“I done came too far to go back, and too hard to go soft… Whatever ever happens, I’m with it.” – The Future of Dade County (Ft. Dirt E Red, Lunch Money, Co, Hennessy, P.M.)
The shutters beat against the walls of the house in the middle of the night and the doors blew open. Ball lightning invaded and I chased it out of the house with the butt of my shotgun. “Get out of here,” I cried, my eyes wide with fury at the beautiful, deadly body of light. It left the way it came and the dog chased it outside, where it dissolved into the air as if nothing had ever happened. Black is the night in the valley of sleep, and full of ball lightning.
The curtains remain draped and the shutters boarded up. He is not unhappy, but he sleeps on a bed of nails, and he showers on stone, and he sleeps underneath the open universe so high on pills he can make out Andromeda with his bare, myopic eyes. All he has to do is squint, and then he can see; and the sleepwalker, hungry, eats her fix, and is no longer tempt; the face settles into its natural contours, no one is smiling, and he can’t help but laugh. He laughs whenever he speaks.
The white-ragged king skipped toward the eternal Roman columns, wide like the great chest of Polyphemus and soft to the touch. We fared well in those days… Before we went underground, banished from above, with our saints and archangelic protections bound around our throats like shock collars.
In long white rags, like floating ghosts, the handsome children ran away, alone into the misty fields, deep and wet and always quiet.
When the mist lifted, they were gone. We marched for them for days. The Civil Air Patrol flew aerial reconnaissance but could not turn up any ghosts. An empty church in a cornfield burned to the ground, but there was no evidence of children, nor ghosts.
“I done got it on the block, streets don’t owe me nothing.” – Dirt E Red
I took a hit of acid and sat on the porch and grew bored so I went for a drive. In the countryside no one can hear you. You do not exist. You are a context of the road, and the road does not exist. The lines fold into the plane and the walls recede, points repeating, until breathing itself becomes unnecessary. The calligraphy of the sun through the trees gives way to the full immortal glory of the open burning cotton field, pulling the horizon closer and closer as it slips farther away.
When the acid wore off I pulled off the road and I slept. A young woman called me and wanted to listen to jazz. I went to her house but fell asleep on her bed. When her dad came home I walked right out the front door and shook his hand as I left.
The torque took over and the curvature of the earth caved in. I watched as the steamboats split in half and sank to the bottom of the river, as the cannons discharged aimlessly towards the moon and the stars, all of the soldiers’ camps burning and the mansion on the hill already burned.
“Executive to the game, can’t change me. Make money but the money don’t make me.” – Dirt E Red
The urge to say grace overcame me as we sat down to eat. Everyone else started eating like usual, filling their faces thanklessly and proud. I licked my lips and tried to speak, but I could not say anything. I would not know what a grace sounded like if I heard one. “Mother,” I asked, calling out to the rafters of an empty tower, from which hung a heavy pendulum, swinging to and fro above my scarred and motionless face, “How does a good boy say grace?”
That was all I ever wanted to be – a good boy. “I am good,” I repeated feverishly, trying to drink what my father handed me only to throw it back up across the floor. “I am a good boy, I am good.”
Like the cro-magnon standing there, back straight, the pain and the anger of what he has to do well known, and harbored deep within him somewhere unsafe, somewhere violent, in the pitiless natural heart of the good man, made worse by his own tortured existence in the black lands, unfarm-able, lemons undeliverable, salt washed back out to the sea. No one walks through the darkened clouds but the marionettes, sad-faced and wooden-limbed, and they rattle from their strings in the wind like windchimes, thin and hollow, and the faces of the ragdolls spin, laughing haplessly, getting wet.
She dripped between her legs and I slipped my hands inside her, one by one, and split her in half –
“I’m about as hot as a South Beach sun…” Hennessy
I wrote a letter to the old godmother again, sitting alone in her schoolhouse in New England, in the far north where the ice gale blows, and the churches sit cold and unattended, their fires smoking and their doors always open, with a bible for every baptism, and I asked her for advice. I told her I’d been reading Henry Suso, the great German mystic, and San Juan again, the Spaniard.
But the letters got mixed in the mail again and the package was lost… Wires crossed, and she died; the funeral depressed me. I almost did not go. I cried for Christ and recognition of the holy spirit. I could see it, standing there – she was wise, and beautiful, and full of steady grace. She said, “I saved you, you stupid piece of shit, and I will come to take you, soon – you will serve me. I am yours to serve.”
“I will serve you,” I said, and I bought her a fur, and I let her fuck her like any which way, no matter how badly my back hurt, and no matter how sore and empty I became; my dick, like rubber, tired, like Henry Miller, like a whore. I started quoting Klaus Kinski and soon I was dead; she resuscitated me, slapping me in the face, and I refused to slap her back again.
They wanted to go into the woods again. “I do not go into the woods anymore,” I said. They could see the darkness in my eyes and did not ask me what I meant. So they went without me, and I walked alone to the city and drank myself under a board in the floor.
Oceans broke on glassy wharves and a library burned in broad daylight. What could they do? The good men, the greatest men – but history is not made by men, and great men are a mythology. The honor of Odysseus is mythological. Honor is a dramatic device, like Plato, Jim Dean and his iconic red jacket.
A blue rage came over me and I got up and danced. “Dance,” I cried, grabbing my deaf old man by the collar, “Get up and dance why don’t you!”
I took my fat uncle-in-law by the arms and shoved him into the middle of the floor. The old antebellum heart pine turned into a grid of flashing colorful lights and a disco ball lowered out of the ceiling, replacing the fans and light fixture. The fat man started to dance like it was 1976 again and the future was real.
In the parking lot of depravity behind the abandoned house a fourteen year old girl was being raped by three white boys just slightly younger than me. I walked outside with my Sig Sauer in my hand to shoot them but they were gone, and they had taken the girl with them. A pair of ripped and bloody panties hang from a scab of uneven brick and a meteor fell between the earth and the moon and disintegrated in plain view of the ancient city.
Sarah, whom he may have loved, was on her knees by the fireplace praying to Mother Mary, while the basement filled up with the floodwaters and the mountaintops turned island hills.
A beacon in the distance caught her attention; it was a broadcast, tapped out by the finger of the paralyzed man in the mountains, old and tired and good at heart, and it said, “As I wept I saw gold, and I could not drink,” and Alicia Keys and Jay-Z sung a song from their peak of gold and ivory, full of grace, and the choir of angels paraded out of the orchestra pit and into the aisles. We drank apple juice and licked the taste from every other tongue, teeth laced, hearts receding.
The fingers down the back again, the breathless repetition, passing out again, the lighters in the air again, the angst and the absurdity again, mad-hatterly, antique.
And so it progressed, sadly and uncertain, until the progression halted; and then it regressed again.
(My gums are pale – do I look like a skeleton? Iron deficiency… vitamin D… trace nutrients…)
Island nation – Durkee’s Premium Blend Apple Pie Spice – improve your cooking – standard stapler, standard staples, stapled goods – plastic glasses – thunder as it rains, the chess set trembles and the pieces shake, rattling against the glass like rain drops – the cracking of ice, the ice breakers – furnace – visions after visions.
I took a pill and tapped into the city life. On the internet and in the streets of Tokyo and behind a hundred glowing screens.
That’s how it feels to be free… perfect consumption, blinding light – go out inside a blinding light, a halo on your pale lit head…
“I can’t get it out! I can’t get it out of my head! I don’t know what it is and I can’t get it out!”
Pure and total suffering – completely under wraps – behind a door just freshly closed, unlocked and unprotected. “Please don’t go through my personal effects,” I demanded, the end of my lips curled in a snarl. What was in my personal effects?
“Ice in my ear – give me brain freeze.” – RiFF RAFF
I ordered a $6,000 television on Amazon and they delivered to my house two days later for free. I laid in bed while the delivery man set it up for me. “White glove service,” he said, unboxing it and plugging it in.
I spent the next two weeks watching Amadeus and composing a list titled “The Sad Sap Sucker” about my most pathetic features. I deleted or threw it away every morning and started again every evening.
When my parents came to check on me, I would throw them out, blowing smoke in their face and telling them I was hard at work. Meanwhile I ordered roses sent to the last known address of a woman I knew in Milan and spend seventy-two hours browsing the internet.
I dissolved again, like powder in a gelatin shell, and fell face-first into the oil of the night again. The great sand demon of sleep took advantage of me while I slept, and the young hookers let themselves come and go, taking what they wanted and breaking everything else. I stayed there, in the mud, my head spinning, unwilling to take in what had happened, who I’d become, that one night, the last night of the old world, the end of the past and the first test of the new awakening, crystal-raw and full of nosebleeds, although the scars folded up with the flesh.
Iron chains snaked between the gaps in the rack and fell to the ground, sinking into the mud as the survivors ran desperately through the basement.
Outside, the view was beautiful – like a van Gogh painting of a delta countryside, a single row of trees left to grow in the landscape. A cropduster flew a few yards over the earth as it sprayed its miracle compounds over the endless rows of perfect crops. Soybean, cotton, full of grace… Just listen to the earth, it’s growing, that there is money being made, that there is people feeding, people sleeping, people healthy and clothed – “Miraculous industry,” read the literature.
“Industry,” I said, and my eyes glossed over and I became a machine.
Symphony No. 5 in B flat, D. 485, I. Allegro – Schubert
An angel on the silver screen, a cowboy fighting in the hallway, drawing blood – finches, all of them dead – life in the gutter, fighting fish in the puddles, broken glasses on the bridge of the nose – like Mickey Mouse, smiling, multi-cultural – master sailor, mice in their bread, weevils in the grain supply – and the silos burned, one by one, like aborted missile launches, and the saboteurs spread like locusts through the countryside, pillaging the mills and factories and having their way with the women and children.
There is no life here, after all. There are only men and women, and they are monsters, full of imaginary, visionary constructs like race, sex, and sexuality, and they are impulsive, violent intuitionists. They wave in the environment like coral and react to stimuli with a sting or a kiss and consume until their stomachs burst.
I was a farmer, once, and my heart was still good. But winters were hard. We had to put the horse down – shoot him and bury him right in the spot.
My goat, Henry, the size of a large labrador and moon-eyed, got into the feed silo unattended and overate. It’s stomach flipped over and he died, bleating in misery as he lay in the cold with his organs destroyed.
The bethlehem donkey, however, carried on, half-blind, with the cross on her back, and she paced the perimeter of the misty field every day, no matter the season, and she kept watch over the little ones at night – the chickens, the geese, the rabbits, the goats, the cats, the ducks.
When the foxes came, and savaged the chickens in the violated safety of their beautiful coop, the donkey, too old to jump, ran straight through the electrical fence, dragging it, zapping, until she finally broke free of it. She kicked open the door to the coop and stampeded the foxes, driving them out. She followed them to the edge of the hayfield before returning to the chicken coop, where she stood in the doorway until I came home a day later. The door blew closed but she stood there, unmoving, the blood of her fallen comrades around her.
In America, there are forests, and in these forests there are cemeteries, old and undisturbed, and underneath the graves there are bodies, wrapped in earth and restful at last. I have ran and played and made love among these restful people, and I have laid on the earth and imagined the way I will rest, when the time comes. Laying, safe and sound, in the earth, the sun just above you, the world warm and full of life and spinning onward in perfect unity. A resting place – I eat my pills…
The door to the chicken coop swings open and closed in the night, the snow blows in thick and fills the air, pure white and invisible, like you can’t even move, like the world has stopped existing. In the safety of my bedroom, against the frozen glass, I can smell the ancient wall of winter, falling snow, a blizzard, purple light, endless whistling, the vanishing focal point… blurry vision, love is so easy to lose, out of touch, my heart in all the wrong places… we chased down the ice cream man, he bought me some ice cream because I did not have any money. But then he ran off on his bicycle without paying, and I panicked and followed him, holding my ice cream in my hand and apologizing.
The ocean froze and no one was around to see it. The lighthouse beam diffused completely; the sky was white, the sound was white, the temperature was white, and nobody could move, afraid to disturb the perfect, torrid whiteness. Portraits on the walls heaved, as the paint felt a familiar dryness, a familiar change in pressure, and the antiquarian frames shrunk and expanded.
One hundred different words for snow… and I never fucked a single one of them…
“I don’t care anymore.” – Phil Collins
That was the day the yearning died – on the banks of the river, watching the skyscrapers rise – in a candy shop in an alley in Bruges, trying to buy the window display, but the window display is not for sale – I fell asleep on a cliff smoking Amsterdam cannabis I’d mistakenly smuggled through the mountains, half asleep, sugar plums still in my dreams.
When I woke up, I was laying in a hospital bed, and I had lost feeling in my waist and legs from damage to my back and spine.
Love in a castle again, forevermore, while no one takes another step, and if the record player reaches the end, we will simply reset it – but this is why it’s all so wrong, it’s just so young and foolish. Please forgive me – and remember the way that you once thought of me, the way I once was – I was more than that, I alway was, even if I never had the chance to show it – couldn’t you tell from the look of me? Couldn’t you tell I was sensitive? I’m a real sensitive man. I’m sympathetic.
She left again, and I grew paranoid. I installed cameras on the front porch and spy cameras in some of the interior rooms. I built hidden safes integrated into the structure of the house, so many that even I lost track of them.
I have hidden many things. I hid guns. I hid gold and silver coins. I hid hard drives full of literature and movies. I hid cryptocurrencies on dedicated netbooks. I hid pills. I hid alcohol. I hid keys. I hid drawings. I hid journals. I hid buttons and old letters. I hid the clothes a one-night-stand left. I hid naked pictures. I hid pictures of myself. I hid medical records. I hid statuettes I bought on the street in India. I hid apple seeds and cannabis seeds. I hid a ukulele. I hid an oil portrait of my great-great-grandfather. I hid collages I made high on cocaine in college. I hid old glasses and broken phones. I hid the screws that held my back together for six years. I hid a bootleg Peter Gabriel CD given to me twelve years ago by a girl I knew. I hid heroin needles – unused. I hid a book from the 15th century written in Latin by a German mystic.
But none of that matters… it has all disappeared, along with the house. The winter took it; the raiders came, like the soldiers, and took what they could; and the rats ate what remained, and the termites and weevils consumed what was left after that.
And then – she never came back again…