An Enquiry Concerning the Apparent Dispersion of the Phyla

You’ll find no footnotes in this neighborhood, though occasionally something seems to need an asterisk. A bit of pottery, say, broken and written on in a language not so easily understood. Even when you are walking down the street and notice the light on in your kitchen. You suspect there are ways of handling these difficulties that don’t involve self-immolation. Or the bed sheets that haven’t been changed, at any rate, in over a week. The chieftains call you before their subcommittees. Each member is leering after his fashion like a rhinoceros, obviously mistaking a talent for mixing herbs and speaking Latin for the kind of thing that makes one a superior lover. And we are afraid they will take this to mean they have no hope of getting out again, of repeating the mistakes that made their ancestors great. Or at least people worth painting. You can see their portraits even now, in the galleries. And the magazines. Next to the advertisements for all-terrain vehicles and escort services. Thinly veiled organizations that promote medical massage. That turn a lousy day into something more exciting without having to resort to Scrabble tournaments. Or those meals where the secret ingredients get revealed only after you’ve already eaten. In behaving this way, your hosts transgress against the laws of human decency, and even human nature. Though where the one ends and the other begins is a matter of speculation even the cynics decided to leave to their offspring. Assuming, of course, they got out of the bathtub long enough to sire any. Most of them didn’t. They just spent all day shoving people aside and combing their hair and scratching certain phrases onto the coins they were preparing to stick back into circulation. Homey wisdom involving the color of the milk in the jug. Or the way you can tell someone will be unfaithful. It’s in the pronouns he uses. It’s in the palm of the hand, where the lines are trying much too hard for legibility. For a je ne sais quoi that can not be bothered with skin.

Charles Freeland | Mudlark No. 35
Contents | Very Bad Poetry