A person can be internally consistent and absurd at the same time, like a comedy skit. Our imagined summaries make us lifelike, or so I heard on television. Don’t mind me, I’m just looking for permission, filled with suppositions about self-preservation through simple perseverance and tricky transposition mixed in blender-wise with kind attentions to the scratches on the table and the streaks on the glass as though I really believe I’d dissolve my fears if I could only embrace the imperfections of my style. Style—ha! When I set out to write I expected each stanza would begin with an abstract observation followed by a loosely corresponding question but here we are in the middle of yet another goddamn paragraph because I don’t stick with anything and slip on Freudians—a fact which you, conscience, always somehow saw as something akin to sin. In the end it was a party that pulled Styron out of his second round of depression, a fucking party, can you believe it? You could tread upon enlightenment and suggest all human achievement amounts to an elaborate mating game, though some pleasures, you’d surely concede, are incrementally higher than others, while others still are far. Sometimes, for instance, you sit nude before a keyboard looking for a compelling way to resist invisibility and silence through the publicizing of one’s life’s truths—a foolish pursuit, no doubt, when you’re so overwhelmed by unreality that you cover your face and refer to yourself in the second person because distance and non-knowledge appear to offer the only way through. But who knows the unwritten rules till we write them and then reject the limitations of language, opting for the ubiquitous lure of second-rate visuals of ritualized identity since it sometimes seems skin is all the world cares to acknowledge in the first place.
If you made a sound
This is the sound you would make
Mauve in color
Straining to speak
What do you say?
Sitting at the family table
All my ghosts
In carried repose
And the new
Who replaces you
Has no power to stake
Because I am
Watered by indifference and throwaway cruelty
Fed on your critique
It is your bed – I like in to sleep
Your brand of survival
So sore and foreign to mine
If you made a sound
Would it be a crow
Or a blackbird
At night when birds used to sleep
Wary of rasping day
They call out
To their unseen maker
As I suppose
I call out to you
As I suppose
You hear and
Tears in the morning at the slightest provocation—the inconveniences of sensitivity, the troubles of necessity, and the opportunities to oppose it. The rain falls or it doesn’t, and coarse tabloid judgments are hurled at everything in between. I grow weary of trying to be definitive so I set the glass on the windowsill and avert my eyes from screens, doing my best impersonation of choosing stillness.
Miłosz observed the inescapable influence of historical context at a time when that context was quite literally governed by historical context’s inescapability, suggesting that acceptance, meaning, and possibility are dependent upon the extent to which our expressions of them reflect the zeitgeist with “scientific exactness.” Today, limits on time and attention breed anxious “musts” which branch out in all directions and frequently send us headlong into tranquil, violent, and utterly mundane abysses of pure diversion. Are they one and the same? Chaos and authority? Meaning and meaninglessness? Escape and captivity?
In the twentieth century, it was the dialectician, with his towering rationalisms and tunneled threads of theoretical consistency, who controlled the rhetorical landscape. Now, it’s the petty carnival ringmaster megaphone-spouting from every angle of every corner but I keep talking in code for lack of anything expressly geometrical to say, at once both caught and cozy in little brick and A-frame languages of home and shelter. To you I simply said part of what I felt, more or less knowing it would stack up and you’d understand. It could’ve been this way but it was that, or is, or however.
Image by Christine Renney
I follow the other travellers across the car park and toward the rest area. They reach the doors and they push their way through but I stop and hover in front of the entrance, where people step around me, hardly seeing I am there so intent are they on getting inside.
I move close to the plate glass and peer in at them under the bright lights and although what they can do in there is limited, so very, very limited, they falter. It is fleeting but they are disoriented and unsure, if only for a few seconds and then they are able to re-focus and move again. It is a glitch and I realise that this is how I feel, that I am unsure, but for me it isn’t a glitch.
I step away from the entrance and begin to pace in front of the windows. Intermittently I raise my head and gaze into the cafeteria but I am unable to concentrate and I don’t really see them, they are just a blur.
You damned me with your penchant for
only the smooth hollow of a quiet buttoned up body
resting now, untouched chalk and mortar
lain still so long, breath has left
I did not want to wake up
pretend to function at the end of tugging string
there was a place in my head that dissolved living
a spindle that gathered all my yarn and knitted something else
back into a shape I did not recognize
she went on without
this clockwork version of myself
whilst I followed the bath water down the drain
hearing your serpentine taunt
what was it you said?
you would feed me?
I don’t need food
I don’t need air
I am existing on memories
of being fearless and before erosion
the wonderlust of the young and close to flame
possessing no sticky cleavage, no rub of thigh
or need to sup
the fealty of those who have not yet
watched their bones dissolve into chalk
this theatre is cold
like love when it is left
on a low flame
catching and diminishing
as most will rest
and one dances
mad arms flung
like sticks of liquorice
have you ever known what someone was like?
but somewhere along the journey, without any good reason, forgotten
gone on forgetting until all the things they are capable of
are lost and you see them with fresh eyes
just as wrecked and pulled to pieces the next time, they tear your fucking heart out
is that forgiveness God? When you forgive and you don’t forget?
except the very act of forgiving means you do forget
the extremity of pain and its after effects
how can you walk next to someone capable of pinching off
all their emotions as if you were snuff
turning out the light on you
just. like. that.
harm stains the mattress a livid hue
as if I were given a blood transfusion of pain
tell me please
who do I have to hurt to stop?
myself, or all the years
I wasn’t myself?
The ground outside was littered with crab apples the day I found a dead dove in the grass behind the house—is their tartness merely a feature of our gustatory perception or is it absolute? This is the kind of thing. I can fight it or sit it out or I can reason and wait, again, for peace.
On the edge, or closer to it than realized, freely mistaking association for identity: near/gone, ok/not, me/you—who am I to say life is other than what one writes? This is my code, it’s what’s under the hood, my piece/peace for flexing fake emotion and unlearned nostalgia when my fuck-you energy is out on the town like an average dromomaniac splashing around in his own little personal puddle of poshlost left over from a three-days-ago downpour.
For all the effort at wakefulness, I find my solace lies in sleep—what depth is deep enough to escape the carnal thrill of words? I hope you’ll stay and read each line twice, once for identification and once for all the stories you’ll tell yourself later, layering response after response to question after question, need after desire onto person after image, brushing sophistries over underlying truth with the brightness down and exposure up and contrast set on apprehensive frequencies that cause the sort of muscle twitching we’ll all mistake for action.
The world is only as large as you can comprehend; I understand, now, what I was doing all that time when I wanted to be awake—where does this end, where does that begin? It takes a village to meet such needs and the body count is high and rising, overtaking composition on principle if not by sheer volume while, really, the only question worth answering is whether the headstand is for me or for the moment’s desire for inversion, whether what’s sought is an end or a beginning.
Image by Christine Renney
The room was dirty. It hadn’t been cleaned, at least not properly. She wanted to complain but Pete was so exhausted he pleaded with her, tried to talk her down, convince her to let it slide.
He sat on the end of the bed. She hadn’t noticed the empty beer cans stowed beneath it and he realised of course that, if she did, they wouldn’t be sleeping in the room; probably wouldn’t be staying in this particular motel.
She slumped down beside him and, laying back, he heaved a very audible sigh.
‘Okay,’ she said, ‘but I’m not getting inside the covers and I’m not taking off my clothes.’
Turning onto her side she groaned and Pete could tell she was just as tired as he and could no longer fight it. Reaching out he fumbled for the light switch and closed his eyes.
Pete awoke with a start. His arm was hanging over the edge of the bed and his hand brushed against something or something had brushed against it. Rolling over he peered down. Some of the cans had rolled from beneath the bed and Pete could see there was other trash scattered across the room. Fast food and sweet wrappers and empty crisp packets. Squinting in the half light he could see an old apple core and a mouldy banana skin.
Pete climbed quietly from the bed and crossed to the window. He was thankful that he hadn’t taken his shoes off. He parted the curtains a little, letting in the light from the street lamps. The rubbish was everywhere, the room was almost entirely covered.
Pete crouched down and closer to this carpet of mess, of leftovers, he felt nauseous. Looking away he swept his hands through it. The rubbish was sticky and old, the food stuff mixed amongst the paper and card was rotting. It seemed impossible to him that somebody had managed to cram so much underneath the bed. And unbelievable that neither she nor Pete had noticed. Standing, Pete gazed across at her. He realised that it was now time to complain. But she was sleeping so soundly and after the day they had had, after the night they had had, he didn’t want to disturb her. Pete wanted to leave her be, to let her rest.
He decided that he would clean up the mess himself. He had gloves in the car and some old carrier bags. Using these he could carry the rubbish across to the wheelie bins he had spotted at the far end of the car park. Working as quietly as he could Pete would make as many trips as were necessary and in the morning she would be none the wiser.
Pete stepped closer and he studied her for a few moments. Crouching again he lifted the faded eiderdown and peered. There was still a lot of rubbish beneath the bed. In fact it had been forced and crammed so tightly that the trash formed a solid block and it was pushing against the underside of the mattress.
But how could that be when so much had already spilled out into the room? Pete’s bewilderment suddenly turned to anger and in his rage he thrust his hands in, frantically clawing at it. He realised that she was standing beside him but she didn’t speak and kneeling she began to help.