Thursday, March 31, 2011

Švejk

The sun broke through the clouds like a schoolyard bully. The canopy above his head was abuzz with the scything whirr of cicadas, legs and carapaces rubbing anxiously together. Looking skyward he half expected to see a Focke-Wulf or a Hellcat. Instead he saw a Bockscar of crows dive-bombing sunbather’s, a sunburnt child holding onto her little pail and shovel with all her might. He remembered the grimace on his da’s face when he told him that he had no intention of following in the family business. He was going to learn ventriloquism and make a living as a cheat and a scoundrel. Or maybe he would join the circus and live the life of a juggler or Big Top stagehand. Either way he had no desire to gut fish or fell cattle with a hammer. Jašek Komuna, a one-man show who could swindle a gyp artist and clap thunder with his hands; the real thing, a rogue extraordinaire, he could learn the art of the scoundrel from him. He worked as a money-handler for the Švejk Bros., Ikarus and Ram, two of the most dangerous sharks in the business. The man could do wonders with his voice, never once moving his lips or gasping for air. He could throw his voice by simply breathing in deeply from the diaphragm, pausing, then letting it out like a pipe organ bellows, sending it ricocheting off rooftops and belfries, over heads and bell towers. He played his ribcage like a pedalboard, his neck like a Voix céleste and his belly like a wind chest, his tongue he used as flue reed, his teeth as the fipple, a diapasons timbre beginning in his throat and escaping through his mouth; a chirruping-chirruping-twitter. Men like Jašek Komuna are a rarity; dangerous and piffled as they are. His da warned him about men like Jašek Komuna; lowlife cons, debauchers, men with low morals. The sort of man who gives little and takes much. He listened to the cicadas sawing in the branches above his head; a piercing, rolling staccato, like the sound a corpse makes as the last breath leaves the body. His da would not understand; chiding him for his ignorance, which he inherited from his mother’s side, his small boy’s pitiful attitude. Too early he awoke, his mind racing like a man condensed by mere thinking. The last thing he remembered before awakening, too early and without warning, was a sentences: "Even in the depths of sleep, in which he had to satisfy his need for protection and love by curling himself up into a trembling ball, he could not rid himself of the feeling of loneliness and homelessness." (Bruno Schulz, Sklepy Cynamonowe). For the death of him he couldn’t recall where he’d read the line; thinking that it could have been in a magazine or book of short stories, perhaps a novella, though he couldn’t recall ever having read one, perhaps mistaking it for a long short story or a short novel if he had, which again he couldn’t be certain of, not now, with his thoughts condensed and racing. ‘you’re such a pitiful boy’ his da would say, hell-bent on ruining his life with spitefulness and malice. Too early too late, it really made no difference; loneliness and homelessness dogged him whether he was awake or asleep, condensed or enlarged, drunk or sober.

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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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