By Marcus Speh
Everywhere nature is now growing so rapidly that it gets harder and harder to squeeze it in a parable. It meanders from the poetic out into a world beyond words in which there’s no speaking or writing but only sweating. Water and wine flow freely here. Nymphs coil themselves around the muscular arms and legs of men; fauns meander, their faces friendly grimacing masks. They put their hairy hands that move swiftly like small serpents on the buttocks and boobs of women. This is where games are played: the players are thirsty for victory or defeat. Both will be deeply felt: the winners attach themselves to their earnings like sinking divers to their respirators; the losers whine, howl and gnash their terrible teeth, threatening to bite, to draw blood. But somewhere else the next game is starting already and the players drift there like moist, breathing wood. What once appeared to the philosopher as a thinking reed has dissolved nicely into a soup of primal instincts. Playing and joking, we try to forget the descent. We dance and make music into a long summer night. On a tee-shirt I see a ginger haired girl: “Kiss me, because I’m Irish,” she says. After the games is before the games.
An egg-headed, shoulderless man, a creature from a Beckett novel perhaps, who had a heavy gold coin in his right pocket, a belt spiked with pieces of bone and pointy brown shoes, walked slowly into another story, leaning on a thin black cane. He wore an awkward smile, but what’s that supposed to mean anyway—there are people whose expressions are simply awkward. The man’s face was of the kind that made anything moving in it seem slightly off balance, causing askance looks of almost anyone passing him. And many did, because he would proceed as slowly as a cloud blown across a windstill sky muttering something to himself that his lips did not want to say, puffing smoke to clear the way ahead of him, picking up stones and slinging them across the pavement. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think this man ever reached his destination.
A wondrous accompaniment of summer is the appearance of human feet. As every year, I notice how much more vulnerable feet look than the rest of their owners. Much more than hands, which are often used to fend off, hide, manipulate, and so on. Hands, for most people, are tools with their own role in building and maintaining a persona. By comparison, feet are innocent by–standers. In northern countries, they are hidden most of the year; feet are busy are fighting fungi and maintaining their straight shape against the fierce interest of fashion, or poverty, or neglect. I spend a fair amount of traveling time on the tube and on the street looking at feet. From my observations I deduce pains, passions, and predilections of the person attached to a pair of feet. Some I’ve heard place more trust in the reading of butts, but people are more peculiar about their butt than about their hooves. Some of the feet I encounter I’d like to shake as if they were hands, like saying welcome. Others make me feel sad, and I don’t even know why. I’m not even going to start with toenail polish here. Whoever said that I eyes are the window of the soul, evidently paid no heed to the heels. Enjoy the basement views.
My spontaneous, unplanned little controlled drawings are like dream memories, which is why I can never be mad at myself for their form, content, text or as associations. Please be seated, stretch out your feet comfortably, raise your head up to the ceiling, and watch whatever drama is playing on your internal stage right now. As I’m writing this I’m watching construction workers making a maximum of noise in the neighborhood. I presume that at least some of their motivation is to wake up the bourgeoisie from its undeserved early morning slumber. I concur. There is just something special about making art, making anything, in the real world, without the help of digital tools: the roughness of the paper, the smell of the glue, the ruse required to move the pieces into their proper position, the irreversibility of it all, the thought “what if?” that has to be preserved for another attempt at mastering things, physical things connected with a myriad of other physical things, just as digital things are connected with one another, but not across the invisible divide: pixel or permanent, but never both.
I feel like a lover, who is looking for a particular, but common flower, a very elementary thing: after all it’s a flower. A thing of natural beauty. How hard can it be to find it? It’s not been rare before. However, all florists tell me: nobody else wants this flower anymore. And when I asked them don’t you find it beautiful? They respond: beauty is not the point of the flower. And when I insist and want to know what is the point of a bouquet if you can’t pick the flower, they ignore me. Their main justification is that now they sell more flowers than before. They have in fact replaced the flower by something else, which is alien to me. Perhaps an invasion has occurred and all the flowers have been replaced by something else that is ugly and functional.
One day, Charles Bukowski and Truman Capote sat on my couch at home: Bukowski was farting melodiously, his mean shadow towered over the slight frame of Capote who indeed looked like an “old frog” and was whistling an old Cole Porter song. Both were looking for approval from me, it seemed, and I, of course, was looking for approval from them. C. pulled his scarf closer around his neck, B. scratched his fat neck. I moved my hands in an apologetic gesture that I had see Woody Allen perform in «Scoop». Nobody spoke. Nobody spoke for a hundred seconds which seemed like a hundred years. Well, said Bukowski, are you going to offer us a drink or not? — I was thinking the same thing, said Capote. Their eyes met as they licked their lips. I got up, put their books on the shelf and they disappeared unapologetically. There’re only very few writers who maintain a constant presence in our living room even without their work laying about. Most of them continue their bickering and biting in silence on the shelves.
I am sick of my routines. One of the routines I’m sick of is that I get routinely sick of my routines. Tomorrow I’m going to go into work. Several people are going to look at me and I wonder whoever it is they see: I’ve got a preference, I’d like them to see a writer, but if one of the writers I know would ask me if I saw him as a writer, I wouldn’t know what to say except that I might nod in order to please him, or to avoid hurting him. So, who are they going to see when they look at me? Does it matter? Can I change what they see? I’ve always thought that everyone has the power to make other people see. See you as who you really are. But I’m not so sure right now. Not sure at all. This power over others is a rather crude proxy, like comparing your pair of eyes to a pair of spectacles. You don’t see with spectacles per se. In fact, you see less with spectacles. You might be better off not having any. I’m thinking of my 98-year-old aunt, who’s almost completely blind, but really, now she only sees what she wants to see. When someone asks, do you know who I am? She thinks, do I want to see this person? And then, with the perfect innocence of the ancients, she makes her decision. But the other one will never know what goes on behind her eyes: they are silvery and flat like the dried out bed of a desert lake. When I look at my aunt, who usually decides to recognize me, I think that angels grab your feet when you die, so that you don’t just fly off in all directions at once.
Marcus Speh is a German storyteller and professor based in Berlin. His short fiction collection THANK YOU FOR YOUR SPERM is forthcoming from MadHat Press. He blogs at marcusspeh.com.