Amid the Thorns of Many Mortifications

Dégoûtant Phénix, fils et père de lui-même[.]


Trick Phoenix, son and father of himself[.]


I’m not captivated by your conversation, • I’m a captive of it, writing • is despotic, reading is democratic, nothing • hotter than being wanted by someone • not quick enough to realize they’re • unwanted, I’m noshing on white rice • and black tea, unsweetened bohemian poverty, • no cash or dairy, the only • cow to milk the ninth anniversary • of my father’s death, soon after • finishing off another volume of another • author’s poetry a boneyard pilgrimage, then • the scribing of these lines to • bury the dirt of my discontent • deep in earth that’s broken like • the bread I don’t have and • disturbed publicly, scribbling words burning more • than my eyes after the tears • of ink have dried, this time • I won’t lie, self-murderer, I’ve survived • suicide three times over, won’t expunge • the crime from the lines of • my derivative juvenilia anymore, or blame • it on another era’s motives, now • that I’ve had time to look • back on my early life with • the clarity of a candlelit mirror • kissed goodbye at night, can admit • with candid alacrity the errors were • mine, like Sylvia Plath tried to • die the most beautiful death afforded • poets, perpetual artist, planned it, every • one of my many exits from • the planet’s perverse reversal of fortunes • we ascribe to uncertainty ignoring its • utter inevitability’s underlying regularity, attempted eternity • and returned after only glimpsing it, • never wanting to leave here for • there again, having had enough of • it, in my loneliest anxiety emerging • Phœnix-like from his ashes, by turning • thirty-seven I’ll have outlived my stormy • idol, Lord Byron, with whom I • share more than a little biography, • amply addled among many other things • by the same mixture of mania • and melancholy, by forty-six will have • been around longer than my forgotten • father, forsaken before he let his • own anger take him, addicted to • danger, plagued by the same malady, • what scholars of my family’s infamy, • historians of my ancestry’s madmen, term • the Borden Temper, risk takers and • makers of myth volatile as quicksilver • and just as poisonous, genius and • success at the expense of sanity, • what’s kept us going for so • many centuries is our cunning Norman • •


adaptability, a warring people fed on • conquering before being bled, a warning • none of this is any of • your business, but if I make • art of it, market pieces of • my deep-seated misery, sell-off some of • the stuff rotting inside of me, • maybe this shit will stop haunting • me, maybe I’ll feel less like • Hamlet constantly, you know symbols are • my currency, forgive me for trying • to buy more time by hiding • behind their ambiguity, this time what’s • personal collides with clarity without having • to collude with metaphor or simile • to cloud what’s happened to me, • what turmoil your criticism’s long suspected, • this time the conclusions come to • you denuded of untruthful vanity, amid • the thorns of many mortifications, this • prick has no other other way • to put it than so pointedly, • to stick to my story without • any embellishment or apology, I am • the son of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, • Buddha and Christ, Jesus and Siddhartha, • apocryphal as an epic pressed by • the hands of an ancient talent • into the clay of a broken • tablet found shattered in the basement • of Ashurbanipal’s obliterated palace, fired up, • pissed off, shit on, and tragic, • I am dissonant, long-winded, and surpassing • every legend, a magician bringing into • being what can only be pieced • together from these fragments, a golem • and an omen, a fallen angel • and a risen man, divinizing my • downing, crowning with apotheosis my outrageous • former versions, emerging as a pantheon, • I am my own temple, trimming • the wicks of the candles drowning • in the wax of their melting • egos on the altars of my • idols, portentous as a doorman knowing • these are not the only moments • of which I am made, I • am much more than I can • take, opening the gates of my • own place in the cycle of • fate, zodiacal and enduring, unashamed to • repeat heretofore unspoken things, opening my • mouth on what would destroy anyone • else with its inherent risk of • disgrace, ending at the beginning, returning • and remembering but never doing over • what I’ve already done, changing my • mind like seasons quoting Ecclesiastes, I • am the beast I cannot outrun.

1Charles Baudelaire, «[Poème (Poem)] 90. Les Sept Vieillards» (“The Seven Old Men”), [Stanza 11, Line 43], in «Tableaux parisiens» (“Parisian Scenes”) of The Flowers of Evil: Translated with Notes by James McGowan: With an Introduction by Jonathan Culler, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 2008; pages 180 and 181 (parallel text in French and English).