The Broken Testimony

There is a beat behind this writing

A nervous tap against a plastic-coated table

A body is trying to move forward

It is blocked by its insistence on movement

The performance of stasis played backwards

It disappears or its absence appears

You are writing on my back and I am heaving

You write:

I had a body once but then you made it illegal

Your hard hands inscribe justice into my blank flesh

You write justice into my flesh and I feel something

A clock ticking in the small of my back

I ask you to open the box in my skin, to remove the clock

And when you open the box you pull out a ticking clock and say this is your country

It is my nation, I say

And you tell me not to say things that I have already said before

And I say that I don’t say anything but that I can never stop writing

And you say it was your nation when all of our bodies were ravaged and you sit me in front of a window

You reproduce me and I watch myself watching a television show with a young couple kissing

This was how I learned to kiss, from studying this scene, and I remember quoting the hands, the eyes, the lips

I want to be like a dumb human, I said, too stupid to be scared

You are always annoyed {to the beat} at my insistence on beginning sentences with but

And I fall asleep at the window and start dreaming

Which is to say, I start writing

I am writing about a girl I went to school with

She lived up the street from me

She was killed at age 16 by her boyfriend with a sword

After she was stabbed to death, visions of swords

Swords in her neck, coming out of her back and belly

The boyfriend stabbing himself with the sword

The performance keeps playing itself backwards, and in the present tense

Helicopters circle above the crime scene, searching the woods for the boyfriend

He is stuck between some shrubs

He cannot move his body

He is writing his body into history

He inscribes his body into the trees

With a pistol he shoots himself in the head

There is a constant beat behind this writing

The helicopter lights shine into the thicket

The body of the mutilated girl in the woods

The body of the boy who has blown his own head off

It is often impossible to remember what I like about myself, just as it is often impossible to remember how to portray what I like about myself to others

Ravishment and silence and ravishment and word and the writing continues amid the boom of the beat behind us and it is always and inevitably about me

You see:

Today I wrote a novel about a village of cadavers

There was no one left in the village excerpt for one man who witnessed every resident get murdered by the police

Meet Eduardo

He is extremely paranoid

He thinks that at any moment the dead bodies of his neighbors will awaken and stab him in the neck with a machete or an ice pick

He steals their passports and wallets

He lies on top of a dead neighbor and hears a voice inside her

He prefers the word carcass to cadaver

He thinks:

I will be thrown into a river to be mauled by the engines of motorboats

A headless paraplegic floating to the bottom of the water

Sinking into the mud

Sinking beneath the floor

Down, down, into a world of shrieking cadavers who look just like me

Surplus meaning in my nose in my hair in my broken Jewish eyes

I am writing about a mouthful of diseased tongues that won’t stop licking each other in horrible deadly ways

I dream/write that each tongue in my mouth is a member of the proletariat and they are destroying themselves with their horrible licks

The best dictators don’t kill their subjects rather they make their subjects kill each other

I have never fired anyone, says the owner of the plantation, I have always managed to make the undesirables leave by their own volition

But it is fair to ask of a person just what they want from you

And it is fair to assume that she did not want me until she saw that I was wanted by someone else

And it is fair to assume that I did not want myself until I saw that someone else wanted me

And it is neither fair nor unfair that each of our bodies is sinking in the tar to the beat of a traditional song in which the speaker is ravaged as much by love as by its absence

Dead dog barking in the bushes to the beat of this beautiful song

Dead girl screaming in the shrubs to the beat of this beautiful song

Dead writing screaming from the page to the beat of this beautiful song

And you look up at me from the screaming page and I see your face falling from your sunken body

You are jammed into the street in a tar pit on a flaming August day

This is on Montrose Avenue, on the North Side of Chicago

Your mutilated body is jammed into a tar pit on the middle of the busy street that is now empty except for a few scavengers searching for bodies they know

The helicopter lights overhead

The creative consultants waiting to turn this misery into poetry

And there to the beat I decide to stretch out over your tarred-up body

The tar I put on my clothes forms an inseparable bond between us

You, tarred into the pavement, on your back in the tar, looking up at me

Me, tarred into your body, looking down to the beat permanently into your eyes

A glob of tar on your cheek and a glob of tar on my cheek and our faces stick together and the helicopter lights shine down on us

Take us to Kindred Hospital on Montrose Avenue, you say, to the beat of the hovering scavengers a few blocks east of California Avenue

A scavenger has a shovel and I write him into our faces

He takes the shovel and tries to pry apart our faces but they are stuck together and we cannot move and the end of his shovel is caught between my cheek and your cheek

My face {to the beat} relational to your face {to the beat} relational to the tar that holds us together relational to the tar that binds you to the earth

Our silent faces stuck together


The broken testimony of the broken beat in the broken rhythm of the crumbling excess of my

broken mouth and my broken face in the crumbling cadaver of this night


Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007) and Arbitrary Tales (2005). His translations include Raúl Zurita’s Song for his Disappeared Love (2010) and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (2008).  His work has been anthologized in, among others, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years (Fence Books); Seriously Funny (University of Georgia Press, 2010); andMalditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA (El billar de Lucrecia, 2010). Journal publications include BOMB, Fence, Denver Quarterly, Conjunctions, Chicago Review, TriQuarterly, and many others. Chapbooks include Failure in the Imagination (2007) and One Size Fits All (2009).   His poems have been translated into Spanish, Bulgarian, French, and Turkish.   He lives in Chicago.

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  1. Pingback: Issue Two, June 1, 2013 | Matter

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