Blood Ties – David Zurawski



A body can be a jail cell, all the more constricting the more one moves around.

In distant deserts and thick woods, and in the middle of the wide-open sea.

In the deepest, darkest regions of space, and

In my dreams my blood has found me,

And left me cowering in the corner behind the bars of my veins.


I am forced, freely, to traverse this never-ending finite void

I’ve been thrown into by the calloused hands of the god of thunder,

And strapped down by an iron anchor birthed from the forge of Hephaestus.

Every step one takes is an extension on the leash of one’s bloodline

Tugging at their carotid collar.


     I am interred in a four-limbed cement room. It is held together by a shibari net in which I am enmeshed with complete strangers.

     Marionette strings from a mighty hand, (two fingers capable of grasping a child’s still developing skull), slither forth through the ether and into my skin. They wrap around, whisper white lies to my soul via my aortic valve—prying it open with malice as potent as the arsenic at the bottom of the sugar bowl.

     We are but product and party to the one-sided bargain of birth. I am tied to blood I owe responsibility and allegiance to: acting, speaking, thinking in its name. A tradition as ancient as the human race, like many, outliving its time.

     My jailers have painted this cell in vibrant colors, decorated it with trinkets to make me smile like an infant—or a pet. Just by their giving, I agreed to pay interest on a debt as heavy as a human life. I failed to read the fine print with my antediluvian eyes. Beware of krauts and pollocks bearing gifts.

     Debt holds so many things together. States and families are all kept whole, tight at the noose’s knot. It keeps this triangle stable; its tip presses down upon the small of my back keeping it upright.

     At night, I peer through the bars of this cell (or am I peering into them?). I inhale and travel alongside the oxygen that passes to-and-fro our grey matter. I can see into their dreams at night as they begrudgingly sleep next to each other, back-to-back.

     They must feel my presence. They must feel my rage, my hatred; the only use for this connection. I take a blade, and I can feel their panic as I take it to these chains. Madly slashing, they cry out with their forked tongues, tears escaping from their nictitating membranes. Why am I doing this, they ask. They have given me so much. What more could I want?

     I respond with a cry of my own. I drown out these sugary lies with a scream so powerful that the foundations of my prison tremble before it. The barriers of my cell are about to burst.

     It is then that the masks fall from their faces; they know that the charade no longer holds any use for them, for the moment. Their tongues tense up into a spear and point towards me; their tears dry up so fast even the salt vanishes from their cheeks, without a trace.

     In their combined power they produce a scream of authentic anger directly from the recesses of their bowels. Their fangs glisten. In the moonlight, I almost think that they are still smiling.


     I am engulfed in my roots. This liquid flows through me like a plague on the winds of feudal Europe, like a swarm of vermin and the microbes that inhabit them. It congeals at my throat, coagulates into a crimson millstone.

     I will go and walk down a path—one of your own making—completely blind down to the red sea, carrying this weight. Why am I doing this? Is it out of faith in your rule? Am I a knight in your charge? With every step I take on the path the meaning of this journey is left behind, vaporized.

     There is a ship docked at the wharf. There are many ships roiling in the sea. They can barely maintain their balance at the edge of this coming maelstrom. I will get on, for that is my destiny. The orders were never spoken to me, no message carried on air slipped between dancing lips and tongue to say: “Go out to sea. All must do so. Go, Crusoe! Find an island to make your own out there, somewhere in that infinity.”

      I go down this path as an infant in a straw cradle down a river.


     If I look back through these roots, I find a path of broken glass and eggshells. A blood trail from a wound shrouded in a darkness of the shade of Tartarus. I look down at my feet to find my flesh torn apart. My sole is laid bare to the bone.

     The path is meandering. At times, traces of only the balls of my feet can be perceived. I must get down on my hands and knees to notice that I have even traversed this path with only the tips of my toes. But these tracks that I find behind me are not only mine—they cannot be: one too large, the other too small.

I feel a wetness on the back of my neck

I can map the lines of your sole

Better than a print card

I can do it with my eyes poked out of their sockets

And my arms dislocated

This is how we are connected

Distance does not matter with the bottom of your boot

Stitched at the base of my head

(Was it ever anywhere else?)

The line between them grows more meaningless by the second

Every foot planted on the dirt lets me know where you are

No matter where the sun shines on the Earth below

(Can it be anywhere else?)

The vibrations could travel through an ocean

As it devoured the land it bordered

It would part in your presence by the motion

Of your advances towards my being

(You always know where I am, don’t you?)

It would freeze over, and

As your veins would tear through

Like red cracks

The sky would tear open

(You will always find me, won’t you?)

Gore would spill out onto the masquerade below

Through this veil I wear on my face

Like a tarp over a still-to-be-dug grave

Tendrils of stringy flesh and vein

Forcing their way down my throat, and

Those calloused fingers—they pull with so much power

You can almost feel with your deadened nerves—

They grip so hard I can almost feel your heartbeat


     This red liquid, like wine after a filicidal struggle, has flown all throughout this room, this home, this town and county.

     This state, this country, has been covered by your deoxyribonucleic acidic presence: it has sprayed everywhere, corroded all that it touches. My clothes, my books. My past, my present, my future.

     A scent lingers on all that my blood has infected. It refuses to not be known; it reminds me of its presence every moment, waking and unwaking; it reminds me in everything it has stained. Without it, as it claims, I would have nothing. I would be nothing. I cannot deny what it says.

     The truth of the world stabs me in the heart with a blade tethered to a string, and ties me down to the soil where I stand.