When the fascists are elected, my status becomes unclear. I’m moved from my view of the pleasant 15th-century square to a closet in the shadow of the 14th-century cathedral. The implication being perhaps that if the coy transcendent loophole in my Weltanschauung and work were no longer a blank sky but Mary and the saints, I might be allowed to live, not be sent home.
The intellectuals (there are still intellectuals) remain sympathetic in the cafés (there are still cafés, though the Internet is spotty). Yet I seem increasingly beset by local types with local grudges. One novelist from a sheepherding (?) family complains about being endlessly dissed in the city … Is the regime telling me something? Still, I make great strides with the language.
Each day, the government offices are less and less help. They want to know the exactnature of my relationship with each of the disappeared I ask about, back home. “We seek good relations with the United States of America” (he always uses the full title). “It is the land of freedom and equal rights.” “But you don’t believe in those things,” I say, despairing. His shrug is cosmopolitan, expressing nothing.
Few burqas on the people driven in buses from the square – they look like anyone, which makes them more intolerable. “The new Jews,” says a friend; one notices few of the old Jews about. That evening I walk to the river under a clear though not an endless sky and spend my rationed coins on wurst and coffee. The river laps the steps of the Old Quarter. It’s good to be reminded there’s no hope.
To the Mainstream
The subtle persona has me chained in a basement. I’m fed well enough, though he insists it’s poison. There’s no toilet or shower but he asks why I care. When he visits and squats out of reach, I ritually tell him just how I would kill him, and he in turn describes what’s happening outside. Endless war, stupefaction, the past repeated. Farce. I laugh till I’m hoarse, which gives him occasion to mourn, to profess himself shocked by my attitude. Some nights the whole house shakes and echoes with moans, but I’ve no way of knowing what he’s really doing.
One day he’s upset. A cult has arisen. Thoroughly American, it seeks serenity, believes that the soul is good and will enter Heaven; for the rest, it kills and kills. Downtown he saw a pile of them shot by the National Guard (which is not yet with them), and a girl caught in the crossfire, bleeding out. Her image destroyed him. “You weep for one girl,” I smile, “not a mound of youths?” He says the heart and style must focus on one. “I disagree,” I say. “Pathos is cumulative, quantitative. Which means that, beyond a certain point, there is none.”
Meanwhile I sharpen the edge of a spoon, slowly loosen the chains, and strangle him with them one afternoon. Go upstairs, shower. His clothes fit perfectly. On his desk, “Dear Persona” – major awards dinner that night. The whole tribe will be there! I go as him. The winner, praised for making monstrous childhood, gender dysphoria, failed relationships, and pain in every part into a voice that speaks to every other troubled soul, notices me over the crowd and bursts into tears. I don’t think we were ever introduced ... it must be my vibe.
Bio: Author of two book-length narrative poems, THE ADVENTURE and HAPPINESS, both published by Story Line Press. A collection of shorter poems, A POVERTY OF WORDS, 2015 from Prolific Press. Another collection, LANDSCAPE WITH MUTANT, to be published by Smokestack Books (UK), 2018. Has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Die Gazette (Munich), The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Representations,Magma (UK), Iota (UK), Bateau, Main Street Rag, Fulcrum, etc. Online, poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Allegro, Hamilton Stone Review, Diagram, BlazeVox, The New Hampshire Review, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Thunderdome, etc. Adjunct professor creative writing George Washington University.