BY BRYSON NEWHART
Run your tongue across your teeth. A mouth is a kind of window that looks out on the trembling world. When you pry it open, a sound flies in or out. Probably a cry for help. You will know for sure when you grab the lips and rip them open. On your face you'll feel a gentle breeze. Smell food perhaps. It is hard to tell where the sound comes from because the sound is composed of echoes. They form a staircase into the clouds and perch above the setting sun, beckoning you to join them. "Jump out your mouth," they say.
Outside there is only a tree in the throat of the airshaft, breathing, waiting for a flash of sunlight. Was that a scream for help that you heard? Lend this tree some assistance? It huddles in its bark and shrugs, casting off dying leaves. Can you care about it? This tree wants badly to burp. Will you pat its back while I eat my breakfast?
It is early evening, but for you I will eat my breakfast. I have soundproofed the entire room for this moment, all but this remaining window: a gaping mouth with broken teeth, our only means of escape. When it is time to be digested, we will need to slide down its tongue.
When the human voice is raised in song, it wants to deliver of a message. There is nothing I hate the sound of more. For lack of a purpose, I have jammed the post of a miniature American flag in my urethra and commenced waving it by my birthbutton. I crashed a small jet into my penis and collapsed it. I was beginning to doubt that I was human. I landed an explosive airplane on the tip of my tongue.
Outside the cafeteria where we gather to feed our grief is an area enclosed by a fence. We have arrived on the back of a parrot, who stands beside us with his tray of food. The area outside contains building materials, pipes, and building supplies. Soon we will build an office and drain our blood to fill its hungry pipes. After we fuel our grief, we'll be injected to become its nerve cells. The office will be made of flesh; hence, able to duck if it wants to. Personally I don't trust the parrot because he has an illegal cupcake on his tray. The creature likes to stuff them in his beak. He is stupid enough to think we won't notice.
Did I mention that the parrot was once my slave? I arrested him near the airport in Miami. He was part of a suspicious parrot gang that I spotted hanging out in the woods. It was Christmas. They were munching on illegal cupcakes. I performed a citizen's arrest.
A singer may often burp when he wants to let you know that you should listen. I find this behavior suspicious. To become more suspicious, I pinch my nose and talk like a bird. There is a name for this kind of fencing, this carnival of crisscrossed wires. I can't remember it. In the cafeteria is a woman that sits by the window. I sit beside her. I mention the partitions inside my body; the wires that connect my nerve cells.
"Their patterns have left me uncertain," I explain, noticing her very large teeth. The teeth do not seem to have gaps between them. Just two long teeth that sprout from her pinkish gums. I want to crash a small airplane in her mouth. I want to flush myself beneath our city.
"Excuse me madame, is it chainlink fences? Something has gone wrong with my head. I was hoping you could help my head. I have swaddled it in chainlink fence and a tree has taken root on my tongue. It wants to burp."
I proclaim my allegiance to suffering. I proclaim my allegiance to death. Actually that is a lie. At ground zero there is nothing but lies: just hopeless twisted brilliance of metal, no good thoughts, the angry raw power of machines. Our testament was a palpable absence in which language had become extinct. All that was left was surface.
Have you ever wanted to have sex with a woman stuffed into an inner tube, swinging from a half-dead tree?
I crashed a plane into my head and lost contact. I took out my communication tower.
When evil is punished by evil, all that is left is evil.
They hid the body parts.
I was betrayed by a female parrot.
On a sunny day in winter, cold but windless, a river and the smell of spring ...
Once I met a man who carried a rag doll through the city the size of a small dead boy. Since burping is against the law in this city, the man spent his time with a rag doll. Its head was made of nothing but a peanut-stuffed bag that burped like a hungry maniac. I resembled the menace: fine to behold from a distance, but scary if you got too close. The man understood the bag on my head so he helped me keep people at bay. He wanted folks to think the best of me. Because people did not like the sight of it and hated its illegal burping, he used the rag doll. If that failed to work, I employed a special shocking device that fired from 15 feet. It delivered a stunning blend of electricity and tender aloofness that made people's eyes roll back. They saw into their brains and got nervous at the sight of flashing stars and stripes. Some lost perspective for good. It was funny. They achieved insight and lost outer vision, refusing to report to their nerve cells. They moved into the suburbs to live on darkened lawns and stand stiffly with their eyes rolled back.
As you can imagine, it is strange to overhear your friends talk about you when you are hiding inside their closet, silently trying to pee.
I crashed a plane into my penis to make it collapse. A mouth is a window with a screen. I broke the teeth. How long must you wait?
Perhaps through the window it is not a cry for help that you heard, but laughter. Not from a dying tree, but from a brick wall, its mortar falling out with rage, years of erosion, so that now the wall simply chuckles. Life is a crowded room. It is filled with responsibility. The wall seems to mock this notion. It releases laughter with its bright red bricks. Feeble triumphs may fly from your hands to flutter around your body, but like a swatting horsetail, the wall seems to snicker at your triumphs. Its laughter seems to know their purpose. That they mask the large dripping compromises rising from the pit of your stomach. The bastard seems to know about your burping problem. What to do about it? Throw water? Spit? Smash a bottle on its laughing face? Sometimes laughter and crying is the same thing for a wall. It is part of its initial construction.
To handle the situation, get away and take a moment of silence. To fill your moment with compassion, use your fingers to pinch shut your mouth, then lock it by twisting your nose. Hold your breath to store precious bubbles, and as you turn blue, slap yourself to make red stripes. Now stumble outside and wave hello to people, trying to guess their names. Imagine them all as Mother as you blink to show the stars in your eyes. If anyone waves back, it is possible that he or she knows you; has carried you in the depths of his womb. Hide behind something that is big enough to conceal your body and keep your window mouth aimed at the sun. Now smile and clench your teeth.
With security an issue these days, I have decided to set a trap for chipmunks. Burping is against the law in this city so the trees are forced to hold them in. Their belches get released through their roots. They burrow and get released in the subway. People have begun to complain.
As for chipmunks, they are actually kind of cute when they try to drink water, their cheeks so full they almost tip over, eyebrows pushing up into their hats. With a larger trap I plan to catch groundhogs. When I'm gone, will you show pity for the plight of foliage? Collect it in the folds of your skirt as you pat your favorite tree on the bark. I doubt that you will see me again.
Because I live in a cloud of smoke, tomorrow I plan to remove my belt on the subway and strap it to a metal pole. My plan is to stick my head through the loop and demand that people ask what I'm doing. The answer will of course be strap hanging. It might become popular. Along the street, people might remove their belts and connect them to cinch up the block. To squeeze it like a giant waist. Of course, sooner or later a person will ask why, and this will lead to skepticism and the suffocating sense that all buildings on the block have been girded. A belt might stop a body from falling, but what if it collapses inward? Since doors open outward, people will have to enter and exit through an apartment on the second floor. An oversize kitten will patrol the entrance and want payment in the form of fish. He will probably wear a choke chain to support his large head. His face will be covered with flies from the mounds of raw fish that he snacks on. If he sees you as you climb the ladder, he might playfully box with his paws. Watch out though, the kitten has a pretty good uppercut.
Are you standing on the sidewalk with your body concealed by a stop sign? Will this terror never cease to end? Step forward when the sun goes down and in the night you may open your mouth again. If light pours out, your moment of darkness has ended. Leave town and become a pididdle that rages up and down the street. It is pretty rare, however, so if it happens, don't be surprised if you also sprout giant oak wings that squeak on their hinges like doors, inviting all the world to enter. Also, your elbows may turn into doorknobs, in which case, polish them and get some sleep. Stay in bed until late afternoon and then open your windows up wide. If the laundry across the way is singing along to pop or screaming that it cannot trust you, close the windows. Keep your mouth closed and your eyelids squinched tight. By nightfall, you will enjoy sweet relief again. These vestures of men and women will dry. They will continue to flap in silence.
Of course, all this comes from the inside out. Start from the outside
in now? Perhaps you have just found yourself on the wrong fire escape on
a warm summer night and in front of you is a yawning window, no screen
on its silent mouth, its curtains parted like hair. If you are quiet you
may pass right through it. Tuck yourself into the bed inside and share
some thoughts with a slumbering stranger. He does not yet know that you're
around. To pillage his memories, simply grasp at the hair on his head.
Stuff what you can in your ears, but avoid your mouth, you might choke.
When memories belong to someone else, they become useful, although access
is not guaranteed. If it is winter, a closed mouth may demand finessing.
Break it open with a bat and make sure that you smash the teeth. Finagle
a point of entry. Once you have destroyed the protective barrier you can
come and go as you please. It's open season. Enter and exit freely through
the howling of a shattered mouth.
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