Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

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Tag: fiction

Hostile Mythologies

When somebody dies a star appears in the night sky. Brilliant flash of commemoration. Makes no sense. Consider how the stars are so far away that it might have taken them tens of thousands of years to traverse thickets and clear-felled expanses of light and darkness to plant themselves on our un-sky-coloured marble. (Sky is black; we are pale blue.) Of course: the causality is wrong. When a star appears, somebody dies. The entire galaxy is instead a sort of gun pointed at our world; each star has a prophecy of death in it, like bullets with names on them.

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Nettle Leaves

Found a nettle growing under a bridge. Start of summer, I was out looking for shards of your heart between the cobblestones.

A single nettle. Out of place. Like someone had set it down there and walked away. Sat on my haunches by it, feet pointing at Chimère St. and Byson across the canal. Reached out a hand as if picking a flower for a lover, gloveless. Held it between thumb and forefinger and anticipated the sting, brushing it up and down my underarm over the area where your tattoo goes. Expecting, in vain, the skin to react at all.

~

I walk the street to Leone avenue. There’s a lingerie shop on the corner
next to the Serbian café. I walk past men, thick
with hair on their arms, face and chests. They do not call to me in the street,
busy with their espressos.
And I stand
to admire a balcony bra with dusty pink straps.
The female street musician claims a tango on her violin.
The bra has embroidered nettles on them, I think
of the hands of him, blistering, his air sucked through clenched teeth. At home I dance in the open window, a lonesome nettle tango.

~

The potion shop on the far end of Leone Avenue is legally required to inform me that their love potions don’t work. Still, in my bathroom at midnight I follow the instructions on the roundbottom alchemical-style bottle to a fault: bruise the nettle leaf and place it under your tongue, say the object’s name until your mouth goes dry, then drink me.

When I wake up tomorrow I will call you up and I will ask to come over and I will ask to share your bed. When I wake up, the day after tomorrow, I will love you again.

~

I loved you
your thighs
up against my legs which I had not shaved. They prick your
legs like nettles. Outside the sun rise,
outside the sun rises, outside
the sun
whispers this love is a room and I am alone here. Your old cafetiere is gone from my kitchen counter.

Your apartment is strewn with empty bottles and your tattooed arms embrace me with their painted on pretend permanence but I
linger.
My brassiere visible through a sheer blouse and your sheer eyes say – this love is a room, with a courtyard, overgrown with nettles.

— Your face is unshaven.

~

The same second as you stepped down from the balcony ledge halfway across town, apparently deciding that the fall wouldn’t kill you or that it was too cold or that you didn’t really want it, not like that, I was watching the shadow under a bridge refuse to freeze over and got a nosebleed because of you. I thought something might grow in the red spots and I thought of you as I pinched my nose and tilted my head back and watched the sky thinking, irrationally angry, I was missing the action from the warring factions under the bridge.

~

Rue de la Huchette becomes a tied cherry stem in my mouth,
the sober mood all knotted up in the jazz the musician spreads
out over the piano like a wife;
all solemn vows and sharp lines made with his hands. The blood
rushes to my face. You can’t look away.

It is nothing but a fantasy between the cobble stones of the street,
spilled there like two euro wine, it was not a loss, but a baptism of the moment.
A single drop of blood from you, a single sentence spoken in
loss and utter devotion.
The sting and burn
of your hands on my arm where a tattoo of a single nettle rests.

~

~

~

A collaboration with Cecilie K, originally posted on our tumblrs, with the motif of nettle leaves. The even-numbered pieces, more poem-like than mine, are hers. The others are mine. You may find Cecilie’s writing in books or on her tumblr, by following the following links:
createspace.com/5853622
ceciliewriteswords.tumblr.com

Nettle

Found a nettle growing under a bridge. Start of summer, I was out looking for shards of your heart between the cobblestones.

A single nettle. Tall, even gangly. Like someone had dropped a needle there and walked away. Sat on my haunches by it, feet pointing at Chimère St. and Byson across the canal. Reached out a hand as if picking a flower for a lover, gloveless. Held it between thumb and forefinger and anticipated the sting, brushing it up and down my underarms over the area where your tattoo goes. Expecting, in vain, the skin to react at all.

Augury

One day a stray walked onto the set in the middle of a scene, distracting the actresses. It was unclear how it could have got there, as no-one had seen it before it stalked into frame. We kept the film rolling, though. We got distracted – the director too, despite his reputation. That’s how it looked for a split-second. But he stayed himself. Maybe for headlines, maybe he’s just like that. He gutted the dog right there with a knife that he apparently carries on his person at all times, spilling the entrails like vague futures all over the plastic carpet.

NEW STORY: The Bumblebee-Maker’s Kiss

Dear All,

I have a new story out, called The Bumblebee-Maker’s Kiss. You can buy the journal it’s in, Reckoning, for five dollars here: weightlessbooks.com/authors/benjamin-parzybok-authors/reckoning-1/

The Reckoning cover.

The Reckoning cover.

Out of things I have written, this is one of those I’m the most proud of. It feels a bit silly to write more than that but if you’re looking for me to convince you to buy this, consider: not only is my story really cool, the whole journal is cool. The stories and poems inside it all bear themes of environmental justice.

I don’t want to tell you what my story is about but I should tell you some of what’s in it.

The first time your worlds crossed paths you felt your fate short-circuiting.

I wrote a story where there are no bees anymore, and I know what happened but you don’t. Humans started creating mechanical or electrical bees to fertilise flowers. One of them devoted her life to it; it seems to be all she does. But her kiss is eponymous, so something must disrupt her routine. The story is about slipping, falling in love with this bumblebee-maker. This person who makes the bees that fertilise the flowers in the city.

If you like my writing — and your reading my blog seems to suggest that you do, thank you — you will like this story. If you like eco-punk or solarpunk or environmental speculative sci-fi, if you want your prose and poetry to acknowledge global warming and maybe give you an estimate of how fucked we are, you will like this journal. Will it unfuck us? No, the unfucking is a huge undertaking. But maybe it can unfuck your heart a bit and give you release, hope, all that good stuff. It is the first issue of Reckoning, hopefully the first of many.

Peace,
Johannes

Constellations

Your father told you about magic. About the stories hanging from the ceiling of the world like carcasses in a slaughterhouse. About astronomy and astrology. You learned to draw maps of places that didn’t exist. He told you it was okay to not know the names of constellations, because you can create your own astronomical phenomena and your own myths. Sometimes it might hurt seeing lines drawn by someone else hundreds of years ago. It doesn’t matter that things go missing, because you can find them again. Outside the apartment the whole hospital was quarantined. He was talking about himself.

Dogs Would Know

I thought I’d be good with animals, growing up. Just one of those strange kids who exerts no pressure on the surfaces he touches, and exudes goodness, something birds can trust. In the square by the cathedral they came to me because I paid a man to put seeds in my hands. I thought because I was broken in half there would be good inside me spilling out like a ruptured silo and that dogs would know.

You think the accident gave you superpowers. Like abuse has made you better as a person.

I thought that dogs would know. When I was homeless I slept in the bed of a woman who did not believe in evil; I think that must be the reason she let me stay there. I think there’s something foul in me. I slept in the corner of her mattress, like a dog. I took up as little space as I could and I disappeared from her life.

And someone else froze when I walked into the room. Jumped if I grazed her, walking past. And she was shaking when she said, I’m not afraid of you, attempting a reassuring tone and not a defiant one, ears perked like a fox in danger. I thought I’d be good with animals, instead I’m limping and shedding fur like an irradiated jackal. I thought from how badly broken I was, there would be recompense if not a reckoning.

Dogs don’t know, or they don’t care.

Any good that comes from me is what I’ve done. And any good that comes from you is you alone.

Across the Street

The family across the street have two sets of drapes, one seems to be made of metal. Perhaps it’s bulletproof. They hug their kid hard in the mornings, looking at her like she’s survived cancer when she gets into the school bus. I don’t know what their names were, but the dad was not called Pete, Simon, Mark, Matt, or Robert. He’s called Trevor now; I don’t believe that either. Sometimes when we are in our gardens simultaneously I shout male names to see if he twitches. He thinks I’m boisterous and on good terms with everyone who bikes past.

Changeling

after Cecilie K.

~

Every monster child goes through this. Changeling, they would correct me with boiling water in their voices: every changeling goes through this. Monsters are something different. It is the rite of passage at the edge of the woods (even in places where there are no trees for miles, there are woods). The changeling stands peering into the darkness, perhaps looking at her claws which she has filed down to be just nails, and she thinks with a clarity usually only found in orchestral flute music and cloudless nights at great altitudes: I am not the scariest thing in these woods.

~

Also a thing from the archives, although some other archives. Written after standing at the pitch-black mouth of a forest for ten minutes in the middle of the night, trying to get my eyes to get used to the level of light in there, eventually realizing that it didn’t get lighter than that. Inspired a lot by things Cecilie K. had written, also. You can read her excellent writing at this following link, for example: ceciliewrites.com

Anathema, Apotheosis

[Trigger warning: suicidal ideation]

You didn’t quite learn the right definition. The dictionary lacks the venom of it, the way it rises in your throat like the coming tide. But as you know, we take words and we make them our own. There is no such thing as language but there are a thousand tongues. And you swore at a young age that you would never become a god, not like this, not ever. Still the thought burned like a slow fuse in your periphery, leaving black lines along the perimeter of your eyes. There is nothing good about being a god: it is not like you sat around and fantasized about temples in your honour and the exquisite pain of four extra arms growing out from your torso. Although you do know how the sockets of such a skeleton would work with the ribs and when you were anxious you drew thin pink lines on your skin. You don’t bruise easily and that makes you a favourite. The fuse keeps burning. Every morning after you’ve not slept, you wipe the soot out of your eyes. There is so much soot in you still, you told yourself. This is good: when you stop having candles to burn you’re out of luck and out of time. So you picked it up from a broadcast half between two radio stations and in your childish mind you heard it as two words: “this is an athema to them.” You picture it as a kind of antithesis for someone’s character, a kryptonite, something not just forbidden but centrally taboo. Ontologically speaking, if I do this, I cease to be me. The dictionary does not corroborate your story but that’s how you feel about the word, and your usage is consistent with how everybody says it. That’s what your apotheosis would be, something you defined yourself against. And then there were the mandalas painted on the pavement on your way to school or work or tennis club. You took careful steps around them, but tried to make it seem like you just switched directions twice in rapid succession in a V. That’s how you cross the street, you look away and wait until the street is empty. You cannot live in a city anymore. There are too many places accidentally made sacred and you know that the people need faith. You cannot become their god. It is a process that involves cutting off your head and replacing it with the head of a statue of you. That is why all the statues of you left out in the countryside have no head anymore, so that any one of them could carry your real head. But you say: this is not me. And you define yourself around this concept until you have enveloped it entirely. Now this is you, some form of bent knife in hand, a basket in your lap, burning ember at your heels. Come on then, do something with your symbolism. Make it all alright. Ascend but let your bare feet full of light stay grounded and walk around headless in the fisherman’s village, won’t you? Let, as ever, those parts die. Let the fancy quotes from the diaries of men who were buried ten years after they died rest. Let the burning ropes of red sun from between your toes slither up and around your ankles.