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Whatnot by Rob Stephenson
Recital by Author

'Saturday Afternoon Times Kitchen Table'  2007 Alice EgoyanSaturday Afternoon Times Kitchen Table


Every building in the city covers an old wound. Eventually, even a scar is misunderstood. I abandoned a world where abstinence is a sin and friendly hands are a luxury punishable by death. There is no shame in tedium, but plenty in the comfort of simple axioms. In that blackest space I seduced the body of history as if it were an absence in myself. All the details of my theory move in front of the camera like a vast collection of squeaky toys. You can’t hide things anymore. So why bother to fear the pedestal of personal information? The blurring of my original resistance rests on a complex form of intimacy. Now there are boxes and boxes of old images buried under the sea.

He has a disco doorbell that activates strobe lights. They can be seen from anywhere in the house. But since he is deaf, there is no music. Every room is a showcase. Above language. Spotlights form a grid on the ceiling. The flash of high beams passes through the rain’s drool on bus windows. Big tires hit the uneven edges of freeway segments. A heartbeat or a good fucking rhythm. The passengers speak into small hunks of metal and brightly colored plastic. I didn’t flinch like the boy next to me. But when I jabbed the lance into the arching grooves of my fingerprint, I broke out in a drenching sweat. I squeezed my finger hard until the drops of blood collected into a puddle on the glass slide.

It was an old city or a black laboratory counter. I saw lymph nodes, tiny blue veins, and rooms with dusty stuffed animals that used to be alive. The wax models of the dead reminded me of my own exquisite wetness. I finally realized that the innards of a man are more beautiful than the thin flesh stretched over his bones. In ancient days men learned about anatomy on the battlefield. I watch myself in the machines we’ve made, in the machine I am. Underground canals connected by a system of wells in the desert.

They did their daily tasks without wearing clothes. Cutting the hair of the head was unheard of within those walls. Broad gestures don’t satisfy anyone after a while. Once, a woman made the whole audience cry by reading a telephone book in a dialect they didn’t understand. Her voice opened up what had been sealed by the weight of civilization. Below language. Soft words crawl out of miniature speakers, placed in discrete locations. In a series of repeated actions, the slight variations hold my attention. Those hidden things. The secrets that lie in wait beneath the surface. Underneath the analytical. A parallel part of me undermines my verbose life. It works in tandem by causing friction. It tries to save me from the banal.

Rewards come from the strangest sectors. Pulling me out of the broader stream of information. I don’t have to wear headphones on the train. My own internal equivalent suffices. The loud noise is already there. When I sit completely still, I hear all the old selves colliding with each other. I know now never to trust even the most careful examination of my memories. I become incapable of looking at any process the same way twice. Those tiny corruptions of my ideals never cease. Something glimpsed behind fraying curtains. A black diamond at the edge of a pane. Small fists wrapped in silver tape. Unmovable and ready.

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last update: June 25, 2007