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Daniel Borzutzky

eat nothing

It was a tube and clear and plastic and they shoved it into the nose
or the stomach or the bowel

Or they placed it directly into the skin and there was a bright light overhead so the medical experts
could find the right hole

A card read: pretend he has an eating disorder

Another card read: pretend she has dementia

I don't like to put things in my mouth when you talk to me this way

But if you insist on shoving things in my nostrils

Then I will have to tell you what it is like inside my esophagus

Because my smooth muscles contract, things can slide nicely through my gastrointestinal tract

The device in my body passes through the posterior mediastinum in my thorax and enters my abdomen
through a hole in my diaphragm at the level of the tenth thoracic vertebra

A voice says: Would you like a wooden gag or a steel gag?

Do you prefer brandy, milk, or cabbage?

I smile because I know how important body language is when you are in front of a TV audience

There are forty-seven women strapped to chairs that recline when a button is pushed

There are fingers shrouded in rubber gloves

They squeeze open lips and sing a song about gastric obstructions and psychiatric disorders diagnosed
against a lady's consent

When your bowels open, my love, when you think too much about the pharanx: this makes me feel so

You know: you always have an alternative means of exercising your right to expression

Vomit is only one option, starvation is another

My love, says the authoritative body on the screen

I have a compelling interest to maintain the weight of your frame

How many bureaucrats do we need to affirm this?

Look, love, often people don't really know what they want

They can see an end, but it's not the right end

They don't realize they harm the nation's future when they harm the insides of their bodies

This is a song about what it feels like when you touch me this way

This is a song about a certain type of fiscal strategy

If they say: you can stick things in his body that he doesn't want in his body then you must not say: we
cannot stick things in his body because there are just too many people who love him

My love, says the authoritative body on the screen, you must realize that if I slice off your hand in an
act of ungovernable aggression it doesn't mean I don't love you any less than I loved you before

It all depends on what you need me to say

Because I love you father I am afraid you will walk away forever into the hole of the universe
that is beyond the beyond of the beyond

This is a bedtime story about a body that disappeared in the unitedstatesian night.

The name was a name that you know, father. It was tattooed on your skin and often you dreamt that
the name was emblazoned on your eyeballs.

Tattooed on your skin: the name of my mother.

This is a story about a father you once knew, who spawned you but could never live over or with or
through or in direct contact with: your body.

This is a story about a body I once met that could do nothing more than beat itself over the head
because it did not believe that its blood was indigenous to its veins.

It is bed time, father, and you are sleeping and there is a man who reminds you of a conquistador at
your window and he wants to know if there is some way he can facilitate the removal of your body,
to disperse your body across time and through the undergrowth until it emerges on the side of the
invisible line where the ghosts are better at being ghosts, where the water is better at being water,
where the rocks are better at being rocks.

Father, you tell me that you are not as good as the fathers on the other side of the invisible line.

Dear father, tell me what it is about your body that requires an international commission to investigate
the worms in your mouth, the foam in your nose, the dead crusts that fall off your skin as you wiggle
your body to embrace me.

I can only write this bedtime story with my head down, with my head on my knee.

I can only write this bedtime story if I stick a finger in my mouth and try to make myself vomit.

I'd like to call you right now, father.

I'd like to speak in your mouth right now father and tell you how much I love you for refusing to not
say everything all at once in one big explosion, father.

Do you remember the day you told me that you were about to explode, father.

You said son they have taken my body to a warehouse and they are filling it with minerals and they
say everything all at once in one big blast and there is this name in the unitedstatesian night and it is my
name and it is your name and it the name of your rotten carcass mother.

Do you want me to tell you about this name?

I say: I do not want you to tell me about this name.

I want you to tell me about the cacti.

I want you to tell me about the sand and the animals that live beneath it.

I want to know about the special effects that make possible the relationship between the sand, the sun,
and the bodies it absorbs.

I don't know how to say things differently.

Sure you do. Let the words leave your mouth in a different order.

It's all too much and I can handle it because my body will grow it will bloom it will explode I must go
to the store now to buy snacks.

These stories don't ever start in the right place.

This, right now, is the proper beginning to this bedtime story for the end of the world.


We are in a screening room and you are on the screen.

On screen they are taking apart your body and I am watching this.

There is a man with a white lab coat and a tool in his hand and it is sharp and you are not yet dead.

They have taken me here to watch a live filming of the dissection of your living body.

Really what they plan to do is fill your body with little animals.

And they want me to watch this.

This is all I mean by the frame.

I am outside of it.

You are inside of it.

The men with the white coats are standing over your body.

They hold syringes with liquid and they shoot them into your body and your mouth is open and in the
frame I see them chopping something up, a little piece of mouse, and sticking it into your mouth.

You try to close your lips. You try to keep them from sticking the mouse in your mouth.

Is the mouse alive or dead?

It is dead, of course. They would never stick a live mouse in your mouth because right now, at this
very moment that they are putting the mouse to your lips, they are concerned about the question of
what makes a good enough hole.

What makes a good enough hole and how can the hole expand in such a way that it lets out dead crusts
of body without letting in oxygen.

A hole so good it lets in bodies without letting out the noxious gases that cannot stand to be in a body.

I had a body once, father, didn't you?

In this bedtime story they have made me come to watch you, father.

You are on a hospital bed and they are doing experiments with your lips and you are screaming: why
do I have a body?

How far can we stretch these lips, they want to know?

What is the biggest piece of dead animal we can put it in that mouth?

I want to jump through the screen, father, and throw myself on top of your body.

But I am not allowed to move. It is your end of the world, and it is my job to watch your end of the
world. In fact they have tied me to a chair and they will unscrew my wooden leg if I do not watch them
shove little animals into your mouth, inject little bird bits into your ears, eyes, nose.

Is this dark enough for you, father?

Father, I have a wooden leg in this story. This is not the story of how I got the wooden leg. The story
of how I got the wooden leg is in a different book. You can find it, in fact, inside the wooden leg,
written along the walls of the inside of the wooden leg. But that's a different bedtime story. I won't
tell it to you now. I have a wooden leg. I've had it since the explosion. I really love my wooden leg.
I pray to it in silence when no one else is around but now that they have taken me here, now that they
have brought me to the screening room to watch what they are doing to your body on this your final
night on earth, they have decided to remove the wooden leg.

It's not that I feel castrated when they remove the wooden leg.

It's not that I know what it's like to be castrated. But father, you don't know this: I thought I was
impotent for most of my adolescent and early adult life.

The other boys were going around bragging about their sexual escapades and father I thought that I
could not get an erection.

It is awkward to tell you this. You are on the screen and I am watching you. You are having your
body explored by scientists who are sticking animal life in your blood, your mouth, your veins. They
are trying to make you into a hybrid beast, father. And all I want to do is confess things to you: I
thought I was impotent, father. Did you not know this? One day, I found a doctor who was going to
slice open my penis and inject a little device into it to make it work at the proper moments. This was
in the days before Viagra. And who would ever give Viagra to a 17-year old boy? This will make
no sense to you, father. But I am glad that I have the opportunity to tell you this. Because you never
know what will define you to yourself, father.

They are taking a bit of horse hair, father, and encrusting it inside of your skin.

Father, this is the bedtime story where they try to turn you into a horse by filling your body with horse

Look, father, they go further.

They are taking a kidney from a horse and inserting it into your body.

Father, you are sleeping, but when you wake up you will have horse organs inside of you.

No one will publish this story, father. Don't worry. And also, this story will never end.

Because I'm not sure if it is about you or if it is about me, I will have to keep rehearsing our accident,
father, so that they know it was not me who made you what you are.

By which I mean to say: I didn't kill you, father.

The explosion was not my explosion, father.

The explosion, the one that blew off my leg, was mother's bedtime story for the end of the world.

For so many years, mother and you and I, father, would talk about how great it would be to not be

It wouldn't be so bad to die, mother would say at breakfast, sipping coffee, eating English muffins,
combing back my hair.

And we both knew what she was talking about.

And when she made the explosion go off, we were not surprised that it was her body that was destroyed

But we were also not surprised, father, when we discovered that mother's body was destroyed not by
her own hand, but by the hand of the state that had given her the materials from which to build the
detonating device.

Do you follow, father? Father, do you know what they are doing to you on the screen?

It is like the old days, father. When I couldn't get an erection. It had nothing to do with the wooden leg
and it had nothing to do with mechanics. It had to do with my fear of loving other people, father.

I tried to stay home, to hide in the various body parts you built for us, father.

This was the bedtime story you had constructed for me.

Do you remember, father, how one year for Hanukkah you built a giant tracheostomy tube for me to
sleep inside? You put it in my room, which was shaped like a giant mouth connected to a giant larynx
and my bed was in the tracheostomy tube.

This is a funny story, father.

And it ends the moment you wake up, the moment they put so many horse parts into your body that
you will no longer know if you are human or equine.

For in the days of my impotence I was loved by many girls.

It is hard to understand this.

They loved me and I could get an erection even though I didn't believe it.

It is possible to convince yourself that you are unable to do what is happening right in your very own

I saw you, father.

You told mother: when the state explodes your body, make sure that you have covered it in the names
of those you love.

And it's true, father, that before mother exploded her body, we wrote our names all over her.

This is the last thing I remember of mother: she is in her bed, which is in the shape of a giant liver.
That liver-bed you built her that the two of you so innocently loved.

Father, you are in bed next to her. I am ten years old. The two of you are naked and I am too old to be
in bed with my naked parents. But you do not ask me to leave the room. Instead, you give me a paint
brush and dip it in electric blue paint and you ask me to write my name on her belly.

I start to write my name on her belly, and you scream that I should write it bigger.

I start to cover her belly with the first few letters of my name but it's not enough for you, father.

It's not enough for you, father. You want me to put the first letter of my name on her face.

You want me to paint my name all over her body and the paint is getting all over your sheets and I am
crying because you will not stop screaming at me.

This is all I can think about tonight, father.

It's a lonely trip to the end of the universe, father.

I want you to be there, alone, and in your solitude I don't want you to allow for this story to end and to
end in the blazing catastrophe of the skin that is my dying skin, in the blazing catastrophe of this mouth
that is my dying mouth

I am swimming, father, towards the beginning of another evening in which I occupy your body with
fear and pain and love.

And it will only come, father, if you seal your lips on me. If you kiss me, father. If you suck on my
head with your lips, father.

If you allow me to sleep and cry inside you.

Daniel Borzutzky's books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat, forthcoming); The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVox, 2007); and Arbitrary Tales (Ravenna Press, 2005). His poetry translations include include Raúl Zurita's The Country of Planks (forthcoming, Action Books); Song for his Disappeared Love (Action Books, 2010); and Jaime Luis Huenún's Port Trakl (Action Books, 2008). His work has been recognized by grants from the PEN American Center, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council. He lives in Chicago.