Friday, November 05, 2010

Hamlet’s Father

On Saturdays his father slept until eight o’clock. Upon awaking, which he did slowly, like a slowcoach with a sore tooth, he would order his children to line up at the foot of the bed, then taking a deep breath, his wooly chest rising and plummeting, tell them what he wanted for breakfast: skillet-fried liver with onions and garlic, which he expected to be served in bed. Using his barrel-chest as a table he ate like a ravenous animal, forking slivers of pinkish liver into his mouth, scabs of burnt onion and garlic slickening his lips and the gray stubble on his trebled chin. ‘Most people in this world are bit-players, so don’t expect much from them’ he would tell his children, the youngest sucking his middle and next-to-middle fingers. On Sundays his father admonished the priest for telling the same lies over and over again, the congregation too frightened to stand up for the priest or silence his father’s weekly tirade. After Mass his father would go hunting in the fields behind the woolshed, the crack and boom of gunfire besetting the calmness with agitation and terror. His father had no idea who Hamlet’s father was, and if he had, he wouldn’t have cared. Considering the deficit of most people, bit-players, rogues and hooligans, he had little to feel terrible about. Afternoons, when the stink of skillet-burnt liver and onions filled the house with an organ stench, his father went hunting in the clearing behind the woolshed, his little brother sitting in the corner by the stove sucking his thumb and next-to-middle finger. The hog pit behind the woolshed stank to high heaven, piles of dead rotting feces pickling the dry brown earth. The unfed hogs grunted and bellyached, the biggest one ramming its head against the pen, its eyes two black holes of rage. His father’s beard smelled of organ meat and diced onions. ‘Don’t expect much; your life will be less disappointing’ his father’s eyes two black holes of dirt and liver grease.

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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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