Charles Freeland

from Bad Luck Mérimée

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Eventually, we get taken apart, piece by gory piece. It is the prelude to the beginning of the end when there will be so little left we won’t be able to recognize ourselves in the photographs people take of us when they think they are taking photographs of someone else. Oh, I’m sorry, they’ll say, I thought you were my uncle.

We don’t include the mirror. We never recognized ourselves in it. Except at night when the light was so sparse as to make all but the faintest impressions disappear and what was inside rushed out and obscured everything but the lobe of an ear, say, or the eye socket suggestive of itself but not containing the orb we used to discern it.

Why start conjuring memory when it too has been carved to pieces by those who claim they are there to save it, to preserve it from the eternity of the grave? They want to find themselves scuttling about inside our memories like crabs so that they can claim once and for all that they too lived, that they did not simply appear here at the behest of those who needed someone, anyone, to show up at that precise moment and carry their suitcases or cause a ruckus the next table over due to the terrible service or dried-out crusts of bread.

I’ve lost my keys. I stand at the foot of the balcony and holler up, hoping that I do not disturb the neighbors who are known to throw items from the windows, items that can permanently stain one’s clothing or lacerate the flesh.

Can you imagine repeating the scene over and over again until you are convinced it is neither real life nor dream but something cobbled together from the two and then drained of its power by the very act of cobbling, the intensity of it, the sheer stubborn willfulness of forcing two wholly separate entities into becoming one, the way sex is said to operate, or better yet, digestion?


Out the window, moon raised replenished blooms 
like admissions of past vice, a previously sporadic loneliness, 
monologue of light and movement so all encompassing 
the canal has gone out of use. It makes modernist epics 
even in the head of a dog. In common with contemporary gin,
opals, your traditional religious themes, 
the bed is half the size of that at home.  

It moves at my command. The tubes in my arms 
and the machines to warrant separate treatment attached to them 
have no precedent unless it is a lifetime lilt, a ban 
on plains of elephant grass, the tentacles our dreams throw out 
from the creole-like past tense article tà. Skull and vortex. 

We capture every living and mineral thing and draw them in 
for consumption, for re-arrangement. 
Sometimes footfalls burnished with music stands and the old upright piano 
have this way of refusing echo, refusing to acknowledge 
the mighty architecture lives up to its reputation as a purveyor of solitude 
and instead thunder through the brain like pack animals. 

When I am gone, I will remember some of this, won’t I? 
The amphibious freshwater snail with the operculum waterfall 
dried to a crystalline shoelace and stinking of grease. 
Pharmacy and factory, the sound of the letter O so close to the ear 
it’s deafening even as 1 compilation, barely there? 

If every peripheral mature outing and obovate specimen 
disappear they might as well never have been. 
A single canso with a melody. Who needs the drywall, 
the polar lakes forsaken as a youth, the copper color 
off pennies contesting the palm? Who needs the skin 
with its barrier-like pretensions to keep the small things out 
and the smaller ones in?  


The first movement arranged emerges 
from the stories we tell about it in the third person, 
with a focus on emotion, not the other way around. 
This according to the chef highest with 13th in the standings 
who is still looking for work, who imagines a fusion 
of tepak sakra and modern art, pretends his hair 
is not falling out because otherwise, who would believe him? 

Sometimes a spinous ventral process emerging like hunger 
seduces me and I ask the man to whip up some ray-finned whole goby 
soft and azure-colored to tide me over until dawn 
when the emptiness of hunger is no longer empty but vocal and crude. 

He waves me away with a gesture 
one might ordinarily associate with aggravation, 
with spinnery operations demerged 
but which I recognize as a form of slovenly love, 
of artifice handed down heavily bowdlerized 
from one generation to another as carelessly as one drops 
nickels physically malformed onto the sidewalk 
or pronounces one’s r’s 
quickly and in passing as if they did not matter. 

I nod off now and then against the opposite side of the frame, 
a rare behavior even among mammals. 
Everyone has their own way of acknowledging the high eroded tip 
of the Oromia region and whims of fortune. 
Even I have forgotten how to speak of Gothic, cross-ribbed vaults, 
the words like puzzle pieces fitting together so perfectly 
there is no demarcation between them. 

Once you line one letter, one matter of undesirable curtailment, 
up next to the others, to the monochrome guitarfish 
and its litter size 4 – 11, the mathematics of it all 
dissolves and there are just the footpaths and the crematoria, the wind 
in the leaves and on the windowpane making its bland, undecodable 

Charles Freeland lives in Dayton, Ohio. His website is The Fossil Record.
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