Paul Cunningham

Vad           värdesätter         du?


Trädet, you bet. Must be familiar with the familj. The hushåll, the hush-hall. Now hush! If you understand, just nod. Just nod. Andnöd. No laughing. No lafsiga slafs. Vad värdesätter du? Your own tree-leak? Your own sap-sak? You sad sak! Trädet traitor? Having a weak lungor sak week? Hickory or oåkt? Just a lilla joke. Ro, ro, ro your warship! Gently down your wirelessly streamed content. Underage heterosexual femporn? There’s a femton. That’s my boy, that’s my son. Slums and porn. Slamporna torpor. Dekorativa divas. Jämn jam spread on man hands. Masturbating for money, those silverfläckar. Familjoke. Familjarring. Familjacking. Cold cake frosten. Crime scene systrar. SVU cyst stars. Chaturbating, hemsökt. Befolkning bebodda.



*

Box-on-box mahogany, a mechanic assemblage, a column of clock aims its leafy pendulum at my body. Then comes the family heirlooms, the tree of sores in furniture form: claw-and-ball feet and gate-legged tables; cushion-footed beasts of fine craftsmanship. Their wooden holes flaring. A chest of drawers manhandles me, a wing chair to my sternum, smacks me hard. I pinch at my face, I slap at my face. I forget about my bleeding hands, I forget about myself. More importantly, no glasses. I desperately stick a finger into my left eye, I cry out. No glasses, no Instruction Manual! No awakening, no dreaming. My senses, neutralized. Where am I? Hemorrhaging herringbone bands pulverize my torso, claw marks across my face. I feel infected, deterritorialized. 4 AM feels long ago, my body the peeled away orange. The ceiling leaks swags of pus-fruit, citrus scent. A shiny panel slides across a nearby wall. In the reflection of the wood, I see my son. Meat-He, reflected back at me. I feel finished off by his mirror. His meat-sheen. I am a boy uttering prayer-like lines of escape, over and over..



*

Squealing, the openwork hands of the clock wind rapidly. It spews golden scrollwork from an opening in its gilt paterae, its drawers—sliding out rapidly! Out and in, out and in!—bolts and screws flailing! They stamp welts into my arms, my chest. I back away from the wooden beasts, I follow the golden tongue to a wall of loose wooden panels. I peel away the weak wood, I discover a hallway. A secret passageway? An exit? A varning? I hallar into the long-haul. No answer. The wooden beasts persist. I persist until unseeable. Until I am too late.



*

I travel the length of the hallway, a candlelit room in the distance. I enter the empty candlelit room, the light flickers across the wooden interior. Four walls, a ceiling, a floor. All six faces of a cubic interior: interchangeable. All but one. One wall containing a window rests directly in front of me. The window, a single pane of glass, is all that separates me from the outside sky. The outside resembles something not quite night, not quite day. I feel as though I am looking through the window of a space station. Only there are no stars, no sun, no children, no earth. I stand in a cabin floating in starless space. I stand on floor, or ceiling. I stare at night, or day. I let my forehead knock-knock-knock against the cold of the window. The knock-knock-knock produces a hairline crack. My steaming hemoglobin roots itself into the wound of the glass, my reflection distorted. The hemoglobin shed from my forehead shivers, throbs against the cold of the unrecognizable outside. It spreads somehow, across the glass. It eagerly willows—reds itself into sticky ribbons. I pick up the candle, hold it to the window.



*

Gluish geodes burst from the mutating blood tract, chains of miniature tendons aggressively knot into mounds of new, hairless flesh. The glass fogs over, tiny red capillary branches sway side-to-side outside the window. Tiny branches gel and smear, the branches tirelessly sculpt and twist into the heavy silk of a facial frame. My hemoglobin produces predetermined content, pushes matter away from the cabin where I will most likely remain. I stand behind myself, a painful sensation spreads through my lower back, my kidneys fail. My muscles lose their hoist, my eyelids rust over. I experience debilitating contractions. A pendulum hammers my vital organs, hammers my spandrels of human into ruins. My spine, my I—slurped by clock. Lantern dimming, this nervous system dimming.

Paul Cunningham is from Pittsburgh, PA. His Swedish-to-English translation of Helena Österlund's Words (2019) is forthcoming as a bilingual edition from OOMPH Press. He has also translated two chapbooks by Sara Tuss Efrik: Automanias Selected Poems (Goodmorning Menagerie, 2016) and The Night's Belly (Toad Press, 2016). His creative and critical writing has most recently appeared in Dream Pop Journal, The Kenyon Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Spectacle, and Quarterly West. He edits Deluge, co-manages Radioactive Cloud, and co-curates the Yumfactory Reading Series in Athens, GA. Read more here: https://paulcunninghamwrites.wordpress.com/