# 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,
before wandering off
into the settling dark.
one step comes after the next
a part of me longs for nirvana
longs for emptiness
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
among the desolate quarks
nightmares bleed into my waking hours
i haven't spoken to anyone face-to-face in a week
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?