Book of Venom
Y no hallé cosa en qué poner los ojos
que no fuese recuerdo de la muerte.
(And I could not set my eyes on anything
That was not a reminder of death)
Eat the poem from the spit. Fat still splissing on coals and fragrant smoke. Tear into the instant, your white teeth flashing. Think of the captive Gorilla who can gesture signs for Hunger, Sadness, Kitty, but refuses to mate; or the dendrobatid frog—sapphire-blue and fatal to the touch—now trapped within a Plexiglas cage. Bereft of such prey as centipedes, mites, beetles, the frog no longer distills the chemicals for its venom. A boy could catch it in cupped palms, and crush.
Fitting that jellyfish in Spanish is medusa: tresses of the Gorgon sister like those tentacles adrift. Attic women spoke lies as they labored at the loom: men whom she stalked, forced to gaze into her eyes and carbonized instantly, and villages burdened with widows and orphans. Moon medusa, box-shaped medusa, Pacific Sea Nettle or Flower Hat Jelly, your red and purple afterimage is what I witness in my sleep…venomous carnations of the sea. Fishermen and adventurers see the fabled sister arise from the slow drift, and they keep this secret. The sister is too beautiful to behold and not possess; men have begged for one night in the torch-lit grotto, even if ecstasy means necrosis.
Brown Recluse, crepuscular spider with dark violin shape on thorax, your leap and retreat unleash agile pizzicatos. Obsidian-glisten of six eyes as you sear puss-rose into my sole…creature whose necrotic music vibrates from a strand of gossamer!
This crackling is not the neon flickering vermilion against my motel ceiling and walls. This steam doesn’t rise from the drawn bath, nor is thinned with a couple aspirins and scald of tequila. I know the source and ash…this is heat rising, while red fingers of the Santa Ana Winds flip pages, my book of venom.
Engine churning, I navigate this asphalt steppe. Big rigs, straining with their hoard of flattened cars for the Pick Your Part. Sedans for the ambitious to buy on exorbitant interest. Strips from blow-outs…smoke on the horizon. Puddles of phosphorescent oil and engine coolant. Myself, in a Chevrolet, inhaling an artificial temperature of 70 degrees, breathing the toxins of a lifetime. Lady Venom, is this another strain of your serotonins?
In Zapotec villages, Bidxáa sorceress transforms into fawn, heifer, filly…this is the cocoon stage. Each month she then blossoms: woman with wide hips, breasts pendant and moonshine hair. She bathes at midnight, her scent overpowering and narcotic like cinnamon, mezcal, fields after rain. River water glistens on her limbs while her skin simmers the thirst of adolescent boys.
Lead-poisoning lit Caravaggio’s sword-blustering and madness. Like Van Gogh, he ate colors, and his gaze crackling over the corpse of a Virgin prostitute also flickered as crow-shadows crossing the wheat-fields of Arles.
Your fangs, Lady Venom, in my jugular, yet you tease. You inflict dry bite; no terminal dusk courses through my veins. Only wrinkles…tedium of thinning hair…salve of liquor and pleasure in unbuckling my belt after steak. But the bite immaculate is being honed, curved scythe-bite. When my breath rattles, will jaws of earth grind on my bones forever? Or will I return spawned from something neither water, fire, stone or air?
North American male lives to the age of 78; he gluts on fats, oils and sweets. By 21, he commences a career in charring his liver with ethanol. Average height: five feet, nine inches. Average of 144 orgasms per year. Two children per household. Blood-sugar spikes by the time he is fifty, and he peaks.
Brazilian Wandering Spider’s lifespan: two years. Hunger distilled, it hunts nocturnal, bent on envenomating grasshopper, mouse, lizard. Unlike the stray bullets or disastrous atom bomb of man, spider need only inject a milligram into human flesh in order for victim to experience loss of muscle control, edema, death by asphyxiation.
Our protagonist awakes at 6:00 a.m. and showers. Mirror fogged, he wipes it and shaves, avoiding the gaze of his own eyes. Slaps aftershave on his neck and cheeks, winces from the astringent’s sting. In the kitchen, he peels an orange and sips bitter coffee. An innocuous ache at the base of his spine. Dressed in suit and tie, he boards a trolley car and stares out the moving window: school boys dragging satchels, proprietors opening cafés and kiosks, the pointed breasts and heels of a young woman clicking hurriedly across the Reforma. Once at his desk, he looks over the documents awaiting him, signs off on funds for used textbooks to be distributed to rural schools. Yawning, he hears the clacking of typewriters. Doors slam or dryly shut. He opens the top desk drawer, takes out a file and, with red pencil, makes corrections…crosses out an entire page…chuckles…it’s the first time he has emitted a sound this morning. He inserts crisp sheet of paper in his Underwood, and his thoughts glow, catching fire. The ache subsiding, he works from 8:52 until noon: hendecasyllables, glistening clarity of water. Working title: Death Without End.
Unable to fall asleep, I study Blake’s Ghost of a Flea which shone before him: stalwart and strutting, eye-balls peeled, black tongue like rattlesnake’s sniffing heat. Hours later, I awaken drenched in nightmare; this phantom flea which hosted Y. pestis and gluttonous Death will curse the viewer across ten generations.
Encroaching on our fondest purlieus, a medieval dusk spreads. Fleas swarm our sofa and carpeted dens where children drool Looney Tunes. Florence, Cologne, Los Angeles…emaciated corpses outside are piled and torched. The pathogen is ravenous; the fever has yet to peak.
Fitting that serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract: strict pleasure derived from sopping up onion gravy and steak with a tortilla; a mug of dark beer, drops running down the glass, and the sudden tingle when drunkenness commences. Serotonin also impels man to leave the dinner table. Delectable sleep after making love and the brine-like odor a woman leaves on the pillow. Snake and insect venoms contain the chemical, and without medical treatment, a high dosage leads to lack of muscle control and death. Such a teetering between one extreme and the other…like the pause, distinguishing what freezes from what scalds.
Infestation of cimicidae, every blanket sown with needles. Braille of rashes on a boy’s chest, constellation of scabs. Lovely creature, hematophagous bud, you outwitted the pesticides and now the tenants are jettisoning their linens. Like making love, drunkenness, childbirth and bread, this is something we share with the ancients: scripture of scabby phonemes pocking our skin.
Andre Masson’s lightning: blackness crackling on white fire, whirlpools and raptors, arteries hemorrhaging, ant-swarms bursting into flowers and barracudas; an automatic topography of thirst, meat puppets peering from gapping hyena jaws, sharks, prowling wolf packs and spiders. Ivy spreading at velocity of lust. Venom.
Less is more; venom of ctenidae spiders induce excruciating marathon erections. Neurotoxins causing such extreme priapism can be refined, aid those suffering erectile dysfunction.
No glory. Crackle of loose asphalt under my soles. No fame. Horizon of brushfires from the foothills. Am done with the Homeric clichés. I need ash on my lips, texture of meat torn by my teeth. Then She visits me when thirsty. Her skin sizzles when touched. No tenderness, yet the pleasure She delivers cuts genuine. She leaves when sated, no vows, no promises. Only the sharpness of her teeth.
Poem’s a wet-bite, a pustule.
Sweet Lady Venom, this asbestos tunnel where you entrap me after the gas station, laundry and dark bottle of beer. Then a fitful dozing on my bed: a plateau where weeds sap soil. Murky rills I dream, and miles of tar, smokestacks. No fangs jut from ceiling, no legs open, no descent from self-shat thread. Only the rustle of your urticating hairs wafting upon me as I snore…a slow rain of barbed follicles…and I inhale our pact of mesothelioma….