Rest, Respite, Reprieve

by dschapman

Christ taken captive by the Pharisees: I summon the most beautiful woman in the land to my throne and I force her on her knees, slipping my dick from my pants, but even she cannot pleasure me. I yell at her and demand that she pleasure me, I am not a good king, I demand my pleasures and I expect too much of my subjects. She cannot please me; it is a day like any other. I cast her away to the dungeons. The eunuch suggests I try something different. He brings me one of his boys, but on sight of the boy I feel unwell. Your boys are unwelcome here, I say, and he leads the boy away to his harem. Damn! An empire of dirt. Dirty empiricists. I incite a duel and watch while two men take up arms for my own entertainment; the death does not entertain me, and for that I am slightly relieved. I reward the winner with a kiss. I am growing dry about the mouth. I am seeking the solace of witches, ancient curses, unspeakable sodomizations of truth; I dream of them, of webbed fingers, red velvet. I drape a vest of velvet robes about my back and leave the chambers of my court for a better, more pleasing existence. I seek out the divine but divinity fails me, sublime though I know it to be. Someone is following me. I brandish my weapon and threaten them. They fall back into the fray. The madness never rests! Well – neither will I! I am the mad king, the dirty empiricist!

City Noir: Waller’s London Suite played in the back of my mind, waxing climactic, a thunderous rush of epiphany, and it sounded like Beethoven’s Fifth, it was consumptive, it blared in the background of synonymous life, of life left to live, yet living; I lived it. It pushed me through the lamplit streets towards darkness, towards alleys full of smoking vents, geysers though inglorious. I pushed aside the folds of time and found my way on bleeding heels through the blackening dampness of well-peopled night. People approached me, and then faded away; I fell in love with every girl I met, and regretted every one of them. I attended a funeral and watched an old man sob, in front of everyone, and then flee. I followed him into the mist-driven silence. Somewhere a clock struck, once; just once. The man disappears in the shadowy nearness of an old, breathless city. I stared at every woman I met. I called them by their true names, longingly, I made dramatic gestures… They left me, and I left them, and separately together we stayed alone in our rooms while the snow bellowed in through the cracked-open windows, and the people bellowed songs in the street, broken laughter, and some nights I drank with them, I sought them out for company, for exposure, experience, but other times they sickened me. I am exhausted and unable to sleep. I am sick for weeks on end and I feed myself drugs just to stay one step ahead of it. The ubermensch! There is silence in the city now. I can hear it through the fog like the hum of the universe. I am biding my time. I have been buying gems from the gem dealer and grinding them into fine powders. Even the furniture aches. Even the miracle salves can’t cure me. I lather myself up in my miracle salves. I knock on the door of a woman I know and beg to come see her. She lets me in but we do not have sex, though I want to have sex. But still she lets me lay with her, there in a bed while the night cracks on the glass over our heads, while the curtains hang perfectly still, and while the smoke drifts up thick through the drapes like an altar of offering. I bare my chest and prick my fingers, everything hurts, I can feel it. The whole city creaks when you step on it, when you sit back in a chair, laying down in a bed, and the windows are creaking, and the floorboards are creaking, and the walls are all creaking, and under the earth all the crypts and the train tracks are creaking… I can feel a depth in which I’m floating, suspended by wisps of a weak, fraying power. I can feel the ethereal like a threatening voice from behind me, I can feel a warm breath on my ear. Something like memory trickles slow through my veins, overflowing now and then from my eyes. I try to pull myself together. I have promised myself I will get out of this place alive! With or without a moment’s respite – and it looks like it will be without it.

Country Blues: I was wandering through a hayfield, sloshing through acres of mud in my only pair of shoes. A fly flew into my eye and got stuck there; I could feel it digging down in my eye, dying bound by my eye, trapped in the slime where my eye meets my eyelid. Little thin wings bound up flat in my slime. I blinked as much as I could, it did nothing, so I forgot about it. It is easy to forget, sometimes. In fields laying fallow and fields growing fat, the beautiful fall of the harvest; have you ever fallen onto a wet, bloated corpse? I came across the wet, bloated corpse of a goat and I stared in terror, afraid it would burst on me. I had read a book about a boy in a field, once, and he had tripped on a cow, and the cow corpse exploded. At least I think that is what it happened. But nothing burst. The fur was like grease and the eyes were disgusting. How had it died? All the maggots! The sky turned grey from a lighter shade of grey and I remembered how nice this field used to be, in the spring, and in summer, how different and vibrant it had seemed to me then. I used to take my women to this field, when the hay was high, at twilight, and I would stuff apples down their throats, and fingers in their clothes; things were very different, then. The world was an hospitable place. It offered us reprieve; we took it. The world is very different now.

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