We sat in the darkness. A lone light, the North Star of the bedroom, idled above us: The most significant gaze was that of the ash prevailing upon the end of the molting incense stick, a thick whisper of fog erupted from the wilting tail and infused into the air. Our bodies, erect and naked, were solidified upon the floor, cross legged as a Jainist in meditation; the rest of us had become buried in the darkness that lingered its flaccid anatomy around our lips, shoulders, and other crevices. Her brown hair hung as a curtain over her face as we spoke. Our voices were seen, not heard. They sifted through the haze that had swept over the room, like the Holy Ghost that had whispered through the lips and lungs of many before us. The silence was a puruloid substance beneath our skins, liquid warmth that engulfed our existence and need to exist. The silence was no longer an auditory feeling, but became a part of us in how a string quartet slowly begins to no longer be heard but felt, the notes pressing into your body and mind.
Our words became jumbled, tangled, creating tangible concepts and constructs that evaded their most common understanding. Within this, this parasite, this wyrma, these thoughts kept digging into me, prying when I said no, forcing a need unlike that I’ve ever understood. A need to use words that had not been worn down into a pummeling piece of generic half-truth, words and sentences that broke the stifling cliché that had come to define the post-modern era of writing. In one particular college class I had been told by a professor whom did not have much more than a degree to her name that “intellectual writing is dead,” and it was something we’d “just have to live with”. Her words slit the throat and drained the blood out of every pursuing writer in the room. Every part of my being wanted to strangle her with her own words, wrapping around her the words of the primrose path of dalliance and Shiva; of all the dying gods and goddesses, and allow them to return her to the fiery hell that her type deserved to absorb into.
I told her this. She sat in silence and understood.
The fact is that, however, the face value of words has become decayed, and it is not the era or the people, but the society that had caused this to happen. The banality of this disposition is not the cause of a trite angry professor, wielding a stick in the air attempting to fend off the vultures, but rather that of the utterly pessimistic annalist, devoid of faith within a future generation and their ability to go against the grains pressed into the proverbial strands of time. Is it possible that it is time for a generation, much like the Lost Generation, to step in and tear down what has been constructed in order to create something new and pure? I am not one to step forward and make a claim to do something as that, but it may be possible for another; or, it could just be more cannon fodder to shoot down any argument made, as my writing does not depict that of anyone making a step away from tradition. Is it possible that writing is taking a step down into the shadow of technology and the overpowering realism that has developed around cold hard facts in replacement of spirituality and creativity? Has the feeling evoked from the printed word become empty and inanimate, another Mildred Montag? Possibly. And maybe the relationship between man and literature should die a natural death; and now, at this time which would be when it should be laid to rest like a martyr in a nameless grave beneath an indistinct tree on a hill overlooking what was once a simple village but now a complex swarmed with business sharks and tycoons in expensive suits.
This was what our conversation eventually surrounded; the value of words and literature in today’s world. Did it matter to anyone except those of us who wanted it to matter, to those of us who loved playing the games of literary allusion that only the likes of men like Swift had enjoyed in their time? Contemporary writers have become the allegorical concubines of the millennia, providing condensed, easy to swallow novels by writers like Danielle Steele and others who provide happy endings, simple as pigs in mud under the shade. The reader has no strings attached and nothing to lose or gain from the formulaic novel except for the further discussion with the rest of Oprah’s book club on the inspiration given from this masterpiece.
She put a finger to my lip, and held an innocent smile. Shut up, she told me. Shut up. So I did.
The palate of the artist’s inventory offers encounters between that which is spoken and that which is not. Fragments of another life decorate the pages in characters and prose that are meant to subjugate the reader into another identity: Here the reader is a part of the artwork itself, creating the fictitious sentiment that is no longer docile but now lurks; not with an ephemeral presence but a permanent truculence felt from all sides of the room. And what is our repose?
Our lips came together, and the quest came to a beautiful close. A perfect cadence.
Andy Cerrone is a freelance writer, graduate student at UMass in the English department, and an editor. His writing credits include short fiction in Commonthought Literary Magazine, Six Sentences, and The Houston Literary Review, essays and editorials for CollegeCentral.com, poetry in The Greater Boston’s Intercollegiate Poetry Publication, Live Poet Society Publication, Oak Bend Review, The Houston Literary Review, and The BiblioFiles Literary Magazine. He will be presenting a paper this fall at a conference in Chicago.