Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Everything is dark. As if life depended upon a lump of coal in the sky instead of the sun. As if my seeing were a black fog. I am huge and cold.

And I can’t breathe. My mouth is scarce. My nose is rigid, a carrot, a turnip, a stone. My arms, never athletic are twigs. And my feet have disappeared.

I am a snowman.


I am a snowman. Perhaps the only snowman. In the sharp air, I imagine butterflies shouting one to another over the blue shadows. And I know that in a blind world, in the land of seeing eye dogs, there is infinite regression, each blind dog relying on another blind dog to lead it forward through the velvet gardens.

I can switch my eyes, the left and the right. I can replace my eyes with the stones of my mouth. I can replace the vast ball of my legs with my torso ball. My sad head can roll down the hill and become enormous and quick as it descends. Such a large head can imagine great things. Melting, for instance. The weeping of small children as they squash living things. The possibility that my family, in their small boat, shall cross the sea, that Timmy shall fight the lion with his toy car and thus save Miranda from her smooth cake, and the squat fingerprints of her future.

And Bobby, oh my lovely Bobby, you shall steal the crutches of your imaginary friend and limp towards your mother. Mother, you say, looking into the briny water of the pickle jar, two ice ages don’t a heat wave make. The delicate wings of a stamp collection hovering alphabetically over the iridescent lake of tweed mean something to all of us. You and father, if you are so inclined, shall pour down the aisle and be married once again. The antelope is neither licked nor sealed.

* * *

Note: I was supposed to be revising a story about snowpeople for chickaDEE magazine and strayed over to Imperfect Offering and began discussing the editing/revising process and also how context and readership affect/reflect the core of a story. See here. And so instead of revising my little snowpeople story, I broke free of that context and those constraints, and wrote this. Also -- and more about this later -- I finally read some of the work of Russell Edson.(see a brief bio and some of his amazing prose.)


happenin fish said...

how delightful and sad.
there is something almost unbearably sad about that large head.

it's not often that one can use "kafka-esque" and truly mean it!

and russell edson is wonderful!

gary barwin said...

Thanks, fish.

And yeah, that pen is truly Kafka-esque. Of course the picture doesn't tell you it comes in two versions. "Penal Colony" and "The Trial." I'll leave you to imagine what features each has! (I think the pen is something like $500. That is also Kafka-esque. I wonder if Mont Blanc has a line of charcoal fragments.)

One of my favourite cartoons is of a rabbit holding up a hair dryer to one of two snowpeople. One of snowpeople says to the other, "Give him your carrot, Harry. It's not worth it."