10: Thinking words the body of thought. A table. On the table a script. In the script directions. For the characters, there is no plot (usually). They do not think of themselves as characters (usually). How do they think of themselves?

9: Consider Connie O’Connell, nineteen-year-old seamstress at the Yardville Yarn & Fabric Factory, unfolding herself for you under the pink incandescence of Cadwalder Park light. Consider Patty Pratico, her racquetball sweat a blister of want spread over her arched back, her muscled thighs, your hands reading her skin, moving her limbs, her deft responses, writhes and resistance, her eyes a bituminous simmer. Weigh the fat seconds it took for Janet Kuchinsky’s smile to deepen there in the doorway of the Broadway Motor Lodge in the middle of your seventeenth year. Consider the urgency, the witness of youth staking its ground, blood like words not yet come by, the beginnings of a map, the need for a scale. Consider Wendy Bujon, Sarah Ruge, Christine Westin, Karen Hummer, Nancy Chen, their faces points on a staggered line charting your past. A is to B as woman is to now. Charts have margins, and something to say. But there’s no escape from the cartographic paradox: to present a useful and truthful picture, an accurate map must tell lies. Consider the lies.

8: This isn’t like you. You are not the product of your past loves. You are not the sum of your scattered memories, picked at and plumbed like a clutch of fading slides. You are not a retrospective of Kodak desires. You are not like “like.”
      A long rain has caught you, is following you, and the slow shift of light no longer autographs your day. Each date sits, blind in its perfect box, while on the same face everywhere the little hand eats itself clean. Objects and fear collapse into a wall-less corridor of damp air and difficult breathing. Now you stand before the mirror, cataloguing your every body part, each mole and scar and bruise. What do they tell you? That your body is nothing else. That nothing else comes close, comes closest to being your body. That you are an idea, a clever crease in the sleeve of what.

7: What has happened once will happen again. An image arrives, a smell conjures, a touch wakes you. You color by numbers, the numbers find out.

6: People are talking, mouths moving. They hobble along the rail reciting the alphabet, hands linked, tongues flapping like little flags announcing their country of desire. A scent of iodine and cold fish floats by. The familiar ebbs and replenishes itself like all good breath. Places everyone. The actors take their seats, erase their smiles in cautious blinks; the music spills forth, a shimmering and a thud. You know this part, and the one that comes next. Parts are rooms without the furniture.
      It’s where you sleep that counts most.
      Where do you sleep?
      In the knots of dead branches, curled and hot under the hoary throats of white owls, ruffled by their hoots. Inside fists grown moist with fear. In the wheels of slow trains, ground finer with each revolution, your voice a shudderingly slow flower embalmed with dust.

5: On the porch, your neighbors gather, take turns pronouncing your name, sloughing off each syllable like old teeth. They want you to speak, to place yourself, to tell them where, and who. Details, they say. Tell us everything, they say.

4: In the dirt, you sketch a diagram: circles, boxes, a twisted arrow and an ampersand. You take a switch from the tree and scratch it out, raise your head, scan their faces for direction. They’re smiling, heads bobbing like happy geese, their skulls great knobs of mottled flesh keeping time to the warble and slush of their own blood. What you hear couldn’t fit inside the wind.
      You empty your pockets onto the ground: keys, quarters, watermelon rock candy, a half pack of Camels, lint. You take off your shirt and throw it over your things. You’re a mortician with a sense of humor, a waiter without his pad, camouflage looking for cover. You’re a bad neighbor and you know it.
      You point to the figures inked on your chest and shoulders: names curled around skulls, great blue curlicues loping from nipple to navel, a dripping heart... Your neighbors gape, walk toward you, begin poking at your skin. You’ve become the toy you always thought you were.

3: Your mistake has been thinking of time in regard to purpose or direction, being one place and going another. This orientation inevitably leads to disappointment and despair, persistent nostalgia or infinite deferral. Your mistake has been thinking of time as something that happens to you. Your mistake has been timing yourself to think in words. Your words have been your mistake. This time.

2: Detour. The trap door drops and you’re left in the lurch, lighting a cigarette. A cardboard sunset hangs in the background, soaking up the stage. Next to it gas pumps, a rusted Coke machine, and the Mojave Desert spread across the floor. An old man sitting. A few dogs chewing. At your feet a bicycle. In front of you the road. In front of that the horizon, blue and clean — but wrinkled. You get on the bike. You ride off.

1: Cut.

Chris Semansky | Mudlark No. 20
Contents | How The Rain Fell