“The brief was to get inside her head” I fail to chuckle
at the planned intro of my article – too painful –
the ache in my back tooth thumping. I probe inside,
draw out a sewagey smell on my finger. Grab my keys,
dictaphone, thermos: that slim, constant familiar. Inside
the coffee gleams like the bottom of a drain, coin-glints of sun
through the car window. Backed up in a long colon of traffic;
a pneumatic drill pounding the sidewalk to fragments.
Can you give our readers an idea why you took such extreme measures?
Would you ever advocate self-trepanation?
Why would you powder your cheeks with your own skull?
Twelve miles out and the houses begin to spread:
twee, robust, occurring like slow blinks.
I’ve never felt at home in the suburbs, mailboxes like bread tins,
Lindens and everything looking so fucking edible.
I found a witch’s house when I was little, her front door agape.
I wandered in as if sleepwalking. I remember
the rude-vegetable shape of her nose, inky scribbles round it,
ammonia heavy as talc. Garden shears
hung limply at her side:
the broken jaw of some conquered beast.
But she was the one who was bleeding.
I couldn’t stop staring.
Did it hurt?
Bullseye. Cyclops. X marks the spot.
Hey lady, did the knife-thrower miss?
Why do I take these freak-of-the-week assignments?
As if there were a choice in the matter, bills pile up,
the rag shirks expenses and all the while THE NOVEL
strains at my forehead: a sad dog at the window.
I need a solid eight hours. Exercise. A yard sale:
some crank last week couldn’t open his door for newspapers
he’d hoarded. In his hovel I stared at a decade. I thought of words
I may have written pulsing at the heart of each tower.
I wanted to let them out.
Did you experience a kind of spiritual transcendence?
Was it like … oh, I don’t know…
I went to see this guy – doctor’s orders – and before I knew it
I was spread, pins sticking out all over me:
a pineapple hedgehog on my mother’s buffet table.
I did so want it to work, for the ghosts to flee
from each punctured co-ordinate
with a thwarted hiss, for my brain to go pfffff like a tire.
But it’s the same with everything these days, a quick fix –
sex, hot baths, analysis.
It’s like the old-school trick of snatching the table cloth off in one seamless swoop –
you’re still left with the crockery, the plates,
the empty fruit bowl.
Is life better now?
Do you feel different?
What was it like ?
Did it feel like…?
Did it feel