THAT CARROT UNDER THE BOX TRICK
when I’m fortunate something in the hutch
hides blind and cowers hissing from scathed and striking their prey
a loss and sting
but less well known
scared and unorganized
sting, my memory: where was I when I hurt the most?
gentle veil of memorized corners and passages
thrown as a lobster net
fetching spawn of
new breath new shoes
warm inner calyptrae
something cashmere and tulle
dotted with thyme-smelling velvet
pearls chipped with use
it is now but wasn’t always
and wont ever again
or it wasn’t ever and is now
once there was a thought brought back
from shallow and still waters
slippery with algae
impossible to grasp
curling about the hunted
I absolutely was
I must have been
this bastard son, a visitor irascible and hungry a cardboard box pressed under her arm like a morning paper a carrot like the stone cup of coffee
a splintering, musky rope, like a morning cigar i suppose a slingshot wishbone stick fallen from another humid storm
lifting the cardboard box so gently, listing slightly, as precarious as possible in its brittle arms. how many first loves are there anyway? if it tastes like love, reacts to touch the same as love (is it like a rotting tomato? is it like a meringue? is it like soda?), is made of the same components as love, is it? if it's made in a mold and sprayed and coated in materials that look like love and injected with oils that smell like love, is it? i am one of someone's first loves, the other was their babysitter. i've had at least a handful of first loves. s told me that she has had love at first sight happening to her every day this year. love that isn't love is manufactured in a hot, dusty space designed for something else but rented under false pretenses (and under a false LLC) - there's no need for them to hire security, the building (somewhat sprawling but much smaller than you would expect) lies on the axis of two unmarked streets, muddy and littered. it's so unpleasant that it is impossible to find, you'd walk right past time and time again, right in front of it, but unable to see it, as it's so unremarkably ugly and unassuming. inside, there is broken glass swept into the corners and ceilings are made of concrete. there is no electricity, though workers buzz on day and night. they work with flashlights held between their teeth like dogs, pointing the little oval of light at their work and brushing grime from their hairlines. there is a rotating staff of several contract workers, they are paid in lottery tickets and househeld cleaning supplies. they don't know the names of who pays them, it just shows up. the love or "love" is produced, nebulised, and packaged carefully. a dozen or so are palleted each night and left for someone to distribute each morning around 4am. if confronted, the distributor claims he is a postal worker. he is sometimes overly tall and in his thirties, and sometimes overly wide and in his sixties. sometimes they're a woman with an eyepatch, someone with a broken arm, a younger person with a little white dog (no leash), or someone with irregular gait and a toothy smile who wears a red baseball cap. none of them look particularly unfriendly, paranoid, or conspiratory - including the factory workers. when i was a child, a blind woman with a helperdog found us running away from home, all huddled up behind a big oak. she thought we needed help. i was quiet enough that she didn't hear me, and when i closed my eyes, the dog couldn't see me. "no good can come of this," said the woman, walking away, taking them with her. but when everyone was gone i couldn't bear being alone. i curled up in the slime, the bubbles breaking my sobs. i cried as loud as i could but the blind woman was out of earshot. what if i had endangered my companions by being too precisely quiet? should i have let the dog see me, looked it in the eyes and let it bark maniacally? should i have been loud, careless? when i found them, the room was wide and red with morning light. the ceiling was low and the floor was bright. the dog was afraid of me. the woman's adopted father was a painter and a ceramicist who murdered those he felt were asking for it. they kept it a secret even when it felt neon and shining to the children from the ditch. there was a secret space they went, in the attic, or what was effectively an attic: eight steps leading to a sawdusty 4' x 5' landing: to cry and to vomit with fear. when he decided that our time was over, the woman disagreed. it had been 1,473 days, but she insisted, and paid for it. she protected us and we protected her. "he wants to cover you with gauze, turn you into woolpacks. i love you and i'm sorry that i ever thought i could help you. i should have let you die in the swamp." after years of living in his workshop, he thought his secret was safe, but they saw the bodies when they weren't supposed to, and the faces he'd stretched out and the skin he'd boiled. he synthesized skin, deliquesqued bones, turned blood into fibers. "we are the most undervalued resource of the universe," - typically, drawling downward, soft, and affectively kind, his voice reached beyond the walls of the shop and within the most fatal and instinctive roots of the children's mind. he wiped clay and what i assumed were guts onto his apron and set his tools in their proper compartments in the high pitched scream of the red metal shelves he kept locked at all times. i often dreamed of running, tripping, running more, and of defending myself and the others. i always woke up exhausted, dizzy, sick, and unable to breathe. this was how i felt now as he advanced on us.
i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love
i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love
i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love i'm love
just when the rabbit arrives you tug the rope, not as hard as you can, as the stick is nearly already falling. it drifts to the ground, incredibly graceful, the rabbit is inside, and you stick a rock on top of the box to take away absolutely any power or hope from the creature inside. it's running out of oxygen, its body is under capacitated for its heart, its eyes asunder and desparate. Authorities, they would reach the assailant at home, but how I wished it had been me. So many injuries, they don't know which did the trick. We are the most undervalued resource of the universe, he had said - Glyptodons, we'd eaten to the ground. We could never run out of something we could endlessly reproduce, want of nothing. It is the custom of the sea, and so below, as it should be above. Your bones could feed a starving city. We don't have to suffer, it is ignorance that informs our decision to die like this.
What I thought was a hewing down of my limbs in a dream was my alarm blaring in the other room. I pulled my wife close to me, and she pulled away. She was warm-bodied and I was cold-bodied, it is only comfortable to neutralize each other when both of us are conscious. She didn't like it when I did this, she said it had become an obsessive habit and that if I didn't tell my therapist about it, she would. I knew she wasn't bluffing, but it was autotelic and I didn't care anymore. I was like a cat being offered the shittiest, most oily and out of date tuna from a can. It was the sound I liked the most, the sensation that something amazing was going to happen soon. I flipped the blaring sound away, made coffee, got dressed. God, iced coffee is so fucking good. I loved it best when the ice was melting, and you topped the cup off with a few more chunks of ice and another bit of coffee. I swallowed my last gulp, took a sweet bun out of the pantry, and headed out the front door (quietly) with my keys. The baby was sleeping, and my wife was sleeping, and they were both so peaceful. "i'm love" is something i say to myself when i feel the bliss of being able to feel, something i wasn't able to do for a long, long time. there isn't anymore choking or grasping for sticks of any semblance of humanity or humility. it was probably the drugs i was on, but that's fine, too. i was scared to take them for a long time, but it really does turn out that being able to feel like you're human really does help you become more human when you've lost a lot of that. Abigail has helped me more than anything. It's been four years, which, I guess, isn't that long? But of course, it feels like I've known her since I was small. Which, haha, I'm glad I didn't, because I probably would have ruined her life... But that's fine. That's not real, that's just a thought. I drive past our first apartment. It was gross, a pill-den, when we lived there, but the rent was only $400 and we were both able to work part-time jobs and go to school without being overtly or desperately stressed out. Sure, there were times I thought we wouldn't make it. But we've been fair to each other, we've both been reasonable, and we're both very content. The baby (Abigail II) just started getting teeth. One popped in one day, and then suddenly we were raising a shark. Not a real shark, though, because then it would die since we don't have a huge tank. I guess we could build a pool. I don't know if we could afford it, though. Maybe if I took those contracts I was offered last quarter, instead of shrugging it off... I don't know what sharks eat, really. Like, besides humans that look like seals. It would be pretty impractical to keep tricking surfers into hanging out in my backyard. Maybe you can feed them old dogs or something. I wonder if they can be vegetarian? Or if we could just pour some nutritious powder in its tank? I was about five minutes from my destination. I slowed down, dimmed my lights. Checked the dashboard clock. It was about 7 minutes fast, Abigail set it that way so I wasn't so consistently late. It's amazing how much that's helped. Although she did set it that way for work, and not this... I was sitting among the other junk car in this shitmobile. I bought it for $300 cash. It was all rusted over, half the stuff didn't work. Abigail (the first) was so pissed. "We could have bought 3 brand new strollers! And we don't even need 3! We have one child! Do you hear me? ONE. One human being that needs to be at the forefront of your mind every time you're about to make a stupid decision." I tried convincing her it wasn't that bad, that she could use my car and sell hers if she wanted. That made her even more upset, seeing as this one wouldn't even run 60% of the time, and so she would have to give me a ride in my own actual car over half the time. I remember being a kid and in class. This kid in front of me, Kenneth Boone, would slyly slip me a piece of gum as payment for my friendship, I think, every day at 2:30. I would accept it. He would always make a performance of unwrapping the slice of rubber and stuffing it in his mouth in the middle of class, like the most dangerous person of all time, then look at me, his eyebrows daring me to do the same. I hated gum. I would unwrap it, feeling the most intentional dread, and copycat his actions. I was miserable, I thought if I couldn't spit this rock out of my mouth I would die. She said that having three cars in front of our house made us look like "fucking cowboys". I had no idea what that meant, but I apologized anyway. She wasn't impressed by my apologies, and hadn't been in years. She had brought up the time I thought my parking ticket was a religious tract and trashed it before even glancing at it with even the slightest amount of judgment. Anyway, my lights were out. 4:05 AM. The motor was off, but the factory was humming. Last night I had a dream of double dutch, and a group of cosmic plotters twirling and leaping to this:
so he peeled off a layer of lace
and took her with him to home base
boom! boom! bang!
rattle rattle clang!
she made him choose casket or vase
and burnt him in the fire place
one, two, three, four
gasoline on he she poured
she hit him with bricks
how many of his bones were ate?
And then the bones went up as the leaps got quicker, and mind lifted into life once more with the baby crying. I stumbled out of bed and lifted the baby from the crib, and the dream was gone, but snaps and pops of the rhyme sprouted through the dirt for the rest of the week. When I'd met Abigail, at the time she was only Ab. "Abigail is my father," she would joke. She was usually drunk and usually the most charming and flattering person alive. She'd give anyone a warm amount of attention if it took her away from herself. She seemed to make everyone else dead, as if she'd been born five minutes ago and was constantly being reborn: the truest and brightest of all life on earth, with no one else anywhere near equal. She never seemed conflicted, she never hesitated - she seemed, to me, something vitreous. Someone you can't possibly avoid falling in love with, who you have to cross your eyes and lay on your back in the sun to see properly, and when you do you'll be paralyzed, while she escapes. She immediately meant the world to me, someone I feared and must protect. She could care less. Some mutual friends held a going away party for someone I hardly knew, and since I lived up the street she ended up coming home with me, "to wait for a cab", while the hosts of the party fought over something dramatic. She fell asleep immediately, her hand lay there on its back, callow and still, varied in shadow and light and colour as if poised that way by a professor, for students to study and paint. It was gross of me to even see her unconsciuos, I felt. She woke up in the middle of the night, and we talked for a few hours about things neither of us knew the first thing about. It felt good, like exploring - a lipogram, jumping so far over the true subject at hand that it's invisible. It wasn't long before she was over every weekend, and then every night, and soon, the rest of my life. The smallest of moments broken into smaller moments, folded again and again, a candle's square centimetric chasing itself. Her fingers have always glown alight and taken the smallest dance, which, in its loud absence of height or pride awoke everyliving thing within time and miles from their swollen sleep. Ghosts, cyanobacteria, deer, worms, and wasps stumbled over themselves to get a better listen. I tried to convince myself that this gesture was conscious and significant, superstitious of the electric reverse of rigor-mortis. Like a keystroke, her life would return. There’s something heavy and permanent about seeing someone so out of their orient, not uncomfortable, but not living specifically for this moment. In places she did not thrive, she glowed the most. I knew this - everything, our entire lives together - was different for her than it was for me, but in another way it was entirely the same. She had always wanted desperately to be as innocent as me. She'd always rub my scalp in bed, tarnishing the halo she saw there, saying to herself, "O, can't I be right and angelic, too?" She had a dream she was made of honey, or, I don't know, maybe her blood was honey, or her hair: she wasn't specific and I can only tell you what was told to me. She couldn’t convince herself to wake up. She suffered a seemingly endless barrage soft, her mouth and throat and teeth and voice and lungs and tongue all, respectively, isolated; words so dense they hit the ground before they were spoken, so hot they boiled inside of her, before they could get out. When she woke, she was poisoned by the inability to wake up for so long, crying and sweating for as long as it took to realize who and where she was, and that sound was aware of her now. She always felt someone was watching, even when she was home alone, with the curtains drawn, the doors deadbolted, the lights off. She rattled her limbs and winced and watered her plants, dressed, coiled her hair upon itself twice, and exited my world forever, returning to the one that belonged to her, the one opaque to me, but to which she had given me a key to a closet with a pierce in its drywall, the spyhole she let me use to pretend I was at all involved in her life. Her mother's garden of idle talk and nonsense was overgrown and foreboding, and she was allowed to walk as far from it as she could before sunset as a child. She discovered many things; many things discovered her. There was a problem with rodents building tunnels beneath the cabbages and carrots and causing them to discolor and wilt. "Please, child, take this string, this box, this bait, and get it out. I've tried everything, and now it's up to you, as I am growing old and wilting too."
"Let us tell stories in the park, let's trifle and delay. I'm not trying to trick you," Ab said, eyes the surface of the sea and voice agape. "I'll cook for you. You can cook for me, too, if you like. The fox and the crow are here too, they wish to see you! Aren't you lonely in that dark warren? Don't you need me? Aren't you love itself?"
I am not a sacred vessel; I do not deserve a rite of cleansing. Neither does this home I inhabit (neither does any country, any city, any household). We will exhaust those we see as impure until they are extinct. After that, we will eat ourselves. We are extreme, but we do not see it, as we are inside of it. Those deemed impure will starkly disappear from miracle cities, and those surrounding the disappeared will shrug and go on with their day. They will be...managed, governed, sanctioned with autonomous areas. The scattering and extinguishing of families for imagined social sins. And by "will be", of course, I mean they "are", right now, and have been since the dawn of "time". We are obscuring and eclipsing those for whom we decline invitations to utopia. We are watching it happen from the fusional security of a comfortable wave. It is not peaceful to watch this happen. It is violent. To be love you cannot only love, but hate. There are things worth hating. There are things worth being angry over and crying over and concatenating for. It is not a waste of your time to speculate or to stretch your trust. It's not irrational to be furious. There are more than 50 million humans who are by right no less than us forced into slavery. We pay slave owners every single day. We tear down the palisades, open the gates, empty the houses, having learned nothing of the disadvantages of crusades. We deserve no less than to sit on a burning throne , cut into three pieces like Dózsa's brother, starved and asked to eat the cooked flesh of our living rulers. Like in Mémoire sur la polyphagie, our begetting and leed we join the circus with Tarare, eating entire children without chewing, swallowing rocks and rats and misplaced houseware. Feasting while starving our parents and children alike. Our eyes dark red and swollen, steam rising from our bodies, our livers and the linings of our stomachs rotting already.
Every living creature within miles awoke with a nod from dreams of her as she took in a slight nervous breath and rolled her eyes around the dark of her eyelids. The fog lifted around the city as a certain special curl in her hair twisted around her spine and twirled a little pirouette along the hard wood floor, which let off a polished, musty pine smell that almost made you sick. And in those creatures' dreams,
A wasp greeted his lover with a stolid temple kiss, "Wake up my darling, everyone is here!" She said nothing, just laid there. "Everyone is waiting," he said, maneuvering her hair as if to calm her wild sleeping thoughts. Of course, though, she was not asleep, nor was she alive, as she was only a shape made of grass, dressed in her old clothes, and wearing paubrasilia lips. And so it fell apart, scattering the wife all across the house. The wasp cried and cried and was filled with the most divine sadness of anyone in the world, having accidentally killed his one and only love. Meanwhile, in a library she hadn't visited since she was a young, young girl the subject of the dream opened a novella to a page with red letters that read "You make the glass invisible by putting it into a liquid of nearly the same refractive index; a transparent thing becomes invisible if it is put in any medium of almost the same refractive index."