i. Fashions of Vagabond Feathers
The sun’s own orb was sorrowing when it left me at Brandenburger Tor, asking me not to pass through her. At the counter in the belly of the cathouse across from the Adlon, I asked the procuress for her best room, and to send up thereinto, her wisest girl; a Sybil to augur my unmoved mood. ‘It sounds awfully Sisyphean,’ the madam responded, noting in her serpentine wording that I seemed tragically despondent. Too casually conflicted for a celebrated victim of his own fame, how could I—so heroic, so widely known—stumble proud-footed into such a squalid place? I pondered it as well—dissipation blessing me artistic residency in its vilest hotel.
The Great Elector—Herr Kaiser, High Chancellor—himself once incumbent of this selfsame post, sybarite by way of sunset train, came from Vienna to this most audacious of fates; why then, had it summoned me? He a failed painter, draughtsman, and denizen of the Third Rate—I an unlikely heir to a fortune of a Self I did not make; though no less welcomed, dictating to the procession of wanton candidates how and whom best to receive me as their Thursday bridegroom.
Into the fugue, time p(l)ays its decline—approaching the caustic opposite of noon, I select an azure-lidded beauty with auroral blue eyes, dutifully lowering her head at my decreed decision. ‘This one,’ I inform the reticent madam, supine, reclining on a chaise in the foyer, sprawled into the palm of velvet abandon; ‘it is her heart I shall consume this evening.’
ii. Inside the Furnace
Saturated in sacrilege, peepshow perfume permeates my whore’s room of a view; distended tendrils of fog weeping against the window, a balustrade bluff calling its charade into my fold hands my balcony beliefs their belfry from which to jump—distanced from those below for far too long, compelled to be shown. I survey my chamber and load its cartouche into my thoughts; royal names not known, I revere their loss, wishing too easily my own would be tossed out, or from its sandstone-dry existence blown. To close perception’s doors, to tenure its aperture into an indefinable term of repose; to retire these academician’s clothes and don the pelt of morose, magical mediocrity—that is why I have chosen this room.
Dirging as defiantly as a piano at noon, I circumambulate a shag expanse—carpet democratizing pathos itself, routes pathetic enough for barefoot emperors, assassins, courtesans, and weekend captives alike to traverse. More perverse tapestries trickle in wefts of time like dangling threads warped from melancholy itself, spread harlot-legged across my bed on which unraveled so many unknown relationships. In my head, my lobes imagine—compensating for the room’s misfortune—this instead to be a vignette, a tableau vivant in which covetous creatures preen and desires, anthropomorphized, overdose either on pilfered morphine, or expired ether. This must be why their essences linger, why an empty room is filled with spirits of trysts that ended, but who are left here.
Into her, inside of waking’s pacific rim, I am one of several hired thugs commissioned by universal consciousness to tongue its brim; to kneel inside of him—the Architect—who sifted from Gulf sand the shrapnel needed to fashion this dome under which I happen to be. A medallion sky of bronze, cast from castaway legs of Fascist statues, runs around my marathon marriage bed; contending with me in its uniformity, to please the multiple brides we both await. A reflective ceiling the glassy eye of which we cannot break, not with our ugliness, nor with our anxious performances.
The room is a gut of amber; looted treasure whose Nazi lampshades—wry as foreskins foreshadowing the scars of Christ’s circumcision, of the excision of religion from governing people—command each resident to surrender up what he had hoped would be included; to cut out of himself all that he had believed in.
Honeymoon suite, in a metamorphosis of dejection, cedes tracts of tirades to each client who happens to wander within. I wonder, wondering no-heartedly, if my hired brides will ever arrive, conscious I have paid too much to brave a crater tonight, if there will be no company. I have paid too much for one, but if even her transvestitized brethren cannot appear, then I am too louche to see the benefit of sin; and feeling Œdipal, might wreck my eyes to complement this deficit of insight, allowing the underworld to become more dim.
Great death, great consumption, wed prematurely to perform the great undoing—why have I been assigned, by blight of mysticism, this most symbolic of bordello rooms? It is a wonder as I rise, my beard of fire cauterizing the phthisic air, wandering from the slab of recreation to an arsenal of contraindication. Why does the medicine chest sit opened and generously stocked, inside of a chamber where, it has been said, not even the devil would walk? Who has been in? Who is coming? Is it she who has moved from the middle to the top shelf, these eleven phials of Freudian heroin? Alphabetized not in her native German, nor in person, but by telekinetic thought; my Babylonian mistress has wrought according to cuneiform Akkadian, each narcotic by ancient name. A blasphemy! Tintype-cool anachronism by which evil I am ashamed!
It is a wonder my cloven hooves fit at all into my shoes, but it is amoral catastrophe that my truant spouse has arranged our borrowed house without consulting me. Perhaps it was, instead, the madam? With no sacrificial victim to sate me, nor tact by which to depict her gracious antiphony, I am livid; shell-worn, soul-scraped, like Hypatia on Alexandrian shore, content no more to suffer her heresies.
iii. Panic at the Voluptuary
A Saint Anthony—Saint Anthony!—of tricks, how she has turned my wilderness into this iniquity; every thing an illusion conjured to gnaw at me; translucent wolves like fog to ensconce me. Mistaking myself onto her, privy to the ruse, I writhe under astral weight; burdened by the gravity that it is she who has been riding me! My succubus sent up to rival me my nefarious command and now I am become her knight, ridden like a mare.
Milk pools mirage through fistfuls of hanging hair; above me, as heretofore unknown, she is here: my purchased bride astride my promontory body thrashing below her waving thighs, sweating under her flickering halo; my bashful whore imperceptible no more. Overflowing to Sodom, my horror summons from my absinthed bowels the near-distant throng of traveling belles. Ringing, ringing, my tomb too lily-flush to bloom, rips into its peal; and out of my chest appears her sisters, calling, ‘We are here!’ A scream grinds to the edges of the ceiling; upturned moulding sounding a fit of dissonance, my whore laughs, and her sister-soldiers laugh—all-knowing cackles signifying my capture.
‘Stop!’ I call, but my feet are pulled and my appalling demise is all I can conceive of; off of me she retreats, sweeping into herself each Argonaut from the sheets. ‘For you, poet, a special prize: inspiration, experience, damnation—for a single price.’ Nameless, she christens herself Nemesis; and her back to me, watches the traffic below before off of the foul balcony into the purity of Berlin snow, she leaps—her echoes of seed-swallowing sheep whitening the room with their iridescent glow, out of which light they chuckle, and after their ancient mother, follow.
Into waking I am thrown—knowing not if it is ambition or recollection inciting me to paint this pepper-scented pain into my writing. Cold-water crimson, dawn’s light running down the alley of her thighs sins in a vein of innocence, the heavy-lidded fall of my vagrant eye. I follow her down Unter den Linden, iron-fisted certain it is far easier to swallow lightning than to devour a virgin.