after A Moveable Feast
“Just write the truest sentence that you know,”
says Ernest, coy of his pentameter. Scott’s lost
in another loveless bender, the wine too strong,
or else the conversation. Two friends, writers, men,
in the most flamboyantly seedy café on the Left
Bank. Scott can’t get past the second word: “Write.”
“Zelda’s leaving,” he mewls. “She has every right.”
His lake-blue eyes fall. His Irish lips mouth, “No.”
He pounds the table. “If she goes, I’ll have nothing left.”
Ernest is having none of it. “Sober up, Scott! You’ve lost
your head! You know I have nothing against women,
but if they poison your work, you’ve got to be strong.”
Scott’s storm-grey eyes lift. “I never learned ‘strong,’
Ernest. I haven’t fought like you have. I only write
and drink and go to party after party among idle men.
I…” He trails off. “There is something you don’t know.”
He coughs. “Shortly after we met, when you were lost
in Lyon–” Ernest interrupts, “You mean, when you left
me in Lyon!” His barrel chest heaves. Scott’s left
hand trembles and he sets down his glass. “I had a strong
desire to find you,” he continues. “I wanted to… I’ve lost
my words.” Ernest swigs his wine. “I get it, all right?
Zelda says you can’t satisfy a woman. But you know,
there’s more to being a man than satisfying women.”
Ernest stares as Scott holds his breath, then the men
both drink. “You know,” says Ernest. “You’re left
sometimes with a great, terrible emptiness. You know,
sometimes you love one person, and the love is strong,
but then suddenly you love two people. ‘Is this right?’
you ask. Well… Is it?” Scott’s bog-brown eyes are lost
wandering over Ernest’s powerful forearms. “Get lost,”
scoffs Ernest. “Let’s both go back to our women.
And don’t tell Miss Stein about this. She’d write
it and make it into something.” He stands. “You left
your notebook,” says Scott. He grips Ernest’s strong
wrist, crocus-violet eyes pleading. “Ernest, don’t say no.”
Ernest lifts Scott onto the table, mouths pressing strong, lost
in each other’s scents. This is why men and women write ––
to know the truest beauty beyond what truth has left.
after “Sunflower Sutra”
I walked on the banks of dazzling, unbearable madness
until my trembling mind’s eye opened to the sick cosmic
tincan of America and I sat on the dock and cried. Jack
Kerouac sat beside me and said, “Look at the Sunflower.”
The oily river was dead grey. O Moloch, you are the master
of this angel wasteland! No fish in that stream. No howl
of any mongrel yelp scraping in the blessed gutter. How’ll
we go on like this? Starving, naked, consumed by madness
and prodded by the rusty coil of machinery. No master,
no guru, and no god in this celestial restroom! No cosmic
gloryhole! My companion said, “Look at the Sunflower.”
My friend, brilliant and beautiful, but blind. I said, “Jack,
no flowers can grow here. Jack, I am amazed by you, Jack.
Jack, your labyrinthine excavations of masculinity howl
rabid and limp like a unused prick. There is no Sunflower
in this broken pile of ancient sawdust. This radiator madness
of ten cent greasy hamburgers and heroin. Did I say I’m cosmic?
Have I mentioned my visions? Blake speaks to me, master
of seraph-heads, Blake sings and I cry to god as I mastur-
bate! O yes, Jack, do you know I think of you when I jack
off, Jack? Your chest undressed and male like a great cosmic
Christ. I dream of your unripe perineum. ‘O Jack!’ I howl,
‘O Jack!’ and the hot gyzym erupts like enduring madness
and stains my hands. You are wrong. There’s no Sunflower.”
My companion smiled. “It’s not that kind of Sunflower,”
he said. He stood, hands on his hips like a young master.
Was this a hallucination? Could my unmerciful madness
be displaying a vision of this quivering, square-jawed Jack?
“To be understood completely implies a vacuum. How’ll
we fill that, Allen?” he said. “Aren’t you a kind of cosmic
queer?” He turned away from me and touched the cosmic
wood of the dock. “Allen, just once.” O, my Sunflower!
O, how I loved him among the condoms and pots, each howl
of “clasp me” and “drive it down” and “please master”
echoing forever. This moan! This body of tenderness! Jack!
I fingered you in solitude as pure and sparkling as madness.
Unholy battered old thing it was, my Sunflower. O Jack!
O my soul! I loved you then. Your cosmic madness
a bleary spike. How’ll I forget? Master please let me be.
after The Screwtape Letters
My dear Wormwood, I note that your patient,
Mr. Lewis, has become a Christian storyteller
after a series of late-night dialogues with his fairy-
tale-writing professor friend––the one with the pipe,
what’s his name? Mr. Tolkien? The two share ink,
do they? Good. Imagine what else may be tempting
to share between distinguished men. Tempting
to think about, isn’t it? Come. Look at your patient
and his friend up late in their armchairs, ink
dripping from their respective quills. Storyteller
to storyteller, they dream aloud, a direct pipe-
line between inner worlds. Neither one a demon,
there is nothing to fear from the fanciful fairy-
realms they create alongside each other, tempting
small transgressions from daily life. A weed-pipe
expertly sucked by an avuncular, ever-patient
grey wizard? Who could resist this storyteller?
Lewis is addicted to the flavor of Tolkien’s ink,
and to the intellectual intercourse of their Ink-
lings. One hardly needs the vulgarity of a demon
to nudge such a friendly, imaginative storyteller
to the other side. Lively conversation’s tempting!
Look at the placement of their hands. Be patient,
Wormwood. Do you see Tolkien offering his pipe?
We may not need to do much here. Just pipe
down and watch as Lewis licks his ink-
moist nib. Oh my, it appears your patient
is getting warm. His face is red. Is it fairy-
magic, or good old lust? Intellect’s tempting
to anyone, but especially to the storyteller.
If he wishes to be his own life’s storyteller
all he need do now is remove that decrepit pipe
from Tolkien’s lips and kiss them. It’s tempting,
but will he do it? You’re young, but I have an ink-
ling he will. He changed religions for this demon-
creator. So fierce, your lion-worshipping patient.
A-ha! Your patient’s straddling Tolkien, his pipe
broken––tempting to clean up that ink. Success!
Two fairy-story-tellers in a most fantastic embrace!
Illustrator: Eowyn Evans is an illustrator, photographer, and graphic designer inspired by gender play, erotica, natural science, and the occult.
Jade Sylvan is the author of Kissing Oscar Wilde, and also a poet and performing artist based in Cambridge, MA. Read more about Jade's work at http://jadesylvan.com.