at two o’clock on a weekday afternoon,
while you are home sick, staring
at the documentation you should read for work,
the world is condensed to aches, phlegm, silence.
twenty miles away, across the river,
office life bustles.
elsewhere, friends make plans
and families make promises
and people make futures
and the world goes on
At the bottom of a bottle, I wrote you a dream—
a singular frame in a serpentine reel
built piecemeal upon these muted nights.
I sink to these depths, or burn to the end of the sulfur tunnel,
I realize with a shock how much time
would have been bequeathed to you,
would have eroded me into a looking-glass self.
Our scenes are discomfiting in their hollowness
yet transfixing in their opaqueness: rooms of
the nuanced anger of self-blame,
the unwashed grime of despised touch;
an underscoring shade of apology
that this cliché was the best we could create.
in the beginning were explosions. jarring bursts. massive light and noise heavy as confessions sharp as revelations sometimes in pounding series sometimes. anxiously irregular. waterless tempests howling turmoil scene after scene. flames to ashes to flames again recycling promises of redemption. mistake. vomit and viscera. distort images to pinprick static. mistake. violence to serenity to blood rush to violence. mistake. heat of whispers reverberating peaking to nightmares. forced abstracted self full of sutures. stink of sweat and burning fat and. mistake to remember and forget and remember again endlessly long and with such intensity. and then—everything melted—converged to a single point—hesitated just a second for last calls, last resorts—
I met Sibyl on the street corner. The Hanged Man, the Fool, and the Empress reversed. Even in her forcibly reclaimed youth, she was still weary and worn beyond comprehension; her tenebrous eyes retained their vacuum gaze. So many had passed through, pursuing their own means until they tired of her. Until she was the last to forgive and be forgiven. I wanted to tell her I was so sorry. We stared at each other for a long time, silent in our understanding. Eventually she pointed me toward our makeshift Polaris, herself remaining firmly in the position she had been holding all the while.
—and winked out of existence.
the land gave an impossibly heavy sigh and a great horde was unburdened all at once, a scattershot of souls released to wander across innumerable landscapes and topologies. one roamed a desert for many years; another, a frigid tundra; yet another, the depths of a forsaken sea… on and on, so many radials blossoming from the origin in a strange and unnerving fractal. each dragged one foot in front of the other, half-conscious, understanding only a blind imperative to continue ever forward, away and apart, like marbles rolling from a dropped pouch. occasionally one’s arc would overcome this punishing reverse magnetism and loom closer to another’s path. the two would slow and gravitate briefly, try in vain to share their pasts and all they had seen—but having not enough words or time or energy or empathy, they would part again and mourn that which they could never know. some would encounter the same others more than once, while others would never even come to know that convergence was possible. on and on they each walked, carving vast swaths across the land, an ageless patchwork of incredible beauty and complexity forming beneath their weary feet.
tokyo embraced me like an estranged mother, all warmth and familiarity and unconditional welcome. half-mad notions burst from reunion’s glowing ardor and coursed through a mind still floating tenuously in the outer rings of the hour: reasons for staying, reasons for leaving, projections and fantasies on the other side of the dawn. this time I could do things differently, and we could be different. better. but prolonged absences have an uneasy tendency to create new, unreliable realities from the fog of long-lost memories—and a mother’s love can be heavy, our relationship asymptotic. as that initial glow faded, the hug of early september heat became stifling and overcompensating, and this love made me drained and wary yet again. oh, but it was love, undeniably so; despite the years spent so comfortably apart, it always would be.
Today again a thought goes hunting for a word.
A word filled with venom, sultry with honey,
heavy with love, and smashing with fury.
The word of love which is brilliant as a glance,
which greets the eye like a kiss on the lips,
bright as a summer river, its surface streaming
gold, joyous as the moment when the beloved
arrives for the appointed meeting.
The word of rage which is a ferocious blade that
brings down for all time the oppressor’s
citadel. The word that is dark as the night of
a crematorium; the one, if I bring it to my
lips, would blacken them forever.
Today every instrument is forsaken by its melody,
and the singer’s voice goes searching for its
singer. Today the chords of every harp are
shredded like a madman’s shirt. Today the
people beg each gust of wind to bring any sound at
all, even a lamentation, even a scream of anguish,
or the last trump crying the hour of doom.
Today again a thought goes hunting for a word.
– Faiz Ahmad Faiz; translator/interpreter unknown
the dreams have returned—tenebrousness lurking and shifting in my periphery, twisting corridors and labyrinths, viscous black waters. sunless woods where you and I met after eons of journeying separately and alone—how could I begin to tell you all that I had seen and felt and done, all that had been done to me, the shedding of vestiges and exoskeletons until devolution left behind this sibylline form you behold before you now—the stifling weight of iron ages, memories, frost on the panes. and this ancient anger with its Maslovian heritage—everything else that came before too easy, primordial, so we climbed to the top of the pyramid only to uncover this frightful, impossible anger. exhumed violence. severed lines, collapsed shapes, slashed geometry, sinister splinters spiderwebbing through the dread—I cannot sleep and I cannot wake—