When my parents retired and moved out of the old house and I took back the boxes that I’d stored in the attic, I was reunited with Lunatic Erectus, a chapbook I made in 1990.
Lunatic Erectus is a street poetry illuminated manuscript that I painstakingly lettered and inked by hand over the course of several weeks. There are also four strange collages by artist Liz Clark.
An interesting aspect of rediscovering the book was realizing how much of the past I had forgotten, how many formerly clear memories were now impossible to bring to mind. Most of it seemed entirely new to me, as if the events related within had happened to someone else, or not at all. And although the style often verged on the surreal, the scenes had such an air of authenticity that I was forced to consider the book a thinly-veiled autobiography, the events obscured only by lapses in memory.
I admit that I have struggled with substance abuse and with psychological instability for most of my life, and that these are possible contributing factors. I may have repressed the memories of these events in order to shelter a fragile psyche. It is also possible that I have suffered cranial trauma at some point.
The book opens with a once common dilemma: stumbling deliriously through an unfamiliar neighborhood, you begin to feel lonely, so you jiggle random door handles hoping to find someone to have sex with. While I don’t recall indulging in this behavior, it is apparently something I did with some frequency. If one was lucky—the door was unlocked, and someone was at home—I imagine there would follow an amiable chat, a shared bottle of wine, and warm hugs.
RESURRECTION OF THE COMMON PIGEON (Columba livia rustica)
This was a right time/right place kind of thing. Fortunately for the drowned pigeon, I just happened to be delirious again and wandering around. (I spent a good deal of time doing that, evidently, wandering around, delirious, testing doors when I got lonely, and occasionally staring dazedly into the rain.)
Also, many are still unaware of the restorative power of running with a pack of imaginary wolves.
KIDS OVERHEARD ON THE SUBWAY
I received checks and utilized public transportation.
Also, life is inexpressibly sad.
AN IMPROBABLE DAY OF SHOPPING
I’m sure something like this probably happened, but some of the details might be off. At the time I suppose having sex on a newspaper box in a public market and then bursting into flame was a thing.
There are so many things. The past is full of them. The details become blurry.
PEOPLE ARE NOT UNLIKE VIVISECTED BUNNIES
It is heartache to know—and to attempt to warn—when people just won’t listen. You want to shake them and say, “They’re going to put you in a tiny box with only your head sticking out and jam mascara into your eyes.” But it’s no use.
ALL-NIGHT DOUGHNUT SHOPS ARE TEEMING WITH CHARACTERS
I’ve always appreciated doughnuts, so this seems a plausible scenario. I must have been out wandering around delirious and raising things from the dead and thought, “a jelly doughnut would be reviving,” and went in. I wonder where they are now—the waxy 50’s woman and the fat blue shirt Italian man, Jimmy the Junky and the wheelchair guy. The world just spirals away from you.
EAVESDROPPING ON SPIRITUALISTS
HALLUCINATIONS DEVOID OF SETTING, #1
LIKE, A METAPHOR
These vague ringmaster types with their big top stuff—hats and whips and shit, and medicine show carts—they invariably try to confuse you with Bible-themed math problems.
AT SOME POINT, SANTA CLAUS KICKED ME OFF A TRAIN
BURIED ALIVE, POSSIBLY IN LAS VEGAS
This exact same thing happened to Sleeping Beauty.
HALLUCINATIONS DEVOID OF SETTING, #2
LIKE, ANOTHER METAPHOR
It seems unlike me, but evidently after I resurrected the pigeon by running through its bones with the imaginary wolves, rather than calling it a night, I continued my damp nocturnal wanderings, and at some point—once again mesmerized by the rain—I met a woman (a prostitute possibly?) who had paper-cuts all over her body—a tough-talking street-smart but still pathetic and vulnerable sort of Jennifer-Jason-Leigh-in-Last-Exit-to-Brooklyn-meets-Nancy-Spungen-type—standing in a doorway opening a series of Valentine’s Day cards, which seemed to be the source of the paper cuts, and then we went to her place and did a lot of drugs, and then we attempted to have sex but I was unable to perform, and then I passed out and had a castration hallucination with moralistic and pornographic overtones, and then when I woke up she was dead, but glowing in the dark, and then when I went to the window to try to exit down the fire escape, there was a flock of pigeons staring at me from the power lines, like it was all my fault, like raising their friend from the dead earlier hadn’t counted for shit.
We all have bad nights. Some of us are careless with paper products, others fail to achieve boners.
Always have a plan on where to meet if you get separated. If you’re mall-walking, you might plan to meet at Cinnabon. If you’re running with a pack of wolf-kin by moonlight, you might plan to meet by a memorable stump, or bush.
HALLUCINATIONS DEVOID OF SETTING, #3
But what could it all mean?
There has been a great deal of scientific research on the mutability of human identity. Brain tumors and head injuries can alter personality. As the result of a construction site mishap, a lead pipe transfixes the skull, and a once personable colleague becomes a misanthrope, his character forever changed. There are instances of post-traumatic amnesia. There are cases of possession, people inhabited by evil spirits, hag-ridden through feverish nights of sweating and tossing. There are those who go traveling and return unrecognizable. There are those who once thought they knew someone, only to discover that they never really knew them at all.
Some suggest that this mutability is a quantifiable aspect of personality itself.
Maybe I should go volunteer at a lab at one of the larger universities where they tape electrodes to your head and get you to guess the suits of cards hidden from view. I don’t know. But the more I attempt to reconcile the past, the more it rearranges itself into unrecognizable patterns.
And if it happened before it could happen again. What more miraculous powers will I be stripped of? Who will I become? Which parts of my identity will accompany me into the future, and which will stay behind to languish in the past?
Seriously, I’m asking.