Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Stonebreakers

‘I’m tired’ said the alms man. ‘there must be an end in sight… there must’. Rewrapping his scab-worn stump-end the legless man listened on. ‘who in their right mind would think such nonsense?’ continued the alms man, the legless man scrapping dried blood off his stump-end. ‘for the love of God stop before its too late!’ Looking up from his stump-end, the skin peeled back revealing a nodule of shattered bone, the legless man said ‘the sky looks very dark… perhaps it will fall’. ‘and this time for good’ said the alms man assuredly. ‘who are we to complain?’ said the legless man digging in the trench of his wound. ‘I haven’t a leg to stand on’. ‘yes…’ said the alms man, ‘...but you do have a pushcart… and as a conveyance it’s better than two pole-like legs, wouldn’t you agree’.

The stonebreaker’s in the yard behind the church smashed their sledgehammers into a pile of gray milky rocks. ‘La caída de Ícaro!’ howled one of the stonebreakers, ‘for the love of Christ!’ yelled Kilmainham, ‘...shut the fuck up!’ ‘you see what I mean?’ said the alms man, ‘...its all around us… there’s no escaping it… we’re hostages’. The sky didn’t fall that day. It stayed put, clinging like a suckling child to its mother’s breast. Arequipa the stonebreaker sat down on a pile of rocks to eat his lunch. Unwrapping his sandwich he hears a voice admonishing him ‘Arequipa you fool, what were you expecting: a whore’s glove?’ ‘shut the fuck up’ yelled Kilmainham, ‘...can’t you see we’re working here?’

Kilmainham kept a velocipede in the woolshed behind the stonebreaker’s hut. Expecting that someday he would find himself without legs, or worse, arms and legs, he kept the velocipede for just such an occurrence. And should he loose his arms and legs his feet would soon follow, and then his capacity to walk, and with that the need for a wheeled conveyance to get him from the hangman’s yard to the stonebreaker’s hut. He could crawl on his knees like a man, but men are in low supply these days. He hears a voice ‘put that down you ungainly yob’. Why should I? ‘you’ll be sorry… mark my words you will’. I have enough sorrow to go round. ‘I’ll smash up that moped of yours’. Go ahead, I can’t stand the thing. ‘you’ll see’. See what? ‘stop your joking… can’t you see we’re working here!’ ‘shut the fuck up’ proclaimed the Witness pushing his way to the front of the queuing. ‘...or hell will break loose… mark my Word’. Before he knew it he was on the bottommost step, the only thing separating him from the ungainly mob a blue and red pamphlet given to him by the Witness’ assistant. ’crap’ he said to himself, ‘...when will this all come to and end… when?’ Expecting the sky to fall he closed his eyes and cinched the string under his chin, the griddling of pulverized rocks echoing in his ears. ‘you’ll see’ he whispered, ‘mark my words’. He awoke in a slurry, today being the day of the Eminent Endowment of the Proof, and if he knew anything he knew that he must be at his best if he expected to come in first.

A man wearing a threadbare greatcoat rounded the corner, his hat skimming the top of his head like a lump of melting ice. Eyes pooled in ice-cold water, he rounded and rounded until he could round no more, his legs giving way to fatigue, the ground on which he fell harder than zirconium. ‘what time is it?’ he asked of whomever was within earshot. Hearing nothing in reply he rolled over, a grayish white talcum covering his threadbare greatcoat.

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"Poetry is the short-circuiting of meaning between words, the impetuous regeneration of primordial myth". Bruno Schulz

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