Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dead on Absinthe

He awoke to a dismal gray sky. I will meet the morning headlong, he thought. I will catapult myself into the day like a trebuchet. His father would never have approved. His father’s father wore a panama and smoked cigars that smelled of clove and allspice. Fish smell and his father’s arm slung out the window like a weather sock, ash boot blackening the stubble on his unshaven face.

Why is it that Beckett has all these crazy people riding bicycles? They sit on benches thumbing through discarded newspapers and other people’s hastily eaten lunch. Why do they never get where they’re going? Do they go anywhere, anywhere at all? Where do they go when their gone? Do they go anywhere but away from where they are? Where do they go, with those garish elastic bands and weakly legs? Beckett must have been mad, quite mad. Finding the heat offensive he sat on a bench and unwrapped his lunch. He ate unhurriedly.

He awoke, or so he thought. He felt a crick in his neck where the vagrant had cracked him when he refused to share his soup. He coddled himself from bed and lit a half-smoked cigarette. The plastic tarpaulin was flapping, a windsock in a hurricane. The linoleum curling up from the floor a fetus left to shrivel outside the womb. He felt an anger swell up in him. He had felt this way before but not with such urgency. Life is corrupt. I am the symptom. He lit a second cigarette with the one still in his mouth. Today I will see what I can do. The tarpaulin flapped madly. He snubbed the cigarette butt into the linoleum and went back to sleep.

He awoke from a deep sleep and shook his leg free from the covers. He slept like the dead. He drank tilting his head, the ulcers eating away at his guts like rats. Some say that sleep is the thief of wakefulness; I say it is the penitence we pay for consciousness. He remembered hearing about men drinking themselves to death on absinthe. The shamble leg man trundled on two legs, one hidden beneath the tail of his great coat. His leg weighed heavily on him. He came across a beggar sitting on the sidewalk. ‘Those yours?’ he asked.

The sky opens up like a malignancy, his grandfather commandeering the Mercury Fish truck, pedestrians clutching windblown hats screeching. The clochard smiled toothlessly. ‘Good bye, and may God be with you.’

He passed a woman dragged a dog behind her wearing a sunbonnet. He had a hankering to snatch the hat from her head and throw it into the gutter like a stray animal. But he had better things to do, principled things. His was a conscientious life, not one of opprobrium. Life is short. He met a woman. He approached and stood to one side of her. He knew from past experience not to push beyond reasonable limits. ‘Might I have a minute?’ ‘Why not?’ ‘This might sound insincere.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Could I buy you some teeth?’ The woman smiled a black hole. He reached into his greatcoat pocket and took out a card with the name of a dentist on it. ‘I’ll make an appointment for you. ’a checkup?’ ‘an appointment for you to get teeth.’ He slid the card back into the pocket of his greatcoat. The woman smiled blankly.

We never are but are always coming into being. These are the words of a madman. The thoughts of a lunatic. He met her at a rally. He knew she kept a knife under her skirts where the skin was leathery. She had memories of beatings and humiliations. When not laboring over ledger entries her father beat her unconscious.

As it was raining he chose an umbrella that fit firmly in his hand. He overstepping a puddle. The sky shouted rain. He met a man wearing a crown and asked why. ‘Because I am a fief’. This saddened him. Perhaps my judgments are for nothing. Walking is less enjoyable when the umbrella, a coleus of spokes, vexing encumbrance, has to be manhandled.

There is a natural regress from birth. If this is true, we are regression.

The woman lifted her skirts and peed. When she was a girl her mother slapped her for urinating in the park. The sky is a leprosarium and each cloud a fallen off nose. He fixed himself supper and forked it into his mouth. He rolled a cigarette and sucked on the bitter root.

She cocked her head and stared into the sun. When she was a child she stood for hours in the hot sun staring. She thought of her father’s cigarette threading a blue line of sky. She slapped her with the back of her hand leaving a red line on her cheek. She called her a little cunt and made her stand in the corner. He awoke to a half-spent cigarette smoldering in the ashcan. He smoked in defiance of common sense. She opened her legs, a boar of pubic hair caught in the elastic of her underpants.

These are the days of wreckage. When he was a boy his father denied him toys so he made his own out of wood and paper. He remembered his father’s vacant stare, lost in his own sadness. When he grew taller than the pencil marks on the doorframe he would leave home.

He knew a man who spoke in tongues. A man must take a stand and make the best of it. He remembered chewing tobacco that was nothing but shredded coconut. ‘You have a thief’s heart’ he said to the owner of the store. The store owner threw him out the door. ‘Molester!’ he shouted. ‘Molester!’ He awoke ambivalently. He lit a cigarette. His father smoked shag tobacco he swept off the lunchroom floor.

When he was a small boy he had wanted be a ventriloquist. His mother forbade him saying it was imbecilic. He strung a rope from the porch banister to the elm in the furthest corner of the backyard. He learned how to walk the rope using a rake to balance himself. He read in the back of a comic book, where advertisements for spyglasses and submarines caught his eye, that tightrope walkers were considered champions among ordinary men. He practiced holding his breath. He checked his pant’s for the washers and he’d put in his pockets for balance. He calculated that the rope could accommodate eighty-five pounds.
He shook his head and lit a half-smoked cigarette that looked like a peg. A grey sky hung in his thoughts like a dumbwaiter.

A bruit wind trumpeted in his ears. He had awakened to intrusive thoughts. The sky above the his lean-to threatened rain. He remembered a time when it never rained and the sky was always blue. He prayed that he wouldn’t catch his death of cold or die by drowning. His mother made pies from recipes copied out of the pages of women’s magazines, her face a battlement of confusion. He remembered sitting on the cold linoleum floor watching his mother trouble herself with motherly things. A ketchup bottle with holes, his father’s shirts stained with sweat and aftershave, the cuffs split where his wrists strafed the desktop.

She was baptized at the Church of the Perpetual Sinner, the steeple visible from the highest branch of the willow tree. Her mother thought it would stop her stuttering. The rector stank of whiskey and smoke. He connived her into the sacristy closet, removed his surplice and forced his hand up between her thighs, the floorboards cricketing under the weight of his desecration. From that moment on she knew that her life would never be her own.

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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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