Mt. Meru in Bloom
Words: Dylan Debelis
Photography: Hailey Still
his book completed in an army chest at the foot of my bed a few springs later. Pages were smeared with liquids. Fact-checked with his memory but his memory was
i. “She has these eyes like a native American princess who just buried her husband. Her whole village is vying for her white skin and chieftess power. And now what is she going to do with herself when each pupil touch changes a mans’ life; piercing water and creating waves. She sits on a lawn chair on the deck of the SS Spiderwebs reading The Open Boat by Stephen Crane. The ocean is incredible through her eyes like more of a signal fire than rolling... um...” In our apartment in New York. In the middle of the night after candle was out and timed air conditioner shut down. I’d slap her awakey-wake and crash snap pop out a bloody baby from my mouth. Every new night birthed a wailing freshborn story. Every tale trailed off my lips into the silence of the street, letting the plot breathe like an open wound. I would stutter,
mumble, end with um, and she would sutcher the plot holes closed. We accumulated hundreds of ums. “...um” “One time the crew dressed her up like a sexy pirate and the night ended on a dowel rod raft off the west waterfront in Manhattan. Almost got sucked in by a cruise ship propeller and God got a good laugh, sent down water, washed out out out. But no one likes hearing about God except the prophets and the prophet followers. And here God is only as big as the elephants that carry the Muslim riders to their temple...”
ii. Your body is oily from days without showering. But you bought a new button-down with the last of your shillings. Tonight you’re going to church whether you like it or not. You’re going because of the pull. The nag is familiar. Every bone in your serpent body is opening its marrow. The holy spirit passes painless. The hymn is the same. The one your mother used to sing.
iii. Trench-coat said to me, “There are no words to describe what I am going through. The words written here are written fully knowing their failure. Language is a false negotiation of truth. Fiction and non fiction are both insufficient representation. Books and poems are only efficient as the anthropology of the I. The only question you can hope to answer in these pages, by reading and interpreting these mechanisms, is “who am I?.” There is no falsity here, just what you read and what you choose not to read. This text is magical because it will bleed into you as much as it has bled out of me. If you let it. Our diseases can become one if you let them. So let’s begin.”
iv. India was a beautiful man. He had long black hair, high kissable cheekbones. He had stubble but no beard. He wore suits to work but under those suitsoh! India had secrets he would never tell, but he would beckon you from his shop doorway, clay palm down, winking. He would embrace you naked inside the folds of his silk beds. It’s real hot in there but his touch makes you forget. His breath is sweet jaggary and spiced chai. His incense consumes you. But then… After every action has been resolved, every
climax reached, every spat spit, every seam ripped and sewn again. Two months after you needed him and he was there to fulfill every unexpressed fantasy you had built up over a lifetime, your phoneline veins receive the call from your mistress, whose hair smells like the opera house and Hollywood. You leave India on the tarmac, he’s choking back tears in strong green hollows his eyes have sunk into. You do not break promises. India was a beautiful man. You will take his secrets to your grave.
He removed his bandanna and the growls grew. They sunk into every stitch of my skin and then began rattling what my skin was stitching in. My jaw ached and my lungs started crying like an orphan who had just realized… I voiced my intense desire for eucalyptus to Dr. Anil Joshi. “So, it’s begun.” v. Dr. Anil Joshi’s red bandanna was magic. I went to his mountain one night in the fall. The tent was made out of pine needles, the brown dead ones underneath. He sat on an acorn encrusted throne. I kneeled at his feet. My lips flapped numb when he stood, raised his staff, and touched each of my ailing limbs. Dr. Anil Joshi sounded like a grizzly bear so half his words came out of growls, as growls, or turned into growls. These growls were magic.
Colors sprouted from his shoulder blades. Rainbows congealed like silk string through a loom. Wings wrapped around him like Gabriel. Smoke everywhere coming from nowhere. Dr. Anil Joshi flew away like a dream you try to scribble down in the morning. I was on my back and lilacs poked through the snow. He was looking down laughing deep in his throat. Dr. Anil Joshi’s mustache tickled when he blew a kiss from the top of the world back down to my squirming body.
wood hammering nail by nail by nail by nail by nail by nail hammering hammering hammering.
vi. The factory boiler is about to explode. Hear the heat crack hidden holes in the pipework. Taste sulfur, hear doves pecking at the warehouse windows. Machinery moving. Spindle turns molasses with the care of a grandmother. Filter sorts pulp like a coin collecting cousin. Slammer pounds steel like a porchswing building father. Hammering nail by nail into the wood hammering nail by nail into the
vii. “Non African men would always have access to African women.” The concubine at the Lady Palace told me. I walked into the boutique to see the cute thing behind the counter from the waist down. I wanted to strip her and walk a mile in her skin wrap. Pornography has told a generation that rape is not only possible but desirable. Sasha Grey likes it ruff ruff on the floor like a stuffed dog who whimpers when you hit her. White boys, some of ‘em cum to her image four times a day. And you wonder why you
shouldn’t trust me. Just imagine the terrifying shit you’d know if you read my diary.
viii. Amphedamines. Hopped up and there I am hanging off the Empire state. My fingers wrapped around the needle, my foot pressed to the ledge. I am shoeless, a gale force between my open toes just hanging. Somewhere on the 42nd street floor, dude’s screaming
static on a shortwave radio. But I keep coming at the city, stomping earthquakes, spitting flash floods. It’s hard to hear him. Hurricanes tearing up the Coney Island Boardwalk. When they call in the marines, shoot me up with the fentanyl drip, the shake doesn’t go. I’m naked like a shelled out warehouse. I’m naked like a church under siege, set on fire by its own pastor.
“bro, its over. The experiment. Come down, come down.” He’s got a red bandana and white beard. He’s coming in and out of my ear like a mosquito. He’s spewing like the
ix. Everyone’s screaming for something. No car has the highway guardrails they think they have. No
college ruled scribble wants to adhere to prescribed blue horizons. Take a red soul, take her away from the river, and you got an earsplitting wake of injustice. She’ll let you know it too, whine your ear off, talk her mouth off. Then scream scream scream. There’s no turning this bike around, I’ve put Ken Griffey rookie cards in between the spokes. I’m going to ride around this country till theres no loud sound I haven’t made. I got the guttural power of a new mother telling the doctor not to take him to the plastic boxes. Just listen close, babydoll.
x. The trees are slightly deader here, slightly more proportional. The dirt is two tints redder and the grasslands are two shades greener. The rocks smile with a few more inches of gum showing. The goats are a little more goatier and the chickens a little more chicken. The bus is moving fast enough off the cliff I can flashback to a comparative analysis I made when Jake and I dropped acid. My national geographic mind is flawed but I would have to say— don’t take your imagination lightly. It’s heavy like a lvl 20 knife wielding barbarian. It’ll ruin you fast like snorted Ritalin. All night in the library organizing note cards for the year-end presentation on how you know your life will end. Or will it? Hell, let’s
live forever in poems I’ll leave in letters slipped under your door. And I will be back soon. As I left I blessed your birdbath drunk and baptized myself. That night I left the sins of youth under the maple wood crudely fashioned into a cross. The old times in Kenya where love was locked in a hostel luggage room. I exchanged hearts for survival kit accessories, strapped my warclub to my loincloth, and ran to find the warriors in the Maasai desert. There is nothing more to truth than the shit I tell you is under my boot.
xi. When it poured it didn’t sting because we were mudpeople. In between our teeth sound was thrown about as recklessly as electricity. The world stood still not like after a bomb drop but like sex in her shower. Where you’re sliding and all the water droplets are in all your pores stimulating every nerve and the porcelains slip slip with soap and your hand is searching wildly for the next hand hold.
And even then the passion cry drowns everything until one second is one thousand seconds and one thousand seconds are one. We were mudpeople wearing watches but the mud dripping off our bodies was seeping into the clockwork, sweettalking the cuckoo, turning time back. We were mudpeople turned back to mudchildren embracing mudchildren as mudchildren do. Because shame is not something that mudchildren believe in. Because shame is something that no one should believe in. The crows gawked shamelessly, and talked in thick accents muffled further by their wings. They said “those mudpeople are so wet. They’ll soon catch cold, but if they go inside to shower the mud will melt, and if the mud melts they will age, and if they age they will no longer... oh my!
What is a mud person to do?”
xii. “the goddess of the teak tree is located here.” She pulled the vines back. The shadows on the concrete walls are real. The light is something to crawl towards rung by rung, like I crawled towards her hands. When I arrived at her village I ripped my stomach out of my middle with a sickle. I knelt by her thighs and held my red organ overhead as an offering. My blood
dripped into my mouth and I was refreshed. She took my stomach in her clean fingers. She giggled, her young jaw thrown high, ponytail tip easing toward her lower back. She took me in her dyed tribal mouth and swallowed.
xiii. There was an elderly woman who was born in Southeast Asia, but she never knew her country’s name. She was give or take seventy-six years old but had no reason to
count her age. The moon was her calendar and the sun was her watch. If you asked her about God she would talk for hours in words and concepts you could hardly understand. She would tug the strings, hanging like power-lines through every infinite plane running over our world. She would search for a second and then pluck the right note to make the evergreen grow. You know knowledge she’s chosen not to know and she’s breathed knowledge you’ll never get a chance to breathe. I said “I have a theory that every birth is on a spectrum. Where you end up on the spectrum determines where and to who you are born. I have a theory that in your pre-birth stage you move up and down the spectrum at speeds too fast for mortal minds to see. Most people stop where they know they want to, some people stop when they think they want to.
A select few sneeze and end up somewhere more magical than they could have ever dreamed.” And she just laughed. Like a goddamn airplane engine.
Wellington. One night we had a stand up gig where we shot Billy out of a cannon into the maiden crowds. Waves of rosy cheeked land-wenches tried to have their way with ol’ Billy but he said ‘look and do not touch’ and crowd-surfed his way back to the... um...” “Stage, and back on the open seas I, a very beautiful FEMALE sea captain, thought about the romantic times. Those good old days when a man wouldn’t wake a woman in the middle of the night just to tell a story!”
xiv. “My ship is a ghost ship manned by ghost clowns that only comes out when the circus is in town. My ghost crew is so funny we split sides from Detroit to
That night the sparks flew deep and far like a beacon light into the raging surf. I swear, our fecundity was unmatched even by Sampson and his mate.
xv. I was there for the violence in Arusha. The rats rose up inside the corpses. The rats ate the bullets whole and the bullets made them strong. A single throng of silence and sirens. Of political cartoonists carving up human skins. They make smooth flags strung up like forgotten plastic bags. Like cockroach shells caught in the breeze, snagged in bare black trees. I was holed up in the hostel peeking through the slit in the walls I slashed with a blunt knife. It was like watching Snow White bite into the apple. No matter how much you wave your arms at the screen sheâ€™ll still take the fatal nibble.
xvi. I met a boy under the river. There was flavored oxygen pumped in for me to breathe. He beckoned and I followed. Rage Against the Machine was jamming all along the surface boom-box. The surface dwellers were angry. There were riots in Bombay and bombings in the Delhi Metro. The boy wore an earring. He told me he sold Lays chips. He invited me into the back of his tent under the water, pushing the curtains easily aside and again beckoning. On an altar covered in fresh-picked marigolds there was a Pringles can. It was sour cream and onion. He told me that this was the first of its kind to
make it to this side of the world. I spit on his feet, opened the can and crushed the contents in his face. “We sell this shit back home for a quarter a piece.”
forest path running. I was following the two naked nymphs, losing my own clothes, letting them sink into memory like water into Boxite. Singing “I am never coming back here.” We slipped through the barbed wire fence down into the riverbank. Sinking, the mud was warm, the moon was slivered and the stars were as big as planets. Shotgun lip creases polishing off the last kingfisher—
xvii. There are 10,000 soul mates for everyone. I’ve probably met and missed a couple. And we were drunk drinking eachothers drunk talk. Dancing in the forest fire we started with flint and steel wool, our bodies were cathedrals. Light pierced our stain glass pores and we were shining on the dark
Struggle has inevitably been solved by collectives, by the increasing role of women, by a permanent revolution in values. Friends, Romans, Country — Diving off the pinnacle rocks into the river, calm. Our river rings were concentric like new lovers holding hands at Harry Potter. We dunk our heads and float. We are the living trinity,
feet touching. Their nipples are hard, prodding the sky like keys dumbly groping at a padlock. We begin to synchronize our breaths and we breathe evenly. They squeeze their lungs a half-beat faster each time they see a shooting star.
xviii. I was circumcised when I was born, before blood flowed downstairs, if you will. He was cut looking at his member in the dusk. A dull knife working carefully. He was instructed not to move his head. Fourteen, he bled profusely in his sheets stone-still, squeezing it all out. But then he was a warrior and stood among the warriors.
When the contradictions you live drink themselves to absolution and you are born again. And born again and again every untraceable tick of watches we were not born to hear. Sinking, the mud was warm, the moon was slivered and the stars were as big as planets.
The woman was pinned down in the Spring of her twelfth year. No men were allowed in the hut. The razor-blade swung like a flaming sword. A dim stream of light passed lazy through the heavy smoke. The goats scratching their heads narrowed their eyes briefly. Her clit was
Banana trees are dripping silver. All matter is reflected in the water. The time does not pass because there is no time. I feel no shame between my legs and know no sex between the legs of the nymphs. Glory in the highest.
ripped in one quick movement. The moment hung like a trapeze swinger in the air. Like a circus— her mouth unhinged like the Black Dahlia. It would not close. Her teeth a broken zipper, scream curdling her own blood pouring in a lake by the burning stove. But then she was a woman and stood among the women. If you will.
xix. You take a red thread. You wrap it through the braid. The tension hurts
at first but you get used to it. We landed in Dehli, sweat ourselves half dry on rooftops, in western clubs, commonwealth celebrity, rickshaw near-death accidents. Train to Maharastra farm. Eat Gandhi, Bollywood. In the orange tree forest. Jeep to Sevagram, dream Gandhi, pray the pipal tree, then vacation up north in Uttrachan. Drink the pure Himalayan river till my lungs are gonna burst. Fly to Ahmedabad, Gujari market bulldozers knocking gates, slum dwelling dance. Bust down Golden Corridor, effluent channel factory smog ride to Netrang. Old Muslim castle fighting and fasting in the rain. Sparkling roof, Robert Wade economic colonization of the developing world. Sugar factory murder, “they really live in tents!” Reservoirs and dams flooding the unfortunate like magnified fire on ants. Namada travel concrete world is building. Waghai shaman
festival when the mans’ hair was white with holy salt and back whipped into bloody snakes. Strip all the layers of clothes and skin and love and float naked naked naked up to the million twinkling eyes. The tension hurts at first but you get used to it. You wrap it through the braid. You take a red thread. And then you move on.
our old shit dreams were kindling. We drew faces on our faces with charcoal- happy faces, scary faces. We danced in masks, peeled the cheeks off and dancedwild and dangerous bending our knees like the giants rocking the ocean to give birth to waves. Banana leaf tunics, banana leaf fans, banana leaf smell on our kissing breaths. Sang the same song again it went like... um...” And Chelsea’d wake up like a devil possessed “We are free, always free, we are free, we are free, this breeze comes from these kites here, we’re flying to the...”
xx. “We had bonfires on an old-school steamer bringing bananas from Cuba to the new new world. The hull was made of steel- held the coals burning at night till sunrise. Our hope for the horizon was hot enough for ignition and
Dear oh dear you’re scaring me. Dear oh dear you’re reminding me.
Eat your values long enough and your tongue will lose its taste. No taste means no reference and then where the fuck you’ll be? Sometimes I’m just bigheaded for the sake of connecting with chu clouds up there. Yeah, I see chy’all.
xxi. Gentlemen, beautiful ladies, look no further for the good life. Its not under the rock. Its not in the disembodied shadow. I’m sipping pure pineapple puree from the hands of a cute little flight attendant up on Ethiopian air. Yeah I still gots the dirty blood. Yeah I still gots the unclean alcohol heart thump yeah yeah bladdy blah. I’m not immature, just aware of neck that Wu Tang told me to protect.
Now we’re floating our way to Zanzibar to drink the blue ocean. We’re standing on cliffs saluting the world because we can. I’m see through, reaching to infinity boo. You should see my smile now, it knows everything. I’m balls to the wall, buck wild, balls out, balls deep in secrets your dick pokes toward in the morning. Welcome to the skyways of Ethiopia Air. All night we’re chasing our pilgrimage in our heads, to ourselves, and we’re frowning. Lighten up kiddo. It’s an adventure Gandi would kill for and we’re living it. Good morning. Let me wake you up and make the
toast. I named my testicles for this very occasion. This one on the left is your captain speaking, this one on the right is the Israeli business man who stole my twenty rupees last night. This is the first time Iâ€™ve crossed the equator. When we land letâ€™s run to the toilettes, throw our pants down and watch the water flush the other way.
xxii. We arrived in Zanzibar like a rose out of a bud. Or a groom out of a shower on the morning of his wedding day. We were refugees. We were Mzungu cross-dressing like locals. We went around like a blind man groping at doors in a church.
But this church was as big as Stone Town, and most of its doors were locked. Those first few days in Zanzibar were a tidal wave of beach, beer, and dancing. Exploring the nuances of the slave caves preserved underneath the Hilton. Eating the peppers in the spice forest. Woke up one morning with life on my face, tinted white liquid glasses I wiped off with sea water. It was gross. Stayed in my skin though. Made my breath that much darker. Not like sludge. Like rainclouds ready to spit lightning.
xxiii. They slaughtered the motherfucker in front of us. I saw the spine cut. I drank the blood from a blue plastic basin. It bubbled on my tongue. It was warm. I knelt in the road and blessed the dust. The taste will never leave I hope. His power is my power. The strength behind my eyes is deafening.
xxiv. I spent Christmas in Dar es Salaam. We arrived on the eve in a big black ship you would have liked. It had big black spaces inside a big black hull that held secret treasure. But that treasure remained hidden and the water cradling us remained too
dark to see the blossoming sea flowers green and red on the ocean floor. Africa is blooming. Colors of stained glass and a church choir was heard throughout the night. Alleluia. A heavy dusk pushed my knees to the concrete floor of my motel room. I heard the swiping of my hand over my naked skin. Lord please forgive me. Savior almighty, send me salvation. Tonight you arise in the hearts of men. And I am a man tonight under your manger. And I am a sheep unto your flock. I am no holy being but my brother please cover me like a heavy leather coat. Let me humble myself through this mineshaft prayer. I am yours as you are mine. My master, my eternal master, tonight your blood and body merge and I am your witness. Like the oak out of a seed your miracle rings in me from my feet up my spine out of my mouth into the midnight streetâ€Ś
In the morning I sang hymns from an Anglican hymnal. The black youth choir pierced every shadow with arrows of searing light. Everything shone under the watchful eyes of our worship. The cross burned over the blood.
xxv. A Muslim brother told me in a thunderstorm, “if you don’t hear the same sound again within ten years the memory surrounding the first noise will be gone.” How many sounds have you heard? I asked him. But he dissolved into the Stone Town gutter,
liquid gold. He left during a thunderclap— I’ve been running— There is nowhere without thunderstorms— So I remember.
xxvi. I was a child on the Island. They would come in suits with whips strapped to black cloud hips. I would jump fences, rip my skin bloody, and they would jump after me. What is this revolution? I was young when I left the Island. In the back of a boat under the tarp. Mama didn’t want me to be raped; Baba was dead or I was a bastard. Imagine not knowing your body, not knowing the body of your parents. Without any direction or warmth your skin gets
rubbed with Indian ocean salt. Your eyes callous. Your nation is underdeveloped like your breasts. The whole time your train knew where it was heading at a pace too fast for you to steal glances. Where you started was dark. You are envious of the girls who remember their virginity. God blessed those who remember their young years of beauty. This Revolution has been taken out of my body. Physical holes in my sautered chest and knife scarred cheek. On the campus I was raped. This Revolution was not for me so I will set my Spirit free. On the mainland I was raped. In my uncles house I was raped. I can recount each of their musks, the exact weight of their breaths. Tonight I will lower myself into the sea, numbly mouthing, my voice failing me.
xxvii. Harad has a mother who is stuck passport-less between Oman and Tanzania. Bi Mariam has a mother who brings kazads when she visits the Island. Their child has parents whose young love is palpably burning. I am in their house. I am their guest. I have opened a new walkman sony knockoff. I am on a black leather
couch in a small bedroom reserved for my travel partner and I. The floor is concrete but the handwoven rugs cover it. A riot outside, I can hear it mounting. There are bars over the windows and I have closed the blinds. To drown out the screams blurring pain and triumph. I turn the volume knob slowly and write. Po-le po-le. There is no outside. There is no fire in the courtyard. The ones already dead are in heaven. The ones about to die are lying to protect me. And I am humble. And I am nothing but a speck on this earth. And I pre-occupy my hand with giving myself back to the muses that have lent themselves so long to me.
xxviii. I walked you home tonight and you walked with jigsaw purpose. Like a teething infant you were ready to fall piece by jagged piece into the puddles. But you had your chin jutted out and your teeth were glowing to show the new glue that stuck them all together. I make no assumptions, I make no promises, I can count what I know about you on five fingers. So come join me, come dance with me, come tell me your story. On the Island, sand eavesdropping in. Sun set hours ago, a great fire still in your breath and skin. And Iâ€™m listening, attentively, like an old man hearing the tides ebb only to hear them surge and flow again.
xxix. There was a one armed girl named Chelsea Kyron. And there was me in my pre-beard teenage years. She worked at tea chai te down on 23rd and Hoyt. I used to visit her after wrapping my hair in goodwill beanies and hiding my man boobs under well worn Pendleton button-downs. The art on the wall was painted by devils she said once. And what is the black molly in my brain to do but believe her. Chelsea would invite her Juggalette friend Gloria to work after closing and the three of us would talk nights at a time. Bubble tea, tapioca, and Kalua. Their legs intertwined over my lap like Balboa roots.
It was those days in Portland, when Music Millenium could still pay rent on that side of town, that I dream about. Fresh weed from friends older brothers. Ghost riding down Vista in the one day a year the hill iced over. Grunting and thrusting under spaceship lights, our soft voices creaking. Poker and stealing from Nick K’s parent liquor cabinet till they put a lock on it. Staying up late with my bedroom lights off to watch WWE on a six inch TV.
xxx. And the angels cried “hark, this shall be our Crater, the pasture of our children.”
And so the angels sang. And all was created in a flash. The human time was put into the human. The elephant time was put into the elephant. In the Earth’s time each being would come to pass through the Crater. Each history would appear distinct and all would forget God.
xxxi. Sleeping, I was sweating, slow ceiling fan revolving, under eyelids souls were battling. Dreaming frantic when the nightmares broke the gate. Poked holes in the mattress clasping so hard to hold on until morning.
There is an animal force inside some of us that whispers when we’re distracted “little boy, where is your basket? You are no prophet, why do you speak like a prophet?”
xxxii. Sometimes there’s a fat bug in me screaming. It’s like a cockroach sneaking over my breast in the night and then climbing inside. It moves around stimulating the inner nerves, moving
its feelers, awakening the alarms. Then, hearing the alarms, it panics and starts jumping. It opens its maw wide. It appears to be laughing, barring teeth. I open my heart valves in rhythm, open my pores. Let his warm panic out into the air. Its eight leg scurry quickens until the sleeping body can’t contain its voice. Cheek grinding the pillow, the whispering rising. Sleep paralysis. Zanzibar sun rising like war smoke.
xxxiii. We almost had a baby, Chelsea and I. She almost had ten fingers and ten toes. She almost had a laugh. Her hair and eyes were almost a perfect mix of parents.
I woke from a fever in the night, I was ready to be a father. But by the end of the day I was no longer a father. God called me in long droning steps up the hill to the WWII memorial. Snow colored the skin around my tshirt and jeans. The clouds rumbled and speaking “Who are you?”
xxxiv. My tongue will make my words. My words will take your words like robes over a virgin girl. My tongue will dress you down letter by letter. My tongue will flicker friction to light the vanilla
candles. Lilies will burst from their seeds. My tongue will fold the silk hotel blankets. The chocolate will be on the pillow, and the peacocks will be crowing on the manicured grasses. Far above our tiny room the sky is resting; the storm has just passed south. It is dusk and the windows are thrown open so we can breathe the hot wet air. My tongue pushes my hot wet breath over your neck in waves. You are covered in lace and your soles feel the cold tile. Somewhere very far away a cat knocks over cans of trash. My tongue has taken you past the tipping point and soon you will be spilling like cream among the crimson sheets. Soon your brown hair will blend with the trim of the pillow. Soon there will be nothing left but my tongue wrapping your tongue like robes over a virgin girl. Soon there will be nothing but hot wet breath echoing open. Like a Catholic bell the reverberations will fade
slowly and with intention. The singing angels will bless us with Godâ€™s tailored silence. Until morning, my lover, until morning.
xxxv. The strangest things happen in the stillness. Pierced ears wiggle. Sea weeds breed. Love splits like an amoeba and hears its own heartbeat. All souls are naked and suddenly see that they are naked. The eye twitches to the dusty nooks. It is midnight. The strings are all invisible. The sea spray outlines them. The ocean whispers secrets in the stillness to those who will simply sit and listen.
xxxvi. Beep beep beep jog the beach with a young girl who has traveled the world for her studies. Could only pat her back when she’s looking out past the breakwaves, saying ‘I only want to go home to Lima.’ And the other tutu on the SUZA desk whose father sells rhinestones. In the coral the fish feast, our eyes chewing into the urchins. Poison is sweetest to the sludge monsters among us. Color like my wings shining star outlines of dead angels in the sea floor. Travel the Island like a daladala pirate eyepatched up bandanawind-whistle. Smashed coconuts, sucked out the juices. Climbed trees with criss-cross ropes. Sneaking through the hotel in the coastal slum. The chlorine burned my eyes. Local limestone cement; I wrote my Swahili name in it. Iron Wood saplings; I convinced them to plant it down deep on the hillside. Chopped vegetables for dinner,
grated shells for meat. Whispered shaman secrets with a glass-eyed medicine man. In the seaweed farm sand he exfoliated my arms. I felt a million holes through me that wind had never passed into. I opened up the snorkel mask and took the air reed out. The enemies had gone. The women around me pet the moon. The beach claimed their bodies and God’s clay hands claimed their swoons.
xxxvii. Cuba ended like a death dream. I woke up in my Portland bed. I was sixteen when I bought these sheets, only ten when I wallpapered the walls. How many months has it been? I hold my tight breasts in my hands, cup them through my worn t-shirt. Its been a while. My skirt still fits my hips. I had shrunk four sizes. I stumble down the hallway to the kitchen. My childhood collages are still hanging on the yellow walls. The light is comforting through a familiar filter. I hear the transistors flickering in the walls. In the kitchen my naked legs are shaking. I open the fridge and there is still fresh food inside it. I open the back screen door to let the cat out. Some bone in my brain is not where I left it. I can’t cry.
xxxviii. If the world was like a snow globe it would be a whole lot prettier. The glass would be smoother and the children’s cheeks rosier. We are in a cage of air. There’s always enough Oxygen but we sometimes find it hard to breathe. Sometimes the ship we’ve arrived at the Island by explodes as soon as we disembark. And then we’re stranded and some shadow man steals our clothes. Naked in the jungle we look into the lake and see the moon. Then we trace ripples to the outline of our distorted face and smile like “oh hey, there I am!”
wishing you, fly to me. I will heal thee, I will heal thee.
xxxix. And you were traveling the world with a small bear trinket in your treasure chest. Sometimes you would sneak into the foreign bathrooms. Sometimes you would dirty your perfect pearl knees in the shitstained tile. I could hear your fingers sliding up and down your throat mucus. When the sky regurgitates color in dusk, how could I help but think of you? I miss you. I will save you. Take the wings Iâ€™m
xxxx. The boat ride on Christmas eve was scary. No friends, no family. Just me on a metal dove. This huge structure coated in silver spouting water. And I questioned what a bird thinks on its way across oceans. Leaving the Stone Town port the women were crying. Men carried TVs on board.
Dar was large and dark on the horizon. The water was steaming. The water was boiling. The water was black and it was chopping like scissors. Imagine being caught in the crosshairs of those jets. In a manger Jesus slept all night. Imagine being pelted by water weight, fighting then succumbing to white caps. Pummeling everything. Somewhere at home an exgirlfriend is cooking the pie she used to cook for me. She is kneading the stuffing, prepping the ham with honey, and doing it all so delicately. That old lover of mine is fixing her house, weeding her garden, and placing the tinsel. Suburbia is glowing at night when she and her husband walk in the snow to see the house lights. I remember the days of anxiety, waiting to see the next advent calendar chocolate. But the time has gone where time must go. The power in the
surging water is a power always incomprehensible. So I will go where I must go and what must come will follow.
xxxxi. â€œThe ferryman blew his ferryman whistle and the mermaids came running. They flirted with the paddle boat paddle. Naked tits a flipflopping about. Heâ€™s throwing flounder in and the mermaids eat the one-eyed monsters whole. They open their wide
mouths fully unhinged and with no gag reflex taste the salty ocean taste. “ssssssso familiar” the mermaid queen said with a wink. The ferryman blew the whistle again and... um...” She moved her hand to my thigh. “the mermaids’ tails transformed into human legs! They scaled the ships sides and, after years of pent up sexist oppression, held the ferryman under the tide! That familiar fishy taste in his mouth. He finally understood and, under their newly naked fully human writhing bodies, returned the favor. All night until the decks were swabbed and soaking, the ferryman was held down and...” “Jesus Christ you’re hot.” “I know.”
xxxxii. Christmas was over after another year. But this time no snow. No tree or ham, just beer and getting mugged in the underpass. Hopped the public bus out to Tanga. Saw the sisal waste poured by the liter into the river. Cut the sisal myself and made a basket boat. Water had been dry all Summer so I threw the boat on a jeep roof and rode out on a mission. So here I am, a missionary moving crossAfrican-country. In the hills I wear aviators so the locals can’t see my eyes. If you ask me what I’m a missionary for well I’m not sure yet, but I will be, and when I am I won’t wear nothing on my eyes. Natural world panic. The rains are coming.
xxxxiii. In a dusty room we pirates had a conference. My hook scratched my leg nervously. “Arrr, these coffee beans come from the hills of Meru” The old captain’s voice creaked like gear-work. “yarrr, my crew will accept nothing less than top dollar!” The sea surged on outside the hull. The baby under the ocean was snoring and forcing the waves higher. Somewhere in the snows Hemmingway was writing. In a notebook by candlelight; in a cabin close to the sky. He wrote lists of his near death experiences and buried them like pets in shoeboxes out back. On
some nights, when the moon’s angle is right, thousands of silver spirits shoot from the backyard graves. They move through the tinted glass, past the windows, into Hemmingway’s dreams. The snows are burning away straight to gas.
xxxxiv. You want the truth coolcat? I learned everything I know about God from Final Fantasy X. In the cutscene after defeating Sin I cried because I suddenly understood everything. Just like I owe what I know about love from Boy Meets World. I’m still Corey searching for my goddamn Topanga. Remember that episode at the Orlando Seaworld? I’ve based some of my
most treasured moments on that episode. In the absence of my father, I got my ideas of machismo from boxing. In absence of my working mother, I was raised on the Violent Femmes, Counting Crows, BNL, TMBG, and the Mountain Goats.
xxxxv. My arms! From the shoulder up to the fingers they were shrinking and furring up. Sardar Sarovar was drowning women. I could feel the pull of life from the air as their souls were sucked out of their pretty painted mouths. My legs were thighs of fur. On all four paws I crawled looking for eucalyptus. I placed my panda hand into the basket and
found the leaves. Gujarat sews a mansâ€™ hand to a bag of recently refined top quality export. His scream is drowned out by the scream of the child who has fallen into the molasses tub. The machine moves, churns him into batter. The machine tries to tell the difference between skin and thread, child bone and sugar cane, but its senses are not as finely tuned as it believes. I eat leaf by leaf; the eucalyptus is limitless. My panda teeth safe in my sweet panda gums.
xxxxvi. Let the fleas sleep happy in my clothes. Theres a parasite in my skin that wants to be friends with them. Let my open mouth inhale the dirt floor particle by particle. The blood from your bovine neck is a mystery but Iâ€™ll drink the whole clay cup. Pat my head, touch my feet, donâ€™t be so discrete, I want the whole world to know.
xxxxvii. This is it.
an old Unitarian Church in Portland, glass blown out of her juices lets light through. In the basement, I call him master when he feeds me off a metal tray and licks me clean.
xxxxviii. Twine has my hands bound up at my chest. Twine is around each of my ankles. The castle air is taught. Spiderwebs holding time together. There was a cactus once who had a pretty pink flower. She had a party. Everyone from every country was invited. And they cut off her flower, lopped off her hands, stapled her mouth shut. Her spines were weedwhacked off and sweet cactus plasma poured out. In the rafters of
il. The size of the cross betrays the number of bodies in the dirt mound. Twilight kisses these mass graves different. When the sun just falls off the edge, the specters comes to meet the men. Human silhouettes in purple light. War cries vibrating faster than the wind. Sharp whistles. Out of starved acacia trees hang bones. As the world turns, they knock together. The sound a seashell makes.
l. How much do you think goats know? I think Lenny knew he was going to die. His movements were sluggish but erratic. When he knelt before the knife, he was brave. The only sound was of his icy ghost escaping as steam from his throat. Like a goddamn teapot, I thought.
li. The married woman screams under her warrior lover thrusting shadow. Her child sleeps at her feet coughing. I choke on thick black smoke. The door was bolted and the air was trapped. Baby goats with nooses tied to our bed bray like torture. Screams added to screams. Cattle slaughter donkey panic under the knife. My eardrumâ€” buzzing fleas. Beetles crawling as big as scarabs under clothes. This was the
first night I ever heard my heart convulsing. It was no longer beating, it was frantic. Burning— my skin an oven. Human silhouette bloats and distorts. The blood floods full and grotesque. The moaning quickens. The prepubescent girl in our bed, not older than 12, was holding me, pumping. Her nameless shaved head was glistening sweat. She could not bring herself to turn around and face me. Our hands frozen but moving. There is no music. She had black skin, I could not tell where her stomach ended and her— but then I found it and she pressed my finger awkward and strong under her dress. I was a demon when my muscles contracted. The door was bolted shut and the air was trapped. The snake tightened hard around— my stomach writhing— maggots. Smell like her mother’s musk, the warrior, and me. I tasted her while my fingernails dug into my
thigh. The fire came closer. I slipped down the cowhide. Voices of the night. Breakwaves on the rocks. Convulsions. She tasted sweet like blackberries and cream. Spinning thatch roof and the noises no child should have to make. I pushed her to open her mouth like— convulsions. If the lord was with me— heat. Her kiss is marked on my tongue— screams— the man who forsook his human form in the Boma.
lii. “TNP/ANP/BO/MRK/14” was carved into the tree bark on the roadside. We were the three who remained. We were running, as usual. Charlie was the first
who saw them coming over the ridge. Their flag was brilliant and black. We were running to meet them in the field near the ash cone where dead moss smothered the boney cedar. A lot happened in this place before we set foot here. Horns blared out across the lances we carried. Twilight again we could hear them on horseback. We left our own hoofprints in the volcanic sand. Arrows and leopards and Jesus himself welcoming us home to where mankind was born. It was the Seventeenth of January. And suddenly the whole story began to unwind in my skull. It skipped chapters, turned pages not meant to be turned yet. Images flashing like highway robbery; from Danteâ€™s Hell to Paradiso. A waterfall in a clearing. I was approaching slowly from the road. The rest of the world was whiteâ€” the
yearning to be complete realized everywhere butâ€” here I stopped at the waves on the riverbank and took your rock out of my pocket. I dipped it in and held it against the crystal silt. The water came from a glacier but the sun kept it warm. I crossed myself for the last time. I kissed the stone and dropped it into the earth. The mud spattered like lead turning to gold. My clothes were shed easily. The light that casts no shadows shines forever. Very soon you shall see me face to face.
liii. At five thousand meters I was a cloud in a cloud surrounded by cloud. Sleeping, I was walking, with my fingers gently rocking my Maasai staff into the gravel. We had slept for three hours at the last camp on the trail, then started our ascent at two AM. Where we are; in darkness and mist. A gentle rain collecting in my hair makes a steady drip on my raincoat. It is cold but we have learned not to feel it. We have become owls flying to the summit. Hard to take your eye off the sheet rock crumbling where your foot had just been. Impossible to look behind your body for fear of falling into the abyss. It is the tightrope we have walked since we were born out of our feral mothers. All the preparation and the fear and the triumph and the guilt. And I feel it all because I canâ€™t breathe but my body is moving, isnâ€™t
it? Yes, it is moving, like a fish boy with both gills and lungs. And I got fire hands and ice hands coming together to make smoke. The volcano is in the trees and under my feet. The volcano God drumthump is my pulse. Remember when you remember if you remember that you are leaving soon. But now you are fully snake with fingers, feet, torso, and a soul. I still cannot define the embrace of the double Helix. Something is throbbing in the only heart I have. I am becoming you, like language becoming thought. You are out of my mouth and into my ears. We change elevation quickly, without rest. We know if we stop we will grow too cold to continue. Each step changes history as we know it.
closely to it’s feet. The turtle is the ultimate pirate ship. We were it’s captains. One night we stood hand in hand on it’s sand neck. We walked towards the lock box with a large prison key hanging heavy. The rope cut our nape, the blood hit the sand, the sand turned to ash, out of the ash flowers grew. Pick your favorite flower, that is the flower that grew.
liv. Chelsea and I said one night— there was moaning in the neighbors upstairs, moaning in the crows circling the moon, moaning in the drugs taking over. We said we would one day tell everyone this. “On the mountain summit with the Tanzanian flag there is a lock box. In the lock box there is a map. The mountain is a turtle moving slowly, but you can only see it maneuvering if you watch
On our right, the full moon was cut in half by the horizon. Arusha lay far below the corona in flames. On our left the sun rising was cut in half by an old growth treeline. Underneath, the ashcone was spewing magma like a flower girl. Concertos sounded in the wind, in tune with everything in symphony burning. This was the day the earth died... um...” “-I love you.” “-thank you… for that way you say my name... with that ugly French
accent. I hope you say my name like that in Heaven… and for that hand squeeze you give in cinemas when something exciting is about to happen and you just know because of the change in key… and for the the way you wipe the wires from my chest— they don’t hurt, I promise— everything will be over soon, again, forever, eternity… takes itself lightly… flowers grow out of corpses if you will nurture them with soil blood and song… pick your favorite flower— that is the flower that will grow out of me.”
lv. And as you emerge, the sound of a girl sleeping takes over. She does not have the breath of anyone over twenty one. The breath is sharp and uncomfortable, but it is also rhythmic. The mountain lodge is cold and tonight we descend back to the base. We have watched life leave a pair of old German lips and have wondered outloud where life left to. We listen closer. The girl’s lungs make sounds like dragon’s breath. In the night, when your father locked you in the freezer, you could hear your friends in the front yard asking for you. So like a beetle at a window you rammed your head open on the door. Blood on the
frozen strawberries. In the night when you were a comet on the dance floor. You impressed everyone you touched. You were a chieftess. In the bathroom breaking down, Chelsea on her knees mouth bleeding stomach contents splashed on beige walls. Her mouth looked like a bass gasping for breath. In the night of Dr. Anil Joshi you were on your father’s knee again because he promised you God. On the ferry in the storm. In the cabin in the blizzard. Sitting on the bottom of the hotel pool watching the water droplets ripple. Watching the sunlight until your air capacity is screaming murder against your heart and every shitty rehashed metaphor is retold in a lightning bolt. Pain killers, antidepressants; you never tried coke but will the next time someone escorts you into that back room. Mothers and lovers killing
themselves in front of you. You know what that does to a kid whose held a knife at his own throat? Of course you do because you are he whose held that knife and noose on Suicide Bridge in the rain. But let me tell you anyway. It makes the kid embrace the fire he sees burning his cardboard church. It makes the kid naked, makes him write thousands of identical lines on the chalkboard. He’s gonna start hoping that one day the story of rebirth told a thousand different ways starts permeating into the real life. But here’s the thing. One day it does. One day he just stops speaking, stops eating, and starts writing. A simple utterance of growing up and finding God. And this is the story pure and simple; the mark of Cain. “at the top of the mountain I give all the pain away. I relinquish the pen and the knife.
All the secrets you shall find unpolished in these short letters home. Everything is where it should be. The snows are pretty this time of year.â€?
Yours Forever, Mt. Meru in Bloom.
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