I will find strength in my weaknesses. I will find courage in my cowardice. I will find flowers on the rocky slopes of the tundra; an outgrowth, there, of lilies, a vein of azaleas, mountain heather. I will find the hangman by his tree, waiting with his gloves on, for the ropes to sway and thin and tighten. In the morning a glorious redness fills the skies in the wake of the moon and a warble of gold makes its precious ascent from the ashes. I will wait on the top of the hill for the king of the land to come meet me. I will put the revolver in his hand and then guide the barrel towards my eyes. By the whites of my eyes, I shall cry, let me die for you; you will put your sword into my side, like a stage piece, and I will drop like a ragdoll around your two feet. Strip me naked; see my scars; tell me what you think of me. I am finding light in the darkness of shadows, grim and sweet, and I am rolling it up between my fingers, like a cigarette, and I am secretly ingesting it. I will learn my lesson, if it is the last thing I do, and I will learn it with or without you. Sacrifice me to the cult; the cult has not forgotten me. It is a long road up the slope to the peak of the mountain, but you will see many thrilling sights along the way, and pass by many sweeping vistas; it is worth it, as the cult will tell you.
It hasn’t always been like this. My imagination is running wild – I am suffering something of a crisis. You can see it in my eyes, I think. At least you could, if you looked into my eyes. I do not go out in public anymore, except when I have to, or alone late at night. Yes, late at night, only then might you see me. You just might see me on the corner, standing around in the liquor store, buying a bottle of liquor. I am there right now. See me: I am standing, here. My friend is here, too; I buy him a bottle of liquor. There are many people here; everyone is thirsty and I, like a fountain of wealth, oblige them with liquor. I buy a bottle for every man. They ask for plastic gin and vodka but I buy them the nice stuff, with the glass and the wax and the ribbons. I am feeling rich, so I’m generous. “We will get drunk tonight,” I declare, and I splash around in the liquor. But I am not even very thirsty. I am thirsty, yes, but not for something to drink. They drink standing over a barrel fire. I do not want to drink by the fire. There is an alkaline sense in my face, poison in my throat, and it makes me feel toxic, metallic, too angular. I hide in an alley away from my friends and eat an apple I have had in my pocket. It is red – red delicious. But it cannot combat the rich sting of alkaline and it is spreading, like a numbing agent, through my skull. I want some strong drugs to maybe overwhelm me, to burn away the alkaline. I wander around town with my collar up, gun in my coat, asking for drugs. I have seen people do this before in the movies; it has never ended well. I wonder what will come of me.
I run into a man in a sweater leaning against the side of a building, blood streaming down from his hands. He has just been stabbed, he tells me, and he lifts up his shirt and he shows me the wound in his stomach. He asks for some money for a bus ticket and I tell him that I don’t have enough money. I ask him about drugs and he tells me he can get some, if I give him my money, which I do. He disappears with it, as I expected he would, and he doesn’t come back. I wait for a spell and then wander on. I walk along through skid row with my hands in my pockets, patient, unaware, offering a drink to anyone I see on the sidewalk, expecting myself to get mugged. I deserve to be mugged; I do not belong here, in this neighborhood, and I am acting strange. I am dressed in strange clothes. I smell strangely nice. Strange men take notice of me; they stare at me, and then they start to follow. I listen to them follow me and await my impending disaster. I could walk towards a busier part of the city only a few blocks away, but I do not, and instead I duck into the shadows. They follow me through the shadows and I begin to wonder what is going to happen to me. I stop, under a bridge, in an empty district, derelict, and pretend to smoke a cigarette. The men come up to me and I give them some cigarettes. There are two of them, older than I am and slightly disfigured. They talk to me, smiling with very large eyes, and they compliment my pants, my shirt, my hair. I laugh in disbelief. They are hitting on me – they want to make love to me. They ask me to come up with them. They are old and gruesome bastards. I laugh in their faces and I refuse their advance, but they follow me when I walk away. I wonder if they are going to rape me. I will shoot them, if I have to. They will not expect to see my gun; they will certainly run once they see it. I will shoot them, if they try to take me.
Nothing happens; the stalkers disappear. I imagine what it would have been like to have gone with them – the apartment, the squalor, the brutality, the filth; I imagine how ugly it all would have been. And then I realize, by the isolation of my steps, that I am really now alone, and I suddenly feel incredibly lonely, and I keel over on the sidewalk, mouth hanging open, hands on my chest. I realize what is going on, that I am alone in the world, safe and sound, and I am not in any danger, because there is no around around who will hurt me. The world is not a dangerous place. Why am I here, on my knees, in the city? I have lived here for my entire life now, but I am not so sure I belong here, not like this. Drunk as hell, vision swimming, I am almost immortal, I have a tiny, god-like complex, and my heart feels water-logged. I cannot hear any noise; it is as if I am at the ends of the earth. I wonder why no one followed me, no one tried to kill me, or even take my money. They must not have realized what sort of a man they were dealing with; a very strange, and abstract man, whose bodily substance is suspect… Or maybe they did realize, and that’s why they left me alone. I rub my eyes with the back of my fists and I gather my bearings. I stand up, and I brush off my pants and my sleeves, and I walk back towards civilization. I hail the first taxi I come across and take it straight home, where I make myself coffee. I throw a fit in the kitchen when I can’t find any fruit and I knock over some furniture, splashing coffee all over the floor and my hands where it burns me. I throw the coffee away in the sink and the mug breaks on the faucet. I should go to sleep, but I am not tired. My eyes are sore, but not yet heavy. I move like a ghost through the rooms of my home trying to settle my nerves and to swallow down the sensation of alkaline in the back of my throat. I end up by the window, overlooking the world. It opens to a balcony; I open it, and I stand at the rail of the balcony, and I look out at the helpless, ancient city, and I feel as Caesar himself must have felt, standing in the palace over Alexandria, with the ships in the harbor, watching the library burn.
I hang my head back like a diva and lounge about, languid, on overstuffed sofas and chairs. I listen to jazz; Waller, Reinhardt, Gershwin, Mingus. I shave my head bald; it all just grows back again. Sighs beget sighs, and I watch a few movies. Epic films, about heroes – Ben Hur, Zhivago, Lawrence, Patton, Caesar, and even Pi Yu. Friday night and I am alone watching epics. Saturday night and I am alone watching epics. Night after night I lay about in my home watching epics, feeling blue, and inspired. Night after night nothing happens. I lay about, indolent, frustrated; the product of a liberated society, a post-war, post-racial, post-sexual world on the brink of some new singularity, something mysterious; and I lament how easy I have always had it, how unfair it all is. I have been going about it all wrong; all too easily, all too unsure. What have I been holding back for? What have I been waiting for? I could have owned the world… but I was unsure of it. I am not unsure of the world, anymore. I do not need to be, to pretend to be, unsure. I am not an actor; I needn’t tell lies. I am a poet, and poets have nothing to hide, could hide nothing even if I tried to. There is time for the world; I needn’t be hasty. But the way that I feel, sometimes, in the changing of seasons, in this, the finest of all seasons, in the twilight containment of something significant, is almost a joke of its own. I can not decide whether to be proud or ashamed. I can not decide to eat my fruits or store them, in a freezer, safe and permanent. I can not decide what to do with the world, laid out endlessly before my busy hands, my fragile little fingers, tendons and bones with no muscle, no fat, and only a very slight pulse. I hold the world between my fingers; it is lighter than they think it is. It is lighter than air; it is not even air; it is ethereal, celestial, sublime; it is, just like I am, empyreal. Will it disappear, entirely? I am not the one to say; I am just the one to disappear.