A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
“I’ll be quick,” he says, and he is. To speak to our group you’re required to qualify so he begins: “We found the bottom of stupid and dug us a hole.” He says at the end he was runnin on empty. He says even in the joint they didn’t have no trouble gettin product and once when they couldn’t, why, a bunch of them shot up whatever, fools that they all was -- even lighter fluid, skim off of boiled mayonnaise. And then some died, or started floppin around “like chickens after you axe them.” (He was raised a farm kid, never mind the crude blue stupid tattoos). Just like he was sayin, the bottom of stupid. The bottom: that was it, and the hole we dug below it. The hole we all dug. “They did that partly because they loved the spike. It’s crazy: they loved the drug first, true, but also the spike.” There is stupid and stupid of course, he says, because in some ways they wasn’t stupid. Like they learnt how you could go to the rec room and when the screw was noddin or readin or talkin to someone else you yanked out a wire from the beat-ass piano. Now if you could get a Walkman motor and a bottle cap, you could put the motor in the cap and fill the cap with ink and take that plastic tube from a ballpoint and run the wire through it down in the ink. That was that, your tattoo kit: start the motor, the wire’s your needle, slicker’n shit. He has Truth on his left forearm for some reason. He has 1% on his right. He says Charlene’s on a buttock, but of course he doesn’t show us. He says he don’t know what God is and truth is, he don’t care: somehow or another he’s right here with us, “And meantime a lot of them’s dead or crazy or still in stir -- so why me? Why any of us?” He thanks God. He remembers how he read about the wise man’s knowledge turnin out to be foolish. Read it in solitary (for the tattoos). In the hole. And the fool’s foolishness the other way around. He was both a wise-ass and a fool -- no high school, let alone college -- so if he has any wisdom he’s here to prove a fool can get it. There’s a lot of appreciative laughing, but some of us feel more than a little uncomfortable with the God stuff so we stay silent. Some of us don’t really want him to read what he reads, which is Psalm 28, including the part that says O Lord my rock be not silent to me lest if thou be silent I become like those who go down in the pit. He’s a Bible nut someone whispers. But then again we are all of us alive. A lot of people aren’t. That mayonnaise stunt. The lighter fluid. The time when one of us drove through the bridge across the river and we hung till we got saved. The time one of us came to in our bathroom with the toilet seat all bashed to bits in the mess of puke on the floor and we stood up and didn’t know ourselves and fell again and stood up again and the blood was like a brown mask on our face in the mirror. We didn’t know our own face but we didn’t die. Down in the pit. Down in the bottom of stupid. “Someone, I don’t know what it would be... or something,” he claims -- “Something could hear me cry.”
Sydney Lea’s books include Here (Four Way, 2019).
Copyright 2020 Sydney Lea