Cult of Infants [excerpt] – Michael Savignano

You left the bar all smiles, rustling passed the scrambling punk band soundchecking, false corybantes in orgy of black jeans, chains and keychains, carabiners like janitors, crackles of microphones and cords in black gorgon knot, and out into the dirt garden where the picnic tables rowed and lines of blinddrunks squeezed into viking long benches, and plumes, black plumes of cigarette smog sitting overhead like cartoon clouds, and everyone was depressed and happy, carving knives into the wood. You left the bar all smiles, in your elbow ripped cableknit sweater, belting the melody with the belgian girl who hated cheese with uncharacteristic vigor, and arms round each other and stumbling, and whistling, you and your cableknit sweater and that belgian girl who drank with such tiny sips, and her eyes were kinda far apart, and she said the only painting she’d been compared to was a picasso, but you didn’t think that was true, and you liked the curve of her tongue when she said ‘silhouette.’ The city was sweating in night heat and pulsing concrete, you fell into a restaurant and drank wine with ravioli and hunks of wild boar, and the belgian girl said ‘you know, melancholy isn’t a uniform.’ You’d been to brussels before, and you should read Kye, but you should read Tarr, and she hated obscurantism in art, but you talked about the cryptic works of the neoplatonists and Pico’s magic Florence, and you argued over why people write and paint and it turned somehow to Michelangelo and his sculpture of Bacchus. She was slurping noodles, like a child with that quick vacuum sound, and ‘we should have gotten Vietnamese,’ she said under the flickering bulbs of copper light, watching the passing shades move in the blurred mirages of stained glass. She wide-eyed smiled at something dumb you said. It warmed your darkness, so you ordered ice cream and coffee.

And he was dead slumped over, bus bench of maggots and scent of apocalypse. Seven Eyed God, and all the signs accounted for, white-sprayed cursive smear on the mirror, on the vodka advertisement. And he was slumped dead over.

Screech of traincar halt and smell of sparking metal, and the keys wouldn’t work on the front gate, so you waited curb-smoking for someone in her building to happen by and open the door and you snuck in and unraveled. Low dreams and sleepless night in sheets snapping from the mattress, sitting on the floor by the ashtray and the barenaked bed, and she showed you pictures of coyotes and riverbanks and rows and rows of olive trees, tule elk barking loud and looking otherworldly, feral spirit druid, and old traincars in grainy black-and-white 35mm, and shallow ponds of algae, with light feathers adrift on the filmy surface. She rested her head on your cableknit shoulder. Roses in dust and rotting flowers in bubbling winebottle water, redwine night with the citystreet steaming and the june hills coloring the skyline, and she smiled lovingly with her widespread picasso eyes. Thumbing through a few handsome-bound books like artefacts at the bedside, and she was speaking frenchdrunk to her mother and ‘it was morning in Charleroi,’ she said in hushed whisper and she gave kisses to her phone, and said ‘Je peux… sentir le café..d’ici.’ And the kisses made you feel warm, and how melancholy’s not a uniform. Hot fog outside, as she finished up her call and in the grime soiled windows you saw your face and hers, like Meunier’s drowned-dead Ophelia. You could tell she loved her mother and she missed home, and you had been to belgium once, and the cigarette smoke like a drifting stormcloud, but you saw more turks and drunk english footballers than belgians, and you didn’t hear flemish once while you were there or at least you didn’t think so, but it was pretty in the main square, and golden and imperial, and you bummed on the floor of some friend so you didn’t spend too much, and hung out with a redneck from the ozarks and some italians, and she was bit homesick as you rambled on about brussels ‘not having much character.’ She poured gin laughing and fell into you and the sirens started to whirl and roar and the streets filled with blind noise, noise of the many, and she fell into you, wide-eyed and staring right into you, over the hissing sounds of the violent fog-red night, and staring right into you, she fell into you.

And he was slumped dead next to the sizzling onions and jalapeños and the set sun pink night, with the drunk teens ordering hot dogs, and his wet corpse sagged like a body after machinegun fire, with skin looking flayed and grey. Sirens howling, not for him. They flew past in scarlet neon blaze. It reeked of shit and the sizzling onions wafted in the air and could be smelled three blocks away. A siren call.

Shaved cubes of cracking icemelt and juniper bouquet of unfinished gin beside the bed and it all unraveled and the next morning, sunrise broke through the bent shades and rested on her curled leg, and there was a single freckle there like an island in an ancient sea of soft skin. And you traced your finger down her torso and towards the freckle like a sailor through jagged rocks of scylla and charybdis and you kissed her and rested your head on her sunny saltsea and she rubbed your head, twirling your hair like a virtuoso in the morning light, with linen sheets in a serpentine chaos form, and nothing made sense exactly with all the photos all on the floor, and empty cups and the smell of gin, city sounding like honey. Soon water was bubbling in the kettle and morning was quicksilver and slate wet and frigid after the hot night, and the tea smelled piney and she asked what you planned to do for the day and you gave her a shrug, peeling an orange, and thought ‘melancholy’s a uniform after all,’ like a shuteyed fortune teller.

“Bench’s been hosed?” “Yap.” “Third this night alone. Bad week.” “Yap.” They removed the cone and cut the bright-orange tape, piling into the truck and driving off. Piling into restaurants and cafes, they drank outside beneath the palm trees, and poking succulents, coffee rings on the driftwood cafe counters, as the workmen removed the tape and the bright-orange cones and piled into their trucks, you couldn’t smell the onions, but the coffee roasting was a pleasant chocolate odor, with kids skipping in the street to the hub sounds of the passing bicycle.