PUT MY FIST THROUGH A WINDOW AT SEVEN
Put my fist through a window at seven because the door didn’t open in time. A nugget of rage. A Martian meteor with signs of extraplanetary life I couldn’t return to. An angry child whose innocence was already a broken action hero before he received it like a second-hand toy. My sisters played with eyeless dolls. I looked upon the future like a starless telescope and the present like a dangerous doorway you had to steel your fear to walk past. No one could afford a history of their own so they lied to each other communally about making it in the world alone without any help from the rest of the family. Squalor and mystery. Stars at night out in the rough broom fields around Heartbreak Hill where I went to read John Keats alone about a thing of beauty being a joy forever and deepen the homesickness of a child in exile by gaping all night at the incorruptible stars before I returned to the broken windows and punched-out plaster of a forsaken moon without an atmosphere. A thing of beauty may be a joy forever but the severe joys of that neighbourhood made ugly perversities out of the waste of their humanity like a caste system of untouchables who embraced a thing of beauty until it was as despised as they were. Virgins yearning to join the hooker colonies of utopian pimps selling Shangri Las and Jonestowns up and down the street. Sex shouldn’t have to spend more time standing on its feet than lying on its back but if you didn’t show up for the nightshift you didn’t eat and there was nowhere a woman could take a bath in her own grave to renew her virginity where someone wouldn’t walk in and stab her like a female Marat for betraying their reign of terror. I keep returning to the misery of those days in an abortive attempt to love my childhood retroactively but the damage that was done was as thorough as it is implacable. Drunks at the backdoor. Junkies at the window. Lepers in the living room. Vipers raping roses with sump-pump syringes full of angry toxins because they both had thorns in common with the moon and when you flagged them they all haemorrhaged the same way. It’s one thing to get off on the pharmaceutical rush of strewing the path to death with bruised flowers in a coma but there’s nothing very brave about a whole new world that hath such creatures in it when you go through a withdrawal from life like a cult of one intent on sacred suicide. The rich adapt to what they’ve stolen but the poor left to their own resources mutate. I saw one man belly-flop from an attic window onto a picket gate. Meat on a fork. And another walk out into the ocean with diving weights and an empty aqualung like the shell casing of a spent round on the bottom of the seabed. And still another who upheld his right not to live by shooting his wife to death because she ignored him in her sleep after a drunken brawl. I always wondered if the dead die in their dreams if they don’t wake up in time to know they’ve just been killed. You can look upon your afterlife as the Greeks did as the gibbering shadow of this one or you can turn the light around and see this as the happy prelude to everything that’s gone for good. Or sitting precipitously alone on the rocky ledge of a hanging prison you can study comparative mythology with superstitious stars in your solitude as if you like them had raised your radiance above the atrocity of it all and no one could lay a finger on you here where the ghosts had long been liberated from the bones of their capital offenses. Nothing demeans the stars in the eyes of a child who looks up at them like a cellophane snail sticky with dirt. They diminish the hurt somehow but not getting involved in what they portend. And the message is clear. Not muddled in the curdled starmud of an astronomical catastrophe like thermophilic bacteria deep in the diamond-mines of the earth waiting like a default program to restore life to the planet every time it crashes. The bottom feeders know more about resurrection than the blue whales skimming krill. Lazarus raised from the dead like road kill. The reek of crushed frogs in rain-flavoured eclipses of oil seeping into your nostrils like prehistoric air from a manufactured jungle.
The intermittent innocence of growing up by the time you’re seven. Or you perish in exotic ways that only baby turtles that have been the subject of a national geographic wildlife film can fully understand. Or people harvesting garbage-cans. The shock and awe of savage circumstance. The slash and burn approach of bad karma catching up to small pockets of unencountered cannibals living in the way of the bigger pockets of progress. It was less painful to see what I lacked than to take account of what I had going on for me. There are the masterpieces. And these chalk outlines of the bodies of the rest lying on the sidewalk are folk art. And when God ran for election in our neighbourhood one year my mother sold me like a vote to a church that taught me to feel guilty if I dared to aspire any higher than zero. Consider how many children there are in the world where zero is the zenith of optimism. Ask any mirror decent enough to be vaguely disturbed and they’ll tell you about all the clear-eyed children who come before them like poor people into a clean room and looking around at how immaculate and tasteful everything is feel as out of place as the only smudge in space with a human face.
And you who have so much. Who are cuddled like new moons in the inherited fullness of prosperity. Who can afford the extreme frivolity of your desires. Who can recruit celebrity choirs in the war against poverty to write anthems for the poor that drown out their crying in middle-class raptures of how beautiful it is to be trying. Let them eat spam. Let them eat shit. Keep a lid on the garbage-can. And don’t stop to train the wildlife through your power windows to take food from your hand. Hampers at Christmas are enough. Or too much if William Blake is right. And to you who take so many wheatfields and rice-paddies out of the mouths of the disquieted children and give back just enough to have a stained-glass window named after you in a hilariously prosperous church I say you probably don’t remember who Talleyrand was, but the peasant in Napoleon got it right when he said of him as I say of you he was nothing but shit in a silk stocking. Except you’re not as smart as he was because your arrogance has made you stupid. He could see what was coming in time to change the colour of his socks to match the floral cravat of his festering fleur de lis. He buried his corpses secretly at night in the catacombs of politics but you step over yours like the rhetoric of the summa theologica for the rich on cable TV. The exonerative pundit of your own loveless obscenity. The stone is turned over. The worms are exposed. All eight eyes of the spider in the corner who sucked the life out of the music like ripe semi-quavers doing bass runs on the strings of an acoustic guitar can be seen for the toxic succubus it is. A rich arachnid on the net with stagefright. And nothing but the biomass of violated butterflies and outraged killer bees for an audience. Have you heard what the snakes are singing in their mosh pits about the ladders in the boardrooms of the
What an abomination of man. What a distortion of woman. How many millions of years of evolution did you have to undo to stand in the doorway of death and deny a sick child a cure because your golfing buddies couldn’t afford the disease? Did Jesus take you aside after one of your political rallies and tell you despite what he said in public you can whip the poor anytime you please? Wage economic genocide against welfare mothers when your tax lawyer tells you poverty’s part of an international banking conspiracy to make the rich suffer. In my neighbourhood it was the closet cowards who put their boots the hardest to anyone who was already down. They wanted to make a heavy impression to disguise themselves as one of us. But they never quite got the subtle difference between brave and depraved and were eventually put down like fawning dogs with rabies. Look. You’ve got your ass covered. Your children’s teeth funerals summer vacations medical plans bail retirement funds divorce settlements and the mortgage is paid on three of your houses and even God would have to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if she ever accused you of anything. You’ve got lawyers and lobbyists and spin doctors like worms in everybody’s roses and there’s always enough viciousness in the world to support smallpox. So why do you go out of your way to come down from your mountaintop like an avalanche on the poor just because they didn’t have the same post-graduate advantages as you and learn to steal and manipulate and lie on as grand an institutional scale? Were you one of those gruesome kids when you were growing up who went out of their way to step on ants because you couldn’t empathize with the same struggle for survival as the rest of us? Go read Shakespeare’s ninety-fourth sonnet about those who have power to hurt but will do none if you really want to see what kind of a festering lily you’ve become. But I’m curious. I’m as big a student of inhuman nature as I am of my own. And I want you to tell me what it’s like. When precisely did you know the moment had come to give up passing yourself off as a butterfly and throwing your life like bad meat down a wishing well begin to live like a maggot in your own corpulence? Tapeworms against the poor because they don’t feed you enough to feel you have a vested self-interest in them? Listen to how loud and brawling you talk out against people who have no voices to speak up for them because they can’t afford the liars you can. That’s not cool man. That’s not groovy. You’re not going to get the girl in the movie that way to make up for not getting laid in highschool. Don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true. Remember that? Elvis never had to pay for sex the way you do like some dirty little boy still spying through the keyhole on his sister in the shower. You’ve got to sow your wild oats in the spring. That’s all part of agricultural husbandry brother. Or is it you love the plough the moon because you’re a farmer alright but one without any seeds? Are you trying to thresh before you sow? Does standing up against the downtrodden like a quisling scarecrow for the rich and powerful gratify your repressed sexual needs? Do you get off on turning people who haven’t got much against people who have nothing by lying about where their paycheck’s going as if poverty were a form of graft? And you’re the biggest pig at the table? Let them eat peanut butter and jam. Let them eat bananas. You who walk down marble corridors where they wax your reflection as hard as they do your shadow and think of the poor as dirty hallways you can clean up with hysterectomies and drug-tests you wouldn’t dare give your own son because you know what’s missing from the medicine cabinet as if pissing into a test-tube were more indictably remedial than pissing into the wind. You who sleep well tonight on soft pillows stuffed with the flightfeathers of other people’s dreams and don’t think a day is ever going to come when you wake up to their nightmares. You who would deny the birds last rites in your baptismal fountains and say God God God all day long like a crow in a pulpit as if a poor man saying rich rich rich all life long made him so and think that makes you holy enough to spit in the collection plate like a sign of hate from above. You who are too mesmerized by the blazing of your own blindness to realize that the darkness that falls like a nemetic shadow at the end of the day is always more disproportionately grotesque and intense than the inflated luminosity of the gigantism that casts it. You who don’t think that gangrene in the big toe of the global body politic isn’t going to go to your head like a guillotine and insist upon not attending to it like a spin doctor without a comment on what’s rotten in Denmark in the Congo in Somalia in Pakistan in Syria Iran Palestine Israel Louisiana Ottawa Arizona West Van Eritrea Darfur Tokyo and locally in the kitchen of the apartment next door two weeks before the next welfare check. You who walk upon the earth as if every step you took were the bright event horizon of a new threshold and like a false dawn that doesn’t make the flowers open or the birds sing never gives a thought to what you must look like to the homeless and hopeless making their cardboard beds over industrial heating grates in the middle of winter. You who are witness to people sleeping in the dangerous doorways of condemned buildings and the uninhabitable prospects of life in the ghettoes like abandoned landrovers on Mars trying to colonize a duststorm like a little land of their own and contend the slumlords and the captains of industry have it a lot worse than the serfs do. You who try to justify the neo-feudalism of free enterprise like a trickle-down theory of food supply and demand as if the poor were the public urinal of God and you were the salt who decided who sat where at the table and who begged for scraps like plaintive dogs under it. Have you forgotten so much of your own history you don’t know what comes next?
Even on the street we knew stupid would get you killed faster than evil.