EIGHTY-SIX WAYS TO CROSS ONE DESERT – ALEXANDER LUMANS
When curious about the depth of a strange river, do you throw in a nearby rock? If so, how long does it normally take you to realize the futility of this supposed gauging? Do you ever? Do you run away instead? Are you someone of the temperament who prefers to “go it alone”? Is that the naked truth? Have you ever closed a wound with hot glue? Is it the same moon every night? Will it rain today? If it rained some object other than rain today, would you go out into the streets to celebrate? What if it were raining down lobster claws? Or Olympic gold medals? Or Japanese woodcuts of copulating butterflies? What would you be willing to go out into the streets to celebrate other than the wet wet rain?
Did you have any allergies that I didn’t already know about? They’re explained as over reactive immune systems—what’s akin to firebombing an amateur sniper, or just an amateur whatever with a gun out in the desert looking for asylum in the heavily walled city of your body—does this sound true? When did the phrase “unconditional surrender” migrate into our everyday lexicon? Are most crevasses judged too short? Too far? Or just right? Should I sleep with one eye open?
Have you ever witnessed a butterfly’s first flight? Would you want to? Would you, with me? In “silence, exile, and cunning” is a nice way to go, no? Would you be honest with me, or would I have to ask
you to be honest with me in order for you to be honest with me? Is there a problem here, officer? Are the graves ready?
When you “break up” with someone, doesn’t that phrase summon the image of an Antarctic explorer’s ship foundering in a sea of pack ice with the frostbite sinking in and the sled dogs baying at the moon and the one football lost in the falling snow?
Are you coming back?
How many meters are we from the nearest bomb shelter? Is that nearer or farther than the nearest white flag?
Was it my piano hands? My large feet? My lazy eye, the one I keep open while sleeping? (Is it not possible that my other eye is simply more alacritous?) Is the truth always naked? Could I dress up the truth so ornately that it’s no longer said to be truth, dressed in, say, a kimono or a lobster suit? If such were possible, then the truth is clearly mutable, and therefore no truth at all, and so to change or to come back to old loves is no crime whatsoever—so what about me needs to change? Do you trust shamans?
Why not award gold medals for screaming? Do they even make lobster suits? I imagine that if more celebratory items were made with an eye toward actual proportionate sizes of anatomy, we would have a much more educated populace, is that too much to ask? In a perfect world, would you hot glue claws in place of these feeble little feelers called hands? Alone, can you cook?
Wasn’t Ernest Shackleton an amazing fucking person?
Is your idea of a nice afternoon one spent in the company of sixteen hundred butterflies in an artificial rain forest, or does that strike you as a nice afternoon filled with sheer terror, one bound to end in bloodshed? Butterflies taste with their feet, isn’t that frightening? Would you, could you, opt for this transference of sense from tongue to toes? Wouldn’t the day be filled with mostly the taste of sock and sole? Would you walk into rivers to taste them, rather than to gauge their depth? Or would it be best then to walk on your hands? Drop stones and bombs with your lips?
Are you vexed by sorting recyclables? Do you keep an updated travelogue? A running tab? A bird count? A wallet card listing known allergies? Would you hit a nail with your Stradivarius in order to be
awarded another Stradivarius? Who’d take the fight: Shackleton, or Jackie Joyner-Kersee? Is a gate not a gate unless it creaks?
In Goodnight Moon, why does no one say goodnight to the telephone?
What is a body pillow, if not a bed? Was poetry once a forte of yours? Is Irish something you only claim to have in you? Did firing your first gun confirm or refute your suspicions concerning the danger of a loaded weapon in the home? When did safety equipment not come with safety labels? Why must we turn the gun’s safety off?
Given a black-and-white photograph, could you tell the difference between the Antarctic tundra and the Saharan desert? If I had a nice large mirror, would you look into it?
Are you comforted or dispirited by the fact that we no longer live in a time when lazy-eyed trolls under bridges are a daily concern? Will “cool” ever not be cool? Urns: a treasure? A burden? Or a talking point? If the moon could speak, what wouldn’t it say? Are you being honest with me? Honestly, a man like Shackleton would not have survived this lengthy desert crossing. Do you still not trust shamans?
What strikes you as the most advantageous to survival: the fear of bridge trolls, the fear of foundering in pack ice, or the fear of butterflies? If, in an imperfect world, I unknowingly awakened in you an allergic reaction, would you be mad, even though I specifically related to you the analogy of the amateur gunman storming the body’s gates? Is there time for an unconditional surrender before the bombing raids begin? What if I were that sniper, and you the target? If I came dressed not as an amateur or as a gunman, but as a lobster crawling over dunes on my anatomically correct claws, would you be put off or intrigued by a large crustacean crossing the Sahara? If I said, “I come in something, exile, and something else,” what next? If I said, “I’m rain,” would you drop a rock on me? Or would you come out into the streets to celebrate me falling from the sky?