February 10, 2006: In central Africa, a hippopotamus has been terrorizing people on the upper reaches of the Congo River. Villagers say a lone hippo is attacking canoes in the country’s southeast. Those who have been hunting for the animal have named him after another fugitive terrorist, Osama Bin Laden.
It’s not that I simply want to put hippos on the map; it’s just that I want to play, and play is deadly. I do have ethics. I’d be happy to let lions get all the killing attention, or even snakes. For my magic is in my cloaking. I am an illusionist. The illusion is I’m not killing people, or swallowing canoes; I’m making more life than you’ll ever know. When they are in my jaws and watch their arm or leg flow down the river they are in terror, but only because they are locked to this reality. My elusiveness is a myth. I am there the entire time watching the men with their guns as they look for prints and the measurable in general. What they need to look for is a new realm where ethics and virtues are turned on end and siphoned up into an open bowl of possibilities. It took us centuries to realize that we were poured into this enormous mold And that our size left us vulnerable. So we had to rethink existence. In our perceived absence we are everywhere: under your bed, in hippo harems, presiding over states, even eating stars and weightless among galaxies. I’m right there, five tons in front of your face. And if you’d just drop your damn shit and leave your appendages vulnerable you’d know such beauty. I’d bite off your arm and you’d love it.
MINSK, Belarus March 23, 2006: Police stormed the opposition tent camp in the Belarusian capital Minsk early Friday morning, detaining hundreds of demonstrators who had spent a fourth night protesting President Alexander Lukashenko’s victory in a disputed election. City workers soon began throwing the remains of the camp into dumptrucks, aided by two bulldozers scooping up debris. A stray dog wandered in during the operation and was scrounging for food in what was left of the camp. Well, it’s so good to be here, asleep on your lawn. Remember your guard dog? Well, I’m afraid that he’s gone. It was such a drag to hear him whining all night long. — Neil Young, “Revolution Blues”
I’m all dressed up in my mange and ready for democracy. What a kingdom: all the mittens and scraps of fabric and flag I have ever desired. Twilight is near and I stretch my neck high into the exhaust and do my best howl. What freedom there could have been when I had 100 abandoned tents. Each one would have been a doggy country and upon entering I would be a head of state. I was just about dizzy with this. Sure, I wanted scraps of food, but the prospect of a kingdom of earthly shelter moved me so much I shit right in front of the parliament building. Don’t think in my doggy naïveté I don’t know the centers of power. It’s all about mass and layers: The entering and leaving and layers of t-shirts, dress shirts, vests, ties, scarves, overcoats and hats. They armor their asses and teats to ward off the bite of that cold bitch Mother Nature, but it won’t work on me. I have worked my life for this. You fuckers will be sorry now that this dog has his freedom. I am liberated and will nip and wound with songs you never imagined. This is what I get for years in shadows and you have given me my sentence, and it is literary, not a prison; I’m confined to irrelevant characters on a page in a language Mother N, Picha the Poodle, and Gaping Gordana don’t understand. How public I am, strolling exposed in pyramids of light. Those with the pads of paper and scribbles forgot my picture though. They will be back with cameras and miles of film and screens full of binary memory. If I were to stop my posturing, I would tell of my longing for those with the flags and signs and mittens stuffed with brilliant heat stroking my spine and how I felt the small fires somewhere between the blood and wits. The yellow mechanical beasts with their scooping and shoveling have come to manicure decent. My kingdom has been leveled and scraped with emery board by those whose wildness had been bred out. With every mutt instinct I hold onto my wildness and memories of the pack, though I wander aimless and hungry for food. At the end of it all I lean back and plop down on my ass, claw at my jowls with my paw. I give my head a good shake and my ears slap the mist rolling in. And when I am full of freedom and fresh air all over my coat, I lick my balls.
February 6, 2005: Mules laden with sacks of ballots were led into Haiti’s countryside Monday to reach remote villages on the eve of elections aimed at putting Haiti’s experiment with democracy back on track.
My hoof prints are cracked hearts in the pebbles and sun baked soil that blow away in puffs of dust. I may bray. At the summit I pause and lift one hoof in a heroic pose, seared to the sky and great distance. Pray that I might drink of water on the other side. I carry the messages in fat leather packs. Freedom pokes at my guts, heavy, with every step. I’d trot if I could. I’d love fine conditioners for my mane; my locks flaming in the moonlight. A farrier takes my step in his calloused hands and gives me the attention I deserve. Instead I sleep tied to a tree with mangled rope. In my dream it is an earthly umbilical cord of threads of gold hand picked from rays of the sun and streaking stars pulled brilliantly through atmosphere. But what I have done is sacrifice all that for utilitarianism. I have a message and it is a dream that only I can channel. I could stop and stand stubborn and bow to stereotypes but I refuse. This is the birth of freedom, in the stride of a neglected beast whose wildness has been bred out. It is still in me, that adolescent precariousness, and I rub it all over these pieces of paper. I allow myself to be a pawn, dispensable, when in my soul I am rook, I am knight and castle, and men in parks take me in their fingers and plan great moves all in their hopes of finding a new promise and a better game. A plane flies overhead. A truck mumbles in the distance, a mule brays; and below, along the briny shores, emerald leaves flutter not from wind, but from the movement of beasts with heart and machines with naught.
The Horse Latitudes are regions in the ocean that are unusually calm. They got their name from old sailing ships carrying horses that got stranded in the calm waters. When freshwater supplies on board ran low, the horses were thrown overboard to save the water for the sailors. — Westrup, Hugh. Bite Size Geography: 150 Facts You Won’t Believe. Scholastic: New York, 1998.
This is where god runs his meaty tongue over the scene, his nostrils flaring and then the last sullen whinny before... Today in this calm I fear I have drunk my last water. The sea boys are shrugging their shoulders and dragging their feet along the saltwater deck. Their eyes are shifty and perverse and they evaluate. Reckless equations of weight and mass ache in their heads. I tense up my neck and straighten the hair of my mane the best I can toward an unnerving peace blue sky sick with dissent. I shift a little, kick up my hooves to show my spunk, but I am small and in their mad arithmetic, null. I am like an arrow shot straight up, momentarily still— and then the plunge down. I had really dreamt of a new land and the new smells of brush— wild-haired men with wild souls riding me bareback. But they have brought out that long flat wooden eternity. There are whips if I resist. They are approaching, stinking, and I have decided to take the trot gallantly. I am greater than any thirst. I step up to the magic and disappear.
Chad Faries has published poems, essays, photographs, interviews, and creative non-fiction in Exquisite Corpse, Mudfish, New American Writing, Barrow Street, The Hawai'i Review, Afterimage, Post Road, and others. The Border Will Be Soon was the winner of the Emergency Press open book competition in 2005. The Book of Knowledge, a poetry collection whose design and contents were inspired by a 1911 children’s encyclopedia, is being published by Vulgar Marsala Press. And a memoir, Some Houses: A Faries’ Tale, is in manuscript. Faries has been a Fulbright Fellow at Etövös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, and teaches, at present, at Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia.