Table Thirty-Nine: Joseph Suglia

It is night once more. The white cloud is dissolving, the skeleton of a forgotten dream.

The amber street lamps are extinguished, and darkness covers the city. Humans can look forward to a night of hunger and damp fear.

Above you is an eternity of blackness, now that all lights, all electricity, have been extinguished.

The blackness, the heavy rain, the plants and animals that swarm the city—all of these things conspire to destroy your plan to find shelter for the night.

It is a greasy night, and humans are removing to the cellars and basements, to subterranean life, as if the word “life” could be applied to their whimpering existence beneath the city’s crust. On the roofs, proud condors and arrogant vultures are featherily and darkly gathering.

You see the vampiric hand-claws of the ghastly aye-aye gripping the ledge of the brownstone, high on the roof. Hunting its prey at night, the nocturnal aye-aye with its pointed black-leather ears, thorny black coat, and naked terror-face, the aye-aye is looking down at you evilly.

The hideous aye-aye sticks its bony finger into the hole of a gored coconut. The aye-aye licks the coconut milk from its bony finger. It lifts the coconut to its ghastly mouth. It sucks out the coconut milk, draining the thin watery milk from the hairy coconut ball.

You know that the animals will grasp and gobble up the human beings who steal out from their underground hovels.

And yet, and yet. There are humans on Clark Street.

Shadowy people, their flashlights twinkling, are moving through the night.

Now that it is dark, crowds of sleepwalkers are noctambulating through the empty dark city streets, looking longingly through shop windows, gazing dreamily at the stores, restaurants, and hotels that are now populated by rowdy animals and crazily dancing plants.

The humans are circling the streets mindlessly.

All of these noctambulant walkers are walking toward an obscure point.

You have no idea what the point is of these nocturnal circumambulations, these circular wanderings through the city.

The noctambulists are seeking something, but what are they seeking? Their unconscious minds propel them.

Cigarettes are passed from hand to hand.

Cloudy shafts of light penetrate the darkness. Light from searchlights. Light from spotlights.

Bathed in the drops of light, the mothers, fathers, and children eat the fruit of the baobab tree. They seem less than afraid, having learned to eat naturally produced food. Bathed in scintillae, the baobab tree is scintillatingly alive. The baobab tree—which once seemed prehistorically ancient, paleolithically ancient, even—is gloriously alive.

You take the axe and strike the fibrous bark of the baobab tree. You slice open the trunk. A gash is forming. The gash moistens. The trunk is bleeding a transparent fluid. You kiss the gash. Your face is dripping with glistening translucence. It is water. Water is spilling out of the baobab tree.

You lie face down, as if prostrating yourself before some arboreal deity. You lie face down before the baobab tree, as the water covers you.

You see flowery pink and purple fireworks light up the sky, spreading and flowering and then dissipating, and hear the human clamor. As the night-black deepens, you realize that the transformation of the city is a retrogressive transformation.

What you are experiencing is the reversion of the Earth to its animal and plant ancestry. This is no calamity. This is no Apocalypse. This is vestigial primitivism. This is a revival, a return to something that had been forgotten.  Or is it a projection into the Never-Before?

A milky mist hangs over the sewer grates; a thin film of milk covers the landscape, now a milkscape.

The ripple-wrinkled milk pond seems to be readying its mouth to swallow all of the human beings in a single gulp.

Everywhere in and around the milk river, there are crepuscular birds, hunting at dusk. Wading alone or in large flocks, some lofting in trees, the birds are waiting to feed.

You see black-headed Tufted Ducks floating on the dark milk.

You see the birds, waving their wings, through the darkness, feeding.

The Canadian Geese no longer honk or yodel. They float on the dark milk. The White Stork stands tall, pecking and stabbing the milk. The birds stalk. They stalk fish and snakes and eels. Whooping Cranes wade through the shallows, lifting their slender legs, striking the milk with their bills.

The moon comes up, and the milk pond is covered in a hyalescent sheen.

The boar shadows surface in the milk-saturated moonlight.

The moon is high, full, and white. Llamas sleepwalk beautifully down the night streets. By the side of the road, orangutans are lazing in the night mist. The springhares are cowering—night travelers, they only migrate on moonless nights. They, the springhares, wiggle their protruding noses.

See the moose under the moon. The moose stands in profile, under the shining moon.

You gaze at moon cows grazing under the moon, by the milk pond. The sky is greying. The moon is like a hole in the greying black-clouded sky. The milk pond is oceanic under the full white moon. The moon is milky white. The milk is lunar in its whiteness, glistening by the moon’s light.

There is a homeless man. He extends an undecomposing palm and croaks out a request for money. But everyone is homeless in the new world, and money has lost its power.

He is staggering across the roadway.

You feel the breath of a nocturnal sirocco against your neck and hear a death-rattling.

The wind is banging the street lamps and lashing the telephone wires. The telephone wires are hissing in the wind.

The vines are lashing at the windows.

There is a skein of human hair below your feet—brown woman’s hair, the brown hair of a woman.

With the sea-boy flashing in your memory like a flashing fish, you career off into the night.

You walk south, toward the place where the young boy died in your dream. There, right at the juncture between Washington Street and Clark Street, that is where the boy died in your dream.

You drift down the street, the duffel bag under your arm. You see the pale forms of sheep floating through the fog.

Like an incarnation of the character in your dream, the boy appears whitely. You see standing before you the young boy of your dream.

The boy is standing in front of you.

You see a network of blue veins circulating in his eye-meat. His rib cage is visible through a screen of transparent skin. His eyes have all of the smoothness and sleekness of deshelled, yolkless eggs. His eyes seem solid yet viscous, like the white milk that pulsates through the city in pulsing thrusts. The boy’s pink mouth opens, and you see little white teeth.

The boy runs up the stairs.

You press on, pursuing the will-o’-the-wisp of a boy, the foolish flame.

You are running across what was once the Richard J. Daley Plaza.

The Richard J. Daley Plaza is nearly unrecognizable, so tall is the grass, so tall are the trees. The plaza has transformed into a living African savannah. The Kluczynski Federal Building is a holy temple.

Its forelimbs heavier than its hindlimbs, a gorilla mounts the fifty-ton steel sculpture of a giant flamingo.

You hear the screaming of the animals. Their ululating screams pierce the night.

The eyes of the hares are glowing like spangles in the dusk.

There is a black buffalo. You stop running.

Tingling with fear, you stare at the massive black beast. The seething animal looks like a ghost in the glare thrown by the headlights of stalled cars.

You can feel the surge of hopeless anxiety.

There, in the middle of the Richard J. Daley Plaza, there are the animals waiting for you.

A hexagon made of peeled and peeling flesh and polished bone serves as their grim meeting place.

The orangutans lurch forward with a rope clenched in all four hands. They slip the rope around your legs. They fasten your legs together. You collapse flabbily to the ground. The simians pull you by your legs toward the statue of the giant flamingo.

Dragging your human body, they are dragging your human body across the square of the plaza. The orangutans leave you lying, recumbent and prostrate.

The wailing of sirens floods your ear canals.

You turn to the left. You see the crocodiles gorging themselves on the raw carrion.

You turn to the right. The wild boars are digging and rooting around with their hooked tusks. Their eyes are grotesque parodies of evil.

The wolves are howling. The moon beasts show their fangs. Silhouetted, the wolves are waiting.

You feel tremors shoot through you.

Netted in snakes, a lawyer launches himself into the plaza and rolls around on the cement.

The lawyer stands again. He races in circles, flailing his arms as if he wanted to sail through the crepuscular air.

Prostrating himself before a dignified goat, a priest kisses the ground.

You are lying before the statue of the giant flamingo, your legs fastened together by the rope.

An orangutan places a dog dish before you.

The animals want you to drink.

You look above you and see the faces of the apes and the bears laughing at you.

They are yowling and howling at you, as you bend down, as you incline your head gingerly toward the dog dish.

Your lips are crawling toward the dog dish.

All of the monkeys seem to be laughing. No, they are laughing. They are laughing at you. Laughing and cachinnating. Howling, cackling, guffawing, laughing with abandon, they watch as you kneel by the dog dish filled with ice water, lower your head, place your palms face-down on the moon-stained pavement, buckle your back, press your lips to the ice water, open your mouth, and take a long cool drink.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now the cloud’s bladder has been decanted. The rain has been exhausted. Against a pillar of moisture rising into the sky, there is the many-colored arch of a rainbow. A rainbow is arcing across the sky’s vault, slicing a curved slice of sky.

Though you know a rainbow is nothing more than an optical illusion, an image registered on your human retina, the rainbow seems to crown the teeming jungle below it—the palpitating jungle, quivering with faunal and floral life.

Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia


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