It took hours after we were arrested before I fully understood what I had done. I was sitting in a cold room, a dark space underneath city hall where each of us were scattered on dingy leather couches mumbling to ourselves or drinking small Styrofoam cups of coffee or being talked to by the arresting officers. It wasn’t clear to any of us what exactly was happening. Were we being charged with anything? Would we be allowed to communicate with one another? Would any of us be allowed to communicate with the outside world? All of these things were unclear and what’s more if we fidgeted wrongly, raised a voice, or whispered across the room to one of our fellows to attempt to figure things out, we were quickly scolded, disciplined, harassed, and occasionally dragged into another room until we understood what we were not to do well enough to be brought back out to this dark space where the couches sat facing one another and there was no substantial source of light and the questioning officers entered and exited as they liked, putting something together by communicating one by one with each of us. I convinced myself that something could be done and tried to make my mind up about what I could do for each of them to communicate to get something out. We waited there panicking and I grew tired of it and they grew tired of it and none of it made any sense anyway because each of us were drawn there under apparently false pretenses forced into this place no warrant apparently no questions apparently no reading of rights or discussing anything apparently and I felt a hanging nail on the thumb of my right hand and found myself contented to occupy myself with this for a bit. I didn’t bite it. I thought very hard and moved it slowly against the other fingers of that hand and found some peace. I pulled at the nail and it drew blood and this became so satisfying that I wasn’t worried overly worried about the room where I found myself and as I remembered and became determined to work again to find some means of communicating the blood was just so soothing that I sucked on the thumb and looked around and it looked like each of them the men I’d come in with were all sucking at their fingers too and the room was split in various directions and each of them seemed to breathe out a satisfied sigh as the situation cemented itself and we were there again and left there again and in came another one of them a brute the brute and made his way to someone two spots over from me and asked him quiet questions and pointed at things on a piece of paper he’d brought in with him in a slim file and gestured emphatically at the thing and the one who sat there sort of wept and mumbled to himself that he didn’t entirely understand or something I couldn’t hear or make it out I just let him talk. The sense that the room was whirling and our places in it brought no comfort and I sat there chewing a bit on my Styrofoam cup and poured a bit more coffee when I got a chance. It made me anxious, deep down in my guts it made me anxious. It was a terrible feeling that I couldn’t shake. I looked and saw the faces of the men who’d been dragged in with me and felt nausea at our being revealed to the world this way, pulled out covered in dirt and sick and disgusting as we were. I heard more mumbling and I contributed to the mumbling. I saw low light from somewhere and felt myself retching up in the reality of the situation. Nobody knew what they did. Everybody knew all they did. A circle of tyrants and rapists and the sick and the vile and we’d been under there for however long and hadn’t seen much light and we’d been whipped and taken into halls and made to vomit on the floor and speak and talk out in glossolalic screams covering walls in sick and mourning. I didn’t remember. I wasn’t guilty. I wasn’t awake and I could see. I drank the coffee and felt my anxiety bubbling up and saw the faces of these men and this whirl of hell and a grayness over all of it as we were pulled from the dirty corpse of the home and our hands mangled and infected and all of us infected all of us having torn away at the foundation of the place and singing in mumble at the world.
“Some of them had bugs burrowed into the skin of their scalps.”
Somebody official said it in an open door of the place and left and again the circle began and took shape and we were asked and none of us could say a thing worthwhile to make it go away in a sense and give them something to hold onto to weep and open up the world and feel at peace, at ease.
“There were several hundred bodies in the room. The children went first to drink and after that it didn’t take much for the rest of them to follow. Each of them were wearing robes covered in dirt and sick and blood. Each of them had fingernails yanked back to the extents of their fingers. We haven’t got a name for hardly any of them.”
Grant Maierhofer is the author of Peripatet, Drain Songs, Clog and others. A collection of his early writings, Works, is forthcoming from 11:11 Press in June 2020. Other information can be found at grantmaierhofer.fail
by Monica Brashears
... As you exit, you will hear a choir sing in the belly of the church. Do not seek the voices. It will be late, the creeping thunder will join their hymn ...
Absence as Blessing
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