Sunday, December 01, 2013

Poem: Ex nihilo

This is a poem written especially for the second edition of the Kick Out the Bottom Open Voice Poetry Reading, held the last Friday of every month at Embassy Vinyl, 352 Adams Avenue, Scranton. Sign-ups begin at 6:45 and readings begin at 7:00. Standing room only, bring your own chair. Limited to thirteen slots, which fill up fast, so show up early if you'd like to read! 

Writing is the perfect art for people without much in the way of resources. Pen and paper are desirable, and having a word processor and printer are ideal, but you can compose an epic tale or a great poem entirely in your head and carry it in your memory. You can write words in dirt with your finger - heck, Jesus did that (in an apocryphal tale which does not appear in any copies of scripture until a certain point in history, and then appears consistently, in what may have been an early bit of fanfiction; see Bart Ehrman's books for more information.) 

Writers have the unique ability to weave realities from nothing. In hearing a poem or story you may be deeply touched by the meaning, or caught up in events. You may become upset at the fate of a character, a character who never existed except in words strung together by the author, and in the image those words created in your mind. This is an amazing thing. It has always seemed to me that creators partake in some aspect of the divine in their creation, whether it is in building a material object, creating a work of art, or conceiving a child. But it is writers and poets who truly create these things from nothing, nothing more than words and sounds, immaterial things which we have had to invent a means to represent. This creation from nothing most closely mirrors the divine act of creation.

Ex nihilo

We are liars and thieves
weaving realities truer than truth
from lines pilfered from ancient epics
and last week's comic books

We steal from the gods themselves
Not, like Prometheus, something as small and simple as fire
We steal their power, claim for ourselves
their divine purview to create from nothing

We fuck with our fingers
on keyboards, or gripping pens
that inseminate paper with ink
throbbing words that penetrate brains

the smell of good cognac, served slightly warm
sharkskin suits and cigarettes rolling down trolley aisles
droplets of water that drip down thighs and cause listeners to nearly break their own arms
windshields with the stories of our lives written on them in dents and spiderwebs of cracks

These are our creations
these are our children, born of furtive trysts
and well-planned couplings
and we show them off, proud parents
knowing that ours are the cutest and the smartest and the strongest
and everyone else's are just a little bit funny-looking


I have a cold. This shouldn't be a big deal, but it is.

I've had colds before. If you seek medical treatment for a cold, the saying goes, it will be gone in about seven days, but if you leave it untreated, it will clear itself up in a week or so. I've been self-medicating with Robitussin, chicken soup, and the occasional tea/lemon juice/honey/alcohol concoction. The first hint of a symptom was last Friday, when I stepped out of a mall and into my car and had a coughing fit. I found myself in an extremely stressful situation Monday evening, which knocked me for a loop. By Tuesday I was starting to feel more obviously sickly, but I had the day off from work and paid little heed. Wednesday was another day off and I treated it as a sick day. By Thanksgiving I was really getting there, and spent most of the day at work sucking cough drops and trying not to frighten the few people who called in. The most blatant symptom came as I left work and headed out to pick up a friend to go out for Thanksgiving dinner, a friend who would otherwise be alone. I knew I wouldn't have time to stop home and freshen up after work, so I had packed some after shave in the car. I sprayed it on my wrists and rubbed it on my neck, just below the bend in the jaw under the ears, and I noticed that it had no smell. I sniffed my wrists directly and - nothing. Dammit. the cold temperatures in the car must have somehow...I dunno, deactivated the molecules of scent, or bound them to the alcohol that was refusing to evaporate, or....something?

I picked up my friend a half-hour later than planned, thanks to a last-minute call at work. We ran off to make a visit to a hospital, our umpteenth in the past few weeks. But this was the first time I stayed completely out of the room, since now there was no denying that I was sick, and the person we were visiting would not respond well to getting what I had.  We then sped off to the restaurant where we had planned our Thanksgiving feast. It was less crowded than I expected, with a few other couples, a few happy families, and one woman who sat alone and stared into the middle distance. I ordered the Thanksgiving special and my friend, who informed me that she hates turkey, ordered a steak. My friend excused herself from the table after we ordered, and while she was away the server brought out my coffee. I sniffed at it after I added creamer and sugar and smelled nothing. Drinking it, I tasted nothing at all, as though I were drinking slightly thickened hot water.

When my friend returned to the table I asked her to smell the coffee to confirm that it had no aroma. She sniffed at it and said it smelled like coffee.


Our dinners came out. Mine tasted fine: turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with walnuts, green beans, cranberry relish. But the coffee continued to taste like hot water.

The next night I was with this same friend after a poetry reading. I had trimmed my planned three-shorts-and-a-long to a single long piece, which I shouted out as best I could with a voice that had mostly vanished overnight. She made us tea, a special cookies and cream team to which she added some little gingerbread cookies. I smelled - something, though I couldn't place it. I drank the tea and ate the cookies, and neither had much taste to me. I found one more bit floating at the bottom of the mug, and happily scooped it out with the spoon. I put it in my mouth and bit down. It tasted like the cookies, but had a weird texture - almost like canvas.

I realized I was eating the tea bag, and removed it from my mouth as nonchalantly as possible.

I know I still had a sense of smell late Wednesday evening. It disappeared sometime Thursday, and hasn't been back since. I tasted some key lime pie yesterday - sour tastes seem to be fine, but any of the many "tastes" that rely primarily on smell are still absent. I smelled the coffee I made this morning, and the fresh jar as I opened it, but the coffee had little taste to it.

I think I'm on the tail end of this.

I should have been isolating myself this past week, but I've been a selfish bastard about my precious traces of a social life, and have probably exposed dozens of people to what I've got. I've been keeping out of the house as much as possible, but even so may have managed to infect one or more family members. I'm hoping not. But that's cold season for you.