In the mornings when the summer was hottest I ran simultaneous with the rising of the sun. When I would run, I would round the top edge of he park, the northern edge of the park, and then I would hear their voices. At first the sounds approached sidereal, as sounds that are not sounds, or at least they might not have been sounds. They approached as sounds I only imagined I was hearing, things I could have been hearing, but that I might also have been confusing for something else. I would hear nameless birds with nameless morning song, like gravel being dragged through chirping gravel. I heard them singing in McCarren park.
Then, each morning the sounds became clearer, and I realized that what I was hearing were Poles who have the voices of birds who sing like alligators, bloated drunks who have the voices of birds who sing like vomiting, who have the voices of before-time birds from the ahistorical weirding-in before the gods decided finally just what hell they would set on fire and leave. I would be hearing birds with the voices of the crystalline moment of silence before total understanding, the voices of the fugue before seizure. I was hearing the morning song of birds that gutter with blue and airless tongues. I would hear, and then see, Poles who are themselves the unremembering and self-shitting perfection of the language and the camaraderie of their countrymen, the remembrance of selves who don’t suffer the slightest twinge of memory. I was hearing the omnidirectional rumbling morning song of perfect men, of finished men, men who are up with the rising sun in the clockless day-and-night weather of cigarettes and detritus, the day of the feathered lizard with whose voice they greet one another. I heard the voices of genies drunk from bottles. I am heard Grand men of pomp and exaggerated mien trading in social cache at 3-second intervals.
Every morning I beheld holy men, armies of swollen Charlton Hestons come from underground in awe and ecstatic fear from their meandering in the endless cathedrals where the crucifix is a nuclear bomb; I ran laps around centuries-lapsed penitents once hushed by the now-abandoned jungle pyramids of distant and gone peoples, men who are cockroaches in their own lives, men who are cuckoos nested on the cracked steps outside the favelas, outside what the brochures said would happen at the dawn of hope.
I ran, I turned revolutions around these men. Lennon was the Walrus, but Isaac Brock saw the score and came as the Rat. I realized that I, even with my strong legs and my deep lungs, I am as these men in the park. Henry Valentine Abelard Miller professed his once indignant disbelief, before his grand epiphany, that a whole world could be diseased. He said:
Schizophrenia! Nobody thinks anymore how marvelous that the whole world is diseased. No point of reference, no frame of health. God might just as well be Typhoid fever. No absolutes. Only light years of deferred progress. When I think of those centuries Europe grappled with the Black Death, I realize how radiant life can be if we are bitten in the right place…
In 1927 I sat in the Bronx listening to a man reading from the diary of a drug addict. The man could scarcely read, he was laughing so hard. Two phenomena utterly disparate: a man lying in luminol, so taut that his feet stretch beyond the window, leaving the upper half of his body in ecstasy; The other man, who is the same man (emphasis mine), sitting in the Bronx and laughing his guts out because he doesn’t understand.
Aye, the great sun of Syphilis is setting. Low visibility: forecast for the Bronx, for America, for the whole modern world. Low visibility accompanied by great gales of laughter. No new stars on the horizon. Catastrophes…only catastrophes.
I am thinking of that age to come when God is born again, when now and for a long time to come men are going to fight for food. I am thinking of that age when work will be forgotten and books assume their true place in life, when perhaps there will be no more books, just one great big book- a Bible… I am thinking that in that age to come I shall not be overlooked, then my history will be important and the scar which I leave upon the face of the world will have significance. I can not forget that I am making history, a history on the side which, like a chancre, will eat away the other meaningless history… a history of all time.
I was born one of these cockroach men. I know no other world but one in which men simply fight for food and nest in loopholes.
In the park a small army of men and sometimes women, and sometimes the men do wear fatigues, orienting themselves to the north, on the Greenpoint side of the park, just as I tell myself they, Northern people, were before they came from Europe. I was a bug in orbit around them, chasing myself around the skittish edges of the park, my many-faceted eyes seeing sameness and slow waking and Bacchus’ garbage, the remains of yesterday’s frivolous hope everywhere, nearer to the hours when I would be chasing myself around the skittish edges of my cube in the recycled dead language and air of some office, chasing myself around my days, around my weeks, around my years, passing as shit does, perfected, finished.
In this life I am a cockroach.
If you ever had a choice, which crazy dream would you choose? The machinating bureaucracy of the deliberately articulated violence of the civilized world whose auditors (and whose memory) keep their rosters of great men and their tangled residence in Babel, or the scavenging underclass of the roach, sacredly avenging the moment in its rapid transactions of lifespan and legacy for pleasure? The speed of everything remains unelided, in whichever column your debts are tallied. St. Paul, you asked us- Crack up in the sun or lose it in the shade?
Run faster than your fellow rat. Eat more leanly than the cow in an adjoining pasture. Pass more unrepeatably your days, one upon the other into perpetuity. Each breath is drawn in the shadow of a dragon who sings with the ruined voices of men, who sings like the world is ending.
That world is ending.