Three Easy Pieces

by dschapman

A songbird perched upon my fingers, cocked his head and looked at me; I said, “Yes, you are beautiful,” and I lifted him up to the clouds and he flew into the air. I blew him a kiss and I bid him farewell and when he was gone he sung for me, or at least I assumed he would sing for me. I laid back against my old rolling oak chair and rested my weary head against a pile of books; leather-bound, and canvas, yellow-lip’d and gilded, they cover me in poetry, they lull me to sleep while I’m smiling, thinking not of consequences, nor neither of conduct, expectations, guilt, or potential; dreamily, sleepily, of all the wonderful things, all of the haunts and the romances, the warm water lapping softly against my skin in the evening. I slept, safe and sound, in my house until springtime, warm and sweet, and then I arose, feeling groggy, and pushed my hand through the surface of the water, and felt the water fill my hand; and then I swung open the doors to the rest of the world, full of force, and I was welcomed by the world. But things were not quite as good as they seemed. Let me tell you this: things are never as they seem. I was lost, then, and confused. My hands had turned a pale shade of gold while I slept, and now that I was wide awake they were starting to crackle and rust, and to glisten. The skin was soft but thick, like leather. I held them out in front of me; do you see these hands, I asked myself; do you see them? What can I do with hands like these? What can a man do with hands like these?

In the shadow of the aching cross, electrically lit, in the city cathedral, a woman with her head down prayed, waiting in vain for a hero to rise from the rubble, granite-laced, and save her. The tyranny of life was not real for her; she believed in her own sort of tyranny, composed of a different sort of realism, something patterned, and delicate. Her hands were thin and not like leather; disappearing hands, but wholesome ones, and she needed someone to rub them, make them warm, to bring them back into existence. She wrote poetry about lights; two lights drifting between and breaking the surface light, skimming the subtle translucence; two orbs, two flickering moments brought into presence and contact and caught into orbit; something rings, a raindrop falls; morning rain becomes her. Love becomes her; she deserves to be loved. She waded wide-eyed through the winter alone, fading like visions through portions of frost, a forest of windows and columns of silt, turning the roast over ashes, stealing like wind through the crevice and filling the air; and though she tried to abstain from the confines of sadness and hope, she was constrained to the shadows of sadness and hope, pulling nothing but her hair behind her, slipping her skin through the air and the ice. “You can not save me,” she whispered; “I will not drown.” The ongoing jangle of thunder and lightning, the constant ringing of bells and the clanging of gongs, the hum of violence and the scream of the locusts, may all be very frightening, but it is nothing as maddening as the oncoming epoch of silence.

The world is not always there for me; sometimes I open my eyes to my utter abandonment, nothing beneath or above me, and I collapse in the white-space of eternity. I am overcome by a bad fit of coughing and it throws me from my footing. I lay on the floor bathed in sunlight, feeling pathetic, and repeat out loud a stupid mantra. Pity becomes me, I think. Pity me: I’m monstrous. I could have once been a hero; but I have destroyed that part of me. I live on a quiet tragedy. I am the strongest man in the world and I am horribly, chronically ill – a crippling, insidious illness, trapping a spirit and soul long immortal in this tender flask of ash and water. I am outgrown. I have long been too old for this, too ill to carry on. My heart is so heavy, it will only get heavier; I will never make it; not alone. I need to not be so alone. I need someone kind to be near to me, someone nice to confide in me and hear me in confidence. More than anything, I need someone healthy, some alive to remind me of living. I need to be bonded to fresh blood and happiness, fondness and desire, always in need and unquestioning, secure. I need wealth; something prescient. I need someone warm, someone breathing, to fetter and guide me. I am a vine and I grow on a latticework; if I only had a lattice… A beautiful lattice, a breath in an asphyxiated universe, a fixture at ease in the cosmic fluctuation of time; I stand, unbelieving, with tears in my eyes – I am in love with the world! Beat me open, rip my heart out, call me, Patroclus; I will not feel it, not a thing. I will feel nothing, because I have been bodily compromised; my body is nothing to me. Torn and battered, almost dead – I am on my way now, I will do what I can, while I am able to do it; and one day, when I least expect it, I will die, and everything decent will die alongside me. Death becomes me; I am death-defying. It has singed me charcoal-gold. It has marked me for the rest of my life. The world owes me nothing; I owe it my life. Is this what happens to those who don’t die? Is this what comes of my defiance – is this my poetic irony? My justice, desserts, my reward – is this what I defied death for? This is the price of defiance. It is inglorious, and vain – and it worries me.