I am not entirely convinced that Roxane Gay is a single entity. I intend to find out at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, where she will sit for panels and interviews on both Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23
Whatever this is supposed to be isn’t up to you. Scott Hannula gives you a bone-in venison rump steak and it becomes the centerpiece of one of the best meals you’ve ever cooked: pan-seared and laid on a bed of spaghetti with sautéed garlic, kale, and rehydrated porcinis on top. The flies went crazy. One box of wine down, one to go. The law of diminishing returns suggests atrophy as natural. A little get-up-and-go. Or a nap instead. The words bob like requests made to past years: a droning on and on but pleasant, buoyant, and somehow redeeming. Calculate the distance from Rabbit Island to Wrigley Field in bongloads. A pulverization of consciousness not unlike eating a quasar for breakfast. A spatter of hot throat on the wallpaper. The dogs wondering why you’ve flown from your chair. The woodpeckers and crows returning to the office as normal. No sunset tonight—too cloudy. Probably another storm in the offing. The flies have dispersed until morning. Too cold for mosquitoes. Time to really dig in. Read a thousand books. Drink ten thousand glasses of wine. Sleep a hundred thousand dreams. Get up well before dawn and subtract the stars. Start over. A slender green pinecone grounded by the wind: an anti-promise, a token without purpose.
Things the self forgot: strike-on-box matches, plastic bags, red wine vinegar, keys to the storm’s nebulous ignition, shoes for walking on the sun, light reading, fingerless gloves, the internet. Things the self found: new boots, new calluses, a room with three walls, the overripe pear smell of picaradin, purple bolts in the serious clouds over Lake Superior. The land should own the land. Huge rain here, the moths spellbound by my lantern except for this small white one resting on my hand: fuzzy crown, brown horn-like antennae. Minutes go by, time being simultaneous, but the moth stays and thereby stays forever. A closing in. A catch and release of various unfounded feelings throughout the day. It flutters to the ceiling, joins two just like it. The self pisses in a cup, the rain still pounding despite (or maybe encouraged by) John Coltrane blowing at the Village Vanguard in 1964. Most civilized nations have absorbed all of this: a man, convulsive, spewing black blood; a woman stuffed with dead flies. Brother and sister. Hand in hand. Absolution: rocking chair wearing worn floorboards. Vodka in a mug that proclaims fuck death. Whitecaps. Now you know why the instruments of eternity smell of onions. Two feet from the bed and it looks like a continent.
A spider the size of a child’s hand sees you seeing it and darts behind a rafter. Somewhere else a man kicks a small dog for no reason other than ordinary bitterness. The lake at camp is roaring, stoked by a relentless west wind while inland it’s peaceful if not hot, the tops of the highest trees in motion now and then. Somewhere else a truck is being turned into a bomb. You think you hear things—scrap of laughter, car door, the postman’s knock—but it’s always and only the forest. Somewhere else someone succumbs to one of the many perfect diseases of worldliness. A big garter snake startles at your startle, racing its curves through the rocks. Somewhere else a woman is searching a bathroom mirror for an untapped vein. Right now a black and grey inchworm traverses the notebook’s white and blue margin. Somewhere else workers are paid to dump chemical byproducts into a river in secret. A gull glides over, way up there, thinking gull thoughts. Somewhere else a man finds himself on the wrong street and is soon running for his life. A piece or two at a time added to the driftwood temple. Somewhere else God pours himself a glass of light, puts two thousand years of prayers on mute.
Dedicate yourself to erudition, to all texts and teachings, all sundowning thoughts, to every bird of each season. Dedicate yourself to the tendon joining the bone, the look behind the eye in the fish’s stewed head. Dedicate yourself to the fact that whatever it saw last stays and stays in those atoms for almost forever. Dedicate yourself to pillows of smoke, two black dogs, and a woman in the east with beautifully imperfect teeth and a heart like a whirling landslide on fire. Rededicate yourself. The errand, the missed vowel, the poorly positioned log. The mistake. The mistake is always preferable, always best. Wheels of polenta fried and covered in chili. You could be worse things than a maple syrup addict. The biggest self possible churns beneath the evening treeline sending up a molten line of whiskey. After forty-eight hours of onslaught, the wind dies. The shoreline absorbs an eerie stillness compounded by water poured gently on a fire. Stonehouse and Cold Mountain each have a foot in the very future you inhabit. Jar of popcorn, jar of barley, jar of air. You can imagine air in a jar but not light. Light cannot imagine you: a twist of paper rubbing kindling before the match is struck. You: arrow crossing a frozen river: on target: dedicated.
Like most implements of peril and doom, you find chainsaws inscrutable. Give a man a knife and he’ll cut himself for a lifetime. The north wind treats with no one. A pinecone drifts out of its tree breaking the crazy blue of the sky. Rushes back together. All things like water. The problem with starting is stopping. A little despair within the tempest lights the way out. Apologies for violence take the longest as there can be no successful apology. A word sticks between the mind’s narrow stones no matter what is said after. Some days it’s just as well thought as spoken. A face of inattention: what the gull said to the loon in passing. The seaplane buzzes your shelter twice and without thinking how it might be interpreted, you wave. A seven year old check for one thousand, two hundred and seventy five dollars. Never endorsed. The sudden urge to learn French. Sweeping the boards. White caps. The loudest thing you’ve ever heard: huge moths battering the ceiling in the night. Thus regimen, thus karma, thus hangover. Hunting the antonyms all morning, you look up in time to see the cliffs moving, not the waves. The day’s gifts include a scraped shin, an empty clothesline, a slightly longer beard.
F. Daniel Rzicznek’s collections and chapbooks of poetry include Nag Champa in the Rain, Vine River Hermitage, Divination Machine, Neck of the World, and Cloud Tablets. He is also coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry. He teaches writing at Bowling Green State University.2