Men Stand Up and Being Walking

The yokels ripped our guts away and strung them up over doorways. That was their duty, by order of the Officials, on pain of not being overlooked. Moot points stuck in our feet and stigmatized us. We hobbled about moaning and asking for some salvation which was not forthcoming. Oblation and ablation are both ugly processes ending often in complete destruction of the subject in question. We have engaged in both, and survived, sometimes to our chagrin. We had been raped and thrown out into the ancient cobbled streets; we choked in the knee deep dust and floundered like fish without water. The sun froze our brains. The street was a ravine, the buildings were ridiculously tall cliffs, they bent over us like old men; but the sun burned through their paper windows and fell on us like a malignant spot light. We flowed down the street like refuse down a gutter, and rolled like tumbleweeds out of the town. We looked back in longing for the comfort that had been ours there, but now the creaking buildings were facades, the people slept on dirt inside their doorways, they did not understand. We moaned, scratched at our strange, new eyes, stumbled away from our homes and out into the wastelands.

We came upon an oasis shining golden in angelic glory, like the frame of a mirror, and among the trees and lakes and hills and gardens there sprawled, long and languid, a palace of mighty Arab grandeur. We saw the joy and riches of a happier time lying ripe and luxuriant before us, and we climbed over each other rushing towards a possible new paradise. But a wild mouse in ancient style livery leaped before us with a flourish and blocked our passage. His feet were like slippers, and his eyes like buttons, shiny and new, and his fur was made of gray felt. He wiggled his whiskers lightly, like a Japanese fan. He had in his tiny paws a gigantic musket which was longer than himself, but he did not point it at us, he held it like a piece of luggage; a spider lived in its muzzle. The spider's name was Gonzalez.

"Deter!" the mouse cried. "Deter and desist! This is the private estate of Emilio Juarez-Vega! Trespassing shall result in a week in the stocks, and then a bout of fencing with the master himself, from which many do not escape alive! Or intact, anyway! Yes, many an unfortunate and stupid pobre muchacho has come out missing a limb from the gymnasium of the eminent swordsman, Emilio Juarez-Vega! Indeed, even last March, I myself lost a leg..." We left him behind, finding his prattle confusing and ridiculous.

"Mooch from another, my fine mauled compadres," said the President of Pakistan, whom we had come upon standing naked among the rocks, "I indulge in giving only in the proper season! At the moment, I am indulging in myself. Be gone or I shall cast thee into the hell of my fathers!" No one would give us anything, even the hairs off their heads, with which we might have woven clothing. We had left behind all that could have saved us. We were in Arizona, I think, or Las Vegas. Anyway, it was hot, and there was sand and palm trees. The palm trees looked sometimes like crosses with drooping, decaying bodies hanging carelessly off of them, like shirts casually draped over the backs of tall, thin chairs. The bodies, the tattered thoughtless rags, the fronds of leaves. The wind tickled them, washed them with whisking brushes of the desert's ghostly fingers, made them swing, slowly, sadly.

We gasped for air, groaned like martyrs, held our bloated stomachs as if to hold in children who wanted out too early. We touched our bellies gently, with dirty, shredded fingertips. We wandered like the Jew of the story; it seemed like the world was an empty trail lined with dead things, which shook themselves as we passed; like old, wet dogs they got achingly to their feet and shook, their chains and bones rattling together. They were angry, or sad. We did not analyze motives, we only kept to the center of the path. The camel was coming the other way when he stopped at the side of the road and stared searchingly into each pair of eyes as we passed. The camel chewed like a cow, moving his lower jaw back and forth like a typewriter. When we had all passed him he said, "You are the men who came before me. Now I go behind you, to the place where I was born. May death take you in sleep, or not at all." And we repeated the litany, like holy men, saying, "Yea, may death take us in sleep, or not at all. This God is the God of my fathers, and not to be trusted." The camel disappeared into the distance. When we looked behind us the last time, he looked like another yellow hillock, a smaller dune among the many others, cooking and rippling in the hallucinatory atmosphere of the boiling desert air. A towheaded youth, moving slowly without a body into the distance, the wind running its hands through his hair.

"I find you repulsive," the lizard under the rock said to us, flicking his tongue and glaring reprovingly. "You are the fools, the sand is got into your heads somehow, through the ears, maybe." His skin was made of pebbles, black and yellow pebbles, his eyes were little glass beads. He sat in the shadows like a mobster, not moving except to flick his tongue like a disappointed mother. "Come to the House of Stone, why don't you, rest in the Not-Light, eh? Gah!" He spat like an old man. The inside of his mouth was pink and wet. "Estupidos! The lizard tells you. Better to rest than walk in the Day-Fire. Cool yourself." We moaned, for he looked like the rat, even spoke like him, we could not understand. We walked on, through day and noon and afternoon. At times, we seemed to walk off the desert, walk off the world like off of a film strip in a cartoon. Everything went white and there was nothing around us. We gasped, thinking we had found an outerspace without darkness, or perhaps the womb again. But the sensation would pass away in a moment and the desert would fade in once again, and we would groan only louder, grasping our bellies as if we were men who, holding balloons, were pulled off the earth, so that when the strings broke away, we could only grasp the balloons themselves as tight as we dared, fearing they would pop, but fearing always the long fall down. Our intestines were the strings, and we had lost them long ago, even before we walked out of the empty, pasteboard city.

We were floating away, our feet moved us, we did not feel them anymore. The blood trailed behind us from our holy heels, poked clean through by the sharp retorts of The Officials, who had found our documents wanting in signatures. Though we were numb from ankles down, we hobbled anyway through habit. Our flesh clung to us like leeches. We wanted to tear it away, but dared not tempt the terrible fates. The fates were three in number, in name they were Atrophy, Lacquer, and Cloak. We ate them for breakfast usually, but now they were heavy in our guts, filling in the hollows, dragging us down and across strange wastelands of the spirit. We spat gobs of blood onto the rippling garbage heaps. The flies lied to us. We believed them, followed the signs of animal passing, ate the dung of the gray horses that pass by in the dark of the moon like a far off thunder bolt, trampled down the grasses in desperate out of season dances, ground our bones over the dry earth to the temples of our great great great grandfathers, fell gasping at the feet of a stone animal-headed deity of death and blood and sex and asked at last what was to be done. He told us. His mouth moved, he began to speak. We jumped up, leaped about, smashed into each other, and yelled wordlessly, for we could not remember words. A god was speaking to us! A god, a god at last! We wept searing tears; the floor of the stone temple bubbled under the rain of our humanity, failing some kind of acid test. The idol shook like an angry fist, roared out a command. But we recognized the sound of loud speakers, realized the stone was styrofoam, saw the Officials crouching behind their creation. We wailed in despair and rage, turned on the Officials and tore them apart, burned their flesh in reverence to their false god, waited for an omen that would presage our joyous resurrection.

We waited long into the night. When the morning came, we were gone. In the pitch of the dark our bodies had finally wasted away. Then we were crucified on the stars, and the hot points of light burnt out our eyes.

1/28/97, 1/31/97, 2/3/97, 2/4/97, 2/14/97, 2/17/97, 4/22/99

Jim Genzano

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