numbers of the bEast


(for xPulver and the Joe-skin It wears)

Certain things bookmarked with fingernail clippings–

  • I’d read my bible, growing up in pews
  • I remember a prosaic light that used to push through spotted half-clean windows and smear all over the hymnals, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” already stark and atavistic long before I saw that film made long before I was born all long before I met the bEast who was in that film, many films, hiding behind everything, drooling into the score
  • I knew the number of the Beast because I was told it would be carved in foreheads and branded on forearms to mark the enemy–
  • I knew there would be much gnashing of teeth, and wailing
  • The preacher sighing and moaning, his spittle flung from his mouth and hung so briefly in the crackling air, raving at us to be saved
  • And after church, just big enough my mother didn’t have to hold my hand in the churchyard, the gravel spitting under my shoes, I’d look up at the sky and imagine yellow, the sun pissing itself into the cloudy latrine, and Something looking down that had not heard the name God

I didn’t know then it wasn’t about the color, though the bEast was yellow. The bEast leaked that same sweet urine smelling of glory like punctured bags of box wine. Sticky sweet. It was about the sky being a glass dome clutched in the bEast’s hand

And at some time the bEast had dropped the globe, cracking it, and Its face pinched in anger the petulant ancient Child wept and sought to punish us–

  • (My life passed. The first half slid through my fingers easily as clean mountain water, cold and bright and I loved every moment of it.)
  • (Oh, I remember the tastes of fine food. The feel of veal blood washed down with dark red blends. The feel of shoulders against mine, the taking for granted of comfort, and solace, and the flicker of TV on my face. Money in the bank. Rainy days.)
  • (The taste of a good whiskey had never done it for me, though I appreciated the smoky amber artistry.)
  • (Love in my heart, her smiling at me, she cut her own bangs sometimes. I will miss this the most, when He (or It) comes for me.)

On a day that had been marked on its grease-smudged calendar for long years: It (or He) sat on an airplane, its skin uncomfortable in the tight coffin space. The kindly face It wore, boldened by a brush of white mane on Its lip. It tore a line across the sky, cracking the dome again. The bEast stepped down from the plane into a hall into an atrium into a sun-shocked day that went cloud-ridden and pasty when it saw the bEast. I wasn’t there but it was like a woman in a white coat squirting a solution (a problem) into a petri dish–blood cells fleeing from the thunderhead.

The bEast had sung to us for decades, in songs we tried to listen to without worms swelling in our ears, such beauty squirming between the lines

It walked, then,

–chorales shaking the sky, static, then pianos, a bank of pianos and a scratched clarinet, an upright bass laid on the peak of a low foothill, violas and chimes and birdsong and sinners (those sinners my preacher had shouted in from the edges of town) breaking their vocal cords and a single woman with the voice of a harp–

It walked, It shattered the sidewalks on Its quick plodding way to me. Cars and gasping semis rusted and blew gaskets under Its gaze. Dogs dreamt of wolves. Flowers did not wilt–they bloomed and grew tropical. He (or It) breathed deep and kept the air for Itself, all the clean we had left, locked in ballooned lungs.

On my street (I still didn’t know, didn’t see, how could I have with my curtains closed and the quiet thrill of life still humming in my eyes) the bEast stooped and picked up a rain-swollen and time-ravaged Book it had dropped there when the asphalt had not been laid, when hooves had never drummed these patches of earth. The Book of Me. It drew a fingernail from between two pages and inside my house I forgot the day I lost my virginity in the dirt

Then:

  • A blunt finger served its last purpose, pressing the doorbell, mine
  • A chime I had never heard before
  • A shuffling to the door, as though my feet knew and could not fathom how to tell me
  • A removal of Its person skin
  • A meeting or, no, a reintroduction
  • A welling of a dawn of knowledge–there is no number of the bEast, it is that I am A number of the bEast, I am on the cusp of being told this,

(It’s there on the doorstep, on the porch, on the rim of the earth, as I open the door, and the great dome high above has sealed itself, and the bEast opens Its (or His (or Her (or Our))) mouth and I look inside of it)

(((I crawl inside of it I crawl inside of it I crawl inside of it I am crawling

(((It is beautiful here

-don’t believe it when you read THE END

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