MISFIT DOC: To See a Man about a Horse

To See a Man about a Horse


A year and a half to the day from today, I will walk into the Manhattan Café and order a boilermaker. This though C. insists that liquor will be the death of me. I just wish that other people could see, she whispers to herself as I wobble about. I wish that it wasn’t just me. A prayer overheard by strangers on street corners, a prayer overheard by friends of friends at the bar, a prayer screamed at the edge of the bed as I go lumbering naked toward the black wall of the night. A plea that I might see some light and come swimming up from the depths. Back away from the precipice of that terrible repetition.

I caught one in my pocket once. A prayer. Accidentally recorded a late-night cellphone movie of scraping denim and disappointment. Dead-in-the-eyes, she said. Droopy all over. Look at him. Useless, she said.

How selfish of me to be outing these secrets that embarrass everyone but me. Have I no sense of shame? I hear my mother’s voice. My father’s. The teachers of my teachers. I remember when they caught me with the platinum blonde dropout in jet black lipstick—and nothing else at all—running out the window toward California. I think about it in bed at night, my head racing over my pillow. I wonder as I drift off to sleep whether the word has lost all meaning.

It is then that one speaks with the righteous tongue, no? Then that one yanks at his cock on the bus. Then that one scoffs when she hears the word slut. Do these vicinities reek of equivalencies? They are not. It is then that one implicates himself in the lot.  Pit preachers and televangelists with tears in their eyes. Released from the burden of their bowed-back-ingot secrets. Unashamed to tell it all and baptized in their blubbering.

Is this a cry for help? These words spilling onto the page? No. Much too detached for that.

I am thin-skinned if accosted. Especially if liquor’s involved.  Libel to fly off at the mouth.  Name someone an enemy.  Light into them.  Honesty, honesty, honesty, chant the gurus through the ages.  Honesty, with which one earns the ire of all those precious classmates who believe they deserve a cookie for spouting off a pretty image.  Instead I expect shit shoveled into my mouth.  And tell them what I think of them.

Shame on me.  Sure.  But the niceties, like butterflies, spent themselves fluttering over the crab grass and the liriope.  We learn by digging in the dirt with spoons.  Tasting the night crawlers with tongues agog.  These internet-award-winners wearing chips on their shoulders have been anorexic since the first faint whiff of fame.

No. I am not ashamed.  Please.  Come bearing the bad news that you know about me. Please. I will nod passively. And wiggle worms in your ears. About evil things that I have seen. Something kind of sad about the way that things have come to be.  Desensitized to everything. What became of subtlety? But—then again—how long have I lived in hiding? Secreting away those dirty sanchez boys with their mustaches made of chocolate milk. And the doctoring days on the carpeted stairs, and the locked closets, and the bathroom floors where heaps of us fought for one another’s private parts. And the Chevy Cavalier in the crumbling cul-de-sac. How long have I pretended I never fucked those desperate fat girls at camp? How long pretended I wasn’t desperate myself. How long pretended I didn’t hurt their feelings?  How long hid them behind my duplicitous hands? Watched the way their faces worked. A confidence man. Ashamed. Calling them liars when they tattled on me. I have done them all wrong and have needed—for a long time now—another life for coming clean.


Yes. I will drink my boilermaker and find Coleman Barks at the corner of the bar slowly drinking beer from a glass mug with his name on it. He will—by this point—be two strokes in. And I will be well on my way to hitting my wall.  Goodnight Moon.  Two days before, I will have heard him read at the special collections library named for Richard B. Russell, author of the Southern Manifesto. Shame. One day before, I will have watched the documentary Zoo about the Enumclaw horse sex case. Shame. So. I will saunter over to Coleman Barks like a cowboy and heap praise upon Rumi and Rummy both and quote his own poetry back to him and—when he asks what I have been working on—blurt out the history of Mr. Hands.

In between—and all around—I will tell him about my own rambling project on what I will call THE MULTIPLE CONCEPTS OF CONSENT.  His eyes will glaze over.  Then I will ask him what he knows about the Enumclaw Case.  He will shrug his shaggy shoulders.  Then I will pull the notebook from by back pocket and introduce him to the film, pointing to Rush Limbaugh’s piddling role.  “Really now,” Rush says, as a lanky man on the screen rushes over a dirt field in slow motion.

Really now, I hate to express my naiveté about such things.

The man in the film looks over his shoulder.

Well, no I don’t actually. I’m very proud to be naïve about these kinds of things. But how do they know that the horse didn’t consent.

A green bucket swings from the lank man’s hands. He keeps looking over his shoulder. There are mountains humped upon the horizon. Coleman Barks will lean toward my mouth. The further he gets into the field, I will say, the more it looks like he is running in place.  “How in the world,” Limbaugh continues.

How in the world . . . can—can this happen without consent? We’re talking . . . w-w-we—we’re talking about a human being and a horse. If-if-if. If. If the horse didn’t consent, none of this would have happened.

Little will Coleman Barks know that when I tried to skip back through the documentary to jot down a couple of quotes, I transposed the entire thing onto a couple of birthday envelopes sent to me by my aunts and uncles and—when these were exhausted—onto the back of a stapled together poetry manuscript that deals with the AIDS crisis of the 1980s by erasing Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. Touché. The work of one of the Kafka boys now married to my scribbled notes about zoophiles and acute peritonitis, about perforation of the sigmoid colon by a horse, etc. Of course, of course.

It is not lost on me. How silly we must seem—we struggling writers, we feed they lion—with our ballooning projects that we pass back and forth beneath furtive glances, worried about thieves among the cubicles in the basement of the English building.  Planning our readings, submitting our manuscripts, losing our sanity in the rented rooms of our college towns. Trying to meld the green curiosity of the child with the polished wisdom of the hag. The micro and the macro, the short game of the pretentious present moment, and the long (gone) game of memory’s lag. How silly to wrestle with God upon our computer screens in this all-too-practical world. We struggling writers—they feed they lion—waiting for a moment to make our move. All the while imagining ourselves. And imagining ourselves beyond taboo.



In front of a sprawling Victorian mansion, a grandma in a navy blue tracksuit and sandals hands over a set of keys to a shaggy-haired man in blue jeans and a baseball cap. Then she turns around and waddles over the gravel to climb into the passenger’s side seat of a chocolate-brown Rolls Royce.

We were friends all those years and now all of a sudden I’m no good just because I love the horses?

A man lies on his side in a blue room, his eyes open, his face bathed in moonlight. A descending arpeggio in a minor key plays upon a synthesizer. A halo of wispy white hair fringes his pale face. He stares past the camera—contemplating the bizarre boarders he has crossed. We get closer. And closer. And closer.

It’s just like if you love your wife. Or your kids. It’s the same thing.

The scaffolding of a cellphone tower stands skeletal against an empty sky. Blinking red lights, a dial-up sound, then static in the blue.

A lot of times, they just wanted to come out and see.

A bicycle bell rings. Along the paving stones in the foreground, a man in khakis and a sweater-vest rides in slow motion—across the screen from left to right—atop a green bicycle with white fenders and a basket full of sunflowers. Behind him, three weathered brick walls enclose a gray yard.

We wanted to see if it was possible.

A bald man with a gray goatee and glasses types on his blackberry beneath a table lamp.

Maybe I just want to . . . grab a horse by its nuts . . . and then feel his balls, how they feel. And they’re . . . well they’re . . .

The camera glances off the side of a man’s grizzled face beneath a baseball cap. A desktop computer sits in front of a window.  Outside, a red-and-white striped piece of an American flag waves in rural Washington. Quickly, a close-up of the man’s hand moving from keyboard to mouse. His finger double-clicking.

They’re warm.

The cellphone tower emerges from behind a church steeple. Phone lines whine against the sky.

The horse is still the biggest thing out there on the internet.

Three men in a golf cart ride over the concrete floor of an empty airplane hangar. Their features fade to shadow as the rectangular doors in the distance slide open to reveal a parking lot.

I did, uh, summertime barbeques. Thanksgiving. I did Christmas dinner.

The golf cart zips through the doors into the gray day, hangs a Larry and disappears. The screen fades to black.

One year we did a turkey and a ham.

The fat sound of an electric guitar slouches into the nighttime house. Two men nod their heads in the kitchen.  The one on the right washes glasses in the sink below the analog clock and the leaning potted plant. The bald one on the left pours the luminous contents of a blender into a pitcher.

Kind of a potluck supper kind of thing. Some people would bring over some beans or chips, and a meat entry or something.

The bald one walks to the fridge and removes a package of frozen ground beef from the freezer.

And of course lots of beer.

The other one slops the contents of the pitcher into a stubby tumbler and takes a sip. He has hairy hands. And also, a hairy head.

And—um—once in a while there was a few mixed drinks. It was kind of fun throwing all kinds of stuff into the blender . . .

The bald one raises a bag of ice above his head like a serial killer and throws it onto the linoleum.

. . . churning out things that kind of had a slushy flavor to them—that about six or seven of them would knock you on your ass. And you know, we put so many bottles of rum into this stuff.

The hairy one continues filling glasses with the glowing contents of the pitcher while the bald one heads back to the blender with his bag of ice and begins pouring rum—glug-glug—into the plastic.

There was no special flashy—nothing going on that was all that strange and unusual. I mean, this goes on hundreds and thousands of places all over the country.

Then a yellow-green store-bought drink mix—glug-glug-glug—then ice—clackaty-clack—and the blender spins to life. The bald man’s hand toggles the switch.

Age was never really all that important. As long as you were old enough to drink, you weren’t senile and could talk coherently.

A man with a pancake hat and a taint-tickler walks into the room in a kilt. It is very shadowy here. He takes two glasses from the hairy man at the sink and dances toward the camera with the glasses lifted toward the ceiling until—finally—he exits the frame.

Conversation would always ensue.

The bald blender man hunches over his cigarette in the living room and asks another bald man if he wears boxers or a thong. To which the whole house erupts in laughter.

It was pretty much a classless society of our own little small world.

We are outside looking at the party though the window. Men smoke cigarettes on the porch. A dog stands between their knees and wags its tail.

No one had any kind of different status of who was this and who was that.

In the living room, the men take turns shaking hands.

There was no Alphas and Omegas and Betas running around everywhere.

The camera wanders through a barn. Finds an open door. Against the blue nighttime sky stand the silhouettes of trees.

The horses would come in and out. The bulls would come in and out.

Two brown leather boots thump down upon the top of a washing machine. Dirty hands toss clothes into the machine, then flip closed the plastic porthole door.

It was just like, hey, let’s go out to the barn and pasture the animals.

Men lounge in recliners in the living room watching a conspiracy theory flick about the moon landing on TV.  On the other side of the window, an enormous mountain scrapes the sky.  The moon hangs like a white grape upon which a baby has nibbled.  The lamp inside is brighter than the moon.  And bigger.

Well, there they are, go ahead.  Just be careful.

A couple pairs of hands lather up over a dirty tub sink.

Because it you’re standing too long in one place, it’s gonna happen.

The men file into the kitchen one by one. The man in the kilt retrieves something from the fridge.

If you just stand there they’ll walk up behind you and put their head on your shoulder and talk to you. They’re gonna pick up that pheromone that your body is putting off and they’re gonna mount you.

The bald blender man rubs his finger back and forth over something in a yellow plastic basket. The others nod their heads and smile.

If you don’t move you’re bread.

The voiceover chuckles. The camera pans around the room.

And I mean bread.

The camera glides through the sky, blimp-like, revealing slow motion aerial shots of conifers spread over low rolling hills.

My name is Pam Roach, and I’m the state senator that covers the area of Enumclaw and all the lovely area on the Enumclaw Plateau. It’s a beautiful area as you can see.

Pale fields cut rectangles into the shot. Houses and barns like flotsam hang like so much plastic trash along the square edges.

There are a lot of farms, a lot of people who love to have animals on these farms, and a great place to raise children.

The camera swerves drunkenly—losing its balance, shoulder down—toward the earth.  Then catches itself, and straightens toward Rainier.

I could never have believed than an animal could do this on their own.

A man props his foot upon a railing outside of a brick police station.  His elbow, propped on his knee, supports his chin propped on his fist.  Rodin’s Thinker in blue jeans and a nickel-plated wrist watch.  Pale glass globes perched upon blue light posts stand sentinel on either side of the plate glass door. A cop exits beneath the rococo wrought iron clockwork and walks down the concrete stairs. The Thinker unfolds and follows suit.

We don’t allow adults to abuse children. Sexually. Children cannot consent. Children are innocent.

A burgundy Ford Explorer rolls down Main Street toting a gleaming white horse trailer. The single story store fronts prop up a pale sky smattered with cirrus clouds. The Ford Explorer describes a wide arc on the asphalt, and pulls into a parking spot at the police station. The uniformed cop and the philosophizing plainclothes officer approach the car from either side.

And so are animals. They cannot consent and they are innocent.

A didgeridoo bombilates. A violin bow bounces on strings. Shadow men stroll through a seafoam scene. An underwater feel to this tremulous grove of fruit trees in blue nighttime.

You’re connecting with another intelligent being—who is . . . very happy to participate. Be involved.

In the foreground, a purple flower shudders as the shadow men come walking by.

You’re not going to be able to ask it about the latest Madonna album. It has no idea what Tolstoy is. Or Keats. You can’t discuss the difference between Manet and Picasso.

The camera tips back and falls through moonlit azalea flowers.

That just doesn’t exist for their world.

In single file, the men amble over the soft floor of fallen lavender petals. They move slowly, their arms swinging as they bounce beneath the billowing azaleas bushes. They have about them in this night wood the feeling of astronauts in an alien garden.

It’s a simpler, very plain world. And those few moments you can kind of just get disconnected . . . it’s a very intense, wonderful kind of feeling. I don’t think anything really can kind of compare to it.

One by one they climb over a wire fence held half-erect by a locust post. Between the bent-wire slides the sky.

There’s no pain.

They amble across a field, the sky enormous behind them.  Round portals of pink tunnel into the pale blue clouds on the horizon.  Through the barnyard, they come, between banks and cross rails and hogsbacks.  Then up under the awning, these shadow men swing into the barn.

At no time in any way, shape, or form is anybody forced, coerced, drugs, ropes whatever.  There’s no bondage or anything like that involved in any of this because these are your friends.

A man in a blue dress shirt, Khakis, and black oxfords sits all alone upon a stool in a white room. He cannot stop moving his hands. He has blonde hair and keeps swallowing, his tongue too big for his mouth. He looks like somebody’s father and talks fondly about a recreational softball league.

The cold, harsh, brutal reality is that a man bled to death.  OK?

He spreads his hands wide for emphasis. Then pulls on his fingers again.

I thought about what was going through this man’s mind as he was bleeding to death.

Blackout. Then back to the man. One hand grasping the fingers of the other, as if he might wring some meaning from the words over which he stumbles.

And how did he find himself in this place at this time. And—uh—you know, I had the experience of holding a corpse in my hands that was—a few minutes before—a seven-year-old boy . . . that had drowned in a swimming pool and his last breath was frozen in time on his face and his eyes were fixed and I could see right down into his mouth and it was ghostly white.

The chunky man cannot stop swallowing. Gulping air like a fish out of water.

And at that moment—when I was staring into those empty eyes and looking into the depths of death, all’s I saw was my own reflection.

Through waving blonde wheat grass we see half of another man’s face. He wears a fedora and blinks his pale blue eyes at the camera. The ruff on the back of his neck and behind his ears stands up and waves—golden vibrissa—in sunlight.

In their mind, they don’t care if it’s a Philly underneath them or a human. You’ve got something like a male animal, pretty much their purpose on this earth is to procreate.

Nighttime. The camera follows behind a man walking along the edge of a towering hydrangea hedge. He holds his hand out to brush against the bouncing blue balloons. Once the man passes, the flowers jostle against one another, nodding along to the voiceover.

I don’t mean to sound detrimental to males.  But we’re here to pass the seed along that keeps generations going.  So there’s always that drive.

Three people in blue jeans try to coax a horse into a trailer.

But then this weird thing happened.

A miniature horse gallops down the gravel driveway, apparently on a mission.

This little mini came up and got up under . . .

The stallion rears. The handlers back away.

. . . and started giving the stallion a blow job.

Close up. Horse muzzle. Upper lip, lower lip, lilting off camera. Throat hatch. Pale mane. Gray sky.

It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Ever.

A blonde girl in a blue sweatshirt rigs a saddle to a horse. Light streams through the branches of a pine tree. Lonely piano notes strike the distance between thoughtful chords.

There are people who really have a love relationship for an animal not of their species.

She grabs the saddle horn and swings her leg over the broad body of the beast. Straddled about it, she stares down at the beautiful blonde comb-over of the horse’s mane.

These people were talking about the extreme and loving care that they give their animal partner.

The camera peers between conifer boughs. Behind a fence, the horse and rider move from grass to mud.

I don’t yet quite know how I feel about that.

The piano notes tumble upward.  Horse hooves suck and pull.  A galloping ascent.  Sunlight through the pines.

But I’m right at the edge of being able to understand it.



I will ask Coleman Barks if the topic is too much. Swilling well whiskey. I will ask him if I am overstepping my bounds by recounting my voyeurship in the land of celluloid. Ordering cheapie after cheapie. He will look up at me from his barstool, his eyes hooded by bushy brows, one side of his mouth up-turned among his whiskers—curiosity or perhaps a side effect of the second stroke—yes, a little boy peeking from an old man’s visage. He will take a sip of his own beer—beer, which for ages now has been on the house—and tell me in a rasping baritone that he has been looking for something to write about. Now swaying through the bars of his youth, now eavesdropping on the pretty boys and girls, now slumped on his barstool in the corner, his eyeballs aglow under his mane gone gray.

The multiple concepts of consent, I will say. Coleman Barks will squint at a framed photograph of Elvis Presley holding a rifle on the wall, and muse on death by mounting stallion. He will call out his email address letter-by-tedious-letter, and will I scribble it into my notebook—an amanuensis once again—unaware that after the two strokes and the obvious avalanche of emails that a poet of his stature obtains, he must—of course—have someone screening the trash tumbling into his mailbox.  I am a boy with a dry-ice bomb, rushing from the scene of the crime. Worrying that the authorities are on to me. I signed my name after all. Feeling somehow that Coleman Barks and I are in cahoots when I get the automatic reply. Feeling that the two of us have been policed by authorities who believe they hold the best interest of society in their hands. Which they do. Of course, of course.  Here is the church, and here is the steeple. A horse, a horse, a horse.

In the film, Pam Roach explicitly compares children to animals, I will tell Coleman Barks at the corner of the bar before I email him—enormously hung over—the following day. Then again. A decade later, the president-of-the-United-States-to-be—while explaining what he knows of immunizations—will point out to the whole wide world that “Tiny children are not horses.” Again, I say touché and tip my hat to the most powerful man on earth. A man who—among his many pre-presidency business gaffs—sold beef steaks through a mail-order catalogue.  “When it comes to great steaks,” he says in an extant commercial, “I’ve just raised the stakes.”  Touché.  It has become impossible to parody the absurdity of reality. We shrug our shoulders collectively, stinkfisted by the day-to-mundane-day and jabber in endless circles around everything that really matters.

I will talk to myself while composing the email to Coleman Barks, aching after the sausage biscuits of my youth, the chicken biscuits of my adolescence, the bacon-egg-and-cheese burritos, the steak and eggs, the huevos rancheros con chorizo of those wandering indeterminate years that were governed—day-to-day—by the hair of the dog that bit me.

Factory farms churn out beef, pork, and poultry at a rate that has been alarming forever. We gobble down critters that did not consent.  If you can’t fuck ’em, eat ’em, my grand pappy always said as we swerved—hungry—in his silver Cadillac through traffic toward Arby’s for a limited time extra value offer.

To risk sounding like Rush Limbaugh, it was—of course—the horse that did the fucking to death. The thrusting to death. But are we so backward as to reduce consent to the penetrative act? Fuck it. Too much thinking, not enough eating, makes D. a dull boy.  Duh.  I’m going to go grab some fast food. Does anyone want a burger? Slushies all around.  A turkey and a ham. The only sound I hear when I see a rotisserie chicken in the grocery store is Ron Popeil shouting SET IT AND FORGET IT and the sad rustle of a million fragile talons.



How odd to sit scribbling the words of these voiceovers. These horse-fucked strangers spilling their guts. How odd to attempt to catch the intangible. The inclination to capture, to cage, to make stick. How odd to rewind, to playback—and again—to see the words cartwheel in real time to pen slick.  How odd this feeling of curated clairvoyance, excited because I know what they are going to say. How odd the idea of summarizing anything when everything wants to speak for itself. How odd the talk-around in almost everything I ever read—and everything I ever watched—that dealt with sexuality.

We fool ourselves—every generation in déjà vu turn—into believing we escaped the bony hands of puritans.  Quoth Willliam Bradford: “But that which is worse, even sodomy and buggery, (things fearful to name) have broke forth in this land.” Yes, fearful to name. We inherit the shame. And upon the teenager Thomas Granger: “He was this year detected of buggery, and indicted for the same, with a mare, a cow, two goats, five sheep, two calves, and a turkey. Horrible.” Quoth the Lord of Leviticus:  If a man lie with a beast he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast,” etc.

Interpretations tend toward the letter of the law. It says what it says what it says.

Tommy Granger had to watch as his lovers were executed one-by-one and tossed into a communal pit—defiled and unfit for nourishment. Shame. Then he was hung by the neck.

One-eyed George Spencer suffered a similar fate when it was determined that he sired a one-eyed piglet. On his heels followed the strange case of Thomas Hogg, who was also said to have sired piglets bearing a pale-faced family resemblance. The proof in the pudding came when Hogg was forced to scratch the lovely sow-in-question behind the ear until it poured forth lustful seed upon the earth before the governor.

I could go on and on.  Churn up a minor moral panic by rehashing the stuff of internet shock sites, verbatim.  Call me Mr. Rotten.  Trolling by prose poem: word vomit versions of Goatse, Lemon Party, 2 Girls 1 Cup, Meat Spin, Tub Girl, Shake that Bear, etc.  I exist to gape and stare.  Consumer immaculate.  Bearing down on a single straight line toward the subject, which I have always been told by mathematicians is the fastest way there.

Over golden bowls of tofu—two months after my run-in with Coleman Barks—I will listen to CA Conrad explain how once upon a time at a pagan festival a skyclad man with a goat on a chain approached—piously—the altar of Elvis Presley sprawling from a witchy RV.  When the man bent down on his knees to worship, the goat mounted him, and jerkily began thrusting. It was over like that, CA will say snapping. It was over. Then the couple was walking away. We didn’t have time to react.

Yes, I have gone in search of filth, unwilling to look away. Looked away nonetheless. Then repeated the task to pass this test. My gag reflex long gone and still going away.

To come at it (phallic allusion) head on (phallic allusion) strikes us (phallic allusion) as uncouth (phallic allusion), and the talk-around spills like a bulge from a fly. Peekaboo. The sight of limp dicks always makes me cry.



They will come with their lists of beautiful images made of beautiful words, every poem the same in the headphones at the silent disco reading where I will be Persona Non Grata. Yo! Ho! how I have heard those words before!  Echoing down the walls of the granite cathedral where I smashed the green glass bottle of Tanqueray in the gravel after upending it on a lark.  Yes, I will be banned from this reading like I was banned from Yosemite National Park, because my submission to the eckphrastic contest was “alarming” as the woman’s email made clear. I have taken to spying when I can spy and obtained a copy of her call for readers because she picked a Kafka boy to curate. Not only did she not want me reading at the reading, she did not want me attending it either.  I gave her a false name back when she accosted me at the first viewing of the eckphrastic collaborations. I think she knew who I was. I made the unmentionable mistake of not knowing my audience. Shame. And now at the silent disco reading—where she squats on her chair like an eagle watching silver fish—I can’t for the life of me remember my name.

Barred from showing my face in the semi-circle of chairs, I will put on the headphones and wander the concrete floor of the brewery with my eye on the woman who doesn’t want me there. Standing at the bar drinking plastic cup after plastic cup of luke-warm water from the stainless steel tank. Able to look at myself again in the sweating silver of the convex cooler. Regardless of whether or not the woman who does the choosing for the pageant can stomach my presence at this family friendly forum.

Almost every creative writer in the program reads quietly from his or her phone, earphones on each and every head. Each and every poem beautiful as I seethe beneath the enormous stainless steel ceiling fan. It feels like an airplane hanger in here. Concrete and stainless steel. Silver blades chopping the heat. We must move beyond the glut of pretty things, I think. Pretty things that are pretty, of course, and terrible things that are pretty, of course, and banal things that are pretty, course. Which is hard for me to say because I believe in the beauty when the words wash upon me. But they are all the same. I believe. They have lost their ability to surprise. Become common in their very attempt to avoid commonality. All the pretty horses stream over the patchwork sward beneath the sky spread eagled for our pleasure.

Like that tubercular hero on the peak Mann’s Magic Mountain,

I feel I’m being fooled, led about in a circle, with my eye fixed on something that turns out to be a moving point. A moving point in a circle. For the circle consists of nothing but such transitional points without any extent whatever; the curvature is incommensurable, there is no duration of motion, and eternity turns out to be not ‘straight ahead’ but ‘merry-go-round’!

And everything, everything, everything turns out to be a euphemism. I cannot describe the contours of the word (world) I’m searching for. I see a woman spinning in circles who is the beginning of HOPE. She advises me to begin by going back to where I have been.

Barred from attendance at the end of the bar, seething as I listen to the images of my peers guild the sunlit sidewalk on the other side of the pane glass.  I think about how they used to sell tires in here. A wide-mouthed image of myself in stainless steel, wondering where I am. Remembering that golden feeling when—once upon a time—I was bound for the golden state.  Or else headed in the direction of Florida’s green keys—an ellipses strung out in blue sublimity. Feeling capable of mouthing the words of these readers even before these readers read them. Far away, they seem to be retreating through the long shadows of the afternoon. And I will wonder suddenly if I am shrinking, remembering a six inch story by Bukowski and all the rumors of Catherine the Great. Desensitized to everything that has ever been. Wanting only to talk to strangers with these words that I anticipate.

We have heard it all before, I will imagine them saying to me. We have heard it all before. We have heard it all before.


Nathan Dixon is pursuing a PhD in English Literature and Creative writing at the University of Georgia. His creative work has appeared in Tin House, the North Carolina Literary Review, and NAILED, among others. His one act play “Thoughts & Prayers Inc.” was recently chosen by National Book Award Winner Nikky Finney as the 48th Annual Winner of the Agnes Scott College Prize. His academic work has twice appeared in Renaissance Papers, where he previously served as assistant editor. He co-curates the YumFactory reading series in Athens, Georgia with Paul Cunningham.

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