An Exquisite Corpse by Mark Winkler
02 Nov 2016
PEN South Africa called for creative responses to the state capture crisis in the form of short essays, fiction or poetry. This is one of the selected entries:
An Exquisite Corpse
by Mark Winkler
Allow me my blinkers; they are my right, as right as my right to the helicopter womb I long for. Allow me the space that has no thorns, no heat, no cold; no extremes of season or spice. Allow me Goldilocks, neither too much, too little, too big or too small; it must be just right, which is only fair, for if anything the world owes me fairness. But deliver me from ideas, and the idea of ideas; deliver me from the hideous, the fetid, the unpleasant, as you must deliver me from ecstasy and dizzying heights by tearing down fearful images, verbal or visual, and locking them away in a deep place where they cannot affront. Do not trespass with your triggers or your daggers or your crafty metaphors. And remember always: April is the cruelest month; I want no lilacs or summer surprise, and on the day I take my gown and cap I shall hold up the callous on my thumb, and you, all of you, will applaud.
Ink-stained my finger is, from this cheap Bic. I write, and in writing I make from twenty-six cyphers and a few inked breaths what I want, which is what I want, not what you want. I arrange them, disarrange them, rearrange them, compose, decompose, and yet I am beholden to their logic. Would that I could write awoieeshktdgxcn in a minor key, or thjhghlkkpjlwkdfiy in the aroma of fresh roses, and with that invoke the Rapture, for then I would be free. Or, I could sit by the fireside with an axe, and carve deep my freedom into my flesh.
Thank God (a metaphor, of course, for an ironic gratitude, or possibly a cynical one) for stupid people, for they will soon enough trip over the low barriers of their own IQs, and what they bear beneath their skirts as they tumble will be shown hairily to the world. Book-learning is no marker of slyness, I say. Yet it is refreshing, and undeniably sound, to remind oneself that fully half the people one meets is below average intelligence. That’s what average means. Bin gar keine Russin, stamm aus die Niederlande, echt Afrikanisch. Which the clever ones say in their fancy languages, and I say fuck them. Give me the stupid ones, those upon whom I can turn the blame for my arousal by their short skirts and their laminated heels, and then I will reach into the depths of their souls with my fist while I dance the dance of the sly old turtle, and later I will ejaculate onto your pillow and into your hair while your spilt blood feeds my lands: since when has enough ever been enough?
Allow me newspeak, and keep from me the spark of friction that stones make when they come together for language no longer has the vocabulary for it. Allow me groupthink, because the sky is incidental, the oaks colonial, and the ground between my feet the perfect bland backdrop to the six square inches of backlit complicity I hold in my hand: what glows there is the denominator, the determinator, the demonstration that when we think alike, we act alike. Grant me the levelling of everything, and for what has not been levelled yet, the tools of modality and dialectic et cetera, and afterwards a vial of belladonna to make my eyes shine. Above all else, keep from me the city filled with dreams, la cité pleine de rêves, because I want nothing of that, and I shall keep my knees together always.
In their kerning the cyphers are angry and incendiary, awaiting the slightest elbow nudge or sideways glance, but at some point the letters will rub against one another and start a flame so angry it will set fire to rock, to the ocean. The words between the tight spaces need not be long: no need for “marmalade”, or “brontosaurus”, or “hegemony”. On the contrary, the shorter and sharper they are the deeper they cut. No word longer than six lettrs. No sntns longer than six words. But. But there this thing: “?”. As crooked as a snake or a scorpion’s tail, or a shepherd’s staff hauling one away from the blissfulness where reflection has no place. The most venemous of inked marks it is, for every “?” requires an answer that satisfies the questioner. “How long is a piece of string?” they ask, to which I say yippee-ki-yay, motherfuckers: it’s exactly twice as long as half of it, and their slack faces give me the opportunity to laugh my famous laugh. But the price of my animation is high, and I fall asleep while my most-hated son gives metaphorical and difficult birth; there were, I hear later, themes of blood and shit, snot and hair, near-death. An octave, they say, has eight notes, but with the black ones included it has five more.
Okay so I lied. My torch is more virtual than real, kept alight by online polls and indignant petitions. The wolf is at the door, and it wears wolf’s clothing. Now I am exposed, having joined my story to the stories of everyone else. We set out, you and I, we and them, they and us, der, die und das, to cross this barren land and at the end of it to find someone on the mountain summit to wash our feet in soda water. Twit twit twit. Twat twat twat. And while we sought the high ground, we chanced instead upon a storm, and knee-deep in the flood-spun waters, someone, naked from the waist up and down, arms aloft like Christ on the cross, screamed, “Bring on your witches, you great fucking cunt. Here I am, take me, hate me, strike me now. Strike me with your animating spark, you omnipresent and hairy son of a bitch.” And when nothing came from the sky but more rain, she buckled, sank to her waist in the water, began to cry at all the lost things. As though the earth needed more tears, after that.
This text quotes and liberally references “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot.