in the holding place that spawned me
amid the pointing and the horror
I was a tadpole trapped in your marsh
walled in by surrounding flames
the tone set with your memory
flame you’ve ignited from breath
my belly slides over algae coated stones
here in the marsh, swampland
muddy womb I spring from
as a tadpole, my feet, not yet formed
tail moves like an unconscious motor
I’ll stick with the horror as long as I’m here
yes I am worthy of death at your hands, mother
your desire to destroy me is real
as I propel my little tail through the fires the shit around me I cannot see but you create and undo with your hands this world, what hell will you bring us now
my sticky eyelids open and I see nothing
this isn’t what you planned
it’s not what I wanted either
I warned you of this and you didn’t listen you never listen
my little white legs step out of the tub as I reach for the towel
I was that monster lying on the couch behind you
no it was your father eating an apple there
my father he was lying across the couch holding an apple, bringing it to his mouth, taking a bite and staring at us while crunching apple bits between his teeth, menacing father teeth
and you, you were in front of him
he was on the couch and you were lying down there, I watched you, I watched you lay yourself down, down on the ground before him
but it wasn’t my father, it was an older male poet, he had warm eyes and a gentle touch,
he was a quiet beast
under what conditions would you demand a stable subject
to emerge out of the swamp, slimy and terrible
to look upon you with its beady eyes
and say yes, what I am about to tell you is real. I am a subject. stable. someone you can trust. you will hear me and you will bring up the flames. you will ignite the wall of flame and you will see yourself as a stable subject. you will dissolve the subject and take it into your mouth, grinding it down with your teeth.
I was at the carnival, standing alone behind the ferris wheel, waiting for you to arrive. you knew what I wanted to do when you got there. you would be wet and ready for me. but you were never going to come because in that moment you were drowning in the lake. if it was me who threw you in I am very sorry. I cannot have you existing away from me that’s all. do you understand, yes I think so, no I don’t think you do. every time you walk away, turn the corner, you cease to exist. you die, you die to me, are dead to me. every time you turn, you die. but every time I turn from you I get bigger. what happens to you when I turn, do you want to kill me do you think I’m dead do you wish for my death this is a real question and I forbid you from answering it.
after I turn the corner not only can I not access you, I no longer know where I am myself. you see, not a stable subject, not even a subject. the problem is not that I don’t have a mother. It is that I do and when you turn the corner the gaping hole that is my mother grows inside of me. it expands and multiplies. my body is a patch of holes and they grow bigger and the threads that hold the holes together are fraying. I ask you to help sew me up but instead you take the needle and you drive it into my left eye and then into my right. now I have a body of holes and also two bleeding eyes gouged by my own hand. It is true, you did it, but I gave you the tools. you only did what you were supposed to. your role is very clear here do you see. and mine too though nothing is stable.
in the mansion I was a boy a dirty little boy wearing suspenders and expensive clothing with snot on my face and parents who were so filthy rich I couldn’t be a subject except for “boy” and “dirty” like in the head. they were hosting a dinner party at the house. the guests were all these aristocratic types and the housemaids, the cook, the butler were in the back room. there was a snake under the table but only I could see it. I was sitting at the table with my legs swinging not reaching the floor and I was picking at the food with my little dirty fingers and mother was embarrassed but not too much and father paid me no mind at all he was reading passages out of a big old dusty book maybe it was a bible or a dictionary. and the conversations I couldn’t make sense of so the guests turned out to be these empty figures of nothingness like air, air with shapes, sitting around, saying nothing, snorting their own words and air.
I was sitting at the dinner table pulling on myself under the tablecloth while the maid was in the kitchen waiting for me to come in. instead I walked around the table filling everyone’s wine glass because father asked me to because father asked me to. one day I will say no to father one day I will walk into the kitchen, join the others, and burn down the whole estate. I pictured this in my head as I filled all the wine glasses and then I walked out of the dining room into the parlor and I walked into the corner of the parlor and I started peeing, I peed in the corner of the parlor, that’s what I did I stood there peeing all over their expensive Persian rug. then I went back to the dining room and took my seat at the table and peed under the table, as I ate, as they drank up all their wine, peeing with a smile. I looked over to the other side of the table and saw my mother sucking on her thumb. this didn’t happen so what happened instead. I went into mother’s bedroom and lay on the bed waited for her to come in and. because she was you, my lover, my mistress, my mentor, my professor, my boss, my wife. she entered the bedroom holding a package in her hands and it was from her husband my father and he wasn’t lying on the couch eating an apple then. not anymore. no apples for daddy.
earlier during dinner the storm was raging outside and I thought it might clatter the shades into the window and maybe even smash the window in. but I couldn’t find the line I guess I deleted it and saved over the old version because it’s gone the storm like it never even happened.
if I wanted to hold onto what you say to me I’d need a memory for it but my memory is comprised of isolated instances of shame all sewn up together so when you reach for me with sweetness will I store the moment or will it move right through me and disappear like a dream I can’t grab on to.
because in the end I was right. you turned the corner and everything died the story collapsed in on itself and everything ceased to exist. the carnival booths rotted into the ground and the lake dried up and the servants burned down their quarters along with the rest of the house. the swamp was still there waiting for us to return to it, the stable subject and the not even a subject, and the frayed pieces of thread dangling from my holes as you grab on to them right before gouging out my eyes in an attempt to get past the walls of flame, surrounding the marsh that is you, that you were spawned into, amid the horror of all of our days, our creation.
Syd Staiti lives in Oakland, CA and is author of The Undying Present (Krupskaya) and chapbook In the Stitches (Trafficker).