Tuesday, August 25, 2009


He wears a half-face mask, understanding its redundancy. He sees it as an ironical comment on -- well, on everything. He wears a long black cape lined with red, and bounds into a room like mad Hamlet, expecting fanfare and providing his own. With a broad sweep of his arm he swings the wide-brimmed hat off his head and bows as deep as his knees. It is gallantry, and suits somehow his lanky form as flesh suits bone. Seeing that everyone’s a clown, long ago he selected his role and plays out the pantomime with earnest intensity. It must pass for integrity. So many broken toys. So many haunted corners. So many shuddering inhalations.

Understanding also the imperfection of words, he uses them the way a juggler uses plates. They are amusements. They are the smoke and the mirrors of his soul. They are flame and candlewax. They are ashes and he throws them into the wind, showered and growing gray as distant rain. Another mask, of sorts -- but what isn't?

Sometimes he hears the blood behind his eyes and his face, and his half-face grows numb and slack. He stares, blind, at visions like painful memories and every sense becomes possessed with dread and certainty -- like lost nightmares called and numbered and named.

Sometimes the crowing mountainpeaks grow silent before his gaze, their crags dreary as weathered headstones, their melting caverns still as serpents. Saffron waters drip from concave cliffs and evaporate before they reach the convulsing seas under the reddened sun. Beneath his eyes a vast pale plain extends northward, stirring only with the hushed sighs of stunted scrub and low-lying thistles. Solitude nods and bobs between the moon and the stars, and only cold marks the shifting of the day.

On the shores of the churning scarlet sea, in the black volcanic sands that skirt its hungry currents, he sees scraped out like runes, pressed in like cuneiform, what must be words, preserved by some presiding spirit in the world for a purpose unknown even to itself. What meaning, what meaning? He sees them, and knows their form. But he turns without reading and moves along the shore until it bends away while he goes straight. Soon the angry surging of the waves becomes the breathless sigh of thistles whispering beneath his feet.

He wears a mask. Even he doesn't know what lies under it. He listens for the burning of a candle. He hears blood. He hardly speaks.


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