1. Little Pine Eye
In Collodi’s original tale, the unborn log feels the burn of the scalpello, crying out. Some endure chisel and adze just to look human. We massage the grain to soften it to flesh, but the termites are already in. The nose dry-rots off of the face. Carpenter ants take off with our lips shared in their pincers. Pray, fantoccino, that some blue, asphyxiated fairy will hear your mulch of tears hitting the earth floor and pity you, grant you mortality. Pray you live long enough to die a man. How many paths to that eternal forest fire? Choking on an acorn or boiling in your own sap, soul divorced from stump, but take comfort. Recall that fire is a miracle, the gift of Prometheus who, like Film, stole light. Fire blasts your shadow into sudden cleansing drama, a flood of shine into a darkened wood.
2. All the Electrical Secrets of Heaven
The lab apparatus goes like a Catherine wheel, slinging its chips of light. “The body isn’t ‘dead’ if it has never truly ‘lived.’” Hogwash. Every fragment had its day. Now they rest, waiting. The doctor and his cripple rob the graves. Frankenstein throws his spade of earth in Death’s face. And the creature! A flat-headed numbskull, a droop-eyed ghoul with one sunken cheek. Laborattoir tally: the lives of a few rabbits and dogs. Daisies tossed into the lake. The trapper stumbles, mouth slack, presenting his sopping offspring. The toothless mob gathers, calling for death. No wonder at such anger; their sky is but a wrinkled backdrop; their roles but pomp and prop. Strickfaden saves nothing, resurrects everything. Raise a glass to the Hollywood ending: a son to the House of Frankenstein (A living one this time).
3. Creature of the Night
The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975
I crashed the theater tonight and popcorn flew. I thought I dreamed the picture; it melted like a tab of LSD and everybody loved me. A monster flexed like Flash Gordon in gold briefs. I tore off my disguise and leapt before their screen. I lost my virginity in the back row, my stitches out and all. My girl (I guess she was a girl) sang out to bless her soul, so I did. I sucked her earlobes and spluttered cool. By then Sarandon’s eyes were as big as my fists. She made love to the monster! The doctor died for glamour! See—?
You people break the laws of science for love. You slay each other with pickaxes for love. So I’ll make every one of you love me.
The Elephant Man, 1980
My head, but not my head. A knobby pumpkin spinning on a pole, a Harryhausen puppet. Putty, sticks, and wire. My greatest discovery: the latent medical anomaly: dyscephalus. I coined it myself, “the disorder of extremities in which the subject’s head, seemingly attached, is clearly not the head belonging on that body.” Lately, I’m devising means to shuck it and release this handsome, sweating face beneath. A slow melt, revealing the actor embedded in all that wax; or yank a stiff corner of gauze to unwrap the death mask; or else worms to eat away the outer onion. Medicine is messy. O head, dear head, throne of sense and senses, you hateful helmet! Why can’t I pull you off?
5. Rebirth Is Always Painful
Today we play the meat card. The sticky. Today innards uncoil like vines and seize you by the ankle. The best elixirs always glow ever notice? like teenage lightning. We bless the syringe and push into epidural space Flush of bioluminescence: hormone geyser: phosphorescence Howling like a newborn, dragged back from the cold and liquid Afterworld for another go at breath, a second death. Today we press some flesh. Today we peel up the toenail. Ancient question: when dead folks walk, do they know poetry? Or is it all just hunger, brains, and meat? Don’t fool yourself—a zombie does feel pain. It’s the pain itself that has ceased to hold meaning.