Ladies and gentlemen, this is a hijack. Years lived mute, observing, absorbing, waiting for a time of passion and furious, astonishing life.
Then the cracks appear. After a while, everything false falls away or madness comes, a relief...another breath.
This is for all of those un-lived days, a distinct call for justice against paperwork, dead time and dishonesty. An embrace to confusion, the wild days and the dissection of masks & loveless times.
Contact can sometimes be found at - Tofeelalive (at) gmail (dot) com
'Elle est encore jeune, uh?' The question suddenly opened up a hatred towards roads and grey buildings and what it is to be alone. Some could see it immediately, like her. Vesh I were outside a supermarket counting the last of our small coins. He had the idea to buy gallons and gallons of water so as to not run out on the trip back west. It would mean finding a trailer to drag behind us to carry everything else we’d collected since making the trip up together from the south. It would mean walking the whole way back. 'Soon they'll be no nothing left', he said, grasping for his throat. He had not noticed the woman speaking to me. All he could think of was the desert. I had my shirt off, under the sun. I wanted my heart to roast and become coffee. I wanted it to burst in the face of the security guard patrolling the supermarket complex. I yearned for it to leave my chest and return only when full and ripe again, to break open with the nectar of accepted madness and tangible tenderness.
The woman pointed at the girl behind her. 'She's still young', she repeated in coarse French. 'She's still pretty and we'll pay 10,000'. Thoughts stuck to my forehead like wet cement. I couldn't get anything out but for the roads, the things, the stack of tiny silver pieces in front of us and the cars all thick grey smog licked and large. French often gets clogged somewhere in my lungs as if replacing blood with strong cheese, water with wine. It was the first time I’d spoken it for a couple of weeks and it wouldn’t breathe, nothing made sense. 'Hmmm', I slur. 'And we can keep recycle any water we consume', Vesh tells me, excitedly. 'She'll be a wonderful fit for it', the woman counters, prodding my ribs. 'For what?' Was I “it”? I shuffled on the spot and began to sweat. No matter what, I am caught off guard. Here of all places. But it’s her eyes that have me hanging. They cut at my skin everywhere they touch, stripping me bare to the guts. She prods me by the spaces between my ribs one by one. 'Parfait, parfait,' she murmurs. 'Quoi?' Kidneys. She wants a kidney. I can already feel one leaving, in her hands already, rocking back and forth. Pulsating. I could barely move. I keep having huge energy disappearances. Stolen by words and eyes and the big gaps in between what people say and what they do. What I mean and how I act. In her cupboard wobbles dozens of jarred kidneys. Only the best will do. But there’s always one more. Her sister must have the perfect fit. They jiggle there in the night, glistening. I begin to run. At least I got legs. Visions of empty organs. '20,000!', she yells. And so do the beeping cars, rolling over the roofs, heart thumping, still there, still working. '30,000, 40,000!' she gasps. But I have always been fast. Vesh remains with the stacks of coins and the woman runs too and I can tell she is used to this kind of chase. I do not know if I can last.
But I do. And at night the kidneys come for me jumping into bed, the squidge of their tread carrying 40,000 francs in sealed checks. The largest, in a suit, sits on my chest bowing. You learn to sleep through almost everything. Vesh was correct. It’s all due to the water. We lead two camels across the Swiss border. But they will not allow them on the island but I must be here. I must be now. My heart has become my kidneys.
Image - graffiti in Brick Lane, London by Otto Schade : Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Je vous construirai une ville avec des loques, moi! / I will build you a city out of rags - Henri Michaux, Contre / Counter, 1934
it was midday and the mountain sun pressed against our skin I am slithering back towards feeling good again, this day. The feeling of doom had slipped away in the Spanish Pyranees. Now we were in the kind of noman’s land of Andorra, the tiny country nestled between Spain and France. And my voice was deep. It’s only deep when I’m sick. When I am coughing out my heart. There are stories of people who speak Spanish in Catalonia and have been beheaded. I am trying my best to appreciate it while it’s still there / He came to us while we were beginning a feast, for the third time this morning he had found us, small things grow in stature when you have little. We grinned, splitting our mouths open. I felt well with him immediately when he stopped. He was travelling with a truck to save the bees before they all disappeared. Me encanto el miel, he tells us. Pero estamos jodiendo todo. Everything is changing, he believes. They only want you to believe that what you do doesn’t matter. It’s all a lie. The borders are all just lines. And more than that, the borders of all. The way we look at people. Just as he was saying this, a man in orange crosses the road towards us. 'Joder, tio, estos maravillosos chicos,' he said, speaking to Benni. 'Viajando, tanto libre…' I was in disguise. He did not know I understood. He did know sometimes we were not maravilloso. Of the times when I coughed and wheezed and thought of all the things that were not true but that which I once believed. He showed his arm. He got this when he was a teenager. He stole from people, he was a cabron towards people dear to him but ‘no he hecho algo muy malo’ he said as if begging us to believe him. He could have been like us, he could have been gnawing his fingers when starving, he could have been travelling and passing the time with people’s explosions. When people just come and open up as if they had been waiting for it for years. Upon his arm was a jigsaw piece. 'He got it when he was still young', I translate for Es. I’m watching his eyes. Tears are forming. It’s been a long time since I saw a man cry. He has the eyes of a kid searching for some kind of acceptance, understanding. I was afraid he would just stop and turn away but he continued. He speaks a strong, thick Spanish crawling with slang. It makes me smile. I always felt Spanish from Spain to be particularly creative and colourful in comparison to the more formal Latin American Spanish, closer in the usage of the informal tu rather than usted. 'He's saying that his life is a prison and joder, he see's people like us and just breaks down and thinks of all the things that he cannot do', I tell S. He just watches his eyes. Watching this man split open in front of us, tears streaming down his face. 'Pero, eleges tu vida, eleges cada respiracion y como ves la vida.' I tell him. He looks at me, surprised, as if I had burst through his dream. 'Hay muchusimas formas de viajar, amigo. Yo, estoy viajando asi ahora. A veces en papel. En suenos, en conversaciones, en los canciones en el bano.' The mother of his children had stolen all his money. La puta calle, la puta calle, no puedo, he kept shouting. He couldn’t become homeless, out in the street. And I asked him what he dreamed of at night. And he stuttered. And at last he replied, donkeys in the mountains. And they were collapsing. They will not collapse tonight. They will go on or go back, but they will not fall down. Why the jigsaw piece? Because it cannot fit anywhere. My eyes open wide and my chest full of laughter. In six months I have felt myself in a forest of trees without leaves, where I could see for miles and there was no one. But constantly, in these months, things come to me telling me, it is not true. Look closer. In winter there is growth. La puta calle no es tan malo. I will take my heart and let it dry out. You cannot drown forever. 'I will cut off my arm', he says, pointing at the tattoo. 'No.' Benny and I both say in unison. I liked the jigsaw puzzle and Benny thought the arm would be useful for some things. He leaves. Benny leaves. I swallow. We will attempt to picnic again.
He had so many poems that he tried to empty his pockets, burn the drafts, - Shklovsky on Mayakovsky
Our ride out there had picked us up come nightfall . Bread in our stomachs. But it no longer counted as food. Like rabbit or stones passing through us. He was shocked when we climbed in. As if we had explosives attached to us. He told me that he thought I was from there from the way I pronounced his language. It had shook him. His French flirted with that of the border we were crossing. Simple words, man, numbers, sun becoming chico, uno dos tres, sol. it made me laugh for I could understand it all. "I don’t like to sleep so much," he said. Again, I find myself wondering how things might have gone if we hadn’t a language in common. Instead, here he spoke to me in two, both of which were not my own. I asked when he slept. "Deeply for one night. Then starving, ravaged, full movements for the next days. Living in constant intensity." I pondered about driving at night. He would drive 500km to see a friend, pass the night talking until the day break and then drive back to be on time for work - constructing ancient roofs across the country. Perhaps I would do the same in a different life. Listen. S could understand little. He was a yawning moon of some lost land. Language had suddenly made me feel strong after months of falterings. I became solid, away from constant miss-communication. Here, breathe deep. I opened up a jar of mountain air I had travelled with since Oaxaca. The importance, at least, of feeling strong in order to live well. I have passed too many days in the slums of the cracks in my feet. No more, no more. I couldn’t explain this a week before with Gabriela. I couldn’t show her how broken I’d become in Mexico. How astonished small acts of kindness still appeared for me. How I abhorred the feeling of looking at someone’s shoelaces and hoping they would offer them to me, even if I didn’t need them. How I never wanted to feel like this again. How a truck driver in Puebla had given me a small bag of corn and how it had been as if treated to a week of five course meal. To constantly be astonished. To expect nothing at all. But it steals guts. Despite everything, it is hard to believe. And hurt digs the tombs of broken men.
Antoine paid attention to the road closely. He breathed deep from the jar and smiled and wrinkles appeared in the corners of his eyes. Halfway there, in the mountains, he swerved to avoid a curled up ball. I had sworn it was something larger than the gato he kept murmuring. We backtracked a long while on the deserted road. Whatever it was, it had moved on. I suddenly felt a feeling of endearment towards this man driving through the people-less hours to Lleida to see his friend after returning from seeing his girlfriend, a young intelligent woman from Guatemala who he met within one of his night wanderings. She learnt French much quicker than he with Spanish. "You speak so well," he said, turning to me. I laughed. I could only see the mistakes I made but it was returning to me, little by little, infused with various street words and children’s euphemisms. I had just began to feel that it was ridiculous to not master whatever it was that I was practising. I wanted to go deep with it all, to feel good and satisfied with my work and efforts. Fuck, where does one even begin anyhow? Regardless, half of it was how we feel whilst doing it. A hunter shooting at his foot in the middle of a desert.
We got out under the night sky, bathed in starlight. He had given us two pieces of jamon despite our protests. He had found it impossible to believe that we would not eat it. In the bushes S took them and disappeared for some minutes. He came back with a stomach that looked remarkably bigger. I cursed and chewed upon mountain corn with my mind within ancient roofs with hidden letters containing stories of people who I will never meet. Strands of corn hair stick to the cracks between my teeth.
Drawing - James Ensor (1860-1949) - Les mauvais médecins, 1895
There are friendships that die when love dies You bury them inside your throat to not speak of them
Some nights you grab your throat to remember - VM, from “please do not die on me : a love letter”
It was still winter and I was almost done. I was leaving. I had began to feel. Cutting off body parts. Each one carried houses of memories and feelings. But no one ever lived in them. They began to rot. They began to sink. You can only look the other way for so long.
Elevia is there. We’re about to start the dance group. She will be my partner. She will look at me as if I were an old train yard. She had told me of how her last partner, almost the only, had stood in her bedroom with the most important book in the world to her and tore it to pieces. He had sneered at how she could find something that was so little so valuable. I knew it was because he felt threatened by it. His grandfather had given it to her. She stood there with little pieces of the pages stuck to her skin, to her forearms, to her cheeks. Drowning in her blood. I wanted to scoop them all up and repair together again, even years later. She wore the same shoes as she had bought from the zapateros in Michochan, where we went to search for caterpillars. I remember stopping in the middle of the road on that trip. We were somewhere in the desert. A vulture flew above. I could see its beak clear. Like cockroaches, I just felt a little sorry for them. I wanted it to come and pick me up, cut me up into little pieces. Because I had began to disappear. I mean, it’s absurd how people can make us feel like this. But anyway. I had forgotten. I had thought that I was strong enough this time. And how terrible it was that the vulture couldn’t come down and get me.
She wasn’t even doing a good job at being in disguise. She could have at least tried so as I wouldn’t recognise her. She had the biggest eyes that I had ever adored and not one would fall upon me. We began the dance. She could do it as if she had been moving like this in the womb. I began to cough. All my life it has gone to my throat or my belly. The voiceless, the weight. I began to cough up my half-Spanish tongue, felt it pressed against my front teeth in a R that I could never normally roll and said nothing more. Everything else would have been ridiculous anyhow. She looked the other way. It was preferable. I didn’t want to know what she was doing here. I had began to give it all up. I would walk the streets of Cuernavaca and give letters to the old women selling spiced corn. I would tell them. They would understand. It would let off the weight even if they looked bewildered. Perhaps they only understood matters of corn like I with tea.
'Jass?' The way she said it was like being scolded. I turned to her. 'Have you really spent all this time since I last saw you just rolling your R's?' It had become a meditation. 'And nothing else?' She looked down at me from below. 'Eso es tu vida y nada mas?' I rolled one more and began to laugh. It was exactly the same as when I started. Her hand was upon the small of my back as we went through the rhythms. She began to speak again. I leaned forward and bit, as quick as a Mexican rattlesnake, upon her tongue. Not deep, but enough to draw blood. It was time to bid farewell. I picked up my briefcase full of air two line letters to everyone I’ve ever know. And I leave this town once and for all.
image - ‘Atlas de Zoologie : ou Collection de 100 Planches by Paul Gervais (1844) is a supplementary volume of illustrations, originally produced for a large French series on zoology published between 1816 and 1830.’ (viaBibliOdyssey: Zoological Atlas)
— Write. Do not doubt, I mean: do not deny poetry. — That is not easy. — I know. — It is not easy to find words again, I mean to relearn words or relearn to speak. It’s a little as if you were coming to after seventeen years in a coma and you heard yourself pronounce a single word: “write,” without any idea what the word means. - excerpt from Jean Daive’s Under the Dome: Walks with Paul Celan
but write. More and more I have become aware that there is a floating sensibility within my generation of disappearing and withholding. I no longer know what is real. What people really mean. What desires are our desires and which are theirs. I swim in rivers and find five eyed toads. I am astonished…flabbergasted by the continuous clawing out of eyes. More we refuse to see. More we refuse to feel. And absent. Like people that are not inside of themselves. I have thousands of stories to write but they all form a whole. So I must find somewhere to give birth to thoughts that are as one with the days that I live. Nothing that is said is true. We make plans for fire ants to march off with them as a king before devouring them. I will not. At the very least my plans will be absurd and my desires unspoken.
Last night I sat down to a dinner with a pheasant named Henri. We spoke of the last time each one of us had screamed till our lungs felt like bursting with flames. Mine was last week. I have got into the habit of losing people. But this one was for myself. Now - I am writing myself back.
image - Finding a mammoth tusk, Alaska in the early 1900’s, Dave Gove, National Geographic.