Daily Archives: October 14, 2014

Cryptozoology

Originally posted 4/14/2008; original title, “Cryptids.”

So, there’s this website where you click to spin a wheel
and it tells you how to make a life decision
based on you doing what a unicorn would do
if a unicorn was in the same situation you’re facing.

I spun the wheel this morning
and it said i should
“whinny and rear.” 

Well, I do this all the time so it didn’t seem to be a huge stretch.
I was glad I was not advised to nuzzle a newborn or frolic in a meadow.
I was hoping that I’d be told to impale evil things 
but I confess I’m not really in shape for that — 
good call, wheel.

So: out the front door on my hind legs,
waving my arms around.
My voice has too much tobacco in it for a solid whinny,
but I made some sort of approximate noise
as I went forth.

At the gas station, the pump refused my credit card. I whinnied at it.
There wasn’t much space to rear since I’d parked too close to the pump,
but I managed something that didn’t look too un-unicorn-like
and fulfilled the prophecy.
I was becoming mythical!
Certainly, the pump’s refusal to honor my credit made that belief credible.

I drove out to the Tower Hills, just outside the city.
I knew I’d be the lone unicorn out there, since it’s not the season for the regular unicorns —
while they equally adore frolicking in meadows covered in snow or wildflowers,
the mud of a Massachusetts spring is something they’d rather not touch.
They go to Arizona, I think, in winter.

I pulled off the road by the reservoir
and found a trail there,
which I followed to a bar
in a clearing.

The bar was better furnished than I would have expected,
and the drinks were well made and cheap.
The bartender greeted me with a nod;
apparently I had been there before,
though it all seemed new.

I knew no one else,
at least by their faces,
though I recognized them by their traits —

gryphons whose wings had been stolen,
chimeras with odd parts from random plastic surgeries,
basilisks who could turn you to Corian with a single glance.

I joined my fellow cryptids there
and we indulged in our fortunes
for many, many hours
until I was drunk on the dizzying rhythm
of my whinnying and rearing.

I came home flecked with sweat
and exhausted. I dreamed of virgins 
seeking me, I dreamed of eluding capture —
and then I woke up — here. Again.

I’m going to return
to that website with its majestic wheel.
It tells me old stories 
that make me feel like I’m not alone 
in believing that there’s a greater purpose. 
I know it’s supposed to be for amusement only,
but it’s a joke
that has led me to the place 
where I feel most justified,
and most at home.


The Idea Of Television: A Fable

Originally posted on 8/14/2009; original title, “Travis Benson.”

the story of how we became so sad
began on that infamous night
when the world watched 
the first-ever stream
of live images
from inside the mind 
of one travis benson,
who had managed 
to insert leads into his brain
that had been tuned
to a frequency of light
that allowed 
the visual display and broadcast
of his thoughts.

before that day, travis
was a virtual unknown
who labored in a basement
in some undetermined city
to bring his vision to fruition.  
at first only a handful of esoterically inclined 
and wired aficionados
on the fuzzier edges of experimentation
had been aware of his work,

but certain governments
had sought him for some time. 
in gray buildings
on the outskirts of capitals worldwide
geeks and goons stood ready 
to track him down when he came on line,
as their masters imagined
a future bonanza for intelligence work
if the technique worked as rumored. 
the possibilities, it was thought,
would be endless: 
the passive voice of a spy’s mind
revealing all the intricacies of espionage, 
the names and places
of deadly deceits and plotted assassinations…
likewise,

conglomerates
had waited eagerly for this, 
hoping to see

the threads of desire
exposed in the bright storm anticipated
in travis’ skull.  
what possible masterworks
of commerce
would be spawned
from the crannies of the genius
who had created this?

at 2315 GMT, travis benson’s mind
went online.
screens went dark all over the world.

at first, the images were confusing: 

a forest of eyes. a field of small birds
feeding on germs. a city
where the streets are paved
with children’s bones. 
an immense fall of leaden water
salted with the hearts of mice.

as the viewers — millions of them,
billions perhaps — 
began to sort through
what they were seeing,
the images on the screen begin to shift
into a story of disjoint and ripple,
unremediated rejections
and leftover resentments. 

in india, there were those who swore
they saw kali charming them;
american racists saw nothing but black teeth
gnawing the arms of white women;
a businessman in caracas
imagined himself in the grip
of apes with scimitars. 
a child in new york city
ran screaming to her mother 
demanding that new doll, 
the popular doll, 
the one she saw on TV,
the one that pounded and fretted
while calling the child’s name.
the pope,

secretly hoping 
for some proof of the divine, was startled
when jesus appeared 
wearing a wedding ring. 
countries lost their nationalism, their memories
of past wrong and glory; companies
had no secrets and no marketing left to give;
and although everyone turned the broadcast off
at the same time, the damage was done.
the world had taken his dreams 

and lost their own.
though no one saw what anyone else saw,
everyone knew their pasts were over and done,
subsumed in the wave that had surged
from travis benson’s head.

travis benson destroyed his machine
that night and vanished,
became a villain and a curse,
something to scare children with.

they hunted him then as they hunt him now.

memory till that night
was a creature of habit.  

dreams were its only food
and it fed in the same places
and it would have done so forever
as it always had
if nothing had changed,
but something has changed,
changed forever:
our trust in the frequency of light.
our belief in our own lightness.

we cannot forgive
what we cannot forget
and we cannot forget
how we all tuned in to watch.