The entire novel Table 41 is available on this Web page.
Here is a Table of Contents for Table 41.
The entire novel Table 41 is available on this Web page.
Here is a Table of Contents for Table 41.
The entire novel is available here, on this Web site.
Gott versprach sich, als er den Menschen schuf.
God misspoke when he created the human being.
Je edler ein Ding in seiner Vollkommenheit, desto grässlicher in seiner Verwesung.
The nobler a thing in its perfection, the more hideous it will be in its decomposition.
—Moses Mendelssohn, quoting a ‘Hebraic writer’
Dedicated to Joseph Suglia
Thanks to Friedrich Nietzsche, D.H. Lawrence, and J.G. Ballard.
Reference is made to “Mussel Hunter at Rock Harbor” by Sylvia Plath, “Der Panther” by Rainer Maria Rilke, Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats, “Decorative Art in America” by Oscar Wilde, and the Natural History of Pliny the Elder.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia
Looking upward, you see young boys perched on the tops of streetlamps—streetlamps that have become leg-tufted trees. Leggy trees. The boys call to you from the leggy trees. You cannot understand what they are saying. What are the boys in the trees saying? What are they saying to you?
You look ahead. In the middle of the street, there is a refrigerator. The refrigerator is egg-white. What is inside of the refrigerator? Within the refrigerator, there are snakes and snake eggs. Snake ova. Oviparous snakes.
Zigzagging serpents—big yellow constrictors, yellow rat snakes—are wriggling and writhing over and around the refrigerator. A brood of vipers, you imagine, squirms within the refrigerator, snaky food.
There is a fire. There is a garbage-can bonfire. A ball of fire, crisping newspapers in the garbage can. Crackling conflagration. The flames do not look like tongues. The flames do not resemble snakes. The flames resemble fingers, fingers of orange crinoline.
You are nearing the intersection of Clark Street and Superior Avenue. You hear the approach of a car. Behind you.
You give a sudden cry. The car comes too close to you. On your left. You back away.
Swinging around the curb, the Sports Utility Vehicle comes to a halt, the ignition is turned off, and the driver yanks open the door.
Turning slightly, you see a man approaching you. The man is the motorist. He is twentyish and blonde-maned. Garbed in pre-faded grey jeans and a thin black-leather jacket zipped to the neck, his eyes shielded by overlarge brown semi-transparent sunglasses, he has the air of an extra from a motorcycle film. A film about motorcyclist zombies. You think him rather affected.
You look at the SUV. The car is packed with marijuana-smoking humans. They are studying you.
The motorcycle man asks you:
—Do you got any money? We run out of gas.
—No, you say, I have no money.
The man does not shrug. He says nothing. He simply turns away and says nothing and strides back to the SUV. What use is cash in a world in which money has lost its value?
Before you, a wad of snakes is balled up and hissing. In the street, a wad of snakes is balled up and hissing. You slink away from the snaking snakes.
You look up at the sky-bound office buildings and imagine that the snakes have invaded the offices, too. The snakes have overcome the maze of cubicles. Snakes are dropping over the partitions and plopping on to the keyboards, the papered surfaces of the desks, and the computers, black asps and adders.
Walk past the nightclub now. In the nightclub, you imagine, mamba snakes are slithering noiselessly over the catwalk.
You see snakes in the grasses that circle the artificial trees. The snakes are throbbing in the grasses and bobbing their snake heads. The snakes are vibrating through the vibrant green grasses.
Reclining in the grass is a motionless anaconda. You can see the anaconda’s head, but not the tip of the snake’s tail.
You observe a mother and son, walking in tandem. A red-headed mother walking down the street, holding the hand of her red-headed nine-year-old son. A nest of snakes is concealed in the foliage past which they walk.
A snake head jumps out of the bushes. The young boy jumps jauntily into his mother’s arms.
You are drifting past a telephone pole. A slithery eight-foot python is wrapping its rubberiness around the telephone pole at an astounding speed, its skin glistening viscously, a glistening viscous yellow, the yellow of yellow gelato.
Coiling and winding, like a disembodied yellow arm, the python winds and coils around the telephone pole, gripping the telephone pole, swirling around the telephone pole, swiftly ascending, flicking its forked tongue in and out of its mouth rapidly. The great python is spitting venomously, viciously, in your direction.
There is a girl—blonde, 21—following you with her eyes. She has V-shaped cheekbones. Her boyfriend is wheeling a shopping cart full of beverages: seltzers, margaritas, wines, Corona Extras. Out of Superior Wine & Liquor, out of the vacated liquor store.
Inside of the liquor store, a boy is kicking the ATM.
Twin snakes are parachuting downward in front of your eyes and mouth, describing sinuous patterns in the air, curling their bodies into soft green whips. Avoid the cartwheeling, somersaulting snakes.
Now you are walking past a vegan diner. There are teenagers in the vegan diner. Sipping vegan milkshakes, the teenagers are morosely silent. There is no longer anything against which to rebel.
The pranksters are now the conformists, and the conformists reveal how neurotic they truly are.
You are floating by a butcher’s stop. You see a matron there, a matron in the butcher’s shop. A boy beside her, begging her for meat snacks. She whisks the unrude boy out of the butcher’s shop, a sausage-shaped finger pointing toward the door. In the butcher-shop window, tortoise heads are snapping at the meat.
The streets are wriggling with snakes; covering the streets is a writhing serpentine carpet. Slow, dreamy streets pass you; the useless traffic lights are blinking uselessly.
Something behind you is hissing. You hear a hissing behind you.
You turn around and see a clandestine meeting between two lovers on the verandah of a condominium building, a meeting between two lovers who are entwined like serpents.
Do the lovers not see the snakes? Hissing vipers are coiled around the stair balustrade.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia
He fondles the steering wheel as he waits for his wife to join him. The street is torn up and burned out.
You watch her as she briskly paces back and forth, moving her legs together. She is wearing purple high heels. She is smoking a slender cigarette.
His neck-skin is as loose as a turkey’s wattles. He is a flabby, shabby-looking man with shaggy eyebrows. He is succulently chewing a wad of gum. He is wearing a purple silk vest.
He is waiting for his wife to finish her cigarette. His left arm dangles out of the window. The black Toyota is purring and humming. The back seat is jammed with luggage, a ballast of baggage.
It is a bright day. Now that the city is renewed, the sun is as red as a McIntosh apple. Before the renewal, the sun was as pink as a Macintosh iPhone.
You see a pink girl walking toward you, breathing into her mobile telephone. Her shirt is pink, and her yoga pants are pink.
Her mobile telephone is pink. Emblazoned on her left thigh is the word PINK. She nearly collides with you. She is not speaking to you. She is speaking to her mobile telephone. She says to her mobile telephone:
—He has a girlfriend now, so he’s doing good.
The girl’s pink boots cut through a knot of croaking toads. She is walking into the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
You follow the girl into the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
The Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s is a two-tiered building. Two yellow arches slice into the structure. The arches are sixty feet tall—ten feet taller than the cement-plaster top deck, which serves as a sunshade for the diners in the restaurant. Though you cannot see the top deck, you imagine that it is now a flourishing terraced roof garden.
No, the arches are not golden—they are yellow, and they are made of steel. Wrapped around the first story of the building is a red-and-white metal ribbon.
Swing through the revolving doors. You squeeze into the dining area. An oversize man in a mailman’s uniform is gorging himself on French fries. A supersize woman in a nurse’s uniform is gorging herself on a cheeseburger. They are loving it.
At the center of the first-floor dining area, a solitary lamp is fizzling, emitting fizzles of light. It is a Torcher floor lamp.
You walk toward the ordering area. Above the ordering area is a shadow box that frames the McDonald’s logo and a wraparound with video screens.
You look through the window. You see the copper statue of a steatopygous woman.
(Steatopygous = having large, excessively fleshy buttocks.)
You see a statue of Ronald McDonald impaled by a unicycle.
You look through the window. You see statues of the Beatles. All four of the Beatles seem to be shaped out of vanilla pudding, their faces contorted into grimaces of agony.
Two young boys are inserting tokens into a red-and-yellow kiosk, which dispenses one-inch injection-molded figures. The machine dispenses plastic dinosaurs, Grimaces, and Hamburglars.
Within the see-through display cases are backlit figures of Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, and Grimace. The display cases function as divider walls between the seating areas.
You see tall glass panels with digital images of Chicago residents blissfully eating hamburgers. They are eating cheeseburgers in ecstasy.
The second tier of the building is held up by mirrored stalactites, mirrored pillars, and mirrored columns.
On the transparent video panels of the mirrored columns dance holographic images of floating food: French fries, milkshakes, and cheeseburgers. The French fries, milkshakes, and cheeseburgers are smiling zoomorphs.
(Zoomorphism = having the form of an animal.)
Grinning surprised cheeseburgers.
At the center of the building, there is an escalator and a de-escalator separated by a red-and-yellow staircase.
A man in the bile-colored uniform of a railway conductor descends the staircase in search of his wife. The man has a wide and wild face. He calls for Nancy. His wife’s name must be Nancy.
As you ascend the escalator, you see a row of LED video screens. On each of the flat screens, Anderson Cooper is declaring the end of the world.
In the seating area on the second floor, you see an egg-shaped chair that recalls both the late-1960s British television show The Prisoner and the late-1970s/early-1980s situation comedy Mork & Mindy. You see butterfly chairs and wire-legged side tables.
The Clark Street windows and the Ontario Street windows are made of three layers of glass buckled into titanium banding.
Through the Ontario Street windows, you see a Sports Authority, a billboard for a morning radio show called The Eric and Kathy Show, and a British Petroleum gas station. Through the Clark Street windows, you see a Walgreens, a Hard Rock Café, and a Rainforest Café.
You see a crowd of people beneath the billboard at Clark Street and Ohio Street. The billboard is smothered in vines.
A building is smoldering somewhere in the distance. You sight spires of smoke lifting into the clouds.
Above the reflecting city, the sun is high in the sky like an orange.
You look around you. Ceiling mounted fixtures for accent lighting. Flat-screen video screens. Display cases imprisoning the figures of Willard Scott and Ronald McDonald. Guitars dangling from support cables. A guitar pick-shaped panel with displays on both sides: a frappe mocha drink and a strawberry lemonade. Ellipsis-shaped panels framing the images of fizzing effervescent beverages. At the McCafé, freeze-dried yogurt flakes and McDonald’s mouse pads are sold.
Displays that resemble gigantic straws and soda cups. Stand-up tables by the Ontario Street windows. Plasticine statues in the shape of soft-serve cones.
Before you is a bloated teenage boy. He is oozing over the table. He is wearing a Megadeth T-shirt and a Hustler baseball cap. He holds an iPhone absently in his hand while chewing his Chicken McNuggets. Upon the table is a Styrofoam cup in which a mulch-colored colloidal substance is contained. Leaning against the steel railing of the balustrade is a yellow-shirted and Bluetoothed security guard.
The security guard barks, clapping his hands:
—Time to go. Hip, hip. Come on! Time to go.
The boy lifts himself from the booth. His arms dangle in front of him as he walks. His indifference is extraordinary.
—Whatever, he drawls and then drops upon the sofa, sprawling himself.
On the soundtrack—the soundscape of the entire building—is “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross.
It is then that you notice the birds. The birds’re in the rafters.
The birds are descending from the rafters.
The flesh-eating raptors—vultures and eagles—hover and then launch their air strike against the hamburger patties.
You see the three hooded vultures.
The three hooded vultures are all aquiver. They spread their wings and soar into the kitchen, where—in a flurry of brown wings and white plumage—they frenziedly strip the semi-frozen hamburger patties, ripping them into shreds. They are towering over the naked pink meat like three old men in long brown coats and white pants unswaddling naked pink babies.
The caracaras—they, too, are drone-striking the kitchen. They are tearing at the hamburger carrion, pulling it apart with their talons and curved beaks. They are devouring the chicken carrion, cannibalistic birds.
The next thing you see is the Northern Red Jungle Fowl flying—no, floating—impossibly across the foyer, ballistic basilisk. It, too, attacks the hamburger patties and the chicken patties.
You see the golden eagle scratching the yellow wall with its talons, its massive pinions flurrying behind it.
See the man with his digital-video camera. Arching his back, the camera-holding man frames images of the gyring vultures and buzzards, the revolving serpivolants.
Swarming vultures loft on the statues and throw out their wings.
A Big Mac is lying on the red-and-white tessellated flooring. The falcon descends on its quarry, hooking the Big Mac with its hooked beak, and then flies upward with deep pulsing wingbeats.
You see boats and boats of Duck McNuggets, Duck McNuggets scattered across the floor.
See the Andean condors descend with unfolded wings on to the Duck McNuggets. They tear into strips the anatine flesh. The entire flock collapses into an orgy of pecking and pulling, tearing and ripping, lacerating and swallowing; the Andean condors are devouring the breaded duck pellets.
On the tables, the crows.
The crows pick up and pick at the pickles with their beaks, a whole mob of them picking up and picking at the pickles. They rattle and croak, the predatory corvids, ignoring you as you steer through the glistening black crowd.
(A corvid is a member of the crow family.)
The crows are devouring the pickles. They are loving it.
There: A fiftyish man in a muted-blue business suit is grappling with a jungle rooster, a male red jungle-fowl. But the bird seems more powerful than him and is beating its wings violently, rapidly, menacingly, refusing to submit to the predations and depredations of the man in the muted-blue business suit. The man in the muted-blue business suit is unarmed, but the bird has pointed spurs and flesh-scratching claws. Beneath his muted-blue trousers, the man is wearing a thong, which is exactly the color of the rooster’s crown.
Owls loft on the video screens and befoul them, blasting them with their syrupy excrement. The owls have reason to be afraid.
There is an anaconda in the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s. The anaconda will wrap its slow and heavy body around the slow owls, drowning the owls in its incalculable bulk. It will swallow the owls, swallow the owls whole.
The owls shudder, shivering their soft plumes. Their yellow-eye masks unblinkingly stare at you as you pass beneath the video screens. Soft, round owls.
A buzzard alights on to the ceiling light fixture. You want the buzzard to grasp you in its claws, flap its wings, take flight, bearing you into the air, sailing across the city skies with you in its solid grip.
In the foyer: Glorious peacocks are strutting over crushed eggs. They, the peacocks, are screamingly beautiful. You marvel at the birds’ iridescent plumage. They are spectacular birds, their plumage a stunning array of blues, greens, and reds.
Now the peacocks are eating the French fries. They are loving it.
The Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s is a bird house, an insane aviary.
Swooping down from its aerie, the eagle owl spreads its wings wide and stretches open its curved talons. Its eyes are Halloween orange and blazing. The eagle owl is flying with its wings stretched out and its claws open, as red robins are wheeling through space.
The eagle owl is attacking the Egg McMuffins.
See the Egyptian vulture.
Nothing is more beautiful than the Egyptian vulture, with its bright-orange hooked bill, rapier claws, and pristine-white plumage. The Egyptian vulture pilfers the chicken sandwich from the table, picking and pecking at the chicken-flesh with its beak. Rapacious, the Egyptian vulture feeds itself.
Flying above you, the king vulture—with its flappy, blue-orange-yellow head and bespectacled eyes—fixes its hard stare on you.
You wonder at the toucan—with its banana-colored face, its massive beak the shape and color of an unripened banana with a hot orange stripe down the middle—and ask yourself, “How could such a gloriously exotic creature exist?” How could such incomprehensible beauty visit a city such as the one you called your own?
A preening, self-cleaning spoonbill cleaves its feathers with its bill. With rapid pecks and plucks, the bird nibbles its lush, snowy plumage. Sensing your approach, it crawls gingerly along the transparent plastic balustrade.
The woodpeckers chisel the bathroom doors with their chisel-shaped bills, pecking and plucking in stiff movement, their stiff plumage unmoving as they peck and pluck. Their skulls move mechanically forward and back, pecking and plucking.
The hummingbirds are fluttering their wings at unimaginable speeds, floating before your astonished face. The birds are right in front of you—they float there, before your eyes, and then suddenly transcend to impossible heights, spiraling upward to places you cannot see. They hover in a horizontal formation—then they suddenly disperse, flying backward, upward, downward, and diagonally at spectacular speeds. They hover, then upglide, downglide, sideglide, and backglide.
Ravens are soaring on the updraft, moving vertically on the windy air-condition current.
A hawk trances before your face, its brown wings featherily flapping, and then flies off.
Bluebirds are fluttering up before you. They circle in the air, carving invisible arcs, revolving fan-like. They lift higher, as if suspended by invisible threads.
It is then that you see the humans, cowering and scared. Humans are fearful of an animal backlash and retaliation and are hiding in the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
A seagull glides beyond a beefheaded man who gapes stupidly at the seagull as it glides.
See the tribe of renegade children, giggling at the parrots. The parrots erupt into a crazed flight, liberated from their cages. The little girls titter as the parrots flitter. The tittering of the girls irritates you.
A grim North American turkey vulture is peering at you through sharpening eyes, super-seriously. You know that her eyes are keener than your own.
Peered at by the sharpening eyes of the North American turkey vulture, it is now the German family that is being observed.
The German family comprises two young children and two middle-aged parents. Two young children and two middle-aged parents compose the German family. The faces of the children are not expressionless. They are enraptured by the swirling and spiraling raptors.
Swinging her shoulders as she walks, a massive woman is swaying across the foyer to the counter. A radio is strapped to her right shoulder. There is no one to take her order.
You see a younger woman—blonde, around twenty-four—sprawled on one of the booths. She is asleep. A Brush turkey creeps toward her where she sleeps. A Japanese crane struts toward her where she sleeps. The Brush turkey creeps; the Japanese crane struts.
You strut out of the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s. A gale is blowing against your face.
You glissade between the red streetlamp and the yellow sign that thanks you for choosing McDonald’s.
You look above and see an American eagle lofting on the red streetlamp—a female American eagle, brown and less resplendent than its male counterpart.
You hear the screeching of a Valkyriean jet as it slices through the clouds and then turns and spirals and dives.
Look around you: at the Hard Rock Café, at the Walgreens, at the British Petroleum gas station, at the billboards, at the condominiums, at the office buildings.
The intersection of Clark Street and Ontario Street is exploding into a wild aviary, a bird typhoon. You whirl into the avian whirlwind. You dive headlong into the explosion of birds.
Seventeen-year-old girls with picturesque faces, faces that seem almost like holograms, faces that almost seem Photoshopped, are leaping about on the sidewalks.
He is wearing a white muscle shirt—the ex-convict, the man who is looking at you. He is strolling leisurely on the sidewalk and leering at you with leery eyes.
You see a woman in her mid-twenties blowing magical bubbles through a bubble wand. Dirt mats her hair. Her hair is a tangled mass of dirt and twigs, a messy dirty mane.
Squawking above you, perched on the wires, is a cult of ravens. The ravens shake their velvety black feathers.
The ravens squark and squeak and squawk and squork and squook and squack.
A solitary raven croaks throatily and descends from its celestial aerie, circling the tribe of frogs that pulsates below.
The ravens are shattering across the sky, shattering into fragments of black, breaking apart into shards of black ice.
You see a half-devoured apple on the street.
Whishing across the sky, its massive wingspan dwarfing the sun, a hawk suddenly arcs downward and takes the fruit into its mouth, pauses, flaps its wings, and then reascends, soaring back into its cerulean castle.
Looking sleepily at you through slanted eyes, two teenage boys zombie across Ontario Street. They are sleepwalking to the Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s.
One of the teenage boys is wearing a T-shirt that reads MILF Magnet.
The other wears a T-shirt that reads Never Approach a Cougar.
You look up. A girl is nestling in the tree. One blonde strand of hair describes a question mark on her lineless forehead. She scratches her elbow and looks past you at some unimaginable thing. Her father extends his arms upward. She slithers down the tree and jumps into her father’s arms.
Perched close together on the boughs is a flock of vultures, solemnly patient and patiently solemn. A cumulus cloud of ravens drifts above the tree.
The eagle extends its broad wings and vaults into the vaults of the sky. Its feathers resemble fingers, fingers that are playing an invisible celestial piano. The eagle makes its incandescent descent, the sun burning furiously behind it.
The large, powerful wings of the Greylag geese carry them through the air. They fly above the green buildings in a V-shaped formation. You watch their southern migration and wonder if you should follow them.
The crows rustle their shimmering metallic black plumage and release rumbling grinding clicking calls into the wind. A pack of humans shuffles down the street to look for other humans. The crows, rustling their feathers, watch the humans as they shuffle.
Bustards and cranes race around the Chase Bank, chasing the humans who try to outrun them.
The birds are taking advantage of the chaos, scavenging the abandoned houses and apartment buildings of the human beings for food. Pirates and looters of human scum. The human beings, on the other hand, are finding it harder to eke out a living in the reverse rodeo. They are less adept looters and pirates than the birds.
A police offer stands alone at the intersection between Clark Street and Ontario Street. He looks visionarily into the cloudy distance.
Great buzzards and massive vultures have lofted on the bright orange, green, and red awnings of the apothecaries, hair salons, liquor stores, and shut-down video stores.
A pair of puffins shoots past you, and all you see is a haze of orange feet and bills, black wings, and underbellies.
Crested wood partridges are delicately and ridiculously dancing on the ledges of the windows of the apartment buildings.
Now come the shrikes with outspread wings, turning and twisting, making air strikes and doing aerobatics. Their talons seem to be made of black insects; their beaks are hooks; their faces are hidden in Zorro masks.
The vultures and the buzzards and the eagles and the ospreys are propped on the ledges of the office buildings, on the parapets of the building-towers, looking down on the vine-webbed streets, silently awaiting the maceration of the city-dwellers.
(Maceration means “starvation and reduction.”)
Flying clouds of feathers above the human city, the birds are meting out punishment to the humans for years of imprisonment.
An eagle whirls past you in a white arc and then speedily resumes its lateral attitude, coasting and then soaring one hundred feet higher, flying straight toward the tall black buildings on the Chicago skyline.
You stare at the John Hancock Tower. The building rises four hundred feet to a tapered summit, a summit that is shrouded by the scissoring wings of crisscrossing blackbirds.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia
The sky is not the color of sapphire. The sky is not the color of lapis lazuli. The sky is not azure. The sky is not cerulean. The sky is not an oceanic blue. The sky is not the color of anyone’s eyes. The sky is the color of a Blueberry Popsicle, and that is that. It is a cloudless sky, and its color is exactly the color of a Blueberry Popsicle.
Double-glazed windows blink in the sunlight behind balustraded balconies. The sun smears the white planes of the apartment buildings, the jutting balconies forming ridges. Pyramid-shaped office buildings rise around you, engulfing you and the crowd. Conical protrusions are looming, imposing cone-shaped buildings. Concrete boxes with glass-cubed fronts. They are steel structures with concrete bases, monoliths of steel surrounded by arterial beltways.
People mill about. They are walking in the middle of Clark Street. These people—they are like mountaineers searching for a mountain. Instead of mountain ranges, you have Walgreens, Starbucks, and Nordstrom’s.
They look into the shop and restaurant windows. They emit phatic expressions disguised as questions (“How are you?”; “How’s it going?”). A fatherly man in wire glasses is standing by the Dunkin’ Donuts. He looks through the window.
Vicious and viscous insect-devouring plants are covering the Urban Outfitters, the inside and the outside of the bauble store.
The sweep of plants that you sweep aside, as you enter the Urban Outfitters, is a virulent green.
Plowing your way into the Urban Outfitters, you are greeted by a vibrant burst of animal life. Simian life. Monkey life.
A proboscis monkey throws itself through the air, hurling its body on to the rack of pre-faded designer jeans.
Chattering gibbons and springy lemurs scale the walls.
Crazed monkeys are radiating in all directions, langurs with white-sideburned and white-crested heads, thick black rats’ tails snaking back and forth, scrambling and scampering, screeching and shrilling. Crawling over everything and shattering everything. They destroy the novelty coffee mugs, the turntables, the faux-vintage LPs, the incense candles, the portable game consoles, the disposable ‘selfie’ cameras, the disposable radios, the Gummy Bear kegs, the bobble heads, all of the baubles and trinkets and junk.
Look up. There are bats. Bats crawl across the high ceiling, strange slit-faced bats with rabbit ears, bats with heads like hyenas, crawling bats, long-snouted chiroptera.
(Chiroptera are volatile mammals—the only flying mammals—with hands like wings.)
The bats umbrella their black wings, their ballooning wings, waiting to descend. A cluster of roosting bats: The ceiling is alive with sucker-footed bats, bats suckering the ceiling above you.
Ring-tailed lemurs pad the ground with their pads, swishing their bushy black-on-white ringed tails, projecting their canine noses upward. Lemurs with their massive liquid brown irises, seeing everything, are mounting the walls, climbing on to the ceiling fans, and playing playfully, grooming one another. Stretching their arachnoid bodies spider-like across the ceiling, leaping through the air, the lemurs dominate the space. They wrap their bodies around the glittering disco ball, performing their arabesque calisthenics. They ring their tails around the wooden ceiling beams. A cluster of angry lemurs, their black-and-white masks unsmilingly surveying you.
Shuddering monkeys are in the rafters, giggling and chattering, swinging black-and-white colobus monkeys swinging and swaying above you. The monkeys seem to be impersonating the stupidities of human beings, their inferiors.
See the marmoset on the check-out counter frenziedly chewing on the smartphone that it holds in both hands.
A howler monkey hurtles itself through the air, from rack to vibrating rack.
Nothing sounds more terrifying than a howler monkey. The howler monkeys shrill their shrill, skin-shriveling shrieks. They loose their bone-grinding howls, which resound from two miles away.
The capybaras give their barks. The howler monkeys howl.
The Urban Outfitters is a reeking, unruly zoo. The artsters and the hipsters, the emos and the scenesters can no longer practice their unpracticed irony there. Where nothing is normal, there can be no irony.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia
You are walking across the Clark Street Bridge, that connecting tissue that links the North Side to the Loop. You hear the echo of your own footfalls on the rust-purple metal as you tread across the great bridge, from tower to tower. Looking at the skyline, you see familiar structures. Buildings shooting up into the sky like giant hypodermic needles, the great black, auburn, white, grey, and silver verticalities: the John Hancock Tower, the Westin Hotel, Marina City, the Trump International Tower & Hotel, the Reid, Murdoch & Company Building, the 300 North LaSalle Building, Merchandise Mart, the Sears Tower. And yet these once-familiar structures are now transmuted into strange things.
The John Hancock Tower is covered in mobile orange flowers, blooms that resemble zinnias.
Like a giant Texas Instruments calculator belted with Venus Fly Traps and snapping carnivores, the Westin Hotel stands gloriously. It once stood miserably, the ugliest building in Chicago.
Behind the Westin Hotel, there stands Marina City. Twin ridged cupped buildings, decoupled, looming like chalk-cliff corncobs. Marina City is bursting with green from within, as if the interior structure were an overstuffed and insistently growing botanical garden. A corncob shadow creeps up the nether tower.
Trump International Tower & Hotel pierces the sky like a steel dildo, its structure wrapped in succulent green tentacles.
Vines engarland the promenade of the Reid, Murdoch & Company Building.
Sunlight reflects against the sheening metallic plane surface of the 300 North LaSalle Building. A mirrored monolith, it absorbs the blue sky and clouds around it. Throbbing black leaves striate its specular surfaces.
Merchandise Mart is enveloped in greenery, a dense jungle thicket.
The Sears Tower is engulfed in feathery white flowers and green vines. It stands there, seeming a jungle pillar.
Pythons wrap themselves around the pylons.
Skimming over the bridge are cantering antelope, horses, and wildebeest.
And then you notice that the Chicago River is gleaming whitely in the midday sun. The water of the Chicago River has lost its limpidity as it is infused with jets of milk. The milk soon fills the river.
The Chicago River is white with milk.
Walking across the Clark Street Bridge, you turn your head and gaze at the flowing milk river. You see the mellifluous ambrosia flowing.
Looking down, you survey the milkscape. You see human families and once-aquatic beasts frolicking, swimming in the milk.
You see caribou and zebra dipping their heads into the milk.
The milk has risen to the level of the walkways and the embankments and overflowed the walkways and the embankments.
There is a large-buttocked man with his two children. He is wearing rippling blue swimming trunks. He stares at the wagging grey tail of a giant elephant, a milk-beast of the milky Chicago River.
Glimmering with milk and godlike, the elephant crawls out of the milk river. Out of the river the beast shimmies. It lowers its tongue-like trunk and spurts milk from its tongue, cascading milk that douses the squealing humans on the river bank.
Effusions of hopeless giddiness seize the humans as they delight in the milk.
You climb from the bridge, down a rusty purple ladder. You land on a grassy slope. You descend the grassy slope to the milkway.
The bank of the river is suffused with a milky mist. Ever-thickening, the mist drifts into the thicket of scraggly trees.
Like hamadryads, young girls are hiding behind mossy trees trunks.
(A hamadryad is a tree-dwelling nymph.)
The first thing that you notice are the black wormy shapes that striate the unbroken creamy surface of the milk. These shapes belong to black snakes. Swimming with the black snakes are black Snakebirds. The black Snakebirds are swimming, their heads raised loftily above the milk, their darting heads. They swim with the black snakes in swift jaunts.
Lying prostrate on the embankment, there is an old man in a fisher’s outfit. He is shoveling handfuls of milk into his lipless mouth. Does the milk possess regenerative properties? Is this the River of Youth?
You look at the milk. The wind passes over the milk, rippling its film, massaging its film, creasing and caressing its film, wings of ripples. You walk down a trail that borders the river.
The shadows of rare birds are passing over you and above the flowing current of milk. You see the shadows of the birds dancing on the milk-flow.
There ahead of you, one hundred feet from you, in the milk, is a blonde-haired woman rowing in her coracle, a small boat shaped like a halved walnut shell. As she passes you, drifting by, her eyes seem peaceful. Her hair rustles almost imperceptibly.
You resolve to join the blonde-haired woman. There is a raft shifting by the shore, shifting in the unsteady milk.
You walk down to the bank of the Chicago River.
Wiping your forehead, you gaze downstream. There is the raft. Climb over the railing. Climb on to the raft.
You climb over the railing. You climb on to the raft. You seize a long branch—an oar that will propel the raft. You drift forward on your raft, rowing with the long branch, sticking it javelin-like into the river without reaching its bottom. Around you circle creatures of the milk, sharks and eels. The sharks bob their heads up to greet you. The eels sinuate through the silky milkiness.
You drift down the river on the raft.
Look at the splashing manatee, splashing in the milk! You wish that you could swim with that manatee or swim on the back of that manatee, the milk streaming down its bulbous, blubbery back, the milk streaming down your back, its enormous, bristly lips snuffling, its eyes nearly invisible, its flippers prehensile and humanoid, the West Indian manatee, bearing you downstream. Undermilk, the manatee holds a bird’s nest in its flipper-fingers, which are indeed indented like the fingers of a human being, and nibbles at that bird’s nest. See the manatee devour the bird’s nest.
Look at the large-buttocked man! On the embankment. He pulls out a container from his suitcase, opens that container, and places his hand inside of that container. He smears a thick, dark substance over his energetic flesh. What seems to be a pungent brown sauce ripples over his blubbery skin. He spreads the gooey matter over his rich stomach. He covers his flabby body with the viscous unguent before climbing on to the railing and plunging into the seething, brisk, effervescent, cool milk river.
Jammed with slamming bodies, the river is clustered with life.
Within the milk is a collection of swimming and floating creatures. All around you, milk-creatures. Denizens of the milk, they swim and float with and around you. You turn on your back. You look at the sky. You see the crows dance in the sky. You see the clouds and the crows, the whiteness of the clouds and the blackness of the crows’ feathers.
Like sea monsters, the sharks, the octopuses, the dolphins, and the porpoises inhabit the gooey milk.
The milk has no smell. It must not be milk. Real milk is fragrant because it decomposes. All that decomposes is odiferous.
This is milk that does not decompose.
The weeds and the reeds to your left are whitishly stained and saturated. You see creatures on the shore. You see animals all around you. You see surfacing fish, sailing birds, and trotting beasts on the land.
Sinuating through the syrupy milk, there is a whale shark. You study the whale shark. The whale shark gapes its mouth impossibly, sedately swishing its mottled tail, slowly floating in the deep, as exquisite yellow-and-black orioles circle above the bubbling froth left in its wake.
The suctional mouth of the shark forms a black halo. Its mouth widens abyssally. Its diamond head disappears silently into the milk.
As you drift along the shore, the silvery-white heads of porpoises surface, the ephydriads of the milk.
(Ephydriad = “water-nymph.”)
A monkey with the body of a human swimmer leaps its way through the milky river. On the shore, an orange bulky orangutan protrudes its unstupid lips and sucks up milk from the flood.
Now, the orangutan climbs the railing and lowers its body into the river.
You gaze at the children wading happily on the shore, wading happily in the milk, petting the platypuses, and howling in delight at the tapering bottle-nosed heads of the porpoises as they lift to the surface.
Through the green foliage, you look at the animals engirding the milk river. A lion stalks the underbrush. A grizzly bear is maundering. Coyotes are hunting, foraging for fresh meat.
A ritualistic death match between two bears is forming in the milk river. Parents and their children swim to the bank and lift themselves out of the milk. Dripping with milk, they lower themselves behind dark green bushes as the two bears lock jaws.
As you drift along, you see black bears climbing the trees. Arboreal bears, bears that think they are birds. Scratchings and etchings on the trees, ursine writings.
To your left, in the clearing of the forest, a four-legged car crusher, a black bear is mounting the roof of a car, a red Hyundai, and jumping up and down. The roof collapses, the windows shatter, the doors burst. In the car, coolers and suitcases.
A fat brown sausage, the bear squeezes into the Hyundai. No humans in sight. You can smell the smell of chicken cooking and hear the distant wailing of a human male.
Along the shore, bears are lifting themselves and roaring. The quail in the grass are quailing. You are quailing as the bears are lifting themselves and roaring. Deep guttural roars fill your ears as you trudge on through the sludge, floating on the sludge. The milk is guttering through the grasses.
Nuzzling its muzzle against an elm tree, a brown bear caresses the bark. Other bears are diving into the milk, foraging for fish, clams, and crabs. Leaping into the milk, a bear is charging a llama that is grazing on the opposite bank of the river. A woman is screaming. You cannot see the woman who is screaming. A kingfisher plunges into the milk.
You observe a woman, a man, and a child wading in the milk on the surface of the embankment. They are all wearing sunglasses. They stand in the milk and look at you soundlessly. Perhaps someday humans will develop gills and they will circle in the milk, along with the fish, platypuses, whales, and eels.
Bathing knee-deep in the emollient, a cult of women is rubbing milk into its skin. Their epidermis absorbs the lactate and all of its rejuvenating properties. The milk has a softening effect on their skin, an emollient effect on all that it touches—the gluey white fluid, the milk unguent.
A retinue of children attends them. They, the women, rub the milk into their children’s skin, flowing milk flows.
Lowering themselves into the milk, the women moisten their calyxes.
(A calyx is the outermost part of a flower.)
Their clothes saturated with the milk, they submerge.
Two children—one girl and one boy—are floating on the milk river on what looks like a massive stiffly-ribbed milk hyacinth.
The girl is holding aloft a toy windmill and smiling ridiculously.
Another harem of women, there. The harem of women is steeped in the thick milk. They, the women, are surrounding a massive brown horse. They are washing the great horse with sponges. Milk drizzles down the sleek brown hide of the horse.
The horse snuffles through its nostrils and scrapes the pavement with its hooves.
A milky eel sinuates over the blanket of milk.
Families, more human families, are swimming in the milk river.
The Purple Heron unspools its long, serpentine neck. Lightning-quick, it thrashes its awl-shaped bill into the milk, snatching up a milk snake.
You drift forward on your raft, using the long tree branch as an oar.
A Flightless Cormorant is standing on the railing with its giant webbed feet, gaping its monstrous hooked bill, lighting its lunatic blue eyes, beating its stubby wings maniacally, pushing out its fat sooty belly, screeching its terrible screech.
An elephant calf is sucking elephant milk through its hose-trunk. It lifts its head, nuzzling between the mother elephant’s pillar-like front legs.
A manatee rears its head out of the milk and snuffles, its whiskers quivering, whiskery sirenian.
(Sirenian = sea-cow.)
The lips of the milk-mermaid tremble. It warbles a silent song, working its heavy lips, moving its heavy thick mouth. Turning from you, the sireniform manatee disappears into the milk.
(Sireniform = shaped like a mermaid.)
Squatting on the shore is a chignoned woman. You see the chignoned woman soaking her fingers into the creamy milky wetness.
Plastered with milk bubbles, a colony of shrews lifts itself from the lacteous profundities and disappears into the tall grass.
Bathing old men are bathing in the milk like bathing brown bears. Wading old women are wading in the milk like wading storks. The milk is moving sloshingly, slushingly over the waders and the bathers, lubricating their skin and their hair.
Slickened with milk, the slack-skinned old women emerge from the white river rejuvenated. Their hair is vibrant, their skin is glowing.
The children are going swimming in the thickening milkiness, dragging their mothers by the wrists.
By the milk shore, cattle are tippling, dappled in milky dew.
(To tipple = to drink in small amounts.)
You hear a noisy splash and see a sloth of big milk bears bringing up to shore slothful crabs and wriggling eels, swimming milk bears with buoyant fur and digging paws. They lay the crabs and eels on the shore, releasing them from their jaws. The more vigorous bears are already ashore, dining on the crabs and the eels, with their white teeth and pink tongues. Alone, there is one straggler in the bubbling milk. Poor lone milk bear. The slothful bear emerges from the slushy froth like a sad sloth.
You follow with your eyes the slow glide of the platypus, the gentle propulsions of the aquatic duck-beaver. The platypus flaps its webbed fin-claws, maneuvering through the waves with its flat tail. It lifts its spongy black bill and then submerges into the depths. A brown bear emerges from the pond, milk streaming down its dense fur.
With a galvanic jolt, a blue-and-orange kingfisher plunges into the milk, arrow-like, seizing a wriggling trout in its merciless black-red mandibles. It pulls back its wings, and then springs into the air, its vibrant wings galvanizing, powering its flight.
Stretching its heavy black-and-white accordion wings, a red-faced and red-throated hornbill seems to be running through the air, pawing the air with its claws as it runs in flight, pursuing a raft on which a husband and wife are cowering as the raft is being sucked into a whirlpool, not to rescue the passengers, but to prey upon them.
Black-feathered, the condor takes wing, soaring on the breeze. Its head is a skull draped in a sheet of wrinkled and folded pink skin. It circles in the air, looking down menacingly at a clutch of baby sea turtles lying on the rocks.
Thirty feet to your right. A culvert is releasing milk into the river. Gushes of milk. Milk is pouring noisily out of a drainage culvert and rippling into the river. The parts of the river that were once water are whitening into a whitish mistiness, a flocculent creaminess.
A steep fall of milk is rushing and splashing into the deeps of the unplacid milk, where otters are courting and mating.
Rushes of milk are rushing between milk-slippery rocks.
You catch a glimpse of a woman stretching out her legs on the grass. She is slipping her feet out of her dainty shoes and slipping them into the alabaster flood.
(Alabaster = a white mineral that is used to create statues.)
You waft past another dark green forest. In the forest, there is a fortress. Survivalists have constructed tall wooden and steel palisades to shield themselves from invading animals. Through the colonnade of trees, the humans wander, with rifles at the ready. The only jungles they have known are the cyber-jungles of cyber-realms.
Looking at the overlapping waves, you lie down on the raft. The milk seems to be forever retracting. Following with your eyes the sinuous path to the mouth of the river, you survey the manic splashing happy animals and humans in the milk. A crowd of humans becomes perceptible in the creamy whiteness.
Boys are slinging milkballs at one another, milk that has calcified into a mucky solidity. A boy in orange trousers is splashing milk at another boy who looks exactly like him. Semi-clothed men are wading in the milk, bearing children on their shoulders, hulking on the banks of the river.
Office buildings loom along the milkshore.
You hear the swish of the milk, the flow of the silken milk.
There is a great white, a beautifully white shark, folding its body above the milk. You see the knife-teethed giant sailing through the air and landing into the milk again with a sloppy splash—milk-kraken, vicious kraken of the milky deeps.
Swifts are flying low, dipping their lower beaks furtively into the milk. A cluster of swifts, their sharp wings scissored, is nesting on the side of a rock.
The emu bounces along the shore, leaps, and plunges into the milk.
A pair of strange aquatic birds—their heads aloft, their white chests pushed out—are paddling their feet manically, propelling themselves across the surface of the milk in a unified formation, barking and trilling: weeooooow, weeooooow, weeeoooooooow! They whoosh across the pond and swoosh down the river.
Mermaids and mermen are swimming in the milk—humans perhaps someday will grow gill-grills and flapping fins.
A woman in an orange dress is sitting on the bank of the river. She shifts her soft legs into the suppurating milk-spasm. She smiles at you a gamesome smile.
A urine-stained thong floats on the river’s surface.
Through the foliage, you see dancing children. Children are gamboling through the forest and lolling under the cherry trees.
The gulls skim low over the milk crests, swooping and snapping on fish and shellfish. You listen to the gulls bellowing and chattering, after snatching their prey.
Before you storms a milk-geyser. The geyser spurts upward, and then the milk cascades downward in a milkfall. The milk splatters.
A flock of flamingos soars overhead, honking and squawking. You never knew that flamingos were capable of flight.
You see a stork above you, battling the heights. Its orange bill noses the air uncertainly, its orange feet dangle awkwardly downward, its torso sinks weightily. Its wings flap, and the stork elevates ten feet. Its neck outstretched, its broad wings beat more heavily, and now the stork is gliding. Levitating gracefully into the sky, almost hovering. The wings of the stork keep it afloat, the torso of the stork tends toward the earth.
The milk never grows fetid in this boggy region. It simply stays unfresh without ever curdling. On the surface of the milk is a waxy film, a yellowish pellicle.
(Pellicle = a thin skin, film, or membrane.)
But the milk never curdles. It never waxes rancid. It never grows waxy.
This colloidal, mucous-like substance—what is it?
(Colloidal = like gelatin.)
Hippopotami, fat milk pigs, are basking on the pavement and bathing in the overflowing white milk, the hippopotami of the fountain. An oily-black hippopotamus cools its gluteus in the milk. The oily-black hippopotami cool their glutei maximi in the milk.
No, the hippopotami are not fat milk pigs. They are the horses of the river.
Hippopotami, horses of the river.
Standing on a milk-rock, on a single leg, a flamingo is shaking its algae-stained feathers. It casts a lollipop-shaped shadow on to the surface of the pearly lagoon.
There is a pangolin on the shore. A pangolin is creeping stealthily through the grasses toward the milk. The pangolin, a coil of scales, looks like an animal with pinecone skin, its scales superimposed one over the other, interleaving scales. It laps at the milk with a stringy tongue.
You see a walrus in the shoals. The walrus, fanged and gruff, lunges and lurches, using its fang-like tusks as if they were ski poles. Its face is whiskery, and its bulk is blubbery. Big and blubbery, the walrus plops into the gooey white ooze, sending bubbles of milk everywhere.
Afloat, a flotilla of pelicans shakes its wet plumes, the pelicans’ bill-pouches distended, their webbed feet sloshing through the streaming milk.
You watch the great cormorant, standing tall, unflying. Its wings are open, forming zigzags. The great bird with open wings—with great brown-black wings blown out—stands aloft, the sun shining around and through its wingtips. The cormorant turns its head to the left—majestic, dignified. It seems shy in the way that most birds seem shy, and yet its apparent shyness hides a curious self-absorbedness.
As the sky deepens to a somber lavender, you stretch yourself out on the raft. No daydreams come into your head. All about you is a vigorous and luscious dream.
A blizzard of buzzards is fluttering maniacally overhead.
Sturgeons with throbbing gills traverse the flood.
A school of otter shrews thrusts sinuously through the milk with all of the celerity and agility of a professional diving team, wavy brown stripes furrowing the white.
Place your bare arm into the milk.
Threading through the milk, a platypus claws the waves with its webbed claws and steers its self-propelled boat-body with a tail shaped like a cricket bat. You move your bare arm away from the streaming milk-flood.
The wind is picking up, gathering force. The waves, newly swelled, are rocking back and forth, and the humans are weltering in the welter. They are alone in the milk and surrounded by animals. Some of the humans call you, summon you. You drift down the river unheeding.
You look through a semitransparent milk patch. Below the surface of the milk river, there is an octopus, yellow but pocked with green mottles and ringed with blue rings. Supple and soft, its multi-suckered tentacle-fingers finger the cushion of the cushiony milk. Its betoothed tongue darts in and out of its titanium beak.
Fear the octopus.
You can imagine that there is an aquarium of creatures unseen in the milky depths—seahorses, jellyfish, men-of-war, and so forth.
Ruddering through the milk, a lone boat is drifting lonely. On the boat is a mother cradling her baby. She is milking the baby.
The mother looks with brightly dark eyes at a raddled bear on the shore.
Her former husband is struggling against the milk tide, wading toward her uselessly. The man is swashing and swishing through the milky wash, waving his arms around, trying to push back the insistent waves.
You see a woman on the shore. Her skin is pale. She is about twenty-eight. Her hair is purple. A silhouette of flourishing vegetation profiles her head and body. Above her, fifty feet in the air and wild, an insane-looking crested serpent eagle sweeps through the air, a crazed Quetzalcoatl, flapping its wings violently and flying awkwardly, mad cockatrice.
Look at the shore as you drift with the current. A band of mongooses is slipping and sinking into the milk. It almost seems as if the mongooses are being liquefied by the milk, becoming one with the milk that swallows them. Drifting on the surface of the pond is a milky milk lily, buoyed by the ebullient up-bubbling milk.
Clumsy-eyed teenagers battle the wavelets.
A green turtle drives itself down the milk-river, flapping its foreflippers.
Frogs are throbbing in the milk shallows. Thrusting its scythe-like bill into the mud, the sacred ibis unleashes its force, snatching up a frog, scooping it up with its long, heavy, curved, black bill, the frog’s legs uselessly dangling.
Sharks are soaring through the milky deeps, occasionally ascending to the surface. The sharks do not frighten you; the sharks do not frighten the fish or the birds or the tortoises.
The humans seem afraid of the other milk-creatures. But the non-human animals that immerse themselves in the ever-spreading ambrosia—they are unafraid of the milk-wading humans. There is a zoo of oxen, storks, flamingos, and bears splashing and diving and otherwise inhabiting the cool turbidity of the river. The ever-churning babblingly unsilent river. The animals and the humans form an ungentle congregation, neither devouring nor tearing at one another. They coexist uneasily, dwelling in the frothing flat milkshake.
No longer afraid, no longer frightened of the sylvan and milk-dwelling creatures, you drift with the herd. They will not attack you, and if they do, let them.
The pear trees, and the pears on the pear trees, on the left bank, are drizzling with milk.
Sunfish rise to the surface and slurp the air. They greet you with their lipless joyless smiles.
Beside the river is a sunning half-naked man. His forehead and face-cheeks are covered with the marzipan of an artificial suntan.
He is sitting hunched over, staring at his unreflection in the milk, which is opaque yet glistening with the dying sunrays of the dying day.
The waves roil and boil as you drift along the milk-shore.
You see humans balancing on a solitary rock in the middle of the gushing river. Like survivors of a shipwreck, they are balancing on a single rock in the middle of the gush.
A bespectacled dentist waves at you. He is bathing in the waves. Naked to the waist, he bathes in the spume.
The waves ascend into crests of foam. Then the waves subside again.
The cedars are growing taller and loom over you and along the milk river. They throw their mottled shadows on your face.
You gaze at the pear grove. A glossy-eyed woman is plucking the pears that grow from the pear branches. She is wearing a green apron and is smiling redly.
Shift your body to the edge of the raft.
You lower your legs into the milk. A thin film of milk is skimming over your legs. Your toes are caressed by the viscous ooze.
You look at the sky. Flecks of sunlight fleck your skin.
You feel ashamed in the presence of all of this verdant glorious blossoming exploding beauty, in the beautiful presence of so many up-growing trees and so many angelic birds casting themselves into the sparkling scintillating shimmering air.
There, an orangutan couple. He attends to his ape-spouse with all of the devotion of an uxorious husband.
(Uxorious = wife-loving.)
Both of them, ape-wife and uxorious ape-husband, are grooming each other in the luxurious foliage.
The grottoes are brimming with milk, the aqueducts are bearing milk to distant places.
Look at the constellation of rocks immersed in the milk. Sun-bathed alligators bathe in the last remnants of the sun.
The peach and orange trees give their shadows to the river. The crocodiles are sulking in the semi-darkness of the shadows. They skulk forward together, together in a dark phalanx, ready to grip their prey in their saurian jaws. Their prey, the kingfishers. They sight the kingfishers with their resplendent blue-green-orange plumage. They creep toward the kingfishers. The kingfishers fly away. The crocodiles sight the white cranes, white and feminine. They slither toward the white cranes hungrily.
By the shore: caimans and crocodiles. A caiman scuttles, elbowing its legs, before you, through the newly grown grass and flowers, and dives into the pool of milk.
Dinosaur-like crocodiles move forward, bejeweled with crazed eyes atop of their heads, gilt eyes.
The crocodiles watch the golden sparrows performing their aerial dance. They wait for the golden sparrows, patiently. They wait to snap the sparrows in their jaws.
A drift of fish is drifting through the opalescence, making its way through the eddies of milk. Fish you cannot see. Your legs are steeped in the milk, immersed in the milk. You can feel the fish brushing against your legs.
Through a horizontal vacancy in the leafage:
You see a toucan in a peach tree. Its plumage is blazing in the sun with an almost preternatural glow.
You see human beings. Human beings are trapped on a promontory. You can hear the wailing of the stranded humans, of the humans stranded on the promontory. Before them, the milk. Behind them, a grizzly bear sulking. You can hear their whimperings.
Splashing in the milk and snorting is a massive hippopotamus. The hippopotamus stares at you. The massively distending nostrils of the hippopotamus frighten you.
You see snowy herons standing tall in the river, as if standing on snowy ice.
The sleek heads of the otters follow you with their tiny eyes.
A man who looks like Lou Reed is flopping about in the shoals. He writhes in the milky mud. He writhes happily in the muddy milk.
Crocodiles recline on mattresses beside the river with their thin jaws pointed toward you.
To your right: milk gathers in a sucking milk pool. You see llamas, llamas drinking from the milk pool, lowering their furry, fuzzy necks and sucking and drinking.
Jets of milk rise into the sky. Fountaining milk, the milk is overflowing, coming out of the river in jolts and spurts.
There is a milk-sodden polar bear. The white slop is glistening on her fur. Her snout is glittering with white droplets.
The polar bear is followed by a fiftyish woman. Her skin is milky white. Her prominent, almost crocodilian lower teeth are visible.
By the shore: A crocodile is golden-eyeing the birds that walk on stilts. The springing, snatching saurian is eyeing a tall white heron. His serrated mouth seems to smile.
There, before you, a man’s head is surfacing like a manitou’s head, coming up through the milk.
A boat of humans silently speeds down the milk-way. Monkeys leap from the trees. They spring into the boat. Crocodiles sinuate through the tall grasses.
Low-slung and web-footed, the slippery otters are slipping into the milk river; they submerge into the mire and then resurface again, skimming the surface of the milk, paddling furiously with unseen feet. Now they are slouching on to the shore, shaking milk from their heads, and padding through the tall grasses.
Gorillas are bellowing in the forest. They tumble down the grassy slope and into the milk.
Around you, around the raft, a tumble of dolphins. The milk is slippery with dolphins. The dolphins sheer away awkwardly from what seems the mounting swell of a great Black-and-White, an orca rocketing through the milk, moving powerfully and muscularly like a missile, a rocketing leviathan.
See the bottlenose dolphins. Vigorously gymnastic, the bottlenose dolphins leap robustly into the air, twirl, and then capsize downwards into the splashing milk.
Fishing for trout, thrashing the milk, a polar bear. Now the polar bear is sinking into the shimmering white protoplasm. The bear seems to be melting as it sinks, melting into the white ooze. Only its tapering head is visible—then you see only its black nose—and then the polar bear disappears altogether into the mucilage.
You look into the sky. You recline supine on the raft as it drifts, rudderless. The sun is glazing like a phosphorescent pineapple. The sun is growing smaller. The sun is disappearing.
Coming from the shore, you see a cream-colored bear thrashing its way into the milk. The cream-colored bear pads forward, jerks its head back, opens its mouth fully, and exposes a horseshoe-shaped row of canines and molars.
You look into the forest that borders the river. Down the mangrove-bordered street, couples walk hand in hand.
And from your vantage, you see the milk-flooded streets. The milk is evicting the boarders. Milk is coming up in the city. Tidal streets, milk flowing up, bubbling up from the sewers. Human beings are lifting milk out of the streets in pails.
On the shore, there is a mound of Android telephones, iPhones, and iPads. Geese—Canadian and Greylag geese, to be precise—are perched on top of the mound of Androids, iPhones, and iPads.
A crocodile’s eyes appear from the milk. A crocodile’s eyes appear through the milk. The insensate brute floats there inanimate. Then the crocodile starts. The crocodile is moving. The crocodile is more animated now, floundering about. His mouth a horrible man-trap, the crocodile widens its jaws.
Porpoise heads raise themselves to the surface and gasp. Porpoises are floating through the white goo. They drift in the open milk. There, on the shore, hippopotami. Getting back into their lacteous environment, the hippopotami sink into the warmish ooze.
In the shallows, a brood of crocodiles. There, warm crocodile eggs.
You pass a flock of flamingos. A many-feathered cassowary lifts its slender legs high into the air and prances forward.
Some foolish human male is dancing in the underbrush. Ensheathed in crocodile hide and emblazoned with flamingo feathers, dressed like a pagan deity, the man pretends that he is one of the inhuman animals.
You turn your head back to the spreading milk. The heads of seals surface like so many bobbing scrotums.
On the far bank, you see animals prancing and herding. The wallabies and the kangaroos, released, are jaunting across the lawn.
There is another crocodile rising through the milk to greet you. On the chessboard of the crocodile’s square scales, a seagull is flickering its wings. The flailing tail of the saurian monster brushes aside the frogs and the toads from the oozing milk-mud.
Macaque monkeys swing and fling their bodies overhead, from tree to tree.
You see a retinue of nuns parading through the underbrush on the left bank. Like virgins to a sacrifice, the nunnish nuns parade toward the milk river.
One of the nuns is wearing a black T-shirt.
Her T-shirt reads: Being a Nun Don’t Mean No Fun!
Into a cavern they spelunkingly venture, the nuns. The cavern is garlanded with roses and vines.
There is a whitish stone on the raft. You heave the stone. You hurl the stone into the milk pool. It swiftly sinks without creasing the yellowing surface of the milky reservoir.
Lazing in the littoral mud, the alligators sleep. The alligators gaze at the nuns as they vanish into the cavern.
The alligators follow the nuns into the cavern.
Raising its fierce weight, standing on its hindlegs, an alligator silently roars.
Smashing down on the surface of the river, a milk-bird captures some squirmy milk-creature in its talons. Crashing blow, coming down.
Spinning its mass through the viscid muck, a shark is spinning.
A centaur-like man is bathing himself in the milk. He is an idiotic idiot.
A jimber-jawed sea lion swallows a penguin.
(Jimber-jaw = a lower jaw that is longer than the upper jaw.)
Your raft drifts down the river. You see a bus flipped over on its side as you pass.
There is the bus driver babbling to himself. He looks like some repulsive robot. His skin is like a beetle’s carapace. The man with beetle-like skin is jumping up and down idiotically. Straight-jacked by the passengers of the bus, the man is dragged into a neighboring trailer park.
There is a writer manqué. There is nothing for the writer to write, now that the existing city landscape has become imaginary.
He lowers his hands into the cool milk. His sandpapery hands are being washed in the milk flood.
One hundred feet before you: An alligator is surfacing. Holding a paddle in its jaws, the alligator raises its head and then descends again.
Around you: A school of alligators. The alligators cough. In the mud: Caimans are laying their eggs.
With the velocity of a missile, a shark spears the flow.
The armed jaws of a crocodile smile at you as you waft past. He fixes his watery eyes on you.
Thrashing in the milk, a bear is foraging for undermilk creatures.
Poised over the milk, a beautifully pink flamingo searches for fish-meat.
A stork ruffles its plumage and settles into the milk.
Paradisiacal, sylvan, a faunal dream, Milk River is now an oasis in what was once one of the more modernized cities in North America.
You might as well be floating down an arterial jungle tributary. It is difficult to believe that Milk River was the Chicago River not more than twenty-four hours before.
In the green forest, you see puffy white flowers. The puffy white flowers look like balls of vanilla ice cream.
A gush of dolphins—jaunting, slippery, shiny dolphins—jumps into your line of vision. Their emergence ripples the foam. The foaming flood ripples through the grass, across the surface of the river, and to your raft.
Forty feet to the right: Otters are folding themselves and fondling themselves, curling themselves into semicircles. The otters dive into the milk, propelling their sleek bodies across the milky slick. You admire the chocolate fur of the otters. Furiously barking giant otters, they are barking furiously.
Somewhere below, somewhere beneath the frothy surface, a school of manatees is spiraling through the milk.
An acrobatic porpoise lifts itself from the froth and then descends in an arc back into the whooshing milkshake.
You look to the left: An owl-faced priest is pounced upon by playful giant otters.
Hoatzins (beautifully blue-and-orange tropical pheasants) spread their wings, asthmatically wheezing as they whiz from tree to tree in the spontaneously growing jungle.
You hear the pumping gaspings and groanings of a howler monkey, grumblings that give way to a full-blown clarion bellow.
A boat of humans speeds into the offing. They call you. The hominid family disappears into the crests of foam.
Squealing and squeaking, the giant otters lower themselves into milk river.
On the bank: A man dressed in a mail carrier’s uniform is standing opposite a mighty bear. The bear is squatting there cantilevered, staring at the human who is staring back at the bear.
The mailman breaks into a run. He moves through the ragged forest like a ghost, keeping pace with the thrusting survivalists. He rushes to the fortress. A mist is thickening into swirls of airy ice cream all around him, as he rushes toward the crenellated tower, across the damp field.
You gape at the emergent heads of seals, slick sea dogs.
The sunlight dances on iridescently sparkling stretches of milk.
A water buffalo, followed by a train of otters, slips through the arch of a viaduct. A leg-dangling boy is squatting on the viaduct. An unharnessed musk ox is there, dripping with milk. The musk ox squeezes into the viaduct.
A beautiful scene unfolds before you. Cherries are being plucked from the lush branches of the cherry trees by cherry-plucking human families. It is refreshing to see human beings so cheerfully adjusting to the jungle environment.
You gaze at the milky river as it moves inexorably into the obscure distance.
You look at a bubbling rippling path in the middle of the river. There, where the ripples are bubbling, you see ascending and circling bluefish, arcing and descending. There, the milk is impenetrably white.
Fifteen feet to the right: There is a tribe of humans performing their mid-afternoon ablutions. They wash their brown and white flesh with the milk.
Hauling milk out of the pond with their cupped palms, the orangutans are stooped along the bank, swooping the soupy milk into their mouths with eager scoops, their hulking forms hunkered down.
There is a grizzly bear in the milk, charging a heron. The heron flies away briskly. Milk-logged, the grizzly bear is sighing seethingly.
Heavy and sopping with milk, the survivalist men stupidly flop about and wade about pointlessly. What are they doing? They surely are not going hunting or fishing. Assuredly, they could not be so stupid, you can be assured most assuredly.
The beautifully slippery black caimans are there in the milk, the unstupid caimans. In their crocodilian paths are herons and flamingos and storks.
Nothing is more frightening than the fearsome alligator—intimidatingly serene, terrifyingly placid, doing nothing but wallowing in the shallows. The thick, rounded jaws of the alligator unclose slightly, jagged teeth protruding from its half-closed mouth.
There you see horrible gharials—aggressive mutant crocodiles with bizarrely tube-shaped and protrusive snouts, their mouths lined with a chain of terrible bone-grinding bird-snatching bone-teeth. Their spiked tails are like thorny cat-o-nine-tails. Misevolved they were from their saurian ancestors.
The calloused snouts of the crocodiles you see now, eyes boggling atop of their warty heads, crocodiles sunning themselves.
Around the crocodiles, the milk pool has grown swampy. The milk there has grown a fetid cast—a green sheen, a green silky slick.
You see the moist, rotting bark of tree roots dipping into the milk pool. The bark and the roots are moist with milk. They are sucking up the milk. The milk makes the trees grow taller.
Through the forest are fairy-like girls running. They blend into the forest dream.
A pool beside the river. The pool has become a wallow for pigs and bears. Muck-happy boars are mucking about in the pool.
A man is bathing his wounds in the milk. He is wearing black shorts. A bright-red gash is visible above his left knee.
The sky is a melt of blues and greys, colors that seem to be melding together. From the blue-and-grey sky comes a bald eagle.
The bald eagle dives into the weltering flood, plunging amazingly from the air into the milk. It returns, remerges, clutching a glistening trout in its strong talons, leaving expanding ripples in its wake, and transcends to the clouds.
Delicate and elegant, a flock of cranes is wading, foraging in the thin milk, plunging their wedge-shaped bills into the mucky slime.
Quails are hobbling along, sweet birds.
Children are climbing the trees, not to escape the animals below, but because they want to live like the animals. The animals have liberated the children, freed them from the world of adults. The children, unafraid of the raptors in the trees, are living like raptors in the trees.
Do you see the tiger shark sinuating through the milk? No, it is, not a tiger shark. It is, rather, a hammerhead shark. A hammerhead shark is sinuously sinuating through the milk.
You continue to walk along the shore, never tearing your eyes from the magical Milk River.
The hammerhead shark returns to the surface. You see its blade teeth, its mouth glinting a serrated smile. You see its long head. It is slicing through the waves, down river. It has long green fins, fins that drive it through the milk, that propel it across the river. The shark dives deep into the bubbling milk. The shark then remerges, looking around with the eyes at the tips of its hammer-shaped head.
The shark dives again, deep downward. It twists and turns through the ruins of the drowned city, through the rubble of televisions sets and computer monitors, through the heap of telephones and Blackberries that is now a coral reef.
A whale is beneath the surface, swallowing the milk.
You follow the milky tributary with your eyes. Into what does it issue? You realize now that this may be the source of the milk, that all of the milk that is emanating from this milky source is irrigating and fertilizing what was once the city of Chicago.
The sun, high in the sky, casts spangles on the milky wavelets.
Submerged in the whirls and swirls of the milk, hippopotami slumber.
Asmear with the buttery semisolid milk-substance, the humans flounder about or float on their backs.
Sliding into the flood, the youth-seeking women seek to reclaim their youth.
The slow hypnosis of the elephants sinking into the foam.
The jetties of milk are spiraling. Spirals of mist, effluvial and white. Lacy mist-gusts.
The slope slopes steep into the seething milk.
Standing on a wind-whipped knoll, an albino mountain goat looks over the city.
Half-disappearing into the milk, a gorilla is going down.
A fish eagle broadens its gorgeous brown wings and swoops down into the shoals. It lifts itself back up and takes the air, a milky milk-fish squirming and dripping in its talons.
A heron is stabbing and spearing the milk with its sporting bill, stabbing and spearing at prey, prey that swirls within the shallows, in the swirling milky opacity, flapping their wings to flush out their prey, the mollusks and the fish in the shallow milk.
A cabal of shoebills, like a cabal of old heresiarchs, is standing in the milk, pecking for prey.
(A heresiarch is a heretic king.)
The birds seize milk-wet snakes in their gigantic flat scooper-bills, scooping up wriggling turtles, capturing writhing frogs in their scoops. There is so much life in the frothing milk, so much fecundity, squirming fecund life. Scooping shoebills on the shore, too. A mother shoebill regurgitates frog-meat into her chick’s waiting eager mouth.
The pelicans are doing their fishing, their throat-pouches bulging, standing in a circle, flushing the fish into their circle, herding them into the ever-narrowing circle and then sucking them up with slapping slurps. Above you drifts a flock of pelicans, flapping through the sky in a V-formation.
Waves of milk are hissing to the shoreline.
A cormorant spreads its wings widely to dry them in the punishing sun.
Milk tigers are sulking and stalking storks in the shoals.
The flamingo’s plumage is vibrantly, radiantly pink.
The sentinels of the lacteous swamp—the flamingos, the frogs, and the tortoises—keep their watch. They seem angry guardians of the river.
As the human beings slosh through bucketfuls of milk sludge, they forget the world of the city. They are dwellers of the river, and it is here that they will spend the rest of their days.
An eel is swimming undermilk—a thick, long, golden monster. A sinuating sea snake.
Fishing on the wing, the kingfishers fly over the rippling jelly.
Immersed waist-high in the shallows, a middle-aged man is muttering to himself. He is a failed musician.
The milk is gleaming with blue fish, fish the color of gun-metal, and pufferfish. Puffins dive into the white waves.
A mother and her son are drifting, in a bamboo skiff, across the lagoon of milk. The mother gestures at the antelope, the moose, and the giraffes that prance on the shore. You observe the antelope, the moose, and the giraffes as they dance their mid-afternoon dance.
Their tails lashing, the stingrays steer through the mucky milk. They are smoothly moving, their flimsy, pancake-shaped bodies waving in the waves, their pectoral fins flapping. They move smoothly and poetically, the stingrays, gliding on the surface of the milk pond like so many automotive lilies.
On the shore is a cube of solid milk. A wild boar is tusking the cube. The beast pushes its tusks into the mucinous mass.
The elephant herd comes down hurriedly to drink at the milk. A herd of zebra stampedes down the hill, following them.
You see an elephant and her elephant calf. The calf twitches her flanks as she buries her head between her mother’s corrugated legs.
Toward you is squawking a flock of mallards. All of the ducks scramble around your feet, squabbling and squawking.
A fox on the bank of the river is eying the geese and the ducks.
Sloshing its webbed feet through the white thickness, the Graylag goose honks his honking call. The gander’s wings are raised triumphantly, his neck slung back.
A strange bird with shiny blue wings and a large orange beak spirals and whirls and wheels around you in a friendly way.
The fox vanishes into the underbrush where the goslings of Graylag geese are hatching.
You see a crested blue ibis amid a flock of ducks.
Ducks lose their power of flight in captivity. Here, by this paradisaical river, they are relearning how to fly, how to soar through the air.
Basking in the sun, the hippopotami mesmerize you.
You recognize, staring at this milky birthplace, that the voyage of the humans, beasts, and birds ends at the Milk River.
Young girls are sponging and scrubbing a mammoth elephant in the Milk River, now whitened, beneath the LaSalle Street Bridge. Swigging it as if it were ambrosial nectar, the elephant sucks up and down the milkiness.
An inflated man, around thirty, is caressing the rough hide of a water buffalo.
Heavy, fleshy people are there, waddling about, humans of a glutinous, gluttonous obesity.
The elderly are vitalized in the flood of milk.
They are lapping up the milky zoo cream.
The human beings that bathe in the river of milk are revivified. It is the river of milk that has revitalized them. They are more alive now than they were yesterday, living with a new aliveness.
Humans are throwing their telephones into the milky muck. They are casting their iPods and iPads into the mucky milk. Androids and BlackBerries are splashing into the swallowing milk basin, leaving distending ripples in their wake.
The sun glistens on the milk-waves, and you wonder at all that is unfolding around you.
You see a girl with black hair. She is floating on a raft, much as you are. The shark rockets toward the raft, milk spraying on both sides, with jaws agape. Fins slice through the frothy milk lid. And yet the shark does not attack the girl on the raft. It rifts the waves and plunges deep to the bottom of the river.
Porpoise heads surface and laugh merrily. They bob their heads up and smile at the girl in the raft.
Humans sitting on the bank dip their feet into the river. Seals rub their whiskery noses against their brown and white human legs.
White crocodiles are swiveling their reptilian forms in the milky waves.
See the clumsy moose ambling through the grass. The killer whales lurk in the milk, waiting for the moose to tramp along.
They want to seize the moose in their jaws while the walruses, blubbery pinnipeds, look on.
Grasping the air with their tentacles, the octopuses raise their bubble bobble heads. The air is dimming around them.
A tall man in blue swimming trunks stands on the shore, raising his arms. He takes in a lungful of air and lunges forward, plunging into the milky bubblings.
The swimming man stands aloft and runs his fingers through his milk-saturated hair. Covered in the thick milk sauce, he seems a yeti or an abominable snowman.
The milk has a pearly sheen in the decaying sun.
Jaguar-sized giant otters, river tigers, are lurking in the shallows.
Grinning sharks pop up their parabola heads, ready to catch the flying birds in their toothy smiles.
The giant otters, their heads shaped like bullets, dive one after the other into the rush.
Milk is splashing over the rocks. A milkfall is splashing over the rock staircase.
Swimming guanacos are swimming in the glaucous-white flood, friendly camelids. The camels, the llamas, and the alpacas—they are floating in the glaucous-white flood.
You look up and stare at the NBC Tower, which is green with vines and red with flowers.
Paddling through the milk, four boys are exploring the deeps for lost treasures.
Flicking from branch to branch, a wave of butterflies flit and flutter along.
Cormorants spread out their milk-soaked wings on the rocks to dry.
Curving cetaceans—porpoises and dolphins—heave and plunge through the froth.
Sharks with steak-knife teeth tumble in the swell.
As the milk caressively laps the shore, the humans play in the flood.
There is a blonde woman, about twenty-five, bathing in the milk. She lowers her head into the milk completely. Only her blonde hair is visible now. Her blonde hair sways rhythmically in the tide.
An armada of sharks is coursing across the frothy milk.
Antelope are impending their lipless mouths over the welling and weltering ooze.
There is an old man, wearing a fisher’s jacket and a fishing cap, drifting in his canoe down Milk River, riding on the cushiony bouncy waves.
You see a shoebill spearing the milk with its bill.
A herd of moose congregates by the shore.
In a happy drove, the capybaras are swimming through the bubbly milk. Above the milky surface, the flat jagging heads of the capybaras, with eyes, noses, and ears on the tops of their spade-shaped heads. A lone capybara is jagging the jagged trunk of a fallen tree, gnawing at the wood. Wood chips are flying.
Water buffalo are attended by creamy butterflies, plasmatic butterflies. Yellow-and-black butterflies are swirling around a water buffalo that is standing on the shore. Butterflies are lofting on its long horns.
A dolphin springs into the air and, flipping, descends in a clean arc, slicing back into the milk, wagging its flippers. Twisting upward and downward, the dolphin ascends and descends spectacularly.
See the flocculating milk, the ever-streaming, ever-gushing milk, as it douses the humans, flowing all over them slipperily.
Here, human and dolphin commingle cheerfully.
Burgeoning from the milk, three shaggy brown bears climb to the shore, their furrowed fur glistening. You see the white teeth of the shaggy brown bears.
Marooned in the milk, a triad of humans waits for the milk to subside. It will not subside.
Bugling and honking, two geese rumble in the water.
Indifferent penguins are cooling in the milk. They are trumpeting, barking, and cawing. There are loons beside them, trumpeting and screaming like lunatics. A pair of exotic birds you cannot identify are yodeling, cackling, and cooing. A flock of birds with long yellow bills are shrieking, grunting, and croaking. They are fencing, snapping at one another with their bills. Another bird—reddishly plumed and yellow-billed—is calling, its call like the lashing of a whip.
A teenage girl squeals with glee as she wades into the milk and keels over on her side.
Kneeling in the milk, sinking into the murky eddies, the humans prostrate themselves before the milky wonders, the elephants and the hippopotami.
You see beasts and birds dancing alongside the river. This is a ceremony of some kind, a ceremony in which the boars and the flamingos are dancing an incomprehensible ballet.
Somewhere in the depths of the milk is the gaping mouth of a sea anemone, its tentacles ensnaring its prey.
The snow geese are whitely beautiful and beautifully white. Their webbed feet are powerful and propel them through the milky whiteness.
Propped on their forefeet like crutches, a harem of female seals with O-mouths flippers forward. Spindle-shaped, square-flippered, the seals plunge into the milk from the milk-slickened rocks. Twisting and turning, they pirouette beneath the milky film, mammoths of the deep. Bursts of bubble strands bubble up to the surface.
See the old man with a stick in his hand. His stick points toward the suctional gravity of the rushing river.
Swimming in the white, the hippopotami and the polar bears are silently calling your name.
Milk-moistened elephant seals bask on the rocks. They honk and snort, beached seals, yelping and barking.
Resting its head sleepily on a rock, a seal calf sighs. Long-muzzled, a mother seal nuzzles its baby.
A seal stares at you obliquely and curiously, seal-head atilt. The seal is bored. You bore the seal. It lurches forward with propulsive foreflippers, heaving and hauling its long spindly body, and lunges into the milk, which responds with a resounding splash and splatter.
Squirming in a milk-pit like Plath’s mussels, the mussels are squirming in the cratered pit.
A pod of walruses reclines on a rock at the center of the milk river.
See the pod of walruses.
From where you are, the walruses look like long-tusked gerbils basking in the sun. A massive pile of long-tusked gerbils, a horde of overlapping, interleaving gerbils with long white tusks and slipper feet. Look closer. Walruses look like boars—like marine boars or tusked sea pigs. Scrutinizing the walruses, you can see their thick skin, creased and folded. A huddle of mustached rasping walruses are huddling together. Bull walruses, mustached with vibrissae, are making knocking sounds, sounds that sound like the clanging of bells. They make clicking and clacking sounds, the bull walruses.
The milk is thickening, growing and growing gooily gluey.
Vicious leopard seals, seals that prey on crab-eating seals, are lurking on the rocks, watching the crab-eaters slip silently into the milk.
Skuas, roving seabirds, are describing beautiful arcs in the air.
A tumble of sharks, their dorsal fins diving in and out of the milk, is churning the milk.
Trousers rolled-up, a high-school teacher is wading in the milk. He is muttering to himself, lecturing an audience of students that no one but he can see.
Writhing pleasantly in the mud, a giant river wolf squirms and worms about.
Reclining luxuriously on its back, an elephant seal luxuriates in the cold sun.
Lowing cows are taking draughts from the milk stream.
The children seem almost amphibious as they dive into and sinuate through the milk.
The bottlenose dolphins plunge into the milk, pirouetting to the bottom.
You see the beak-shaped snouts of whales rising above the milk.
The humpback whale is flapping its flipper-wings and oozing through the milk. You see whales spouting milk-spouts through their blowholes. Through their blowholes, ascending into the sky, milk-geysers. The milk geysers upward and cascades downward, splattering on the milky film.
All over the white river are beautiful white breaching whales, white whales breaching the white milk.
Jets of milk jump into the air. The waves leap up and clap hands.
A killer whale swims upward and snatches a tree branch in its jaws. The branch snaps. The killer whale swallows the branch without chewing the branch. Though orcas have few teeth, they are powerful teeth.
How could any river hold so many cetaceans, and where did they come from? Some renegade marine biologists must have transplanted them from the aquarium.
Dolphins are mating in the milk. Dolphins are mating with the milk. You hear the strange squeals of the dolphins in the foam.
Leaping dolphins are leaping above the milky froth, spinning dolphins are spinning through the milky heaviness. Under the milk, a school of dolphins is dividing into smaller agglomerations.
A pod of killer whales is soaring across the milk.
The rhinoceros is on the shore, watching the dance of the porpoises and the dolphins. The plump porpoises are surfacing to the shore. They make no sound. Porpoises are inaudible. The dolphins are surfacing to the shore. They are chirping and chattering and squealing and squeaking to the rhinoceros on the shore. The rhinoceros looks at the dolphins quizzically.
The dolphins are serenading the rhinoceros. The rhinoceros says nothing. The rhinoceros says nothing and listens to the dolphins’ serenade. The dolphins float away, ignored and sad, attended by pulpy doughnut-shaped jellyfish and pancake-flat stingrays. As they drift away, attended by the jellyfish, the dolphins are chirping their song.
Out of the milk, looking at you, is the big head of a beluga whale. It has a funny white head. It is a smirking head. It is a simpering head. It is a smooth, grooveless, featureless head, a marshmallow head with twin black beads for eyes close to the neck, and a slightly parted carved crescent of a mouth. The beluga whale is mooing and booing and cooing at you. It makes ringing and clanging noises, as if its mouth were a bell. It is clicking at you, producing clapping sounds with its lipless lips. It is bellowing and whistling at you. Funny beluga whale.
The ghost-like beluga whale sinks slowly into the milky deeps and joins its school, the spectral school of beluga whales.
Watch. The beaked whales are arcing out of the milk and into the milk again. They are encrusted with clusters of barnacles.
The bison huffs through its shiny black nose and shakes its milk-sodden head, shedding rivulets of milk in all directions.
A shore-bound elephant is sucking milk into its trunk, pouring it into its rubbery pink mouth-spout. Its teats are being suckled by an elephant calf. Snorkeling elephants are trudging through the milk. Snorting porpoises are sailing balletically through the milk.
The elephant plunges its trunk into its own mouth, the trunk reaching deep into its throat, sucking out milk from its throat-pouch. The elephant draws the trunk back out and douses its body with the milky regurgitate.
Showered with milk, the men and women are happily splashing.
You gaze at a gaze of raccoons, bandit beasts that are rubbing their paws and dunking their black-mask heads into the unquestioning welcoming white milk.
You peer at the beavers on the shore, flappy flapping rodents gnawing on sneakers and boots and Italian leather shoes.
You are sitting on the aft of the raft.
Giant otters are sunbathing on the rocks, relaxing their slick and sleek and silky bodies, unfolding their sharp-toothed mouths, yawning them, showing the pink insides of their mouths and teeth that could tear through zebra flesh, rolling their sinuous bodies over the stones.
Gorging on chicken sausages, the crocodiles haul their bodies on to the rocks.
You see them, stately, the bizarre birds. Red-beaked hornbills on the milk.
The dignified heron stands in the whispery milk. With a brisk thrust of its bill, the heron threshes at its fish-prey.
Through the glutinous whiteness, fish are glistening.
Wallowing in the milk is a Cape buffalo. At first, all you see are its upward-curving hooked horns. The horns traverse the surface of the pool, relaying ripples everywhere. Now, the ungulate emerges from the pool, the milk dripping down its grey hide. Its face is stupidly insane and insanely stupid.
Two children—one boy, one girl—sneak behind the woman and push her into the milk river, the deck chair falling in with her.
The head of a great white shark is ascending, towering above the milk, its gaping razor-toothed sucker-head high out of the heaving waves, its maw inflamed, its gill slits raging madly.
Propped on a rock, a Human Resources manageress waves her arms at you helplessly. Moored and marooned in the river, she looks around herself uselessly.
She sees what there is to see: The river is heavy with mammoth eels and giant lampreys.
Creamy with milk, an accountant crawls out of the river.
You see a shark’s wing-like fins, its spindly body.
Beside the river is a grey-haired woman. She squats on rotting bark, beguiling the fish from the water with the promise of oatmeal and rye. Sweat drops from her forehead into the milk.
Dragonflies soar across the milk. A milk snake slides through hissing reeds.
Wavelets lasso the rocks that surface through the milky lacquer.
With a galvanic lunge, a gargantuan carp heaves through the air and sucks the offering from her hand into its toothless mouth. The fish flips and splashes back down into the filthy, murky, stinking depths of the river.
Sipping the thinning milk, the chickens gather at the bank. They sip, they gulp, they squawk.
Steer the raft to the shore.
Sloshing through the slush, you steer forward. The steer are lapping milk from the milk-streams in the channels.
You steer the raft to the shore. You climb out of the raft.
At the shore you are now. Douse your pinkened face with pearly river milk.
You kneel down. You take off your clothing. Now you are naked. You enter the milk. You wade into the unwarm milk.
Penetrating the silky milk, the liquid flows over you. You look at the flowers alongside the bank before you submerge and submerse yourself. Plunge into the ethereal whiteness. You swim. You open and close your arms, spreading them before you. You fold and unfold your legs. You turn on your back and then spin around and float on your chest. You feel the cool milk beneath you. You feel the cool milk around you. You feel the cool milk swallowing you. The milk rushes sloshingly into your ear canals. Your arms are swallowed by the white milk. Whitish fish swim in the currents. The milk presses itself lovingly against your front and back—holding you, embracing you. The mucilaginous milk. The soft and yet hard all-emulsifying milk.
You descend into the milky bower of bliss, into the pool of ecstasies.
Your head emerges from the pool of milk like the snout of a sea lion emerging from a briny sea.
You are swimming through the milk, spreading your arms in front of you. Turn upside down. You are floating on your back.
Now, you put your feet down. Swimming in and through the milk are sturgeons and eels, weaving between your legs. The milk river is like some vast dairy, pulsating with human beings and jaunty fish. You play in the milk river, one with the piscine and human life.
Some of the milk is solidifying into an insoluble yellow-white gunk, a latex-like goo. The milk sticks to your skin.
Into the jellified ooze you sink more deeply now, mingling your flesh with the milk.
As you descend into the river, the holy milk lactifies your flesh.
The gelatinous milk bubbles up. Before you flows eternal whiteness.
As you enter the deeps of the river, the milk yields and molds itself around your form.
You resurface, your head and chest above the milk. Milk streams into your hair and down your neck.
You see dogs. On the shore, dogs. The dogs are lapping at the milky flow, which laps up to your chest.
There is still much confusion on the subject: How did these sea-creatures find their way into the Chicago River? And how has the rather fetid water of the Chicago River turned into milk?
No one knows exactly how the eels, sharks, lampreys, jellyfish, and stingrays found their way into the milky bower. The consensus seems to be that they are émigrés from an aquarium, transported by self-recriminating marine biologists who had given up their profession. And this is not a hallucination, as hallucinatory as it might appear: This is as real as anything you have ever perceived. You can see, hear, and touch the piscine and crustacean life. The milk pond is abuzz with outboards and asplash with aquatic life.
You notice the giant-teethed giant otters skulking in the reeds. Grime-slickened, the giant otters are throbbing angrily, and you swim to the shore quickly and silently.
You lift yourself out of the milk and walk away from the river. You ascend the grassy slope.
You can still feel the milk against your skin. You can feel the milk inside of you. Milk oozes into your pores and nostrils and follicles. Flesh is turning into milk, and milk is flowing into you.
As you climb up the slope, you are greeted by baby antelope. The fawns fawn on you, lapping your neck with their hard purple tongues.
Copyright 2014 by Joseph Suglia