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We Haven’t Seen You in Ages

Story by Jarret Middleton (Read author interview) June 26, 2012

art by Leslie June

This account of wreckage and its aftermath has no access to what happened, only the dirtied flesh of evidence after-the-fact. I cannot say what life was like before the cycle quickened and flashed out true hells, when visions of the blackened bottom sent me hurtling toward the unrelenting origin of pain. I only recall coming out of it, the filling over of a hole; dust rushed from the heart, hardened by fire to stone. This elusive epigenesis was not in a realm far superior or jeweled with meaning any more than the steadfast attributes of all our passing life. In the knells of its workings, you and your world were as abstract to me as my exclusion from it. And so perspective was not possible. Only near rising-ups, thinness, and folly.

The winter storm was over, and my undoing (the destruction of a destroyer, a self-saboteur) had reached its end. I couldn’t recall the last time I spoke or moved. Of course, daily habit suggests that I partook in meals and strong drinks, labor and cars, talking about novels, hockey, and even the odd lysergic episode (shadowed, photographic suicide).

But what appeared as me, acted in the world as my heavy set, was a purely physical pantomime which required something horrifically less than my presence to thrive. Its roots ruminated back to youth, to the bone-creak of growth, the agony of form-giving, and the pain before that paina protoplasmic, pre-historic formless child. My fatty eye rounded off by burning light. The diaphanous transformations which built me up and builds up all in shale and scar (so that we can burst and breathe) dragged me back through the pre-pain of that black floating space and my lifetime stretched like an unyielding material around an expanding, luminescent sphere.

I came to in the forest all interworked with dying. Half-submerged in the vegetal composite floor. A windy ruin rushed through my ears and mouth and a substance a bit more languid than air leaked from every organ which would not suck or sound by itself. The storm’s wreckage lay scattered like a bomb had blown the woods apart. I flushed out into the frost and wet earth then up into the tall perseverance of the trees, saying, “I will help gather your loose branches and broken limbs.” Sitting up bare in the cold shine, I continued. “But in order for me to return to life I need new rind, some fresh, mossy bark to protect me so that I can again make it through.” The forest held me kindly, she could sense that mine was all used.

It took some work at first, restoring the domain which in turned healed me. I was finally forced—by the consolation of my nakedness, an end to the motor of my yearning—to give myself a laugh, and my wound some much needed rest. My laughter broke in happy pockets! Soon I was on my feet, walking out able to regain and play again at life.

There were familiar semblances, like the red song of touch. Cooking, pool tables, pub banter, my erudite wife immersed in The Masks of God. I no longer had a job (oh, but if you knew how dirty hospitals are and how mentally unh-unh they are there I don’t think you’d go anymore, either). I fixed the deck and bought natural lawn fertilizer. Bluegrass banjos softened bonfires at night. Gould’s staccatos on the Steinway and Shorter’s balletic sax brightened the days that grew from cold wet dawn.

I was up and collected, disengaged from the knives I’d held myself against for so long. Once more blinking, beating and able to see. Confluence flowed through these layers and a world was remade by the laser of these three. From blackest sheets and silent trees I was back in my skin between earth and sky, perfectly.

On the road into town I passed familiar signs, town drunks, old shops, fish markets and barsmy healthy lust shining in all their rushed and miserable faces! In these places I received greetings and took no offense at “we haven’t seen you in ages.” It’s not their fault they couldn’t see in my eyes burnt Bible pages, or the slow, nodding heads of forest sages (“What is, what we are all, is what we know not we are in the presence of“).

The scarred, perseverant bodies of my friends returned and sat nearby. I tell one I’m glad to be here. She asks what that means exactly. So I explain how I speak and more so walk in, aside, and under the cat tails, loons, jays, larks, drunks, and towns of friends just as the holy scrit, the speech of crackling ground, cathedrals of light, this bloom this fade, this laughing child in my eye, this court in eye, the I’ve been dead & received structural wisdom in my eye (that very stuff of meaning) walks, grows, and speaks up through me.

We hug, constructing and accepting each other in a brief image of union, standing on the triumph of our last round. “Here’s to the new gin spring.” “To my big, thawing soul.” I give a kiss and a goodbye. Then, at the marina, I step aboard that summer boat with my great friend, the drunk captain. We haul in a battered fleet of traps a mile offshore. I pull the slimy ropes and the dripping iron up from the bottom of the sea, and each small bounty extends my fragile glory in New Hampshire.

About the Author

Jarret Middleton is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Dark Coast Press. He has been profiled in Shelf Awareness and The Stranger as an up-and-coming independent publisher. His fiction and book reviews have appeared in The Collagist, Smalldoggies, Big Other, The Nervous Breakdown, Black Rose, Strike, Slingshot, and Hotel Angeline: A Novel in 36 Voices. He lives in Seattle, Washington.

About the Artist

Leslie June is a digital media professional and underwater photographer. She currently builds websites and takes photos in Asheville, NC.

This story appeared in Issue Thirty-Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirty-Six

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