Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
About This
How to Submit

Gone Lawn 4
Summer, 2011

Featured painting, Steakhouse Grand Opening, by Daniel Dove.

Featured Excerpt & Review

Daniel Borzutzky

The Mall

They found the bodies on the street and took them to a shopping mall where they left other broken bodies. They filled the trucks with bodies and threw them on the curb and said find other bodies to take care of you now. A man with a guitar played the song of the universal water it was bubbling and full of blood and when you drink it, the man sang, you will understand that when your body was broken it was broken not only for your own good but for the good of the city, the state and the country. The man sang sweetly and as the bodies crawled towards the door of the shopping mall they heard on the loudspeaker a mechanized female voice announcing that today there is a sale on absolutely everything. Everything must go said the mechanized voice and as the bodies crawled towards the entrance they heard a mother trying to convince her teenage sons that they need new sweaters and the boys said mother we don't need new sweaters what we need are rifles and handguns and the mother said yes we can purchase those items after we find some new sweaters and the boys kept looking at the bodies, searching the bodies for eyes as if to tell them that in Chicago they keep the concentration camps in the sale racks and so we followed the boys and their mothers and watched them try on sweaters with zippers and v-necks and the boys kept looking back at us and we followed their eyes because we thought they were the only thing that might save us.
The bodies slithered along the floor of the mall until finally a security guard stepped on our fingers and said if you are looking for the other bodies they are busy at the moment testing products which will soon be revealed to the public. He said we have many products for you to test and he spoke into his walkie talkie to request assistance and when the orderlies arrived they entered the identification numbers of the bodies into what looked like a holy book with a dark red leather binding. They wheeled the bodies away and tested them with a product that made us sleep for a long time and in such a way that we could sense our own bodies murmuring; we could sense gas and vapors escaping from our lips and a voice said to one body what color do you prefer and the body said I prefer the absence of color and they said very well then let's have a little lunch and they sat us in front of television screens and we watched ourselves sleeping from various angles and they said eat this and placed bitter-tasting black masks over our faces and an authoritative body said what state do you want to live in and we said we would prefer to remain in Illinois but it is cold here and they said if you remain here we will tie your feet from a bridge and you will dangle and bodies will come to you to search inside of you for other bodies. We said Wisconsin then or Indiana and they said the bodies there are similar but not quite the same the murmurs are different they are softer and with foreign inflections. And so they decided to take us to a particular state at a particular time but before we left they examined our teeth for mold and microorganisms and told us to bite our tongues. Bite your tongues, they shouted, harder and harder until they dangle between you lips like limp little worms and then we will let you rest, they said. We bit and bit into our tongues and looked on the television screens for the boys and their mothers but all we could find was a mechanized voice reminding us that in everything in the mall was on sale.

The Water

First there was water. It overtook the streets. It overtook our homes. It was ambitious. Next there were looters, hooligans, rapists, thieves, killers. They waited for the water to go down before they began their circuits of terror. We started hearing about them on the radio and on the televisions we watched when we were lucky to find some shelter and electricity. They had spokesmen. They said they were from the past, that they were reenacting the work of the looters, hooligans, rapists, thieves, and killers who came before our time. They mentioned England in the 17th century. They mentioned pillaging Ottomans on Greek Islands. They mentioned the Aztecs, the Spanish, the Mapuche, the Burmese and some saints whose eyes were poked out. They claimed to have no intentions other than to survive. Their spokesmen were interviewed by journalists from around the world. The journalists followed them with their questions and cameras. Here are the homes they are looting. Here are the looters in action. Here you can see them assaulting a man in the dark. Here they are assaulting a family in three feet of water.
The looters were not scared of the water, or so they said. They said the water was natural and the looting was natural and when they came to our homes, or so they said, they knocked first and apologized for the intrusions but of course our homes were empty and there was no one to hear their apologies and if there were people to hear their apologies then they did terrible things to them that at this moment I won't describe.
First there was water, then the looters, then a split in the looters' factions. They argued over territory, make-shift boats and rafts, weapons, food, etc... In short the looters did themselves in when they could not figure out an appropriate means to divide their power, and the journalists covered this. They showed images of the war between the looters on their nightly news programs. We watched from our shelters, looking for our homes and bodies amid the water, the refuse, the fallen city, the squabbling looters, the sludge, the cameras.
Then there were soldiers. They came to clear away the water, to clear away the corpses, to clear away the looters. They fired when we entered our homes. They fired at us when we went for walks or searched for the bodies we once knew. They set up the dormitories and arranged for the doctors to treat us. We were crowded into trucks and buses and dropped off at the various dormitories where we would sleep. They opened the doors and said find yourselves a cot. They brought us to an empty building that used to be a health club. There were dozens of rooms and in each room there were dozens of cots. You can imagine the scene that followed. Bodies trampling over each other to get to the cots. Bodies falling over each other, punching, shoving, biting, and stabbing to ensure that they would not have to sleep on the floor. Gunshots from the soldiers echoed in the sauna, in the hot tub, in the locker rooms, in the basketball courts and through the loudspeakers we heard: order, order, order. There were doctors to treat the bullet wounds. There were soldiers to take the dead bodies away.
This is what I remember of the day they brought me here. I found a cot and attempted to die in my sleep. But it was impossible to die and it was impossible to sleep because of all the laughter. Soldier laughter and doctor laughter. Child laughter and parent laughter. One old man, who lived in the cot next to me laughed so hard that he fell off his cot and had to fight with another body to regain it. He squirmed around on the floor, laughing, literally trying to die from laughter. But they would not let him die from laughter. He laughed and laughed and when the laughing would not cease a soldiering body came to him and threatened to slice of his hands and tongue if he did not stop laughing. More laughter. I will slice off your hands and tongue said the soldiering body but in the end he could not find a sharp enough blade so he filled the mouth of the laughing old man with sludgy foam, clumps of dirt and worms and leaves and pus and bloody bandages and hair and all the refuse he could find on the floor of the dormitory. Fill your mouth with little angels of laughter, old man. Fill your mouth with laughter, old man, and laugh until the moment of peace.

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVox, 2007) and Arbitrary Tales (Triple Press, 2005). His translations include Raúl Zurita's Song for his Disappeared Love (Action Books, 2010) and Jaime Luis Huenún's Port Trakl (Action Books, 2010). His work has been anthologized in, among others, A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years (Fence Books); Seriously Funny (University of Georgia Press, 2010); and Malditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA (El billar de Lucrecia, 2010).