’t do what’s necessary.
He was old. He said: The plant has the same freedom I have. The plant has the right to die. I won’t pretend a feeling I don’t feel. I won’t take care of a plant I don’t love. The mole, the bug, they have to eat, I won’t hurt them. The plant’s not my slave, I free it. The plant doesn’t love me either.
If he ate an apple, he threw a second apple into the field. He gave food back to the dirt. The field filled with food. Nobody told him to plow or plant, he was alone to think clearly. Everything he used to call work, he stopped that. His neighbors hoped to take over his land, so they favored this catastrophe. Crops rotted on the ground, and nobody berated him. The soil works until it’s tired. The sun rests until it’s rested.
One Straw stopped fighting. Apple flesh isn’t for you, it’s food for appleseeds. Let it rot and let insects come, moles and worms, spiders and beetles and rats, all of life. Weeds. When a farmer turns away from the earth, he shouldn’t kill weeds, he should kill nothing at all. Weeds are alive. If a farmer’s required by the earth, the earth will still feed him.
A farmhouse has a root cellar because of change. The sun might vanish, famine might come, fruit-tree branches can tangle, a man can forget. The line of a plow can curve so much it plows itself apart. Then there needs to be a safe place. There needs to be a cellar full of food, a place that’s the earth itself. If he loves a woman, he should know all her faults. If he hates Mohammedans, it’s his job to learn their poetry and pray until he feels their god. Then if he still hates, let him hate, beautifully, in detail. So that if a farmer turns away from the earth, he should sleep underground and smell the earth’s own sense of itself.
Your life ends up in the root cellar. Can’t you turn back into the person who had a wife? No. You did what you did, now she’ll set your house on fire if she sees you. When a farmer turns away from the earth, rain has a different purpose. Rain will grow mushrooms among the straw. Rain will birth insects that bore into stems and cut into leaves, killing the plants that need to be killed. Rain will birth out a fungus that’ll cover the whole field in a white web. It may be this effort should fail. One Straw’s still a farmer but he waits to learn the meaning of that word. Around him, the old book’s taken hold of the land.
The game of Parry is done with sticks of bamboo and is a cult of strength. Manu whose game it was, who created the rules out of nothing, he was also the great champion, and he always won. Winning in Parry is injurious to the loser, since the stick is used like a sword and hitting and bashing and stabbing is in the natural laws of the game. These are called by hundreds of exact names, these hitting and stabbing gestures, and they are studied and discussed the way the stars and planets are. And nobody can reach the stars nor can they achieve victory over Manu who created the game around his own abilities.
The great mystery was, suddenly all at one time, Manu could be successfully bashed and injured by almost any Parry artisan. It was a shock to see him bleed. His own face did not resemble a losing, also not the calm winning of his past winning, and looked like another man, unknown to all, rather than being Manu.
He held the stick the same, he moved his feet in the same silent crouch and sliding step, he made the same required musical or percussive noises with his throat, these were same as previous. But anybody could hit him. There was a boy of eleven years who knocked him down. Those who watched were silent and even the victor boy began to cry. If Manu were not unbeatable, the whole game was reduced down to small.
Manu himself would not discuss this strange fact. We all had to account it as a god, the god PARRY, withdrawing from Manu his blessing. We asked him, with great respect, we told him he was one of the lucky who were inhabited by a god, he should not doubt his god. But he said we were all gods already. Even sitting on the beach and looking up means the gods are looking out of you. This is true, he is right. But that requires no skill. So those gods are not quite so strong as PARRY is.
But PARRY left our midst, and we were only island dwellers with sticks.
Some said his calm during the fight is why he won. But I loved his opponents for the forgetting to be calm, the forgetting what to do. They laughed when they failed, also when they did well. They also boasted and tried to look frightful. Also they were nervous and scared.
To watch these battles was like watching a good friend battle against a giant stone. You did not watch the stone, but your friend. Even though that the stone always won.
I think Manu understood his opponents were more happy to lose than he was happy to win. So that he wished to lose, and the god helped him have his wish. Anyway he was very blessed, and he became full of light, while losing all reputation.
: : : : :
JAMES CHAPMAN lives in Brooklyn. He's written ten novels, most recently Qurratulain.
How Coyote Developed a Sinkhole
It would not, this empty eye-socket, be sated,
& like a mouth opened to howl
it let the wind pass on the call: Come—
& into the eyehole of Coyote the world ingathered.
Into the eyehole of Coyote fell Cadillacs & culs-de-sac, fell bedrooms, fell buses.
Fell a sidewalk & its garland of children.
Fell swimming pools & drilling rigs, sequoias & slaughterhouses. Fell foxgloves
& horse skulls. Corn. Crop circles.
Fell the two-legged things & the four-, the hundred-, the lopped-.
Fell the night-mouthed things, & the water-. The winter-. The traitor-.
Fell these into the eyehole of Coyote & splintered
into grit & ooze, into cell & syllable.
In the eyehole of Coyote they calcified, these artifacts, these sherds.
They fossiled in her skull.
& then came the rains. Fell rain into the eyehole of Coyote
until she flooded with it, fell rain until it drowned & covered,
until it swamped the hole & lapped & lapped, a lake new-formed,
until her eye was the bluest of holes, & we
stood on the shore of it, casting our drift nets.
Under the emptying sky the cenote of Coyote blinks,
& in its deep a cell divides.
Why I Was Drawn to Coyote
Over Coyote the Offscourings swarm.
Over the body of Coyote, over the wounds in her hide,
the Offscourings –
that larval trash, those unniched meats –
swarm, seeking the sore that weeps & beckons,
semaphoric sore that signals
a niche to next & be –
Offscouring: Usu. in pl.: That which is scoured off –
meat displaced or dispossessed – the dregs
of our Nature – now parasites
the hide of Coyote, a body holed
& filled with war–
Where can I go if not into the body of Coyote?
Into the holes of Coyote, just under the skin,
I burrow my thoughts. I think of nothing—
In the hide of Coyote my thoughts grow,
They are grub-white bodies,
They are bodies made of holes.
They are listening.
—something is moving, turning over – as if it were alive –
live tracts of land – with limbs, eyes – I didn’t know any of them, what
they were called – in my own language –
Inside Coyote I fatten & listen
as Coyote migrates
over the sores of the earth.
Together we throw out our long legs, together
we gallop over not-earth,
our warbles nursing a wholing.
: : : : :
CLAIRE HERO is the author of Sing, Mongrel and three chapbooks, most recently Dollyland. Her poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Bennington Review, Black Candies, Black Warrior Review, and Cincinnati Review.