by Mina Odile
The next day, the usual rags ran bloody eager by the subway mouth and, trampled in the gutter, still folded, showed headlines muddied by soles, ran SENSELESS for a quick grab, commute, and toss, as every New York morning.
Well might you ask if senseless means there’s sometime death more meaningful. To which I’ve no reply, as senseless’nt quite cut it either by my thinking, nor never do I see the sense in it, all told, ’til what I’m finding’s neither more or less than meaningless—there, now it’s out, damn dot and done with it. As all I know is how I like to be toddling up to the lioned library round about 10.14, so sitting long the length of one in many wooded tables, and there to read the murders.
It’s nothing such as research, no brainiac suchkind, but more like checking on the maddening, or checking that it’s not. That is, as I lie darklike of a night, I oft await the tingles, and sometimes they’re with me and sometimes they’re not, but when they is it’s a hovering in the joints, a filthy feeling, and the sound of blue all over, as says no doubt it’s coming coming coming coming. And then all done and just to know it’s come or else I’m gone, as case may be, the which is why I’m up by lions next day to see if the blab sheets’ve got the same secrets as me.
As I stand here, am standing, are these true, and I recall the first such time, before I got a taste, least used to Seeing. So’s I cast back to that first Monday in March—remembered, for the week before all’s incomplete in dates—I feel as how I woke asweat. ‘She’s dead!’ cried I, nor knowing who nor how, though certain as I say no why or that there was none. But daydawn leaking at the casement seemed to say how why was what told wake from sleep, ‘til parting there I looked out at the sunny grey assured. I visited John, drank with Joe, but having now left home and down the corner couldn’t peeps quite Eve (as some say toothily). For so, SHE’S DEAD, in Gothic was declared, so bold I knew but not but rushed a copy, and off with me to lions where’s peace and quiet and free sitting besides.
Down down down down down goes the busting ribthump, knowing now bump bump in the night and all’s true, as I was there and stand here now to tell the tale most truly, least mostly true, as it was told to me on frontispieced and stitched for all to see.
For all—or not so quite, for ink’s unstable stuff, most’s newsies, which leave greys on pinks and this time still more so. I’m in the reading room by quarter past, sat back and keeking, paper spreaded flat against my knee. And now it’s as I let mine een, a’bonny blue, drift back to sans (teeth, taste, and all) where there asudden, as I see, come springing from the page great glowing words which swell and burst upon my inner eye. These apparitions, so I think, like clippings paperless, distending real as touch, but only do I not cry out for no one of my comrades notes the thing but one old grandam to another crackles, ‘Might you pass the funnies?’ To which the other spits, and so like two slow sinking fires pop and hiss as page from hand to flaming tongue and I, adrift amongst, find letters gone while I have turned away.
But DEAD again or newly DEAD burns cornea bright as, dropping lids, I face the type once more. And as I all alone gaze deep into that rising massy crew of legs, arms, spindles, spines, comes which could only godless bear a voice, first faint but growing louder, from nowhere there but me, whispering first now now now now, and thusly half myself, some part the print, and rest as who knows whence, begins…
walking alone anight as every thinking from the back if manlike so strode hands to sides unpocketed and hair tucked up up up the shoplit street up flags and flagging ’til at last acanter turning swinging round and reaching came up keyless at the door no promising whisper light to murmur at the doorframe worry not my love for someones here with arms and hands but dark as tells all told of empty home the locked frame standing as between two nothings empty street and empty hall as one the chillwind milquetoast dull but pressing yes somehow at edges now is here is by me through me in me on me pressing yes yes bringing with it sounds of not so lonely yet another empty street uncoupled in the presence there of yes yes steps not mine I know for looking down my feet are still and yes I hold the key
Haunting foresight breathes at my elbow now, yet now as then, the voice though dissipated pressing still as if to say, the enfilade it opens here so door through door through door will witness this collapse as it is mine and I am left deadheaded: white and mum.
The paper’s in my grip, a tension at my inner eye that presses thick and viscous at my trembling. Onionskinning, ashy to the touch, my left hand lay I first on knee, then lift to cheek, ’til seeking sense, the page I raise once more, allowing now with welcome, glowing forms to rise en masse and press their branding figures against the clouded lens, witless, obscure, and vitreous.
Yet, no—it slips my grasp, I’m reaching for the sense. Still why and why glows candlebright, twists back upon itself, so bearing to its poles the sudden billow, tentlike, dark, and stifling. I watch it rise like drowning, fall like drowning, tumble me like drowning, set the knowledge up in flames to lick like smoke just hours before, the ashed-out bedside cigarette, whilst I still bedbound, lone, transfixed. The words, they welcome me, cry out, READ ON or TURN THE PAGE, ‘til come yes see at last it’s come and all the fear’s in not quite touching don’t you see there’s something still borne still buried out and out a viking grave in every moment that I feel your presence there in all but touch shout ibn Fadlan and grab my wrist to tell me how explorers moved from East to West yes grab my shoulder at the turn to ask me how I read from right to left I think I’d rather push out in the little boat pushed out by hands than stand surveyed a map to your unspoken conquest wandering eye and silent tongue so lay me in the longship drenched in oil yes feed me sweet wines fruits and music or in thrall with ashes on my head I’ll come like sweated horses for the slaughter let them bear down sweating one by one ’til lifted by the palms they raise me at the door frame raised like little girls my face eyes skyward say voici un corps and carry me now featherlight and stiff as board across the threshold mine now your imagining
Who am I to this page, some lover, fuck, or still more hotly raising Cain, this mark I bear which rises to the skin, a welt like saplings plucked at bend, the seer to some more ancient pain? I cannot tell how long I sat awash, nor yet how many waves of flame drew rippling ‘cross my deeper Sight. Only then, as borne above the sill, I felt a thousand wings which rushing, rising, beating at my back, propelled me as from deep within a well, drawn by the plumb, still swelling grew into my head, first two then one, as self-contained and there myself once more. The fires crackled on, two shrunken heads, hands folded, quieting in armchairs to my left. They sit atop the dizzying regress of floor, beneath a painted firmament, and I, laid out between the twilight muddling grey of overhead and windowsheen, hear interspersed a cough, now shuffling, turn of page, swell brief and warm against the tide’s fluorescent bulbs, abuzz cicadas, Fujisan at dusk.
Still rising from my chair, I move as steam perhaps invisible, unscented by the downturned faces, drifting to the door alone and cloudy. Note the many doors at lions, beaming stairways, entry hall, all catching sound up in their muffled rafters, dampening the noise that unperturbed rolls urgent and impartial in the city streets beyond, so many tumbled whisps and weeds of daily otherings. The warm air presses its mouth against me, toothless, dark, and wet, and prickles sweat that mounts to my surface, myriad and crystalline, an awkward acupuncture.
I’m down the subway steps at turns, BDFM and deeper down the subterranean clamp, still down, a box of wind and air that whistles as it pushes, rushes hard ahead the heat. A not five girl in saddle shoes is there, eight-fingered, palms to cheeks, as in one long drawn screeching from the dark a train rips out the hole and draws its body sleek along the length. A door unravels at my feet, ripe as crossing, there’s the fruit to pluck fresh from the slit. The inner tube takes on my weight in shudders, sealing at the breach. We plunge to black as, eyes upturned, from furs to hair I pass like hands to faces, toplit, masking, over the top and back to—Zellandine! forgive the trespass kiss me on the eyelids dewlike yes in REM the flicker feeding in now out now slicked up filmy yes with silhouettes yes shadowpuppet ‘gainst the darker pane like winter breathing write my name with fingersplintered ouch and sigh I sleep I die I wilt I lie so lie me lay me by the hearth breathe hot upon my heart my lips are chapped bare fangs like foxes spattered foxing quiet underfoot bear down like sweated horses by the bed your hand above my head stop sunder me stop part and leave me doubling such a cramp how many years of dark I bear in sleep for months awake hail sister wise and weird oh animate my flesh and drag from my still slumbering guts the ingrown crown lifegiving babe
They watch me, oh, they watch me not. Each face a petal torn and waving, wan and watching as the pitching cage propels us—who knows whence to where. There shines my windowed face, opposed, there see I in the cleft between this ear and that, a stranger’s eyes, hot, hollow, red as two fresh peppers, strange to think. I’ve often thought how glass does more than mirrors, shows in unexpected something twisted, foreign, true. I’m glistering unendingly, between this front and back, reflecting ad infinitum, nauseum, parched and heaving dry, take shelter in the cry of electrifying third rail. Heavy underfoot, and filched by undertoe, I’m dragged unsung beneath the rising wave of yet another mounting dread my head my head it bursts it beats the temples burn sweat with the heat of virgin fires thunderclap Hephaestus fetch the axe she’s breaking out this sleepy thought births godly limbs a midwife at my shoulder murmurs yes exhale breathe in bear down yes yes I feel—
A blow to the shoulder signifies a stop, hard-pressed against my neighbour’s flank, it’s heave ho lift and stagger off and out, a single step from ship to shore. The newsies sit in stacks aside, some fresh and local violation, typed at top-speed, quick-to-print, as evening paper flushes out the morning’s anguish, bears as sweet relief some still-warm horror, calming to the throngs now homeward bound. I’ll not stop here to read what’s brought to bear since light, such hue and cry consumes the senses, clouds the mind as I’m already cut up, masticated, spat out on the lamplit street. The usual suspects hail my slow return: there lies the Sleeping Man upon his palette, from out the bodega, another passes paper bag in hand—the sick, wet, cloying wash of garbage, heaped like boulders at the kerb.
The light runs horizontal up the ave, passes nervously to dark at intervals of either side. One, two, three blocks from surfacing, I hang a left, slight keeling on one heel, and sensing my own shadows drawing short then longer, as I move at paces farther from the glowing threshold, up the curtained street. The shudder’s calmed, but in its place a feeling sinister and shallow rises at the nape and draws me up the footpath. I’m thinking first, with backward glance at empty, ‘til fumbling pocketwards for the familiar teeth, brush nothing, now betraying from the back, pat chest and waist in quick succession, listening for a hopeful chime. I’m nearly at the door, now, empty hands unclenching, finding not a line of light at outer edge, but door sealed black on black. Imagining the narrow slice of wood as setpiece, flat and sidelong, I’m divided, empty street and empty hall, without within, uncoupled in the presence there of none but self. No voice is with me now, but in the heartbeat’s lull, faint steps I hear, and looking at my feet know them to be not mine, as these stand still, still rooted at the sill.
I am heavy pockets slendertongued and waving out to sea some banner whipping wild against the wind—I am not killed not killed but dead against the deep cold blue a spot of red that spreads all thinly as it fades—I am deepdiving off the coast of recollection tossed beneath a blinded surf that shouts and whispers down down down down down—plucked from the slit I am pearlescent tidal borne across the breach
The morning spreads pale hands against the sky, dark peaks, a hush, the scent of young pine.
Mina Odile is a tall drink of salty water. Born and raised in New York City, she received her BA and MSt in English at the University of Oxford, before moving to London. At the wise age of 23, she is now like the food of her home town – smoked, a bit fishy, and at her best with a bagel.