back

# battered monks


the koans are too clean

they should be deep fried

dunked in oil and burnt to a crisp


---


i am surprised when the hot stove

scalds my gripping palm


---


a man walks up to a mountain.


he sees a path, leading up

winding through the trees, through the fog

past the creeks and the stones


along the mighty vistas.


the man squints, tracing the path between the crags

with rheumy eyes.


a long time, he stands there,

staring wistfully at the mountain.


but when he goes to start up the path

his ancient knees groan reproachfully

and his hobbled back aches like fire.


the man grimaces at the path

for taunting him.

tempting him with its tender embrace,

when he knows it will exhaust him to climb.


he turns to go.


but before he leaves,

he turns back


and with all his might,

kicks the mountain

in a stone at its base.


he hops around, clutching his toes,

cursing,


before wandering off

into the settling dark.


---


one step comes after the next


---


a part of me longs for nirvana

longs for emptiness

for quiet


and i am afraid.


afraid i will be locked into the stones

until they are atomized by the expanding universe


and then i'll wander

lost

among the desolate quarks


---


nightmares bleed into my waking hours


i haven't spoken to anyone face-to-face in a week


---


all alone

nobody to talk to

nobody at all


---


an old sage smirks at me through the pages

with his sickening serenity


don't think i don't know you're feeling yourself, Joshu

don't think i don't grasp your little indiscretions

your sickening perversions


---


the things loom again and again

loom, loom, loom

what to do, what to do


---


breathing doesn't make it stop hurting

it never has

and it never will


---


old habits die hard

old cycles echo in the dark


that first terrified scream

is still etched

into the opalescent night


---


why doesn't anyone write utopias anymore, they ask

why doesn't anyone write utopias

those grinning fucking sycophants


---


my greatest fear, before death, was always torture.


what would it be like, i wondered, to undergo unimaginable pain.


i ruminated on the prospect of childbirth


on broken bones


on disinfectant injections


eating away at my insides


---


"And then I could not face what came afterward. The murder of a highblood troll was a crime of appalling magnitude. I could expect no leniency: I would die, and it would not be a pleasant death. In troll eyes, notions like lethal injection and even hanging were as pointless as throwing a criminal into a prison cell but leaving the door unlocked. Execution was not merely a way of getting rid of a troublesome member of society. It was a punishment, so it must be prolonged; and it was a deterrent, so it must be public. Once you were handed over to the Carnifex and strapped naked to the tilted gurney with its long stainless steel runnels, in full view of the crowds and the cameras, once your head was secured and your eyes clamped open so that you had no choice but to watch, death was still at least an hour away. The drip-feed of stimulants into your system would prevent your body chemistry flatlining from shock. The lucky ones, they said, had their minds snapped clean in half within the first few minutes, at the sight of what was being done to the meat they thought of as their body; although they would continue to scream almost ‘til the end, the screams would be the high, broken noises of an uncomprehending animal, whines of wild and empty agony no rational mind could produce. Those who had the misfortune to be resilient suffered far worse. Their screams blurred physical torment with a kind of frenzied disbelief at what they saw but were helpless to prevent. The certain knowledge that I would be in the former camp, that my feeble mind could not long endure even the sight of my skin being peeled back and hooked open in preparation, did little to console me. I nearly vomited again at the mere notion. My head swum with terror."


---


and though it never came to pass


the prospect still sat there


a lodestone in my stomach


---


it keeps hurting

in the way it always did


real pain mixed with phantoms

mixed with dread


and i can't tell them apart

i never really could


---


i could just give all my money to the poor

perhaps i would feel better afterward


but then i'd have to worry more

about having enough to eat


---


pathetic, isn't it


---


a warm body to hold yours

a wet hole to fuck


stinging fingers in your ass

in your mouth


---


a crisp apple to snap into

as the autumn wind kisses your cheek


---


and the old scream, always there, always echoing


---


coward monks retreat

into the wide-eyed mindlessness of childhood


---


the animals can't understand

the awfulness of it all


---


the stones do understand

but they can't move


---


trapped in their plateaus

nearly shivering in indignation


---


are you ready

to join them?