Deus ex persona

This story

Reillustrated

A new aesthetic

Characters redrawn

Find them anew

Unearthed from yellowed pages

Tyrannical pseudonym banished for treason

Reconstruct the author from the story

The arc is the pen

Define the teller by her tale

Paved

Small crimson bubbles,

Pulled up from ruined lungs

held

Unpopped on her lips

Gathered in the corners of her

mouth

opening, closing

Pulling at air that wouldn’t budge

Wordlessly mouthing over and over,

“What have you done? “

 

His eyes bulged,

Frantic

Found her,

Locked,

Read the question perfectly,

Rasped over and over,

“The right thing. I am so sorry, the right thing”

Bugs and the pencil

The best episodes of Bugs Bunny were always the ones where the cartoonist reached down with his pencil and had this magical, silent power dialogue with Bugs. No matter how outraged, how much he stomped his foot though, Bugs was bound to lose. There’s just no fighting the narrator.
The power of the narrator comes from his ability to shape the character, to create a believable fiction for the audience. We know it’s not true, but the believability of the fiction the narrator creates builds characters we think are real. We weep when they feel loss, we celebrate their triumphs. None of it is real, and still all of it matters to us, the audience.
I have said for a very long time that the self is the attempt to create a believable fiction. We are both the narrator and the audience, and at least for me, much of my mental and emotional life has been devoted to telling a story, building a character that I both believe and that, hopefully, eventually, I can also respect and even admire. I admit my bias toward story as metaphor for life, it’s just in my blood at this point, but as much as I believe anything, I believe this. We are tellers of our own tales, as much Bugs as the enormous pencil.
There’s a terrible and wonderful responsibility to thinking you are the pencil, that you have control over the shape and direction of the character you are creating. I used to take comfort and no small amount of pride in my ability to control the character, to shape the narrative, and to own and control the self. I determined a long time ago that I was going to be a certain kind of man and that’s the man that I became. It was clear, it was intentional, and in many ways, it was successful.
So much of this character, and I can’t emphasize enough here that there is a difference between a character and a facade, was based on answering a series of wrong-headed, but well intentioned questions. I confused self-denial with strength of character, though I might still contend that, to some degree, one frequently begets the other. I eschewed selfishness in relationships and interactions as inherently wrong, and assumed that I would have my needs met if I just met the needs of others. Sometimes this worked, and I think to some degree it may be why I have been so fortunate to have such deep and wonderful friendships. I also managed to write myself into corner after corner with no deus ex machina to lift me from danger, and lacking the ability to reframe the story, to ask new questions, I started to become lost. Unknowingly, I became an unreliable narrator.
There comes a point, and I have reached it, when it becomes obvious that the pencil is not the right tool anymore because it never was. In fact, the pencil was never really there. The pencil, like the narrator, is a myth because, and I think this is the most important part, the pencil has an eraser. The pencil suggests that we can eliminate the pieces of the story we don’t like, that we can just erase the characters that don’t fit, rewrite and redraw the pieces of the story that don’t work anymore. We can’t do this. The writing is indelible, the past not something we can just erase, the self something we cannot simply rewrite to better suit our needs.
Increasingly, I find myself in the role of Bugs. Bugs is not in control. He recognizes the insanity of the self, dodges and weaves and shakes his fist at the narrator, lacks control, is subject to the capricious whims of his own story. Bugs rages at the machine and still finds himself caught within it.
I am not suggesting that who we are is not ours to influence, but I am more and more sure that self isn’t a concept we control as completely as I wished. We are more audience than I am comfortable admitting, more Bugs than narrator.
I think there is some joy to being Bugs. I think there must be, because I also think there’s honesty in being Bugs. Bugs can just be. Bugs knows who he is and rages to be, won’t accept his fate even if he knows he is hopelessly outmatched. Bugs might lose, finally and ultimately, but he rages, and it’s in his rage that he lives.

He wasn’t so much scared as he was perplexed the day his heart fell out.
It landed in his hands. He knew he was lucky to have caught it. Sat, holding his heart in his hands, still beating and pumping, all it’s viscous cords and strings still attached.
For a long time, he just looked at it. Marveled at it’s odd meaty simplicity; admired it’s warmth, the strength of its musculature. He tried to fit it back into his chest, but it seemed too big somehow, and his chest was already beginning to close up.
“How odd,” he thought, “How very, very odd. I wasn’t so sure I even had one.”

He walked around all day holding his heart in his hands. Slept curled protectively around it.
The next day, he decided to go to the doctor.

“It is unusual, I’ll say that. I’ve only seen a handful of these cases in my time,” said the white-haired doctor as he poked and prodded at the pulsing organ still cradled gently in the man’s hands.
“What you’ve got is a prolapsed heart. Happens, sure, but I can’t say it’s common. Nothing to do about it really. You’ll just have to carry it with you.”
The man was thunderstruck at this, “What do you mean nothing you can do, can’t you open me up, sew it back in?”
The doctor laughed, “Oh certainly not, no. It’s been out too long now. Maybe if we had gotten to it right away, sure, but not now. No, you’ll just have to carry it around. Nothing else for it.”
The man paid his bill, took his heart in his hands, and left.

He carried his heart cradled in his hands for a long time, terrified to set it down anywhere lest it get dirty. He started to feel more confident as time went on, driving, working, going about his business as usual with a prolapsed heart. He tried to hide it from view most of the time, but every now and again it popped out. He was self conscious of his heart. He didn’t know if it was big enough, or if it looked right. He hadn’t seen anyone else carrying theirs.
One day he met a woman. She smiled at him and she complimented him on his heart. He liked this very much. They went for coffee one afternoon and he fumbled, holding his heart and wallet and coffee. “Let me hold that,” she said, and gestured to his heart which he had nearly dropped.
He looked down; He had been carrying it alone now for some time. He looked up. She smiled and he believed her eyes.
“That would be great,” he said, “but be careful, it’s my heart after all. I do only have the one.”

When she took it, he felt the weight of it lift from him, hadn’t realized how heavy it had become. Later, when she gave it back to him, he could barely take its weight.

he loved the sound her eyes
made when she smiled
the music of wind chimes in thunderstorms

he could smell the softness
of her hair.
pressed together,
it perfumed the distance
between them

dreamt the taste of her
when he woke
became lost, hoped
Desperate not to be found

twice she stumbled just a bit
and twice he caught her, laughing
intoxicated
warmed by a chill night air
they were alone
Perfectly still and in constant motion

Immolated, this fire was intentional

Orange flames kissed soft flesh

Burned through layers

Created over years

Stripped bare in moments

Energetic ripples

Pure energy touched nerves

Pulsed through every inch of him

Set alight all he knew

He could remember only how to run

His only speed a sprint

 

This fire was intentional. Immolated,

He would do it again.

Couldn’t find veracity
Amidst the voracious
An empty hunger
Gnashes its teeth at night
Squalls
Speaks in tongues
Gnaws the mind

Her shoes have become too tight
His tie never stayed just right
Neither understood exactly

Couldn’t find satisfaction
Amidst the satyrs
This hot sand thirst
stretches thin fingers
tugs deep
violating
Violent upheaval

She lost her face in the mirror
He jumped at the sound of his voice
Neither understood exactly

Untitled

It was never about the whale.

The desperation

hot and sick

boiling his bowels

This,

all of this

slipping in and out of panic,

white knuckles, clenched jaws,

gorge burning his throat

even the hate,

that great grey fog of the soul

myopic destroyer of the periphery

Focus without the benefit of depth

Stuck fast, barbs set,

hold

inexorable

Ahab thought it was about a whale.

A whale!

Too small, too insignificant a leviathan

This is the horror of the pen,

the nightmare of revision

Redefinition

This we,

the leaking ship

shored with the timber of narrative

Beset by crushing depths below and endless void above,

becalmed

buoyed only by the strength of the stories we tell ourselves,

what man wouldn’t hunt the beast that defies this paper illusion,

That mocks our tales of bravery

What man wouldn’t seek to destroy any monster that dares suggest we are not us?

Untitled, for Colleen

stone

 

pressed

fractures appear first

ripple along fault lines

imperfectly sealed

forgotten

hairline harbingers foretell

this personal apocalypse

the moment of disintegration

catastrophic

explosive

a spectacle of brevity

 

dust

 

more pressure still

molecules vibrate

desperate

inanimate

searching for release

they find none

tiny particles cling

desperate

beneath the weight

begin liquefaction

smooth out

resistance complete

 pressure finds no quarter

cannot continue its downward inevitability

incompressible

released

 

Harder now,

this stone

this dust

this stone

The almost miraculous self destruction of Ann

 

She pressed earthen handfuls

of tobacco brown leaves to her lips

forced crackling flakes

thick dry veins

of carbon detritus

crumbling

fingers pushing

inexorable

peeling strained lips from teeth

tried to press them back

at first spicy,

clung to her tongue, her teeth

filled her throat

the scent of decay

sweet,

like burnt flesh

exploded in her

fingers scratched,

nails carved short

apocalypse red rivers

tracing bloody hieroglyphs

across pale skin

carrion claws

that once held crayons,

once brushed hair back from her forehead

she gagged

the strength of reflex versus will

fractured fingers

renew their vigor

find purchase

pull back,

splitting the corners

her grin a mockery

skin careening

contorted

rips with a sound like cardboard

a gasp struggles up,

cannot escape the wet vegetal plug

of her throat

the hands

damnable, honest

grasp firmly

do not pause

 

her jaw separates more easily than she could have imagined

the sound slick and hot

her kneecap breaks when she stumbles

blinded from revelation

panting

face down,

jawbone in hand

fingers pawing the earth

she breaks a nail on roots

presses her voice deep in muddy concavity

interred

blood patters down

drips from ruined strips of flesh

watering this garden