from THE WOUND IS (NOT) REAL
In 1992, my brother had his first life-threatening seizure. My mother tells me I was on the living room floor playing with a toy ambulance, manically opening and shutting the doors. It was in the afternoon. It was in Dover, Vermont. It was possibly summer. They left me with the neighbors. We’re going to have a real good time, the neighbors said. We have some roast beef to feed you. I remember the car moving down the long driveway, entering the dark wood, crossing the edge of what I knew.
I remember the world turning red when I closed my eyes and tried to see through the colors. I saw the specks of purple, I saw them swirling into black like pins stuck in my retinas by the force of a Bully God, who hangs you by your ankles and calls you a name and I put my head to the pillow and I heard a thunder.
I remember a time.
I remember a time when we were in a car in rural South Carolina. My brother began seizing, we were talking in the backseat, then his words ceased to signify, they began to garble and turn like an ocean or the simulated sound of an ocean in a shell you hold to you ear, your own blood / a circular river, I remember his eyes as he spoke, I remember seeing his eyes speak, they said, Listen, I don’t know what it is I’m saying.
They said, There is something true in what I’m saying.
Then he didn’t speak. Then his eyes shifted to one side, his mouth like a garage with nothing in it. Then trickling saliva, neck limp and hanging. I remember my mom saying something. I remember the car speeding up and a force pushed me back, we ran through red lights. I don’t remember whether I was scared.
I remember a time.
I remember a time in a McDonalds parking lot, his body slumped on a pile of glass with the sun beating down and the oil of french fries on my hands. I remember a time sitting on a stairwell with my arm around him, and when he began to seize, the stairs seemed longer than they’d ever been.
I remember a time when I was twenty. I was in college in upstate New York, sitting in a café in the middle of the summer. I’d recently decided I wanted to “be a poet.” I’d recently decided to write about my trauma, but I didn’t yet know it had a name. I remember sitting at a bar facing the window of the street of the small central New York town, the white students and professors and farmers ambling round. I shut my eyes. I imagined my brother’s skull, and the sounds he heard when the seizing began, metal sliding on metal and clicking angrily like a broken projector in a theater filled with unspeaking bodies who stare at the screen, some of whom are dead, some of whom have holes in their skulls that are stuffed with straw with errant strands protruding from the crest at the top (who is the projector-man? who is the eye?) the cigarette smoke nearly filling the room as I follow the lights along the aisle, as I follow the lights and think of the road at night with the yellow line moving and breaking and solidifying like a kind of film / like a kind of flesh; I open a red door and inside that door I enter a den; inside that den, a holographic bovine; inside that cow, a mossy womb. And I reach through that moss and feel the squiggle of worms who scurry away at the scent of flesh; I dig in deeper. I push through the brain. I push through the fissure. I push through silver and the innards of squirrel, and I find a wound / I find a jewel / I find a reason.
I remember a time.
I remember my parents would call 911. It was my job to watch for the ambulance, running in my socks across waxed floors and then squatting in the corner by the kitchen window. I remember my brother ass-up on the living room rug. I remember the blue skin, the men wearing blue pants and blue jackets with bags that were blue, and carrying oxygen tanks, then sticking a syringe in my brother’s ass while I’d look away.
I remember thinking, He could die.
I remember not crying, thinking, Why is this normal.
I remember a time.
I wrote, My brother looked like Darth Vader with the mask on his face, like they were trying to remove a hook from inside his stomach. I wrote about fishing with my dad when I was a kid, and the fish I caught had swallowed the lure. My dad ripped open its body before my eyes, its lungs red and pulsing inside a cage. I wrote, Make me a ghost. Let me fix my brother with ghostly hands. Let me open the window and float on the roof and see the people in the street like bugs I could squash.
My mother was filling the bath. She said, I’m glad you’re such a healthy boy.
I love you, Alex. This is my first time using his name in a poem.
Virgil, trans. David Ferry: “Time takes everything we have away from us.”
Eugene Jolas: “TIME IS A TYRANNY TO BE ABOLISHED.”
Is the existence of the wound self-evident?
It appears the existence of the wound is self-evident.
1. Whereas the wound is the space where the subject becomes permeable,
where the stone wall collapses, where the arbitrarily delineated retainer
collapses, where the subject joins with the body of a genderless fawn and
sews its skin to its earthen dreams.
2.Whereas the wound is text like swallowing stones.
3.Whereas it leaks fluid on the seat of its mother’s car.
4.Whereas my wound is art, for art is a splinter, for it throbs beneath the
membrane of the body (it hopes to repel it) (it cannot repel it) it swallows
artifice and turns a greenish at the surface in its futile attempt to expulse
the Other. My wound was the already-decaying cow the drunk teenage boy
tried to tip, his nubile fingers diving through rotting flesh and wrapping
around an epiphanic gem that rested uncomfortably in the web of bovine
5.An injury to living tissue, caused by a cut, blow, or other impact, typically
one in which the skin is cut or broken.
What is this poem, and what is its contract?
6.The poem is air with a hole in the center.
7.For the lights in the rows they lead to the hole.
8.I swirl my fluids in a metal pail and the milk it forms a more human heart. I
will break the glass. I will step on shards. I will bleed my insides through the
9.Édouard Glissant: “Relation contaminates, sweetens, as a principle, or as flower
dust… Relation comprehends violence, marks its distance.”
10.A written or spoken agreement, esp. one concerning employment, sales, or
tenancy, that is intended to be enforceable by law.
11.I exist because I own this land. I exist because I own your body. I exist
because my name is written. I exist when I drive my car and look in the
mirror and see the faces and close my eyes and hit the wall and close my
eyes. I exist: for I am real.
12.A wound surrounded by mountains which are made from paper, which float
on nothing, which make thin moats around yr heart, and the throbbing
knight comes to say we are dead.
13.The wound is not real.
14.The land was a godsend. The fence was an opening.
SELF-PORTRAIT WITH GO FUCK YOURSELF
I shut myself in a dark room and make
the door-seals melt away, I swallow everything
in the medicine cabinet and sink in the tub
and spit up bile and let it drip down my chest
and flow the length of my abscessed legs
the nebula mingling with blood in the water
and sweat of comets and toenails and bits of lint
when I write I crawl angrily out from myself
I pull a ribbon from my innards and call it virtue
I call it a mother fox rooting through piles of leaves
I call it a dying planet I knew as child
I was born to breathe and kill my parents
and bury my possessions in fecund earth
I have bile dripping from my ass and staining
the sheets and my words let me break inside my neighbor’s house
where I drag my ass on the carpet and leave treads
I break and slide I empty the wine I flush my body
I piss in bottles I speak to the houseplants I play the records
I shatter the glass and cut my skin I stick it with knives
I stick it with pins and eagle talons and become a God
and smite the oceans and drown the cities and pluck
each hair from my crotch in the bathroom on my back
like a baby clutching my ankles with elevated thighs
I sniff my asshole I see the fields I break the skin my ruptured fabric
this poem spoken by the radiator broke and dripping
in the corner of the house where we lived all winter
and had no food and had no water and had no heat
and watched crime shows on daytime television
and slept with the oven open and roaches cooked
my chest a den in a lightless cavern I am a loveless beast
at the base of the pool I am a sleeping dog at the base of the well
and the sounds come round me when I wake and see stars
and moon filtered through and I smell the ocean in the distance
and taste the salt and taste the blood and when I speak bile leaves
my mouth and when we kiss bile leaves my mouth
and touches your lips I leave blood prints on glasses of wine
and I left blood prints in the corporate halls
and I left blood air when I breathed in my school
and when I hit the locker and licked the linoleum
like they said to do I pulsed inside when they pressed me to the wall
they said we have now tainted your virginal asshole
you have now been fucked in the rear by the son of a cop
who was high on coke with hell in his eyes
I am only waters of a churning ocean
I piss currents like Niagara I burn betwixt layers
at the home of the preacher I ride up on my bike
and throw heavy rocks and break each window
I walk inside and the door to the kitchen is shut with light
flooding from the crack I kick the door down and the preacher’s wife
is screwing the boy from down the street, I know him from class
I start back and leave the room as they start shouting
Get the fuck back here and I’m out of there, I’m not thinking
about the bile that leaves my mouth before it leaves my mouth before I
lick I break I open up I swallow the feathers of birds of fish
of deadtree current the elm hollow the silver prick the sweat
of the moon soaking through the pants of god as he stands nervous
before the Delphic realm, he says Today we will dissect the body of a frog
I rode in a cab to the center of town
and the man he held a knife to my neck he said Don’t you move
and he pulled each coin slow from my pocket and he kicked me down
I hit the concrete I sniffed the gutter and no one saw
my body as they passed I decompose I grow to nothing
which is to say I do not grow I lick bile I spit bile
when I yawn I splatter the blood of hogs I sing of God
who rips wings from pigeons dead in the park I sing of God
who bleeds from each orifice and snorts pebbles from his nose
I sing of God who is a flicking tail of a horse for love is a horse of course
whose gas fuels the stench of hell whose trash and toxic waste
end up in hell the project is unsustainable the light from
the peripheries the gas station clerk with a toothpick
hanging from his lips the current of bass in my head as I walk
to the register the bile behind my eyes
inside my ears I hear a drone I wake everyday to the sound
and sweat through the sheets and drill a hole in the wall
which I fuck I cannot even speak until I have fucked
the wall in the morning until I have dressed and petted the cat
and fucked the wall and showered and eaten and spit up
bile in the base of the tub and on the tiles and burning
and burning and burning and breaking and burning and the smell
of hair burning left on the stove don’t fucking tell me
I have nothing blue left to say or my bile means nothing
to the bodies piled before the void to the titans trading cards
in the yard after class to the broken marbles at the base of hell
to the drawers where the devil keeps confiscated toys
I snuck in at night I stole everything I saw
I got a slingshot I hit God in the back of the head
I stuck a shiv in the paw of Peter’s cat
I bounced a rubber ball against a painting of Mary
I broke open the caskets filled with the sinners I rounded the wagons
I filled them up I left lit candles and didn’t give a shit whether
they burned all the tents down, so of course they did
so of course I spit bile and spiders left my throat and laid
their eggs and took their drugs and made mazes in skies
and the swallows kissed paper planes as they crested the air
and I ran out of things to think of as I laid on my back
as I thought of the stars
MARTY CAIN is a poet / video artist. His first book is a long poem called Kids of the Black Hole (Trembling Pillow Press, 2017). His poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in journals such as Fence, Tarpaulin Sky, Gigantic Sequins, The Pinch, and elsewhere. He resides in Ithaca, New York with his partner, the poet Kina Viola; together, they run Garden-Door Press. Presently, he is pursuing a PhD at Cornell University, where he studies experimental poetics and the pastoral. Find him online here.