gregory SETH harris
novelist | poet | performer
First published 2002 – LINX EYE, Volume IX, No. 4
When blood is crushed purple by toes of over-confidence, then a star will tumble in the west and the anti-christ will shiver with goosebumps. When children dress in black, with shaved heads and sheared ideals, automobiles will rumble, echo thunder, but eardrums popping to spastic rhythms will not compute. Rivers will rise, flooding banks. The corns of old women's feet will ache. Shadows will separate from objects that grew them. Bibles will crumble till all that is left is the family name.
Then, and only then, does Napoleon confront the mirror, finding himself weighed in even measure with nobodies and the mediocre somebodies who sign his check. Then, and only then, does he hang his head in the dangling noose and offer sacrifice.
On a morning the same as any other, when clouds with human faces bite the bitter lemon of a wounded sun, when the sky squints and a bruised horizon explodes, acidic juices will trickle from his throat and Napoleon shall kneel before a porcelain alter, his prayer a puzzle in pieces, schizophrenic syllables swan diving off a spastic tongue. He will rattle the mirror, curse the pills, damn the ointments for being unable to make him the man his fog insists he is.
On such a morning, Cinderella, her pumpkin tattooed with feminist slogans, will tie back her tangled wilderness, stick out her tongue, say "Ah." Counting her freckles, she will wonder how she had come to compromise so many. In piranha slippers, she will descend the American heartbeat into the snap, crackle, pop of another shopping mall morning, smack dab into another multiple choice question. She will scour her textbooks, scan pots and pans, matriculate on soap operas and scandals as she plays Double Jeopardy on the geography of love.
On such a morning, Tiny Tim will pee behind the pantry. Having made a skateboard of crutches, he will collide into an angry kitchen, crunch down the unfinished sentences his parents pour with vodka and milk. "Two and two equals three," he will repeat in the staccato cadence of a parrot with a lisp. Napoleon will agree. "Two and two does equal three. . .two and two equals three after taxes."
On such a morning, Napoleon will sulk as Cinderella swats airplanes. He will rant as she irons the screams from his shirt, his socks, his noose, his pants. He will dial long distance, get her answering machine with no room to leave a message. He will leave his fist print instead.
It will be a morning of buzzards hovering over the Savings & Loan, downtown of missile silos, gutters lined with poets playing hooky. Napoleon will dodge the human leaves, note the nose dive of Arabs homed in on Israelis. He will scatter his osmosis, shed static electricity, scoff at chiseled souls, laugh at statues, suffer from hemorrhoids, halitosis and split ends. As his shadow ploughs the compost of decaying equilibrium, he will not feel his Adam's apple slip away from him. He will hear only the steady swish! . . plop! . .applause! . .swish! . . plop! . . applause! . . swish! . .plop! . . applause! of a President homing in on golf balls.
Napoleon will mount the mechanical mare, tap his toes to its whine & whinny, rising a dozen. . .two dozen. . . three dozen stories. He will smile at Mona Lisa, stealing glimpses of the moon between her mammary glands. He will pour a cup of fog, talk of 2x4's and crosswinds, drop his head behind a chair, affix his vision on the flicker of fluorescence, stare up the dress of progress, pretend it has no underwear. But he will grab his green card from a lower left hand drawer when a knock at the door hands him a subpoena. On a vice president's door, he will Morse code his defiance, staggering in like the devil-may-care.
Swiveling in a vinyl throne, flanked by diplomas and family photos, will be Fred Flintstone, spurs dug in, easy chair squealing. Fred of Lead will stroke his smooth head; talk of upholstery, honorariums & heirlooms; trip over euphemisms, while digging deep for those certified witticisms that won't go soggy in homogenized milk.
Having placed his eyes in a pocket flask, Napoleon will hear only the heavy metal of oceans crashing, that and the distant cry of a humpback whale. He will panhandle his pride, hump his past, stroke his favorite peninsula: he, the hero; he, the misunderstood; he, the martyr; the saint made to err in a world that refused to go easy on him; he, an endangered species; he, the rightful King of the Hill.
Flintstone will smile his knife wound, revealing two row of perfect tombstones; a black abyss gaping just beyond the canker sores. Napoleon will tumble in as he is flayed by a leather tongue as uncompromising as his dead father's this-will-hurt-me-more-than-it-will-you routine. Napoleon will give way to spontaneous combustion. He will slam the door, storm the shag carpet, stub his toe on the smile of Mona Lisa who will later claim he hobbled passed her naked.
On such an afternoon, he will slouch over a barstool while Barney Rubble wipes the counter clean. He will curse and cajole, parade on shaky stilts before his buddies Johnny Walker, Sgt. Pepper, J. W. Booth, Rasputin and Jim Beam. Giving mouth-to-mouth to a deflated ego, he will grow indignant at anyone who refuses the wisdom he bestows them. When angry tattoos toss him through what once was a window, he will scarcely feel the wind shift.
Done in by don't walk signs and the stubbornness of telephone poles, he will pound into the pulse of traffic, pirouette to the sound of brake squeals, collapse in the neighbor's hedges, watch drunken stars attempt a waltz as they collide into the ever-shrinking horizon. Napoleon will laugh, not realizing their dilemma is his.
It will be a moon the color of tequila that will lift him and lead him to the moat surrounding his castle, yet shine no light on his missing key. He will beckon Juliet to the balcony, see only Hamlet's father who dissolves at one whiff of his stale, arrogant breeze. Napoleon will shatter the rear door window, watch the pane in shards break against the blue lake of silence like suspended dreams.
On such an evening he will find graffiti spray painted on Cinderella's absence, spray painted on the absence of all material things. There will be no place to sit, nothing to lie on (or lie to), on nothing to trip. . .only the poor masquerade of shadows and the throbbing of deafening emptiness. It will be he and a displaced cockroach, he and the echoes of kitchen grease, the gnawing of an invisible refrigerator, the low hum of a sorrow about to give birth to a stillborn fetus. Napoleon will collapse in a corner, praying for a six-pack as a pillow.
Like flies to flypaper, his ghost will wrestle with taut sinews of self-pity, disengage like a woman clinging to an abusive husband, wobble like a drunken sailor losing his bet with gravity. It will crawl the cracks of his cranium, step gingerly around dead brain cells, igniting them into troubled, tossing dreams.
[Dreams.] Progression of bald children dressed in black, his coffin a giant ghetto blaster---him inside, pounding, pleading, "Let me free, let me free!"---coughing, wheezing, his feeble crying drowned by Perry Como crooning, "Feelings ...nothing more than feelings," behind an orchestra comprised of everyone he ever loved...or hated---the conductor leaning on a crutch, wearing the green dress worn by Cinderella on their first anniversary. He will find himself screaming, "Forgive me, forgive me," as his coffin is dropped in a chasm and dirt pours in like a celebrating river. And then. . .silence. . .save for the gong of one tear falling. . .from a taller, Tiny Tim. . .who walks away . . .his leg whole again.
It will be high noon before a mail carrier finds remnants of what once was a man, sliced by the chainsaw of sunshine, drowned in a pool of salty sweat, consumed by his own resonance, begging for another chance to start over again.
When blood is crushed purple by toes of over-confidence, a star will tumble in the west and the anti-christ will shiver with goosebumps. Then, and only then, does Napoleon confront the mirror. Then, and only then, does he utter that most difficult of four-letter words: "Help."