She stands before him
in all her naked
tattooed, feline beauty.
For the first time,
he can’t identify his fear.
in his devouring
I was a really anxious child he told her everything made me scared it’s incredible so incredible how we can just change, isn’t it though I suppose since it happens over time we don’t really notice but all of a sudden we are a brand new, whole new person and not just spiritually, metaphysically but physically as well because all of our cells change, you know they regenerate every . . .
Seven years. She smiled, just in time to digest chewing gum.
He laughs. Later on he ceased to admire her subtlety, the way she steered conversations in a way that told him she didn’t think he was as clever as he did.
Or, as he was.
But she was just as poor a judge of cleverness as he.
But he gets ahead of himself because the bad memories poison the good (the evil poisons the good like blood in milk, blood in water. Her blood, his).
He laughs. With her, laughing was the easiest thing, easy like getting into warm water. Like touching.
But the thing is he knew that “love” was like a dagger, a sword, a wound, something that bled so fresh and so plentiful like this never ending supply of blood like HOW DO I HAVE SO MUCH BLOOD IN ME? What kind of vessel am I? I am a vessel, oh eternal calm vessel vessel vessel. I am a blood vessel, no, an ivory canoe in a blood vessel. I am riding an ivory canoe in a sea of blood and the blood stains the canoe red and I must hold my arms aloft so that I do not get blood on my arms because then it will seep under my skin and it’s not my blood so it can’t touch me but the canoe is the colour of my teeth oh god my teeth are red with blood it fills the cracks I have drank your blood. I bite your throat because I am a hungry animal, a hungry dog, a pitiful skinny hungry snarling feeble dog. You can see my ribs. Feel them, feel them. They swell beneath my fur sharp as knives. You reached your hand out to pat my head, to scratch my ears. I bit your throat and licked your blood before you could cry out. And trust me: It hurt me more than it hurt you.
To get back on track, the whole thing seems trivial now, but for the blood roaring in his ears.
No, he was mistaken. It is faint now. It is mild. No longer blood. Something that burns less, something that melts into shut-eyed forgetfulness. The human’s ability to forget is like a narcotic. He shuts his eyes to the past; they are soft as butter. And she now is a photograph more than a memory. Standing at the end of a lane in an amber colored kimono, stirred by the breeze. She is encased in that photo like a butterfly behind glass. Memories move, they breathe. But she no longer lives within him. She is dead, like the butterfly in the glass. Exquisite, full of detail, and dead.
Only now can he see in full what was coming for him. She led with her teeth. He liked her because with her, things had value. She would pause on the sidewalk and stare into the night sky and say “look at that, look how beautiful it is.” She paused. She breathed. She allowed things to have importance and therefore he felt that every encounter he had with her was important. Moreover, he felt that being with her gave him importance. Her substance, and her significance were imparted to him and therefore he too became a person of value, a person who could appreciate the aesthetic and spiritual riches life was able to offer and what life itself was as a concept and as a reality. She liked to speak; she was often blindingly eloquent. She spoke often about memory as an alternate consciousness in itself, as a whole new artistic channel. Memory was as weighty as gold, There was often disparity between who she was and what she said. It was only in her poetry where this creature seemed to rise in her throat, something sensuous yet violent, that allowed her to dip between the fabric of present time and space. But her outward self, the woman you saw perched atop a bar stoop getting drunk and laughing with her head tossed back or polished, put together in the morning, walking around her apartment in her high heels just to make sure she was up to wearing them all day, was warm and clear. Her multiple selves, her different phases made sense to him at the time, along with everything else. She draped herself in transparent tapestry; she swallowed stories by the spoonful and let them inside her grow wild and rampant, beautiful as fragrant midsummer blossoms but dark and dangerous as the unlit woods or the deep river within which swim creatures we cannot see when we peer in from the edge but if we listen closely, we can hear the water move. He swam in the pool of her; she let him. He was not frightened.
interlude part one
Once upon an indeterminate time, and in a different universe (the rules are different, not the flora and fauna) there lived a girl with her father on the outskirts of a forest. The father was a hunter, he would disappear into the forest and return with pelts of fur and tender deer meat. The girl was so beautiful that her beauty was a character unto itself (prismatic hair, alabaster face, eyes that reflect the sun like a pool of shattered glass). One of the village boys was in love with the girl and her beauty. He was beautiful himself, like a lanky, tawny-crowned classical God-child. One day, the father went into the forest and was gone for far longer than he had before. His daughter grew worried. She began hearing voices from the forest, seeing lights glinting at her from its depths, and her anxiety grew heavy and dark and pressed on her chest. She fell ill. The boy who loved her took care of her but he could not assuage her sudden, consuming desire to enter into the forest and find her father. Her beauty had grown wasted and cold. His desire for her caused him to relent. They went into the forest together. The forest strengthened the girl. She was filled with a mystical sense of purpose. She began to hear a voice whispering to her, that the boy could not hear. He was afraid but she pressed on and soon her chest began to tighten with fear—not fear of the forest, but fear of he who walked wide-eyed and frightened behind her. The voice poisoned her. She began to distrust him. By then they had walked so deep that they had lost their way. She had felt drawn by something but suddenly the feeling dropped off and all she saw was darkness around her. The boy had been following her. They were lost. Slowly, the forest poisoned him too. His desire overtook his being and like an animal he leapt at her, long limbs pinning her to the earth, ripping at her clothes as if he had claws instead of hands. Her screams didn’t reach him. He snarled. His teeth were sharp where he bit into her skin, bruising her throat. She scratched his face and he bit her lip so that the blood bloomed across her mouth, dripped along her jawbone. It aroused him. He glutted himself on her breasts, licking and kissing and nipping at her until she fell still, too weak and ill to protest. He licked between her thighs. He growled as he pushed himself roughly into her, pulling her hips to his until he was buried within her. She wept, silently as her blood trickled down her thighs. When he was done he pushed her aside and sat on the ground, panting, his eyes darkened with an alien presence. She was cold, so cold, she kept murmuring. He had her blood on him. All over him. He looked at her face and saw that rather than being vanquished, his rape had only made her beauty grow stronger. The tears that lined her cheeks and the blood that spilled from her mouth were opalescent in the half-light. She had a face of jewels. The spirit left him then and he slumped to the ground unconscious. She wept. She was so very cold.
interlude part two
The young poet Ella Jameson lectured on art. “The artist sees differently, considers the world differently,” her clear cut voice and self-possessed stare lent her an air of transcendence, leading those watching her to believe that they were truly in the presence of someone otherworldly. She liked the ambiguity of the artist, she explained, no matter what your medium the artist is driven by creativity and exhibitionism.” Even those who create art and do not share it with others, there are still elements of presentation. There are fantasies of recognition. I do not believe art is a humble undertaking. We are trying to create something larger than ourselves and larger than our relationships with others, something that does not simply connect with others on a cerebral plane but an instinctive, intuitive one as well. I prefer to use the term truth instead of beauty, as beauty can be deceptive but truth in art is unmistakable.” As she spoke, each word delicately handled, a stillness settled over the crowd. It was silent, so each word seemed to hang a moment longer, not immediately pushed away by movement and whispers, but lying still to be absorbed into the audience.
“I am not against aestheticism,” she continued, “the human eye looks for beauty and craves it. However, in these times aestheticism often becomes stylistic and in becoming so loses that which is resonant or true. Aestheticism, in its beginnings in Classical times, was rooted in nature and proportion, proportion being a representation of nature’s perfection. Thus symmetry and harmony in physical beauty—the face of a woman or the body of a young man for example—is the embodiment of the triumph of nature and thus something to be revered. Just as true beauty is grounded in nature, true art must also be. It was easier to reach this harmony of human and nature when we had to work with natural forces and materials, when they infiltrated our daily lives. It has changed, and just by looking at the fortresses we have built and the technologies we now rely on one can easily see why art has taken a turn for artifice. It is not an absence of beauty we suffer from but an absence of truth and of what is real. I do not mean to challenge Keats, but to say that times have changed and are changing. The artist’s role however should not be subject to this change. The necessity for truth and nature in art only grows with the shifting of the world and its values. The gradual loss of the concept of a larger connecting force between us is making way for an individual centric society, one based in materialism and an absorption in ourselves. It is the artist’s duty to speak to the greater consciousness, perhaps even a collective consciousness that remembers. I believe that great art can lead us to remember the part of us that was once connected to the earth, an instinctive place. As an artist it is this hidden part of the human I wish to access and to touch, and to stir recognition of something that cannot be named. I urge my fellow artists to strive for what is instinctive and within them. It is not the time to embrace individualism but to remember what once was and what still hangs on, despite humans’ efforts to destroy it. Our relationship with nature, its perfections and imperfections, must be remembered. It is this word I seek to emphasize: remember. For a moment, we ought to forget ourselves as what we are and break into that primeval place of our minds that knows exactly what we were and what we will be.”
Later, “What are you scared of? ” he asks. She is naked and her knee bends outside the covers, silhouetted against the window. Her eyes—later he learns that she hates when he asks her things like that and that she rarely talks about herself as though she were a character, with character traits, flaws and strengths—narrow and she answers:
“Everything, but I never let myself think about it. So nothing, I suppose.” And she is quiet but in the way that he knows he shouldn’t speak just yet. She adds, “Actually, I distrust cats.” And she laughs, “No, seriously. I do,” Later, he realizes that she would have been happy and they probably would have stayed together if they had just never done anything but laugh.
Tell me, does death speak to you? Tell me, has it made a name for you?
She curled up next to him, hooked her leg over his, puckered her lips. Yes, she whispered and again, yes. Yes. How I let it, curl up on my chest like a cat. Breathe on my face. Lick my lips. Kiss me, again. Again.
She was beautiful she was she was she was.
He was an anxious child. He avoided unfamiliarity. He preferred to watch films he had seen before rather than ones he hadn’t. His mother always objected to that. She pushed him towards what was new, and she made him watch Aladdin and it scared him so much when there was that scene in the desert with the beetle and it was dark and the man’s face was dark and jagged but he had kept watching because his mother was there and he didn’t like it when she told him he must be braver. He also got frightened of the part in the prison with the old man, because that too was dark and hehated the part before the end but he felt stuck, and he physically could not move because he was scared but also because his mother watched him and once it was over she said there, that’s not so bad now, see everything turns out just fine in the end.
That’s how your life will be, she told him, there are going to be scary bits and sad bits. You won’t always know what’s going to happen. In the end, everything will turn out.
Oh, oh how scary and delicate lust was.
The silence of someone leaving you.