by Greg Bachar
CLOWN ON A BLACK CROSS
"Sufferation of solitude and place!
You were a flier in silver-gray shawls,
simile of storm-anger. 'Whose clansman
are you?' they ask, and you answer:
'I am of the race of heaven.'"
I was balanced on the blueswing of an oxen's sadstained tin globe, its bambootrigger shacks and hovels collapsed beneath the weight of an eerily-eared monkey's disaster. Not that the night had given up on me, no, nothing like that, but I was not about to leave the house to go searching for my Katya's lost braid, last seen slithering into the swampy murk beneath city hall's trampled felt lion's feet.
I fell spittle-shingled into the exploding fountain's metallic grasp. Its shacklehand's grip went unletup until I released the hopesong from my heart: swimming stream of built-up, pent-in implosive love: tears, rash, delirium, distended sense of time, an abundant awareness of unreality, odd hungers that I foolishly held on to the way a dancing horse keeps time with its hoof to the beat of a Roman mazurka.
My ship landed in a soft patch of grass. We celebrated our arrival with aquamarine glasses of wurn. Oftentimes we spoke of past glories: "I will fly, I will beckon the mothership home: we will dance around the flymozzled offal cloud in the shimmying yellow of the sun-nickel's eye. No ghosts, no darkness, no fear. In their place, the cold liquid metal of featherlight caresses: chills in the spine, chills in the head!"
We discovered once again that we have great difficulties in trying to understand one another. Similar problems once existed between the sloths and the lowly mink, but look how they have resolved their configuration of malaise and mutual neglect! Let us learn from their heartwarming tale, let us celebrate with a pint of winter ale in the garden's glassed-in tavern.
The Kiblingers exchanged glances with The Mohair Unit. Too early to predict whether or not there would be full cooperation between the deckhands and the upwardly-mobile floribunda. The strength of their sneezes toppled all our cardhouses from miles away as we observed through telescopes from the perch of our specially-equipped yellow and white striped field tent. We saw a man die of his own laughter, we saw airships flown by hyena-faced wolves in penguin suits. Later that day, our post was recalled to the rear and I never saw such strange beauty again. That is why I am making this voyage now: to finish the lexigraphical accompaniment to my modest tome.
That night, we ate thin yellow pancakes weighed down with dollops of sweet sour cream and apricot jam, sprinkled over with a brief flurry of powdered sugar. Uncle Victor laughed so loud that his glass eye popped out of his head and landed in the butter. Professor Volkov had a thought: "One day, talented meaniemen will build a mothership, travel backwards in time, and fool us all into submission. What will happen then?" He licked his jam-dipped spoon and lifted a steaming cup of coffee to trembling lips. We looked at him and sensed that he was afraid, a fact that did not make any of us feel good. Still, I asked for another pancake and licked my plate clean in the kitchen when I was done. One last cookie, then it was off to bed.
The Republicans moved in on the small enclosure of resistance fighters with a battalion of yawning tanks looking to make quick meat of the well-trained but misled intelligentsia. The tanks were stencilled with white letters that said: "Nowhere is safe." Flamethrowers prepared to spit their juices over the heads and upturned faces of these poor, waylaid children. A sun of unrecognizable hue cast an indifferent raygaze over the pock-marked planet. Its blind eye the moon opened its torn limp lid with the rehabilitated horns of ostrich nerves. There was the moon's first love, the Earth! She hung in her silk hammock from a hook at the edge of the universe. The moon cried an ecstatic's tear. Torn sheet screams ripped from the blowhole of its mouth. The Earth rocked gently in her netswing and wiggled shakerattle toes against the chill of the lonely solar wind.
So many things had been written about the author's agitation, his lethargy, his careless and partial preoccupation with detail. That winter, late at night, he often opened his eyes and thought: "I don't care about anything." In fact, all the author cared about was love. Meanwhile, in a space station far above the Earth, Volkov floated awake in his sleeping pouch, stricken with insomnia and a desire to tramp through snow with big boots on his feet and a bottle of vodka in his hands. He listened to the snores of the other crew members and thought about his Katya, picking black currants near their stream for pies to be eaten on the porch swing at sunset, the sound of crickets in the air, heat lightning in the sky. Volkov missed the Earth. He missed his Katya and everything he was unable to be near. There was nothing he could do about his longing, though, so he closed his eyes and waited for sleep.
A silver ring sleeps beneath moon-glowing snow. A repairman emerged from the heating duct. "Here's the problem," he said, holding up a rabbit's head the size of a ripe autumn cabbage. "No wonder you've been cold." Volkov's cousin Pasha shivered and said: "Well, at least from now on..." She wanted the duct man to leave soon. Any moment now Capstan would arrive. She wanted to be his first impression when he entered the room, not this unwholesome brute in damp green overalls, the smell of old garlic seeping from every one of his pores like squid oozing through pearl-illuminated coral reefs.
"Am I a scientist or an artist?" she thought to herself. The duct man burped in the kitchen and emerged with the rabbit head in a clear plastic bag. "Bowling," he said. Pasha paid him in cash and opened the door. "Be seeing you," she said, and: "By the way, what were the rabbit's last thoughts?" The duct man turned, held the bag level with his eyes and said: "Homesickness, or perhaps jealousy." Pasha closed the door and turned to face her apartment. It was one of those moments where, without any extreme gestures to provoke an alchemical change in behavior, Pasha knew that everything had changed, nothing would ever be the same again: he would never love her, there would never be an identifiable moment of contentment for the rest of her life. "No, no," she told herself, "Don't collapse like a fallen lung or a failed souffle." Cicadas hummed on the balcony and tapped against the window. Warm Santa Ana winds blew through the olive trees. A coyote padded silently down the middle of the early morning street, before dawn, before the first day of real tribulation.
I am the harem or rage. I am the moon's lost side, fountains dotting my two platters like gold leaf leftovers fallen to the herbalist's sawdust floor. Okay, none of that. I am the mailman, here is your mail, good day. The butcher is of heartier stock than I, but I am the mailman. Are you waiting for a letter? I will deliver it, not he, not the butcher. He's only good for meat. The letters I bring offer so much more in the way of visceral entertainment, vicarious extravagances. I know because I peek. You people are naughty, naughty, naughty. I'll finger you, dirty pricks and dishes all.
The Doctor: "Men and women of Mars, why do you still hide from us? Did Viking frighten you?" Mother Of All Battles, I miss you. Things are tough here too. There are Texans at every turn. The Alamo is not history. Now for an infusion of fresh plasma: we squandered a huge lead, we fumbled the ball. Lost in small Belgian villages, we looked at maps beneath a gray ceiling of sky. For three days running, we forgot our brothers and sisters in space, on other planets hurtling through the universe. How could we forget our extended family? But we did. Our own spaceship refused to fly. No way to repair it here on Earth. We are stranded.
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