often begins with my hearing a sound, a phrase, a sentence. Often I dont
know what this sound phrase sentence means. It has to go over and over
in my head and then slowly it squeezes more words out and I am, fitfully,
writing. This "description" comes from, I think, realizing that
a lot of my work is about the same thingtrying to describe this dark,
low, bitten, something inside of me. I wrote this piece after finishing
my book The Dogs, on which I worked for more than ten years. Then
I realized that book had not exorcized my dogs and here I was again. One
version of the title is in homage to, stolen from, with genuflections
toward, Kafka, one of whose most early fragments is called "description
of a struggle." Thats what Im still trying to do, describe the
same struggle again in which I am.
trying to describe it again.
It has not changed although
it slipped from me and then, because I needed
to, as always I have done,
I cant forget entirely for always it returns.
it was here except for sometimes.
Although perhaps thats not the case.
It may have not been when I was young.
When I was young I was not as I am.
It may have been but I nor knew nor recognized.
I was, when I was young, resilient,
full of hope. I had not learned to not have hope.
I am no longer young.
it is here except for sometimes. Especially when I think that Im about
to stop, succumb, be fed to it, pressed underneath, for which I would
not be ungrateful, no, would, rather, please, I prithee
It releases me.
I am released not by a thing I do
Whatever is done is done by it. Whatever
I do is naught. I nothing am.
Then it lifts me and I am again.
Then I am grateful then ashamed of
being grateful, even glad, to be at all again.
grateful, when it lets me go, as if it has been kind to me.
I make these tearful promises. I
say that I have learned this time, as if I have not learned before, as
if those other times were naught, although they werent, they were, they
are, still, yes, each, every one of them, yes, all, I bear the marks,
see, here, where I am bent, the lines and cuts, the bruises, scars, the
nightmares, the prosthetic.
I pick myself up gingerly, the hand,
the knees, the forehead scraped and bloodied. Gravel in palm, dirt in
cuts across the knees. The hair in clumps. Abrasions across, lacerations
within the protrusions (forehead, nose, cheekbones, chin). The nails chewed
and bloodied. The back swaybacked from the pushing down. The bones of
the elbows chipped from attempting to hold up, though not succeeding,
the belly not entirely dragging but almost. The shirt flapping, spotted
with holes, the cloth apparently ancient though in fact recently young,
care with personal appearance having gone by the by some time ago, the
collar frayed, the ends of the sleeves frayed, their color a ruddy rusty
red, a sanguine hue, browning, blackening, expanding in spots, the rest
of the shirt something of a shell-gray beige suggesting what once may
have been white, clean, young or new though no longer, however, is. The
end of an arm is a stump.
The knees have been heroic. With
the stump and the hand they too have attempted to remove themselves. The
knees are hairless, scraped, bloodied, though not scabbed having never
been given sufficient respite from crawling to form into scabs. They rather
have been in contact with the ground apparently constantly which is gravelly,
gritty, grainy, sandy, with little splinters of glass therein, sticky,
dusty, hot in spots, you could fry an egg on it some days, icy in others,
lukewarm, like if you spit it out of your mouth in others, severely slippery
when wet, wet, as if covered with a thin layer of oil or grease, either
auto, truck or otherwise, black ice it is called in these parts, a dreaded
road condition, slanted, sloped, cliffed, so either one is clawing oneself
up against the pull of gravity, against which one cannot argue,
it has its laws, or one is clawing with what is left of ones nails or
ersatz nails, gore or stitches, to keep from slipping sliding falling
being dragged by the pull of gravity, against which one cannot
argue, it has its laws, down. The knees, hand and stump continue to be
gushy, gunky, gory, gross, gelatinous in part, deeply unpleasant on whole,
yet also with stitches, unsightly undoubtedly, yet nonetheless installed
by Someone: Whom ?
An act of Kindness?
what I remember is a lie. Perhaps I just remember what I want. Perhaps
I always knew the laws I fear.
it lifts itself and with it, me, then am I raised and grateful so it seems.
I wonder if its like the change in altitude
in coming up from the ocean, from whence one never should have sunk, where
life is neither meant to go, though if it does, ought to desist and not
return, for if it does, it does diminished like that child I knew when
I was young, who fell in the pool and almost drowned, who should have
drowned but didnt, was rather "saved" to "live" in
a coma on a diagonally slanted plank or "bed" in what was once
the family living room, but then became, as it continues to be, the "treatment"
room, yes, continues for she is still "living", now in her forties,
as she has for the past three decades, breathing, receiving IV nourishment,
evacuating, all with assistance as she will for the rest of her miserable
fucking "life" like a fucking vegetable while her poor pathetic
delusional babbling mother, now some kind of religious nut, prays faithfully,
still, after all these years, for pitys sake, for her little girl to
recover while her husband, having not been able to stand the sight of
his beloved daughter drooling her fucking life away, left, and honestly,
who could blame him, the poor bastard, then only after years of serious
boozing, was finally, at long last, able to off himself by, rumor has
it, means involving a plastic bag, all the while nutty ol mom continues
to pray, babble and hope like crazy that her vegetable girl, excuse me,
vegetable woman, can still yet somehow against all reason, against all
odds, against all that is that is decent, good or right, by means, that
is, of some dark miracle, recover.
Or if it is like the speed,
as in a coming up from the ocean, something deeper than a merely nearly
lethal suburban family swimming pool, too fast, from whence one never
should have fallen, although one did, then being expelled, ejected, thrown,
tossed, heaved, wretched up as in a vomiting forth, too rapidly, that
makes one giddy, disoriented, distraught and temporarily out of mind,
temporarily buoyant as if shot through with hope, with light, or rather
a thing mistaken for light, a flash or jolt or electrical event or something
that induces or makes way for something else the name of which I cannot
recall, the nature of which I cannot create, although the memory of which,
because it is no more, although I so believed when I was young, (I am
no longer young) once seemed or was, or if it is like nothing else at
cant have you how I want.
can of course the human way, like any body can, with flesh, how we, both
each and both both can and do, and this is good and I am glad but this
is not enough.
want some thing impossible. I want to be of you, inside, the same as you.
I want us skinned, beneath the flesh,
the beating viscera. I want where some thing was that still remains. Where
what we are is not the two, the separate, but the one.
I want you open, wide, before the
close, the seam, the covering. I want the willful opening where I can
push inside. I want me in.
I cant actually imagine this. I
mean, Im capable of imagining a lot, but theres a way that what one
can actually imagine, if one is imagining right, could actually really
happen. But this could not, not all of it, so I cannot, not all of it.
I dont know where to stop.
I see my hand, an opening. The opening
is yours, youre open, I am going in, the fingers first, this parts familiar,
one, a pair or three, the whole hand then. Im careful. Then the knuckles
go, pressed close and small like a bunch of twigs, in, out, then in again
and then the wide part of the hand which cannot bend as much, cant shrink.
Im very careful now.
Is this OK?
Then slowly, more, the back
of it, the whole of it, its all inside then held as if by something sucking
wet and warm then pulling.
Is this OK?
Then careful, slowly up, the wrist,
the thick part then the thin. Another pause.
Although this is not comfortable
at first, we take much care and then the hand is fully in.
I can imagine what Ive seen.
Then now there is the other one,
yes, both of them at once.
part is hard to see. I mean, I cant really imagine this part like the
other, what with bones and all. Though of course theres also birth though
that is not the same though has its similarities so one might imagine
so I attempt.
I am trying to explain in a picture
what something might look like which cannot be pictured because its about
what I cant see.
Anyway, then I see, that is, then it is
Wait. Wait. This isnt possible. I must
be losing it. Maybe Ive already lost it.
But this is where Im most at home. Where
what cannot, where what will never, can. Where what can only be desired
I have always only partly lived. Part of
me, I think, was not full born.
To return: Both my arms are inside.
You hold your breath and I do too.
I am extremely careful. I push, you pull,
extremely carefully, my forearms to my elbows up.
My elbows have never felt like this before.
At least not that I can remember. The hair on my arms is matted, swept
backwards like something swimming, like a thing thats being fully born
but backwards. (Like the arm of the vet up the hole of a cow with a calf
calving upside down).
The end of my arm I can see is wet and
slick. Inside it looks how no-one can see.
Then I am inside further, to my biceps,
to the line where the sleeves of my t-shirts stop. Then I am going in
with my Shoulders.
I know this is impossible. Not to
mention ridiculous. Nonetheless. Its like swimming the breaststroke or
the butterfly. The shoulders tense and pull so that if someone was behind
or above, as you are of me, they (you) could see, if their (your) eyes
were open. I dont know if yours are. Im not looking.
Sometimes we look at one another and sometimes
those are the most awed and humbling frightening times but I dont know
if we do this time. Perhaps it should be the most private, interior, eye-closed
moment, but it could also be a moment to look. I want you to do what you
want. But if someone, you, would look, you could see muscles in the shoulders
flex, release then pull again, except of course I dont pull my arms back,
I couldnt, not like this, without doing damage. I keep them forward,
up, inside you.
Now my head is inside too. I dont
remember it going in. Like a crowning backwards maybe. I dont, although
I wish I could, remember. The top of my head, where theres the part in
my hair, would have felt it first like the water they sprinkle on your
head when you are received into an order.
Miraculously, wonderfully, inspiringly,
like those dreams I have of breathing under water, those dreams I have
of flying, which I do by a kind of breast stroke in the air, above the
world, Im breathing here inside of you, alive.
Then its different. Not like Im
coming up through you, but as if there has been a seam, like in one of
those thick plastic oval coin purses that you just squeeze top to bottom
and they open up. You have an opening like that, smooth edged, not torn,
this is its purpose. (I think I have one too, but now is not my turn though
that will come.) Or maybe its like youre like a big jumpsuit of yourself,
like you have a zipper of flesh from the bottom of your stomach to the
bottom of your neck that you open up.
Ive entered you from that long middle
place and I can feel the soft insides of you, intestines, stomach, guts,
then the firmer liver, bean-shaped kidneys, connective strings, as taut
as harp or fiddle strings, but pliable as the strings of a violin. I feel
this all with all me, with hands and mouth and skin and I am glad.
There also is, of course, the blood.
Its all around, I swim in it, but it is not a wound or hemorrhage. You
are not in danger. Its like everything is in an ultra-thin, see-through
plastic wrap. No, thats not quite right. Its not so contained that none
of it gets on me because some of it does. I like it. I like the slippery,
slightly sticky wet. So, rather than an entirely impermeable barrier,
let it be more like one of those noisy crinkly bread wrappers with all
the little holes, a porous membrane. I shouldnt have said noisy. Its
quiet here. Theres a hum or pulse and swishing sounds, things opening
and closing, moving and coursing, but evenly, firmly, comforting sounds,
not irritating noise. In any event, neither a "bleeding" in
the sense of an untoward letting resultant from some a broken or wounded
thing nor an unpleasant "noise" rather only the regular sound
of right and natural movement.
I am pulled in where it is warm as
milk. It smells a little that too, vaguely metallic, like iron or rust,
and steamy and close and comforting.
Then I am not alone in here.
For youre inside here too; youre
Youre smaller or larger. Im made
the size that fits.
Anyway, youre in here too, theres
two of us now, and the amazing this is, it doesnt bother the big outside
you. The big outside you doesnt feel queasy or sick the way one might
if there were something, two things actually, crawling around inside ones
guts and one felt like one was going to be sick. You dont feel sick at
all. It also doesnt look from the outside like theres a lump or a growth
or two, or one big one actually because we stick so close together, or
like that alien baby from the movie, it just looks fairly normal, maybe
a bulge or a thickening around the middle, but nothing anyone would be
concerned about, more something they would see and think oh how nice,
a bun in the oven. But of course, theres no one else around. We only
do this when were alone. But if the big you were to look down at yourself,
you wouldnt see anything unnatural only maybe a bulge or thickening around
We slip around inside so easily,
like a couple of kids in the snow except its warm. Maybe actually were
more like a couple of kids on one of those Slippy Slides like I remember
from the 60s when I was a kid.
Do you remember?
somewhere there is light.
The way, though thick and dark, is
clear. There is a noise, a pulse and I am pulling in. Im swimming to
the core of you, Im almost there, I have come far almost enough.
I reach out with my wanting hand. This is what I came here for:
Rebecca Brown is the author of The Terrible Girls, Annie Oakleys
Girl, The Gifts of the Body, What Keeps Me Here, and The Dogs.
She lives in Seattle.