On Feeding a Golem – Wes Jamison
As the sun sets into a Taurean horizon, peer from the kitchen into the glowing-red dining room. Watch the index of the branches play across the wall. (There cannot be any question as to who is moving and who is not.) Turn off the faucet and make those few steps to that other room. Turn on the light and refuse to mourn those shadows.
The dining room is only exactly what it ever has been: a mostly unused room used mostly to house a collection of flea market nothings and dust that can’t be dusted out of the detail, a single small window built to overlook where the rams used to rub their horns on stubborn planks of wood. The walls and ceilings are cracked, having shifted with the entire foundation away from themselves—a sign, perhaps, that too much has been added on here, too much created to continue to support.
Call to him. Call him to the table by the name he does not have, that name to which he will respond regardless.
Look up through the ceiling as if to see him through it and underneath. Watch the dust fall from the ceiling with his heavy steps from that end to the other, into the next room before the stairs. Do not blink as the plaster settles on your cheekbones and cornea.
The jolt of each step down those old stairs shakes off clump after clump of him (to be picked up and discarded later—should either ever want to—though neither will ever want to, because it is everywhere in this house, through every room and multiple times, layers of him now, and stored in the medicine cabinet, rotting into the upholstery fibers with that liquid that always arrives with putrefaction, the entire house a collection of what was once collected in and as him: piano wires and keys and a black bust of Lenin and reeds and contact mics and so much red string and those sweet pink pills and dozens of books with uncracked spines, stacked, as it were, to make his spine).
When he drags his bare feet across the light wood floor and predictably scrapes them across the door frame’s bevel, be apologetic, because these are those few corporeal pleasures that can be had by someone without a soul (does he have a soul). Be sympathetic to his lack of (sexual) interest and drool, his odor and mania and anxiety at not knowing who he is (and all this time spent pretending that he did).
Tolerate his approach. Step away from the chair and the table and the smell of him—that smell that is called clay because it is reminiscent of what was used in art class, though that which was actually being smelled were all those dirty fingerprints. (Step away from taking more responsibility than is ever necessary, because so much has been taken, given, absorbed already.) Dinner has been made; it is done. So step away from everything. Always in a whimper, as if always wounded from another marriage.
He seats himself. Do not attempt to push the chair in under him. He is too heavy for that, despite all the contents of him having suddenly become lost in his movement, in his moving—thrown away in haste, in brash judgement, as if none of it will ever be needed again. (Always know better than this.)
Sit across from him and converse quietly and politely as if with a dog, as if for the first time, for there is only his stare and slack jaw and the minute flickers of emotions that may or may not be implanted in him that stutter out as response. Just his fumbling fingers at the silverware, as if inspecting, as if learning, as if seeing for the first time; as if last night’s dinner never happened, as if nothing like this has ever happened before.
He dips the spoon, baby-fisted, into and partially overturns the bowl. (Superimpose the sight of him and this with another to make this bearable. Catalog all the movies he refused to watch and watch his lips twitch with the kisses of another.)
(Remove the film of this only as something drops into his half-spilled soup, the camel of it staining the white tablecloth bought to be stained, though never by soup, and spilling over onto his disproportionately large thigh.)
(How often, when we intend beauty, is a malformity created.)
Something, something small and almost white and apparently light but definitely dense, given how quickly the soup’s surface returns to placid.
Look away, as if nothing like this has ever happened before.
(Nothing like this has ever happened before.)
Until it does again, and curiosity demands an upturned face, a long-necked swallow of that
ginger with eyes that pan corner to corner at the deviated, cracked, and left-unrepaired ceiling. Find the largest crack, and follow it like a river (who teaches follow rivers) to find the crack that must be just about (above) him. Find it, and wait again (because love is always waiting). Watch for movement, for anything small enough or not white enough, to appear in the cracks that receive none of this setting sun.
With spoon dangling at the mouth and eyes suddenly turned so high they are rolling, watch the wriggling from the plaster, how the plaster sticks to the pupal skin and barely visible black head and those six orange legs absolutely known to be there, because known to be vestige (or the opposite of vestige, the one where one has what one will need rather than keep despite no longer needing).
With wide eyes and sharp chin jerk toward chest, follow the maggot as it falls unnoticed by him there onto his left shoulder, the bike chain of his clavicle.
Lift again the unfinished spoon, and dip, again, into the soup.
Let an insincere, a corner-of-the-mouth-only smile crack like the entire room has done and do the math:
How long, if unformed, if metal and porous, if two days were spent collecting the materials and seventy-two pounds of honey brought him to life, then.
If six-hundred and thirteen attic hornets created that honey, then how many flies produced how many maggots in his upstairs.
If nonverbal and unnamed, then.
When he does not tell and does not invite and the distance between is negligible, then.
If ginger soup and maggot, if one maggot, then.
If he always leaves to see another on Sundays, if one unexplained strand of precum, then. How long has he been rotting there upstairs.
And which is greater: his animation or simultaneous (de-)composition.
Worms never move quickly and, like mushrooms, only do when they are unwatched. So do not rush. Get up to refill the glass of water. And wipe the basin dry with the hand towel after. To eat, inspect each spoonful, the smoothness and color and whether or not flakes of pepper may be seen (they never can be, can they). Breathe four squares between each ladle. Once done, wipe the bowl with the tablecloth and set it with the others. Wipe the spoon, wipe the spoon again, and place it back in the tray more than once. Straighten shirt. Use the cloth again to wipe the dried amber from
top of upper lip, curled in to scrape the spoon clean each time.
Stand up. Push in the chair. Watch him watch the chair be pushed in, mesmerized by how it disappears under the table, like the soup he spills into his lap. Watch his pyrite eyes follow fingertips caressing the floral of the cotton covering the table and pull hair behind ear. Then the other. Unbutton fly and roll up sleeves. Pants fall, and let them, and step out of them. Touch him, just where the hair should begin to grow behind his ear. The gutterals can’t quite climb out of his oboe throat, so listen as they fall dead like centipedes onto his steak of a tongue. Allow his gaze to be satisfying, knowing that, at least now, he is not looking elsewhere. Move to the side of the table and grip the cloth firmly in both hands. Lean over, exposed. Smile. And pull the fabric out from under the soup and elbows in one quick jerk.
Watch as he sits dumb and unaware of the broken bowl to his left, the soup dripping through the pores of the wood into whatever exists beyond and below the floor. Do not speak and do not enjoy. Do not move too quickly and do not move with aggression. (It is just done.)
As if a matador, throw the ginger-stained (and it is always turmeric, isn’t it) cloth over him like a bedsheet ghost or interrogation victim. No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. Pull the fabric under all six legs and gather it in the front like Mother taught how to pleat (she’d be ashamed at the lack of demonstrated skill now) and use his own weight to tip him backward. Recognize those sounds, that thrashing as the sounds and thrashing not of agony but of desire and despair: the blue-ish tantrum when one is denied love in return. Notice the difference: when we mourn, our fetal is stomach-down like a raccoon’s hunched back to protect that which is vital; here, he is belly-up and vulnerable.
(Be strong.) Gather the strength like the fabric like Mother taught and pull with all the weight of these two frames pulling in opposite directions. Heels into nails in floorboards. Fingernails torn up to the cuticles in doorways. Knocked-over lamps and end-tables, the ficus now grounded, and so much sweat that bloodshot.
It appears like this will never work. So recite, loudly, between the tears and the grunts, Deuteronomy 4 (about idolatry, not obedience or law) to calm breathing and to distract from the pain of having all nails ripped up and so many others in soles. And listen as he thrashes in discomfort as if almost in pain—that sound of fright, when almost muted because something animal in us tells us to silence any anguish lest more predators come scrape themselves past these thistles.
Drag him through the back yard where the sheep used to bleat, past the shed there and the firmly browned metal of the fence, and to the beach—where he was abandoned like a joey in a drought, where love was once decided upon, and stand him upright out of the chair (throw it into the water) and unveil him like the Genevan wretch between those four letters (all always consonants).
Without ceremony (it is so much easier to decreate) and without hesitation, sink fingers into his distended abdomen. Do not be alarmed by the force of the maggots’ exodus from the bird carcuses of his stomach. Do not be alarmed when those beaks break skin. Do not be alarmed to find resistance. Instead, just pull out. (It is just done.) His gaze falls to the falling bits of him, that one deep wail that comes not from him but through, like the wind in the city around the buildings. Pull out and let him excrete all that which he has hoarded: the the newsprint, the dog ashes, the baseball and the durian, the lovers and the lunches and the cracking teeth.
Once the torrent has subsided, place palms together, elbows touching. Enter him again (and again, despite the constant undesire to). Slide flat fingers past the threshold of him. The boundary pulls on arm hair and is tight enough to gently slow the familiar beating in fingertips. Go all the way to the elbow. But instead of going through, pretend to be a surgeon washing that brown soap off arms under the spigot of his ribs. Lace fingers there, resting hairline on his sternum, as if that is the site of prayer.
And let it be—the very site from which angels will pour once this apparatus cracks. And then just double over and pull with the collapse of all those holy emotions. All bodyweight invested in this one moment. All the maggots, all the sawdust organs, all the floss ligaments and shelves of dust and hair and skin cells and used tissues—tear them all out, all at once. And cumple like paper at his feet as if to only then ask for forgiveness. (Do not be sorry.)
But there is no possibility of error if nothing is meant to remain intact. Lie back and let him fall out of himself onto the sand and the lines drawn there, despite the few tears now accruing, to his own feet. (He hates his body anyway, the crooked spine, wide eyes, and impotence.)
Now say to him, from the safety of the ground and below all of him, while wiping him off forearms with that tablecloth, Because. Because your body is already dead. From as soon as you awoke—and I don’t know if you ever really did—your body was failing. Because I could not master the techniques before I needed you in my life, could not master the gematria and all that math. Because I can’t understand what you say when you have no vowels but speak in nothing but. Because even at one day old, you were already one day into obsoletion, just like any other technology—and ultimately anywhere from two to four hundred years old. Your rot and organs lie at your clubbed feet, because, please understand, if they were not forcibly put there, that’s where they would end up anyway. Regardless. In spite of. So.
Say, Why delay the inevitable. I don’t know how much of this you understand. It’s like, I don’t know, do you remember when you saw that book by Rilke—the excitement I had at your having found him. Do you remember Rilke. The glory of your mortality—of how wonderful it was to be an animal not rightly mated. How terrible the angels are or those conversations that we had about how frightening the angels are. You had it, that fear or glory or maybe just the book, but now you stand in it, and it is clinging to your ankles. It, the life or love or commitment or words. It exists in the molasses seeping from the very fabric of you. Neither in your fabric nor in your molasses. It is only in the seep; your mortality lies in the verb.
He stands like a husk. So collect the remnants of the life that was given him, pile it much like the pile that created him, and tie it up in that cloth. Walk it into the ravens of the lake, the flapping of the small waves against themselves. Drop it, there, because it is done. Let it sink, because.
Return to him, because there is still work to be done. To map all the organs, the digestive and circulatory systems, the haphazard brain and all those extra sparks there to find where, exactly, his allegiance was placed. Before destroying it. When diagramming it, this Dachshund-shaped tumor found under the left makeshift carotid artery, neglect neither the perspective nor the shading, for it must appear three-dimensional to be understood later.
Then tear it out. Leave it on the ground next to his feet the way the cat or raccoon did to the starling—the head only inches from the headless body. (There is never enough blood.)
Under the retrograding Saturn and against these cool westward breezes, sit and compose that letter, the one that says goodbye and sorry (but don’t be, for anything). Wrap it tight in itself, one solid tube of all those unfinished conversations, all those promises.
Leave this letter with him. Let him use his own agency to insert it into himself. Or never (how often that anxiety and lifelessness makes even movement an impossibility). Wait for him to make up his mind, which is to say, hope that he does (but know he won’t, no matter how many chances he is given). So. Give up or give in. And place this rolled up page in his open, exposed framework-pelvis. Wait expectantly as nothing happens.
Nothing ever fucking happens. So. Rage.
Punch his soggy hollow body standing in a mound of maggots and hoard of him and tear at those thighs (there is sympathy, somewhere). Crack his knuckles the way that he used to, all grunts of relief that only came from how he pleased himself and mechanical chipping—worry of breakage or damage. Scrape him out not just like a pumpkin but as if to make the very best Jack-o-lantern. Let him be the vessel he always was—an impure site to find the same desires and pain, the same repeated dreams, a site of circular breathing that could never occur but where it felt possible. And let the screams of hostility give way to melancholy.
(Finish it.) Remove truth from his chest. Erase the carved-in alef, rub it from his flesh with flesh—until only death remains. Then rub more. Maintain a constant friction against the wire hangers of his ribs with blistering thumb until even that word disappears into blood or callous.
When the letter falls among his seed, pick it up and punch it through his finally-closed jaw, past where his tonsils would (should) be. And let go of it. (Let go.) And leave it. And walk away.