A Story Near Dawn.
By ADAM KOSAN.
COFFEE IS A horse. Freedom is a luxurious body with lazy hands attached, not naturally growing as the body grows. The directive came: combine yourself at last with all you hate. Stand up then in the night when this is achieved, massively inflated, transmogrified.
The puffed-up bath-pink color of your oversensitive towel-rubbed skin. The shadow of disrepute is shifting across unpredicted forms through the vanishing night. I was a long time ago on a farm in the far east and waiting for deliverance, hiding under the wet evergreen treecover and making myself scarce between jobs, my eyelashes like the dripping ferns. And across the downward-falling moisture glossing up each eye, the world tortured itself, as if for my very own privileged viewing, when life otherwise had given me no other privilege or joys. But I was there, two centuries ago. That time of the serf sits heavy and in easy flickable pieces, porcelain, in my innermost heart. Hiding up my centuries of pasts, my meditations count here, here, now, then, ago, afraid of the self-peeling anarchic masterself we call “the present.”
Or I could let my voice slip, ah there, flowingly into the sewer sounds underneath our feet, or into the hoarseness of a car engine, or the mechanic’s virulent cough as he looks at me, or the sun-struck appeal of the sky as it spreads blue-white disdain for everything below, fragrant as an orange peel—all our long noses push feebly up there to inhale. Failing, again more earthbound than seemingly ever before, these ambitious variously misshapen organs accept the more ephemeral fragrance of spring flowers, little images of life, going under at midsummer and soon straw-like, wasted, in the fall.
Or I could push myself harder than I ever have to recall my time in the ground, swimming through the murk in all kinds of free directions against that still cold mud sea of bodies. Such city-like pale forms, ingeniously wrapped and displayed! Up through the heights of that undermud city of cities and back down to its primordial depths, seriously impressed by the novel methods of public transit down there, and how well-ordered, even august, the functioning of their government, and how commendable the overall civility, even nobility, of their society. I thought to myself, here they’ve figured out at last how to live in peace and virtue, and with thorough respect for all! This should be an example to us, a God-given model civics. How much we could learn from these cultures below! And then, being so full of envy and desire to join them as a tolerated interloper, I was banished for my admiration, and forced back up to the shoddy company of the world above, taking again my damned “natural” form. I spit on all you and these changes! I shouted, weak and dehydrated from the journey, more dehydrated than if I’d gone through a desert a full day with nothing but glorious somehow-ice-cold vodka! The dryness of my mouth and the sickly shadowshame that is the meager existence I call “I,” “me,” my name (which I will withhold, the power to do so being the one power I have) forcefully continued, declaring itself again and again by sneezes, in distracting words, yes declaring itself without meaning, just speech, and dotting out incidental falsely-revelatory details of origin, age, family, current place, social station, and so on—no, I say to all that, and no again, the eternal singing no, as my good small god Emerson said to me in a book once, “I prefer those who say no to those who say yes,” and I say yes! yes absolutely to that! We are in agreement and bonded there, on that word and disposition, yes to saying no, forever no! But I am forced back up into the light. My little den of darkness is always taken from me then restored, then taken again, I’m knocked through the world like the pieces that give snow globes their skyfalling effect: shaken up, then drifting down, slowly settling among the infinitesimal many, settling, settling, then roughly shaken back again into the upper atmosphere!
Or I could go back to when I entered into the bee’s hunger. The most miraculous lighting took me and floated me in a low range of sky, all full of scents, again the rich earth. Into the flowering earth and only flowering earth, coming up with body full of honey and a honey-drunk head and describing unbearable angles of flight, a danger to fellow bees on the air roads one evening. Feeling within the absolute quickness of my life, which I admit was now slowed a little by honey-drunkenness, the wings halting, the darkening hurrying pulse of fall coming in, all around me were the buzz-blur syllables of humanity, a chorus of isolated voices coming near as if drawn by a magnet from across the world, uhh uhh, blur, hypnotic buzz, uhh uhh, warm days, blur, uhh, hypnotic buzz, never cease, blur, uhh, o’er brimmed their, uhh, clammy cells, hypnotic blur…snoring…pietas interruptus…worshipful tongues coughing, a chorus of ardor long echoing, such ardor to tempt me in my bee state up toward assumption of mascotbeing…but I flew on drunkenly, tilting my honey-brazened body toward the earth—and even now, recalling that far-from-me translation, that opium condition putting the dreams of magus Thomas to runty bits, a shudder is all in me and I feel a memorial drunken smile on my lips.
Or what about when I was the most handsome of hands, a prince’s—in the words of a favorite MC—come to strangle my mistress? Or in the words of a favorite long-ago Irish poet, metempsychosed backward in time this same MC, the hands of clamorous eyes? Powdered and pure, “blotless,” as they once would have called them, in a remarkable exhibition of self-possession, descending from a ginger adjustment of cheek in a mirror to the terrible instantaneous coming-to-life of strangling, and all in order with the cosmos: this royal predilection for murder, the whimsical elimination of others in a perverted ecstasy of joy and jealousy. I had been trapped there a soft instrument of violence on the princely body—half hanging off, half an extension, two evil hands all magnificence, upholding the aura of impervious conspiracy like a halo around that regal form, with the nimbus especially thick over its god-polished princely head.
I am appalled, appalled, by that particular former life, being now a member in good standing of the morally upright today. And though I emphatically assure you that I am good and hate my past material recruitment into bad deeds, in very secret corners I confess—I hope no one overhears—that in that condition of prince hands my revulsion mixed with awe at the Lord’s creation of such a malevolent individual.
The giddap of day comes to rescue me. Now it promises for yet a countless time that all will be well in the good Lord’s light, no matter how we work together across centuries to stamp Him out. Trends in the sidebar are accumulating posts, here are irritants I can feel at my eyebrows and temples. Folding up my notes, filing them, I lay me down for one last breather before I’ll need to be up in the world again crawling through that monstrous masterself “the present,” pushing through it like a parasite searching for a new spot to get hold, secure myself again on this unfeeling host, and feast. Oh, I’ll gorge myself, yes I always do, and then forget about it and be off looking to settle again, readjust to new conditions, feed, rest sated, then be off—I remember the pattern for a moment, but most of the time I forget. For now, a breather. Gathering as the day is gathering. And then out of this rest, with a prayer of who-knows-what-words to inspire me off, attending to much in the boredom of imperatives. Peace to you all, and goodbye for a short while.
ADAM KOSAN’s writing has been published in Chicago Review, Prelude, and The Quarterly Conversation. He’s directed a live performance of Christopher Logue’s All Day Permanent Red and an opera, Productions of Time, for which he also wrote the libretto.