Wednesday, September 01, 2010


New Fables

I once heard a story about a traveler who, because of a difference of only one inch in the gait of his left and right legs, was condemned to trace endless circles in the desert.

-- Edogawa Rampo


I am a naked ghost who lives in the bathtub. The good news is men climb in with me. Still, I worry I’ll be crushed. (Can ghosts be squashed?)

Certain men can see or kiss me. Never both.

For this particular party I want out of the bathtub. Obviously I need to get dressed.

At first only my clothes are visible. By concentrating I obtain the pointy head of a hysterical woman.

Still, I have no visible hands. Digging for gloves, I try to imagine my way to the head of a man.

As for my penis, it’s a work-in-progress. Don’t inspect it yet, it isn’t ready.

All my training is in being a ghost.

I can never get all my parts straight at once.

Something is always invisible.


Frida Kahlo did not accept her crippled leg and kept it hidden beneath her flowery exotic skirts. “Every year I hate it more,” she said, matter-of-fact and without complaint. I love her for that.

In public I keep peace with my withered leg, its mangled hoof. To inquiries I’ve learned to say, “It’s a birth defect,” in the sunniest possible tone, as if I’d just spotted, in the distance, a bluebird or a cardinal.

Dutifully I strap the foot into its plastic brace, like an aged relative who merits attention even though he can do almost nothing. When I’m alone it’s different—I throw a blanket over it.

Still, it seems shameful to be bothered with it, here on the beach at Sihanoukville, where the mine victims crawl, tourist to tourist, across the beach and the rule seems to be that you can't be a beggar unless you’re missing at least two limbs.

I had a lover once who was paraplegic. A Vietnam vet paralyzed below (not at) the waist. He always insisted he was not crippled. Not disabled either, or handicapped. “Some of my friends are quads. That is crippled,” he insisted. “I am only inconvenienced.”

His arms were extraordinarily strong, especially at night, when, returned in dreams to Vietnam, he grappled in combat and, howling in his sleep, hurled me from the bed.


Ear surgery is a simple process, accomplished in several stages. First, the seduction: that you look good already and soon will look even better. Self-satisfaction loads the body with numbness. Meanwhile the surgeon circles the chair, massaging the scalp, murmuring endearments.

The ear is bitten off all at once.

I, too, wished to be better looking. The surgeon encircles me – but I’m not numb enough and, anyway, I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to love myself just as I am.

Too late. She either doesn’t hear my protests or ignores me. One swipe of her razorish teeth. She holds my severed ear up to the mirror.

Now it’s a simple process to glue the ear flat to the side of the head. Easy! No more protruding ear!

Young Men with Beards

I like to watch young men with beards. Really I ought to control myself. OK, at least try. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I already make myself uncomfortable enough.

I am also a man with a beard. Somehow it seems to me, that if I watch men with beards, I could understand myself better. Not that it has worked thus far. (How many years have I been staring now?)

A full beard does serve to animalize the face. It echoes back to our life in the trees. Also there is something pompous about beards. I myself am not required to conform. The rules do not apply to me. Especially young men with beards, with skinny bodies and fuzzy heads, like dandelions, a little bit silly and entirely charming.

I was once a young man with a beard. Never once did I allot myself a moment of approval or tenderness.

I would like to make up for it now, by lapping at the bearded young men, by assuring them that they are ridiculous, but also entirely captivating.

Oh to stroke the beards of young men until self-love wells up in them! Until I, too, begin to weep.

Mad Turk

Actually I’m not exactly related to my family. For example, my brothers. We have the same mother, of course. Also the father is the same. However, in my case, a third person is implicated. A mad Turk, by the looks of it.

I am not sure of the mechanics when three people decide to make a baby. But you can be sure that sodomy was involved.

As such, it is to be expected that I occupy a somewhat lower position within the family. My father is a ruler. My brothers are rulers, too.

All right, so it’s only a pumpkin patch, a series of pumpkin patches – but you wouldn’t believe what suburban commuters will pay for a squash nowadays!

All this mad Turk business is a little embarrassing for my family. But mostly it is overwhelmingly convenient. It is only inconvenient for me.

Admittedly I have no idea what I’d do with myself, if I suddenly turned out to matter.

One brother is sensible and allies himself to power. The other brother is famous for being tender-hearted and gentle.

It’s true that he only threatens to kill people on approximately half of the evenings. Arabs, Democrats, my father.

As I am of Turkish descent, this bothers me somewhat, but I try not to take it personally.

What I think is that three people really ought to be careful, when they decide to make a baby!

It is to be expected that my father should have mixed feelings about me. After all, that mad Turk sodomized my mother. (Or did the mad Turk sodomize my father?)

Nonetheless, my father sometimes calls me. He has certain favorite subjects. His number one favorite subject is why respect is more important to him than love.

(It is many years now since my mother escaped, screaming obscenities and waving a gun. Because it was the sensible thing to do.)

It is the rarity of a thing which makes it desirable. Love is available -- respect nearly impossible. As is well known, love is often unrequited. Respect, however, must be mutual.

From time to time I appear at the family table, doing my best to appear subservient, amenable and correct. Or so I think. Then I overhear one brother say to the other, “Look at him, acting like he’s so special – just because of some mad Turk!”

The Missing Chamber

As the guidebooks say, the guesthouse is a destination in itself.

There are rooms with fan or aircon, with hammocks, with river views. There is a spectacular garden where everything flourishes. There’s a first-rate restaurant, an elegant bar afloat on the river. Wifi is available but there’s little chance to use it, as one is constantly making friends. The guesthouse is family-run. The mother is resplendent, teaches college, carries plates and raises sons. The handsome father is a first-rate storyteller. One sturdy son demands his allowance before collapsing into laughter.

Then there is a more a delicate son. He sometimes turns blue. His heart has only three chambers. His prognosis is uncertain; his medicine comes smuggled in a diplomatic bag. His father isn’t sure if he should go to college or not. It’s strenuous -- the father thinks the boy should do exactly as he likes, be a painter or a poet. No one knows how much time he’s got. It could be anytime, might be today or might not.

It is a destination in itself. Most remarkable of all is how the entire place is run and maintained, not only with order but also with such extravagant generosity and sweetness, and all by one little boy, using only just the missing chamber of his heart.

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