In the woods of my home, I told her, is a
clearing and a little store full of beautiful clothes. My favorites are the
pale gold shirts with red threads woven delicately in. That’s because I
like wild parties the likes of which you’ve never dreamed. Sometimes the
shop is crowded with people slipping clothes on and off. Sea and sky blue
dresses rain on the shirts of gold: there is often a kind of orgiastic tremor
sublimated in the slipping in and out of the garments taken and then returned
to racks repeatedly. People’s bodies start to touch as they voraciously
parade around then discard the costumes in favor of something smaller,
brainier, kinder, or more monstrous and obscene. Imagine wearing a pencil
pattern shirt with a detachable collar embroidered with priests. Oh, but I
suppose you don’t know what I mean by priest. Then I reached into my pocket
and offered her a chewed-on number two pencil before continuing with my
fashion-catalog narrative . . .
Someone wears a tailered suit she can’t
button or zip. She ties the pants around her waist with a silk cord. Someone
else puts her legs through a loose-armed shirt, tying the end of the shirt
around her hips and buttoning some of the buttons. New boots tied together by
their laces are warn around her neck. They bounce against her breasts when she
moves. Her feet are also dressed in boots, dainty ones suitable only for
peacocks. But she doesn’t care what’s suitable or not. I have followed
this girl and that on their private walks to shady spots and watched them try
to return to nature in the silence of the death culture. It takes a very long
I narrated all this to the near lifeless Babs,
who moved only to swat flies from her pale limbs and morose little cheeks. And
this isn’t all, I say, in a thrall of instructive cruelty. For while I
watch these things, I find I have company. Men are lurking behind the trees,
just as our parents had warned us. Have you been told to watch out for men? I
ask her. I don’t tell her about the enormous sensation of well-being that
falls on everything as the voyeurs and performers of the almost silent and
vague and malingering sexual touching become increasingly aware of each other.
I think of this composition as an object much like a small jewel and worth as
much as the jewels of earlier times.
Sometimes the men who still visit our world
like to hang out around garden walls. I try to make my way over to
Gardener’s when it is her wall they lounge on, which it often is because of
all the stylish food and honeysuckle garden scents offered indiscriminately to
anybody in that chaos of light and yelling called a home. We gather and watch
them from inside to comment on the size of their asses, the curve of their
backs, the fit of their pants. The tight, loose, big, voluptuous, and scrawny
ones. Those with no belts and dimples on their butts. And those with no shirts
and rolls of fat and muscle. While drinking large mugs of home brewed beer, we
discuss meticulously which ones attract us and why, speculating on the squeeze
of their balls, the taste of their tongues, and the softness of their hair.
Which one of them is most like a collie and which a tarantula? The word parrot
causes us to scream in fun. We bully each other about our preferences and
belittle each other’s sex until we all feel damp and wounded since we
always go too far and strike a sensitive nerve in one or other of our precious
selves. Usually the men don’t notice us, but if they do, we with the lime
wet kisses and dusty skin go out into the garden and ignore them. We slump
under trees and sleep the sleep of the belligerent with a kind of pride in
possessing nothing but the time passing.
While I spoke, but mostly to myself, Babs had
fallen asleep seated bolt upright against a sappy evergreen. Even a dumb child
can make a fool of an adult — though I was turning into something else, not
exactly adult. An adolescent passivity was overcoming me. It, the passivity,
instructed me to stop talking. I had left the world of my own making and
become, rather, an exotic shrub in someone else’s garden. I now suspect
this to be a kind of spiritual disease associated with fascination. At home we
say the witness is a traitor. She has powers that are committed elsewhere.
Committed elsewhere, such that she does not want to perform or even to seduce
or charm while all the while becoming more appealing to those to whom she is
most indifferent. The meaning of everything becomes sexual.
The old lady couldn’t stand it either. They
treated her like a sacred cow: helping her to her feet, stalking her to the
woods to watch her eliminate, serving her weak grainy beverages with odd little
oat cakes that otherwise only the great he-man could touch and meanwhile
providing her with fuscia sheets, plumped pillows, and eucalyptus oils to panic
in as they waited on her hand and foot. Even so, she refused to look at
Beneath the ritual fattening up process (and my
own rather mesmeric curiosity which seems to hypnotize me along with every one
else) each of our bodies held itself in an invisible brace of fear such that
the translation of all events was seen only as literal fact. The scum on the
surface of a pond forecasts the extinction of an edible fly. The pond is not
resuscitated nor is the scum removed for further study.
Even the man with his pinched back nerves and
denotating privileges nit-picked about everybody’s and everything’s
place in his world little creation. What bothered me the most about being there
was how evident had become the human regroupings into isolated little subplots
from the Westward movement. Whether I liked it or not, this included me. Were
we just stock characters in an historical fantasy?
We were squatters reinventing a trauma our
descendants will brood over later facing the chalkboards. One receives a
diploma for learning that one is not alone, will never be alone, is part of a
past on the other side of splitting atoms; a past paradoxically far less and
far more visible than the molecular imagination or technical information, a
past, which, moreover, generates great disputes. The statistics of the dead are
paraded on the days of these disputes in the grains of memories vying for
ascendancy. In every memory lies a capacity for abstraction. One’s mouth of
words can feel the bitter taste of the enemy’s chewing whenever data is
used as the promise of further killing.
This moribund world seemed to be waiting for
I recollected the following deaths: A, B,
C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, and others who had survived plague and war but whose
names I keep for myself.
I was trying to get beyond the obvious horror
of the place. Ignorance was a product of what they saw as nature or "the
way it’s supposed to be." As they fattened Alice, they tried to starve
me. Convinced that Gardener was dead, they revered my future demise. Nothing
else present — woodpecker or worm or vanilla sap pine — could startle them
out of their terror.
It was time to awaken Alice. As I snuck away
from Babs, she released a weird sound. It resembled a high-pitched click such
that I mistook her momentarily for a strange insect or snake.
What are you looking at, she asked in her
dimmed-down voice. Nothin’. I said it slowly such that the word nothin’
approached her own trampled jargon. Each one of us waited for the other to make
Why don’t you like me? she asked at last
after something like twenty-five days or seconds, with the wisdom of the ages
falling to her feet in hallelujahs of truth and compassion.
This is not the kind of question one can answer
truthfully to a child. She seemed even then, right after asking it, to have
forgotten asking it as her eyes followed a grey squirrel up a tree.
Alice slept under the tree with a spangled
blanket wrapped around her knees and her greying black hair wrapped around her
shoulders and sticking to her neck and face.
How did she get here, I asked the girl? I
thought she was kept in some kind of gilded prison.
Do you think you’re in some kind of fairy
tale? the girl wanted to know. The lethargic Babs had transformed into someone
quick as a whip. She ran circles around the tree. Alice stirred. Babs laughed.
Alice slept and struggled with the blanket, which flopped to the ground, as two
strange women approached her with a stretcher. They lowered the stretcher next
to her. Alice did not wake up as they tugged, lifted, and rolled her onto it.
Her arms rooted over its sides, hanging almost rigidly downward.
Was she unconscious? There was no one to ask.
The strange women carried the stretcher swiftly in the manner of a current
taking a log downstream. The world had become silent and wrong. (Even in the
most isolated realms it can move too fast.) No person seemed to be capable of
right conduct. Nothing was knit together in the way I had imagined. Dreams
floated up and receded as autonomous wills breaking through netting.
I am not in what’s going on, but alongside
it. That is why it’s still unreal.
As I followed the stretcher with a sense of
foreboding, the girl ran alongside of me panting like an old dog. She would
never keep up. Imagine that civilization is oriented around weight and breath.
And that the hypnotic site, the cult, the harem, the lily pad of mad decorum,
exposes and betrays this fact.
Alice woke up. No longer herself, she said, I
have violated their script. The cult women dropped the cot in panic when Alice
started talking. Alice swung her mind to an upright and seated position. And as
she railed against human stupidity, her body followed. A little girl threw a
small stone at her, hitting her in the head. She was instantly dead. Each
person stopped, as if at the end of a riotous ballet and waiting for the
curtain to go down, the conductor to appear, the applause to begin. But the
conductor did not appear: they were all looking at me.
In the beginning of a dream was a shrub. The
dream said I am a dream and this is a shrub with three foot bushy limbs, four
feet in length, and 30 inches deep. It flowers in the early spring and you know
its name. In the book in the dream the shrub was represented in a full page
pencil drawing by C. Incomplete and scruffy in style, the drawing said less
about the shrub than the artist, who had abandoned a fully worked-out
rationalized scheme to the whims of the pencil. Who rendered the plant? I asked
It must have been uncomfortable with my
question because the page turned on its own. Facing swaths of unreadable print,
I floated rudely down a torrential stream that tossed me into shapes an
alphabet would make. I tried to speak to this event as if it were a person. I
am spelling nothing was formed in my mouth but my mouth was at once instantly
submerged and opened too huge and inhaling. There must be a perfect
relationship between air and body for one to speak is what the dream said as I
lay flattened over a quiet spot in the rushing water. This is more dangerous
than anything yet, I thought, and decided to pretend to struggle, to trick the
dream into an unusual form of predetermination, something it was not quite so
familiar with, something it needed to think about, to take time with.
As the dream slowed to accommodate this new
thing, the stream overflowed its banks and washed over the pages of inchoate
letters. The letters stuck to the page even so, but as the water receded they
began to cry. Aspiring to myth, the dream decided that the tears of the
alphabet were the basis for human life. Overjoyed by the innocent feeling of
revelation and stimulated by the unanticipated association between letter and
life, I was not prepared ( and I am certain now that the dream was setting me
up and intent on betraying my innocence) for the dream’s final surreal
gesture: the word NARCISSIST used in the style of graffiti painted over
everything else. The dream seemed to be delighted by this outcome, particularly
by the effect of its stylistic imitation. The word looked so pleased with
everything it had obliterated. I woke up frustrated, angry, and
The day dissolves ungainly emotions one wakes
with or they are absorbed into it. More rarely, the day reflects them all day
long. I am only a romantic sometimes. Or passive, introverted, and cruel. A
trader, scavanger, masochist, voyeur, or handyman sometimes. And although I do
and say almost everything with her in mind, I only care about Gardener
One can make love to someone at a distance through someone else who’s
hated. Gardener, do you read me? These pages are writing themselves.