In the Mouth of Winter

Mister Borden, can you tell us about your method? As an artist, do you ever seek to emulate your heroes, do you calculate the resemblance? And all of your anguish, all of your suffering—what of it? Is this healing we’re witnessing, is your work cathartic?

                    Be careful who you worship.

“Gods made of wood and overlaid with silver and gold are unable to save themselves from thieves or robbers.”
                    —Let Jer 1:57 [Bar 6:57]1

                    I began this before I knew I was writing it,
I’d rather have words in my mouth than a dick,
mastering a language is so much more satisfying than pleasing
idiots, a sentiment I trivialize by trying to explain it,

                    this attitude is the glue binding my predecessors to the
present moment, the magic I learned then, back when my
father lived and called me ‘Son,’ our ancestors speaking through
him before an assassin’s attack stuck moth-winged death like a

                    pin into his flesh, its dance tattooing a path from
this life into the next, erasing all trace of a
way back, its glowing jaws replacing an exit sign’s promise
of swift though calm egress with an agonizing trauma I

                    can’t get rid of, visions of a pinch of lead
which, punching an idol all-too-human, punctured his myth and passed
through him, a gun-fight of icy glances knifing the eyes
of a thousand past lives as its cyanide grin sought

                    to undo them stitch-by-stitch, blanketing in unacknowledged cries this ancient
tapestry of vagrant genetics, aching as its descendants wander timelines
and coastlines, never content no matter how many continents we
conquer, his demise needling needing beneath the surface of this,

                    my loneliest literary gift, fastening shut what I can only
open again when my relentless talent for expression gives up
to strangers the ghosts with whom I’ve been living, scarcely
forgiven, I carry them with me, those bones barely laid

                    echoing, ‘Everything we do affects the next seven generations,’ imparting
the importance of disaster management for broken-hearted artists, a saint
with a painter’s skill, it wasn’t rain but bullets when
you wept ochre rust onto this precipice of an existence

                    I can’t pull my Self out of, amber hail double-fisting
its assault against subtlety, every hit filling in its blankest
space the way a canvas tears the face of its
portrait’s sitter, splits into a splintered psyche, and then teams

                    of experts, centuries later, gloved like foxes with soft paws,
facetious pretence, and delicate sentimentality as innocuous as it is
requisite, repair the tragic affair, put together again the ridiculous
family picture, restoring historical significance to the anonymity of scowling

                    patrons whose hidden, tongue-bitten smiles conceal a flickering enthusiasm of
a thousand indifferent filaments fizzling out at the mention of
immortality, bearded enemies of unflattering memory patriarchal and pissed, colouring
them in as you have me, flushed by a shade

                    of mist elaborating on obscurity in the manner of an
itinerant Surrealist, illusion fading into focus a new method of
husbandry for my dragons and demons, a menagerie of sin-eating
beasts haunting the killing-fields of my grief, following the shtick

                    of instinct, processing past decency, from necessity into gluttony, from
my heart’s wilderness into my mind’s city, feasting on scraps
of misery, flies and parasites dreaming of me leading on
sinewy strings meat of men unaccustomed to the starving lawlessness

                    of nations where celebrity replaces religion, adding eyes to a
statue gives it a soul, to stroll the pavement together,
to walk in tandem the shameless avenues of poets and
kings, sphinxes need mysteries as makers of profitable disbelief need

                    personalities, a lion in the mouth of winter, words of
glass encourage a philosopher’s divorce from comfort, barometer truth for
fools broken by the lightning flash of wit which kills
the spirit when it hits the bottom of the coldest

                    heart and reverberates on through to the hottest head, obliterating
what makes them think saying such things enervates me when
I script for my victims what pulls them apart as
I play them from within, I act through my imagination

                    upon the imagination of others and offer you what I
never will bitter-thinking readers too pessimistic to see it, this
secret of ours: that, in confessing it publicly, I exorcise
my distress, exhaling this damage while extolling how to live

                    creatively with chaos, without having to clean up its mess,
I rearrange it and create my own success, redefining it
as half-slaughtered birds do clouds of cement, never quite hitting
it but nearing something resembling happiness whenever we ask our

                    audience in a single breath, ‘Have you come to confront
or comfort us?’ Everything I make, everything I say, is
an answer to the same question—no matter how many
times, or in how many ways, it’s phrased, pain is

                    pain is pain, even in an exquisite frame/gilded cage,
every relationship, every wound I show, is his shadow taking
on another shape, every page I fill with its ink
an escape—now you know why I sing these things.

1“The Letter of Jeremiah”, [Chapter 6 of “Baruch”, Verse] 57, in “The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books presented in Four Groupings” of “The Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament: New Revised Standard Version” in The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 1989; page 147.