The Gaping Mouths of the Godless Pilgrims
I have a lump in the middle of my chest. I have been notified that a solid mass is growing there. We read about this sort of thing happening all of the time, but now it’s happening to me, and it’s unreal. I can’t see it. Believe me I’ve looked. Maybe you have too, you’ve checked, you’ve searched. Some say we all have it, or will get it eventually. Maybe it’s in you, only small, dormant, unnurtured, waiting for the perfect time to erupt and spread itself throughout the body.
Though I cannot see it I’ll try to explain what it now feels like, though, in the hopes of rounding what must always be lopsided and twisted, a horse with shorter legs on one side, blinded and walking endlessly in circles. Sometimes it feels as if I have some sort of second head inside my chest, its skull bones covered in a flesh carapace made entirely out of mouths. The mouths beg ceaselessly, at once chick-needy, catfish-ungainly, big fat smacking lips begging, begging for what exactly, and for what reason do they persist? Why are they so hungry? The underwhelming unreality of a viscera-wet mouthy hollow stone.
I’ve provided you instructions for its virtual simulation and replication. I’m not sure how I know about the existence of the mass but I do sense as surely as I perceive light and heat that it is desperate and ugly and painful. Doctor, please, I beg you, it must be pried out, excised, exorcised. It hurts when I do this, or that, or anything, or nothing. Doctor, help. With a dog hump clockwork it repeatedly burps its demand for the latest in surgical resection. Want out, want out, want out. Don’t you hear it, Doc? We should agree on this, Doctor, and let’s not talk about what ends if you do remove it. Death is hardly a complication.
The answer is that a tree which falls in the woods
makes no sound. Another thing that isn’t heard
is that the earth’s chest is jolted as it hits the ground.
This lodged object is surprisingly radioactive. It is so hot it burns, it makes a grown man sick, it gums up our lymph glowing salted cobalt blue, it splits and fissures and spits deadly ions so energetic they fly through walls of concrete. Strangely, it casts the sort of light that casts shadows of itself, as if it were a solo show in its own makeshift cavern. Shadow puppets for a blind audience who never were going to attend anyway.
I imagine for a moment I can remove it. Once my son and my daughter have left the house I might grab one of their toy swords laying about, then carve open my chest with the dull plastic blade, pry the damned thing out, and beat it into a more reasonable shape. Perhaps then I can place the unruly object on a shelf, line it up on the mantle over the hearth by the family vacation photos, everyone’s faces shining in the extraordinary pink light of various setting summer suns, take photographs of the thing as it rests on that shelf and share those pictures on Facebook for all to comment upon. At home. A home, that house, anyway, whatever that is as well. Perhaps even the slightest knowledge of it being, if only for a moment, seen, may soften it.
Questions remain. Where does it belong? Where should it now reside? How exactly should it be handled?
Maybe I don't rip out and take pictures of the thing. Maybe I just head out to the local sadomasochism and bondage shop, order up for it one of those cute little verbal lashings you hear about, squeeze the lump down into utterly irrelevant smallness. Perhaps by such abuse and contortion it can be cornered and forced to swallow itself.
It is once again the 4th of July. We have arrived
at freedom once more but the date will change.
Movement ensues. Time is neither fork nor fortune.
The countersign for this pilgrimage is doubt
but you arrived at a loss for watchwords.
All ten guards of the party stood vigilant
but they were all depressed. Hidden in each man’s chest
a grim image of wandering, each taking wrong turns at every juncture.
The guards held a meeting where they revealed to one another
the very vision they shared. Upon this revelation
each fell down upon the shady lawn in sleep and, relieved, began to dream.
They dreamt of mutiny but when they awoke
they were agape upon learning they had no bosses, no one to protect.
Some say this thing is not a singular thing but one component of a system conducting a great orchestra. It is only noise and shards of decomposing dream-parts, each flying off in seemingly random directions, each projecting its light back upon us: one beach here, eight mountains there, a singular porch, eight feet on a railing, four of them old, but a pair of hands one folded on the other, warming, in the measured beats of the softest life, there it goes, there it is above us the pearl the silver in this dark, flying, fading, watching it collect dust right not here but there, not close, not forever, just passing away. All of that, you agree, and yet there’s hope for it? Get it out. Right now it damn sure aches here keenly. Please let me be a body free of this heart.
Patrick Herron is an information scientist and poet from Chapel Hill, NC, US. He is Senior Research Scientist in Media Arts + Sciences at Duke University where he also teaches in the MFA Program in Experimental and Documentary Arts. He is the author of Be Somebody (Effing Press, 2008), a book Ron Silliman described as being “difficult in the way the very best books are.” Patrick is also the author of The American Godwar Complex (Blaze VOX, 2004) as well as the chapbooks, Man Eating Rice (Blaze VOX), and Three Poems (Gateway Songbooks). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as Exquisite Corpse, Jacket, Talisman, Oyster Boy, Fulcrum, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and in the anthology 100 Days (Barque Press).