A Streetlight Yellow, Chapter One: Stillborn
Chapter One : Stillborn
I am stillborn, dead upon arrival. My shadow stalks along behind me, thrown up on the cement fences, huge and menacing, like a devil out of the dark. The yellow streetlight casts a forlorn haze, and my steps fall in a clopping. I see monsters and shadows everywhere in the night, and I am but a shadow or a monster. The hammering of my mental sounds are screeching in the silence. The grimy walls of the apartments appear desperate. I am desperate, searching for an escape. God, take me away!
Show me substance in a handful of images, riches in a pocket full of change, diamonds in the dirt, clarity in parables. Show me a place where it speaks. Give me the truth of the wind and rain, cease my pain. Give me a sunset raging, the sun going down in a burst of color. Give me mountains tall and rivers wide. I want to be a mountain tall, or a river wide. I want to fly toward heaven, or travel into the remote wilds of thought. I want to fly like a bird and perch on a cloud. I want untamed open spaces, and to leave behind the street full of burdened faces. I want to leave the traces of this world behind me. What I want is to exit this flawed body, for a cosmic body, and the immaculate body. I want to peer inside or be lost utterly in the mystery. God, take me if you will! I go toward the summit and submit to your will. If you would only show it to me!
The street is far from what I want. I hear a dog bark behind the cement fence. I am jittered by its snarls and growls. I feel attacked by it and attacked by the night, the brutal voices of my mind, and the headlights of a passing car that blinds. My eyes are weak with strain. I haven’t slept in such a long time.
I am worn out, like my clothing, which hasn’t been changed or washed in a long while, and I smell like sweat and sex. I pass by the fence and see my shadow thrown on the ground. I keep my head bowed down. I take a drag of my cigarette and let the smoke ascend, like I want to ascend too. A craven silence now takes hold. And the barbarous throng incites me, excites me to violence against myself. I am silent in my suffering and no man hears the screaming.
I enjoy it in my sickness, my silent suffering. I enjoy it because I own it and can pet it, like it is my little doggy. It barks all night. I feel enlightened in this perversion, like I am meant to suffer, like the profound man always suffers. This world too, suffers with me. I am a low down scraggly cur without a home, just walking, not talking, down a lonely city street.
All is loathsome to me, all is woe. I am loathsome. I am woe. My name is Job. I understand his stricken life, and know what it is like to have nothing left to me. I know how he yearns for God and salvation even when life is nothing but suffering. I know how he prays and fasts and lets his smoke and ghost reach toward heaven. I know it reaches God’s ear. I know that God can hear. Let me cry out and pray for we sinners too. Let me place my very corpse on the doorstep.
Would I die should anyone care? I am broken in my despair, which clings to me like the undershirt beneath my heavy brown jacket.
I hide my tick head from sight. I am mangled up and wound tight. Even though the air tonight is heavy with heat, I clench into myself still. The moonlight looks wet on the asphalt. I am a bug or a worm. My name is Mud.
I walk by a strip mall where most of the stores have been abandoned. There is a torn sign in one of the windows where is written ‘space for rent.’ The buildings are infested by poverty. Poverty itself infests. The lights have blown out from the front, and construction materials are within the buildings, as if it were being prepared for tenants which will never come. Everything tonight has taken on a sad personality, every object, every sight and sound. I am abject, and earth stuck.
My heart yearns for tenants which do not rent here. I have wanted so much the love and community of my fellow man. Love cannot be found when the people are barren. I wish I could be normal and not have these overwhelming impressions. I cry out for mankind! I want to rectify the situation. How man was given consciousness and freedom only to neglect himself and become a slave.
I do love mankind! It is my desire for his future that causes me to cry out incessantly and bleed. It is my love which makes me suffer so intensely.
Oh suffering starry night,
And my naked monster.
How I yearn for touch and closeness,
Sex and intimacy,
Vibrations and excesses,
Or even a violent outburst,
But still quietly, ever quietly, I creep along.
I am the creep, and creep along,
Without anyone to pay attention to me.
Silently and dejectedly I walk,
Without storms or floods,
No wild flamed nights,
Or even grotesque displays,
But a vapid indifference, which soaks,
And causes me to perish.
I have not experienced perilous rendezvous,
Have not gone into the savage heart,
And have not known ecstasy,
Or the climax, just the cruelty,
Of the seriously silent night.
Suddenly I become aware of my shadow on the street, and it makes me stop and stare. It seems to have taken life, and of its own, has become new and changed. It has the character of woman’s form instead of my own. My shadow has lengthened and transformed from my square shape and bulge into the lean hipped beauty of a tall slim female. On the sidewalk, it appears to be a stranger’s shadow, but nobody is around. It begins to take on characteristics betraying its own life. I know that this is magic or witchcraft or a hallucination of mine- or perhaps the devil’s incarnation here on the sidewalk. No matter!
I try to step on it, but it is still a shadow and merely moves and follows what I do. Every action is mirrored, but not by my own image, the girl’s image instead of my own, which is shapely and seductive. I look around me, but nothing noticeably strange is around me to attest this sudden abnormality. No woman is there.
I begin to walk again, but then I see the shadow has moved in station to the front of me, instead of the side. It is as if as I walk I am following it, and cannot help but look down in its survey.
I hear the sound of woman’s laughter and I stop again. The shadow has begun to dance eerily in slinky cat like movements. How tantalizing this witchcraft! It no longer follows my movements back and forth, but has taken on separate animation, and I swear I can hear the pulse and beat of primitive drums amplified in my mind. The drum pulse is low, but throbbing. I close my eyes and reopen them to readjust, but this is no solution to the hallucination I am having. I beat my fists on the sides of my temples, but no dissipation of this dream can be had.
Then it disappears. It is no longer there, and the drumming has stopped. My shadow has returned to the side on the cement and it is mine. I make movements and it follows my actions again, like my normal shadow.
I doubt the importance of the dream and I begin to walk on. I shrug it off and try to silence my mind.
The drumming starts again- a slow pulse and rhythmic beat, becoming faster and faster, and louder and louder, forcing me to walk on at a faster pace. I do not know to where.
There, up ahead, under the yellow streetlight, I see a beautiful woman- or at least the flesh of a woman, (if it is not some demon in woman’s dress). No, it is the slim figure of an alluring female, and I am overcome by the strange desire to follow her as she walks into the further dark. My pace quickens again, almost to the point of a run, for the streetlight and she are far up ahead. Her back is to me, and I cannot make out her exact description. I don’t want to lose her, or the image of her, and am panicked at the prospect. I almost think she looks back a moment, but I can’t be sure. The pounding of the drums demands that I go on. I am in a state of desperation now, for as fast as I go I cannot gain on her.
There she is at a run, and she quickly turns down an alley between two buildings. I become ever more desperate, and the hammering in my skull is painful. Then a loud blaring sting in my mind, as if I had been struck deaf, and I stumble, almost falling over. I hold my head at both temples- pushing as hard as I can with my hands. It is painful and my broken teeth are chattering.
Silence now! A desperation in the silence, and the drums have ceased. I rush up to the alley turn and look down its course, but nothing and no one is there to resolve it- just the drip of a drain pipe, and the reflection of the moonlight in its puddle. A greasy glass like sheen on the slab of asphalt makes a snake between the two buildings, like the trail of a comet, and it looks wet. I feel that my breathing is heavy and my chest is burning. I am winded. I have dropped my last cigarette. I turn away and wonder what new madness has betrayed me here. What pounding aboriginal and wild drums, and what a strange hallucination of my feverish brain.
Wild like a savage is my heart,
And the heart of the world-
Searching for my mother’s breast and milk,
while being threatened by shadows.
Searching for rare raw displays of emotion,
wanting to strike or to dance,
in a moment the thought disintegrates.
Amplified, these primitive drums,
These mad chants, and restless conversations.
Sacredness is mad and wild and free,
Like nature or any untamed thing.
Like a woman, in lust or worship,
Madonna and whore.
Nature, both a sinner and saint.
I look down at my feet and shuffle across the street, collecting myself and calming my breathing. I see the gas station on the corner. I smoked all of my cigarettes earlier in the day, when I went walking around the college, and I have just enough on me in change and a few bills to get myself a pack. I need to relax and have a smoke.
I walk over to the brightly lit gas station and go inside to buy a pack of cigarettes. This is a rough part of town, but I have no fear- my mind is too distracted to really care about my own safety. I don’t mind the loon or the moon.
I go into the store and walk around pretending to shop, looking through the aisles at the candies and chocolates and soda pop. I am still trying to collect myself and cannot focus on what I am doing. The advertisements and the fluorescence of the store blind me. I look at the wrappers on the candy.
My mind is wired from not having had any sleep, and there is a queasy feeling in my stomach. My face feels greasy, so I want to wash it, and for this purpose I ask the clerk on duty quietly for the key. He hands it to me and I go into the bathroom.
In the bathroom the light flickers and I am in the dimness. I put my hands in the cool water and splash it upon my face. I look into the mirror reflection and see a sad dejected man staring back out at me- it is me in there, but it is not me, it is some monster I have become.
Where did I lose my balance and fall from the precipice, I wonder? Who could love these frantic eyes, these red eyes, these tear filled eyes?
After having dried my face with a rough brown paper towel, I walk out feeling somewhat refreshed, though this only lasts for a short moment. I nod at the clerk awkwardly and hand him the key back, and he says something under his breath which I don’t catch.
I ask him for a pack of the cheapest brand of cigarettes which he hands to me without much of a word, in exchange, with a few cents in change, and I exit the station.
Night sounds are creeping,
Across the surfaces, with the glare,
Of passing cars.