Four Days: A Cycle – Patrick Burr
January 29, 2022
Switzerland has died within me. Here I stand, enkitchenated, rooted to a mindframe.
The four recentmost dead days tested innate capacities: How far can one stretch, given what one has? Man and state and family, when presentational demands split from what action dictates, break against the same prow. To act one way and present another takes a special sort of weasel, a breed with which I of late have acquainted.
On the first of the four days I clung. The Swiss memory alive then as it once was, or it could have been if it were not now deceased. This day I passed in mourning. Grilled cheeses were eaten — not for my comfort, but as distraction from that which would become comfortable and cause me the strain of retrospection. Orders were passed for newspapers to be brought. Newspapers were devoured, then used as fish & chip grease paper. Hands became oily. Orders were passed for newspapers to be removed and seuraegitonged. Orders were passed for soap to be brought. Hands were washed. Orders were passed for portable televisions to be brought. This reminded me of what once was. Orders were passed for the channels to be set to their Me-Cook news. This reminded me of anger. I now angry; anger now me. The televisions were smashed. This reminded me that the past cannot be destroyed, no matter the strength of one’s arm (though one’s arm can influence access). This tore at my soul. This gave me hope. Orders were passed for stationary bicycles to be brought, their virtual riding paths set to Alpine. Before the bicycles were brought I stood from the chair in which I’d been sat since the night prior, the chair in which I’d fallen asleep, and orders were passed for the bicycles to be incinerated.
Upstairs to my bedroom I moved. Orders were passed for the curtains to be drawn open; orders were passed to pull a chair before the window. Orders were passed for the chair to face the center of the lower courtyard. Orders were passed for the second-strongest stallion to be transported to the courtyard, and for hemp ropes to be gathered. Orders were passed for the horse’s hinds and fores to be bound individually; orders were passed for six men to stand on each rope, the corners of a square. Orders were passed for the men to pull, to run away from the six men diagonal to them at top speed. Orders were passed for the men not to fall. Orders were passed for the men to hurry up. The stallion struggling — orders were passed for the stallion to be turned my way, so its eyes could be seen. Orders were passed for notifying me when the good part came. Orders were passed for that order to be scrapped. Orders were passed for the horse to shut up. The horse did not shut up. Orders again were passed for the horse to shut up. The horse did not shut up. Orders were passed for the stereo system to be turned on, for the audio to be maximized, for the Swiss National Anthem to be played over the whinnying and flesh-bleeding and all.
Orders were passed for the courtyard to be cleaned. The courtyard was cleaned by order. Dinner, too, was in the making. Perhaps lunch. Word came over the wire that the People were starving. Orders were passed to save the horse’s innards. I retired to the bed, turned the television to the Me-Cook news. A comedy today — the quixotic feminists, playing indie-punk songs and fighting windmills. I recalled how I dropped my wallet at the lake that day in Geneva, how the man with the glasses and acne scars and businessman’s suit had tapped my shoulder and returned it to me after himself picking it up from the split-brick path. How the man had smiled from his eyes rather than with his teeth. Orders were passed for the horseshit to be scrubbed from the floors of the stables. The violent femmes played on, screenward. An aide tapped my forearm, questioned why the stables should be scrubbed if the horses would keep shitting anyhow. I told him he was right, asked what the horses were being fed. He answered. I did not hear him, the television having spurted another bloody joke. I waved him off, told him to clean the stables as ordered. I turned the television to loud. An economic aide entered. I turned the television louder. The aide handed me a report — ten pages, he said. I read it. “So the people, you see, are hungry,” he said. “And it is negatively affecting their output. They are starved.” He pointed to the report. “Work is thus slow; output is thus down.” I ordered him to cull the herd. He said that disposing of the chaff could only push the needle so far, that it is of more value, comparatively, to teach them to work well on less fuel. I asked then why the hell had it not been done. He fish-mouthed me. I turned the television to its loudest, nodded. Addressing the first man, now: Orders were passed to clean the stables and murder the horses for the honor of public morale. Lunch that day was on the saddle.
The television was shouting. I turned it down after the aides had left. The television blatted on at a lesser timbre. They would run their country by what it is not — and in planning so they acquiesce to the madness. What’s worse when a cause is brilliantized: the name and label become the idol and run the show. To the point that celebrity and causes are intertangled, that it matters not whether one begins at the kisser or the bumtruckle. So the shit.
The TV shouts on. Here there is one celebrity. Confusion of authority does not occur. The dialogue is straight.
There have been only few attempts at crossing our border at the neutral point — their violent opposition prevents it, even in those of We who think they desire nothing else. Every society has its rogue cells. I am aware that this applies to ours. Yet detraction need not stymie Truth, so long as it is balanced. So the horses.
The Truth compels me. It cannot be about compromise. Give me Truth or give me death. My only regret is that I have but one life with which to fathom Truth.
These things I thought as I lay in bed that first day. Tired was I of clinging.
On day two I awoke late, gutsore from overstuffing dinner. On day two I rejected, pulled away. Switzerland would not sink me.
Do not confuse the thought of dying for living. I deal with beauty in the moment, never choice. Of course it is a choice to focus so. But that is neither here nor there. Rather it is All Here.
The economists relayed the data from the horse-feasting: six-point-two percent of the nation fed. And still they call me cruel. I am tired of the news; I do not watch it today, and may never again. But I presume to assume.
The output numbers, the economist continued, did not spike this morning as it had been expected they would. He recommended waiting a week before forcing judgments. I reached to my nightstand, grabbed for the television remote, knocked it in my haste to the ground. The economist knelt to pick it up, handed it to me, implored me to instruct him in the way he’d implied was best. I waved my hand, shooed him & his thoughts, changing the channel to CSPAN2. As he exited the chamber I shouted after him to fuck it; he begged pardon, and I told him to act now to boost morale, a starving people requiring sustenance to spell them. A Film Festival I inaugurated on the spot, scheduled it for three weeks from the day. The perfect timeline: tantalizing and stimulating. A reason to wake up and work. The festival a boon to morale, and a threat to itself — a revokable privilege.
The lingering economist asks what pictures will be shown; the remote breaks on the wall over his head, pitters him with bits of plastic. He hurries out, shuts the door.
Now I am stuck. Was stuck. Abed and remoteless. I moaned at the politician on the screen upon his (or her — who can tell) insistence on oil profiteering and phasing out national parks. They will kill us all, and be richer for it. I, nauseous. I barrel-rolling out of bed and onto the floor, crushing corn chips with my bare ass in landing. I, crawling for the door to the hallway, knowing that No means Yes and Yes means, when occuring alongside blood-pleasure nausea, that food is of the essence.
I reached up and turned the knob, headbutted the door open, crawled down the hall groaning, hoping no one and everyone would hear. Near were the headwaters of the grand staircase.
At the staircase’s zenith. Headfirst I tobogganed. Steep, down. Less painful than one would think. Then again, those with padding don’t think. Or think too much to forget. The same each way.
Before reaching the bottom I had an epiphany: The people are always hungry. Film festivals boost morale unconditionally. A new state holiday should thus follow. A new state holiday does follow. It shall follow.
Tobogganing recalls Switzerland. Everything recalls. Again I reject. Do you know what it’s like — What it is — to have your clarity leave you?
The holiday: It shall commemorate the idea for the inaugural Film Festival, as forged by I. No use crying over spilt soju. What’s done is done — or not done, in fact it’s not even past. Standing again, rising to the height of the ankles of the full-length oil hanging on the South wall, staring proud at the tailored cuffs, straining to recall the socks I wore during the posing-and-painting. Forgotten sheaths, foot monkeys. The painting took sixteen days; sleepless I remained, as my Father told me he had when his was painted. This was the only time I saw him smile. This on his deathbed, my place atop the echelons decided and in the process of being prepared to be established through comprehensive advertisement, within the palace and without.
At the painting yes I stared, blocking the Swiss with thoughts of Father. My ankles; his ankles. My pants — larger now than his had ever been. Dreaming, my nose torn to hell by the promise of a kitchen. Ignoring the pangs, for knowledge of what their cancellation would stir. Switzerland’s obverse is Switzerland yet. Dreaming at the painting, eyes open closed: How all around me dies. How I have a relationship with a fucking rock, a spitshined slab of concrete where a man once stood (Two men — I speak to them through concrete, oh how!). How they have become the stone (As in death the stone, as in life the body. Nothing changed but external newness). How there is naught now to which to react but myself and the ideas that arise.
Ideas of them, them. Ideas ever born of me, now more clearly than before. The onus of perception consolidated. Their dictums and edicts and diets my prerogative. Perceived. As ever here they were and shall be.
But I have not the courage to find life in life. Only have I the wherewithal to drown myself in the bath of my own choosing.
But the holiday; the Festival. Only doves have time for time. When I labor over language I am lost. Bacon I smelled, Bacon & eggs & gravy & reduced sesame oil & pineapple & golden pears & snowpies in the Atacama. More time would be had recalling dead trips to the Far West disguised by a fez, a fake beard, and the alias Yen. That time was not now, then.
In the kitchen on day two I remained — naked, face full. Brain too scrambled to acknowledge anything but more.
Day three was sickness. Too full to eat. My mind exposed to Europe as an astronaut to radioactivity. But my mind too unoccupied with itself to do anything beyond withdraw. Withdraw and deny — for the inability to connect via understanding precipitates repelling forces. Withdrawal.
I lay on the floor of the basement theatre in a blast zone of cheese puffs, stupid and calm. Ri had suggested a circus to appease the starving, poor populace, whose over-the-top reaction to the Film Festival and new holiday had been tempered, lukewarm at best. I green-lit him and his brethren to import ligers from Vietnam and okapi from Zambia. Tse-tse flies from Togo and dart frogs from Amazonia, too, of course, for expedited clean-up. Can’t return what’s dead; can only feed it to those who need feeding. Or ship it on an unmanned barge (or many dinghies) across the sea to the East, to touch land and be left to them for disposal. Animals sicken me.
As I hurtled and clanked into balance, or at least mental normalcy — fog releasing to expose comparatively more-congealed layers of fog — thoughts of Switzerland passed between me and the sky. Overhead. Jump I did not. Let live, I have learned. Better to rape yourself than be raped.
On day four old living became me. I accepted then that I would die before returning to Suisse — that I would die rather than return to Suisse. Ri relayed his inability: failed, he had, in collecting circus specimen. Ri was shot in the courtyard. I ordered his replacement, Ri, to order the opening of a fuckton of restaurants, including a luxury inn at the North Pier. Ri questioned my diction; Ri was shot on top of Ri. On top of Ri Ri’s body flopped. Fleas hopped with glee on top of Ri and Ri. I ordered Ri’s replacement, Ryeong-dong, to see to the dining facilities. He left my bedroom, returned an hour later with concerns over how the public would fund said trips to said restaurants, and whether the state had the necessary rations, and whether the state could afford the electricity and gasoline costs it would incur by running said restaurants. I told him they were dining establishments, not restaurants. He said, “same shit.” He slapped his hand over his mouth, eyes wide. I smiled, snapped, told the sly guardsmen to burn Ryeong-dong in the furnace, but first to cut off his manhood and pickle it; store it in the refrigerator until it was called to be displayed à la Rasputin on the mantelpiece above the fireplace by the bedroom’s bathroom. I smiled broader; back I was. Switzerland could live, for dead to me it was. Into bed I climbed, yawning. Midday sleep being the finest sleep.
Five minutes’ television, though, before the fall. The channel was CSPAN, and the remote was broken but for the power button. I covered my ears to the sweet nuclear songs, shouted for Ri to come turn it off, having now thrown the remote against the far wall, recalled what had happened to Ri, called instead for Ri, recalled Ri’s plight, called for Ryeong-dong, at that point only to complete the triumvirate, yelled for a guardsman, who hurried in and doused the glare, then punched a hole in the gaping black screen for good measure.
I sat up, my mind racing. I ordered him to send word to ready the helicopter for a trip to the Mountain. Cold as Switzerland it would be. A trip my advisors would warn against, if they had not been so inclined to warnings, deceit, and dissent, had not been removed from circulation. At the Mountain I would be high, able, terse: grounded aloft. Sometimes less need be said. So I will muse, recuse.
The helicopter readied; up, up, going. Deconstructed giant film screens and unerected circus tents in the city below.
Peace through peace not so kind as peace through accepted distraction.