The Consuming

(These are photos of ants dragging a dead scorpion along the sidewalk. In case you were wondering.)

An ant is stronger than an elephant. These ones were headed down the sidewalk in a flattening heat. I was walking my a pile of books, my camera and laptop, feeling incapacitated and maybe part of this was weight.

There are writers who are not afraid of the long sentences edging out in front of them, into the greyish light of a story still composing itself. An ant must be, i think, unafraid because—They say—an ant lacks self-conception, or lacks self.

I am afraid to write because I am afraid of cold water and how when I fall-jump into it, my heart for a moment stops and my lungs seize up. What is it that threatens to consume you? Anger can eat like a fire but it has only freed me. But trails winding through dense brush of the imaginary—pretended futures, pretended confrontations, other lives in which i believe i would not be afraid, would never be disliked or distrusted, where I would not have to choose—these, yes, they have eaten me. The compulsive escape. The blackhole of nonbeing, nonasserting, nonacting. Fictions of the mind and of paperback novels, videogames, television…where fantasy is not play but desperate, looking for a final way, a key to a door.

I fear this then, and it’s true the line is so thin between the liar and the storyteller. Fear the storyteller who constructs closed and apathetic worlds. I have bound myself up in overarticulated truths, priding an obsessive “real”-life honesty, while running to numb in the circuitry of another and divorced place. Run towards the liar then, and become her. Because it is the liar who breaks open the real, weaving through it garlands of the possible, of the maybe, the feared and the hoped-for. It is the liar, who we should make our lover and our prince, because she understands how dry and debilitated are the facts, like raw tinder—because, while the storyteller is locked in metaphor, apart from us, a servant to reality, the liar lights a match and lets it fall.

There being more than one “consuming”.

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Even the dog, whose name was Samson

Imagine the man
who learns over a hotel phone line
that his whose family has burned in a house fire in Ohio,
nine hours earlier, the day before his short flight home.

From then on, it will play like the late night movie special every incoming dusk
flicker on the unwrinkled big screen, illuminating the darkness.

In order to remember
he will do small things. Chew his lip to its bright edge, til he can taste metal.
He will hiccup for hours at a stretch, neither able nor wanting to stop.
He will pull the tight skin from the back of his neck and pinch it hard between thumb and index nail.

Once, when he is doing the latter,
another man, wearing a grey suit poorly tailored and brandishing a half-centimeter shaving cut in the skin just beneath his left ear
will be about to raise his wine glass in yet another toast
of the interminable birthday party of their employer,

but will pause, noticing the tensed, raised arm of this fellow sitting across
whose face communicates nothing festivity,
rather a grim hardness that seems to reflect the laughter of the room and return it hollowed.
This will irritate the man about to make the toast. For an indulgent moment he will envision his own hand reaching to jerk the other’s down, to awaken him with bright slap.

This however will pass in a split second. And the toast will be made,
albeit with perhaps less confidence, the words clipped at the ends,
which the other guests, or those at least listening will interpret as a sign of the speaker’s encroaching drunkenness,

that some will find embarrassing and others amusing and a few
will watch the sweat accumulate in the grooves of his five o’clock shadow
and feel pride to not be so sloppy,
so blatant in their decomposition at this late hour of the evening.

The man, who for the hundred thousandth time is privately viewing a film reel of flames
collapsing the Sears brand vinyl siding of a low slung two bedroom house
will exhale as the toast is pronounced, and the brief attention of the speaker drifts away.
He will exhale again, pushing out the air in a puff,
and let his fingers move downwards, drawing a rich red line from nape to shoulder,
He will lower his hand
with great control
to the now wine drop spattered white-spread table.
He will exhale again.
Return to chewing his lip.