Daniel Borzutzky    


Lake Michigan, Scene 2: The Privatized Bathtub of Dawn


Sing, they say, or we won’t love you

And if we don’t love you we won’t beat you or let you have food or air or a moment of rest or silence

And we sing

We sing about the thorns they scratch into our cheeks

We sing about the teeth that puncture our skin as the fingers prod deep into our mouths, pushing down our tongues, probing down our throats

Authoritative bodies experimenting with just how far their fingers can reach down our throats, what magical places they might touch

Can their fingers make it into our thyroids   into our thymuses   into our left and right lungs

Your mouth is a laboring beast   the guarding bodies tell us

Your mouth is a rotten carcass rotting into a privatized toilet rotting into the privatized waters of dawn

The authoritative bodies command their servants to find in my mouth a flap that is made of elastic cartilage covered with mucous membrane

They tell me my love is pseudo-stratified, secreting gel-forming mucins into the major components of my mucus

Tell us stories, they say, or we won’t love you or feed you or beat you

And they make us tell stories about our teachers whom we know they have hung

We refuse to tell the stories and they tell us they will do to us what they did to our teachers

And so we think and think and we see our teachers’ bodies hanging in the wind

There is no wind

But we see the hanging corpses swirling about as if there is a tornado

And the hanging corpses of our teachers are swirling in the wind and they ask us to imagine the last things that our teachers thought about and we say they thought about us and they say no they didn’t think about you you selfish little fucks they thought about salvaging their own rotten bodies

This took place on Lake Michigan, at the northern edge of Chicago

They brought our teachers to a privatized beach and now they want us to imagine what the sand felt like on the dead and charred up bodies of our teachers

It is hot, we say, it is burning

It is not hot, they say, it is not burning

It is the windiest day of the year and the hanging bodies do not want to hang still

But we are commanded to re-create the stories for the authoritative bodies lest they shove our heads in their feces, shove our heads into our own feces and punish us for the riots that swept us in, that drove us out into the streets to escape the maniacal murmurs of the ghost soldiers of the rotten carcass economy

And the authoritative bodies, watching all this from the luxury of their penthouses, command us to dream about exploding lakes, to dream about explosions in the sand that blow off the feet of our enemies

A voice says: you are dreaming of rows of dismembered soldiers and you are there to catalog their disembodied feet

I take a foot in this dream and shove a big toe into the mouth of a bureaucrat and I say: how does it taste, what is it like to hold this enemy toe in your mouth and lick it and lick it and lick it

And the blood splashes out of the bottom of the enemy soldier legs and a creek of blood grows and travels up to the sand dunes and in the distance the power plants and steel mills of Indiana are telling us there will be nothing and there will be no one and there will always be nothing and no one

And they tell me to drink in all that drips from the stumps and now I am not in the dream and the authoritative bodies play Brahms and they play Miles Davis and they close their eyes as they listen to the music that accompanies my cocktail of tears and pus and skin

My muddy eyes all muddy from the dirty Barbie dolls they shove into my bleeding eye socket

The emblem of a nation shoved into my eye socket and I cry and cry as my head is crushed between two hands in the blood bathroom where the fluorescent lights never go off

And the authoritative bodies ask the guards:

How many fingers can you shove into their corneas, their pupils, their irises

And the guards lodge their nails into our eyes and dig deeper, through the retina, through the fovia, the choroid and when they can no longer prod any deeper they shove coins into our eyelids and give a good punch to the coins jammed into our eyelids so that we won’t forget the value and necessity of their love

And they beat us and they tell us they beat us because they love us

And they love us and they beat us and they beat us until the bureaucrats command them to stop loving us

To control another’s body, the bureaucrats say

To know that the body is yours, that it can be crushed or loved or molded into a new body

And suddenly the prison guards become happy and there is commotion in the bathroom, in our torture chamber, in our tentacular, flowering bathroom that is flowering and flowering into the waves of blood and salt that flow into and out of the privatized beaches, over the privatized dams and under the privatized bridges

This is a dream song about sewage waste flowing and bodies steaming and bleeding and bursting into the liquidated waters subsuming and subsuming the privatized carcasses of dawn



Daniel Borzutzky’s books and chapbooks include, among others, In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (2015), Bedtime Stories for the End of the World! (2015), Data Bodies (2013), The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011), and The Ecstasy of Capitulation (2007). He has translated Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks (2015) and Song for his Disappeared Love (2010), and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (2008). His work has been supported by the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pen/Heim Translation Fund. He lives in Chicago.