“The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him.” — Claude Lévi-Straus
You see me standing in line waiting for a good life? See me there? Yeah, I was in that line once, along with most everyone, waiting for the gods to dole out something good and nice and kind. But they didn't, of course. And I kept going back to that line, even though the gods ignored it or, worse, spit on those who made roll call. But it weren't ever gonna happen, was it? I went on and saw people barely hanging till their fingernails tore and they eventually fell shrieking, or worse, in silence. Eyeballed the ravages of poverty and abuse. Suicide. Addiction. A deep pain that won't be expressed. You can be poor, you know, yet live a decent life. But let in the parasites, the nonces, the punks, the molesters, the goofs, the bloodsuckers, the pimps, all them motherfuckers, and you invite some crawling breed of clammy horror. I bought drinks for killers and took creeps out in the alley and fucked them up royally.
I know a guy lived one of the good lives we all hear about, even though he was raped by a pederast at age six, one day found out a friend of his was doing something similar to a couple neighbourhood boys, so he took a katana that could bisect a human hair from its pride of place above the mantel, and sliced the guy into quivering, spurting pieces. Called 911 himself and assumed the prison time as his due. He was a good man too. A killer, and a standup guy. Does that make sense to you? If not, you're in a prison of your own.
Everyone's window's a different window. Every lookout point is balanced on some precarious place. Ain't no lawman free of bias. No lowlife scum incapable of virtue. No saint truly innocent. It's a world that almost rhymes with swirl. It's a swirl of all we aspire to and the depths we may plumb. Some of the gentlest men I've known were killers, while some of the most psychopathic never even had to.
Walk along my path, mi amigo. Follow me into the jungle, its verdant tassels, its dripping peripheries. Do you see the shadow cat? The jaguar? Will you wait for it to leap, or is it enough to catch glimpses of its liquid tectonics, the slick twitches of its skin as it adjudicates murder?
Look. The story hasn't even started yet. Let's start.
Look again. I've been known to shut people out even when I didn't mean to. That's what the Chicken does. It's a flesh-eating disease of the mind. But that burning feeling slowly igniting your sinuses before your eyes fill up, that's a good sign. Means you're alive and might even belong to your rightfully allocated kind.
The backdrop is a swath of land, thronged with sunflowers and corn. In front, a yellow-green fifties-model Studebaker crosses right to left on a charcoal ribbon of road. Sweet Gene Vincent plays on the radio. John Deere stands as witness. Stop signs and ditches, rail crossings and grain silos.
Aimed inward but I can't catch up to myself. The round took out a scoop of brain matter and a swatch of skull. Yet I'm alive. Though barely. Shamrock green treachery vies with feline ovens; burned dreams flicker at the crumbling edges of dioramas showing harlequin suicides and child abuse. Play with me. We have nothing left.
Any idea how long it takes to accept ourselves? Answer: a goddamn lifetime, if we're even granted that luxury. Otherwise we die in myriad ways. Trim that hedge, buzz that eyrie, bedevil those labile hearts. Tiny fierce girl in a short ponytail, capo high on the neck as you pick, your dewy eyes recreate all our failed dramas, your fragile measured voice some once-familiar layer of bedrock.
Am I hoarse enough? Can you hear me?
These are our relics as they will appear to no one. Scoured by wicked sands, dripping with birdsong, teal as tide pools. Engineless. Replete with our liquid geometry, our rapacious need.
When I first saw you, you were nothing. Walking down a nondescript road far off the beaten path. Your head was weighty, as if you were sad, and you probably were sad, and you scuffed your heels on the uneven tarmac. Every time you scraped a heel on the crumbling asphalt, the birds went quiet, lost their need for recognition, and the topmost leaves shimmered with vestiges of sound. With their own secret memories of life.
Image © Javier DeLaTorre Sebastian