i stack an a, b, c on his tongue
and slide it back inside. by pushing the top
of his head and lower jaw, i can close his mouth.
“what does it taste like?” i ask
he, silent, looks desperate and full at the same time
“are you hungry for more is that it?” i ask.
he looks ill, maybe. he nods his head. it is slow,
thinking stuck in molasses, thinking like watching paint dry but i turn swiftly, i have so many
“here: take this, a capital G, a vowel, any other letter you want, here: piles of semis and periods, eras and epics.”
i am throwing them so quickly into his mouth, he both the whale and small Jonah, sweating so much sweat so overwhelmed, unexpected the consequence of two elements not belonging
now sputtering, shooting out spit and foam but: “calm down,” i say, “relax; there is more on the way”
he looks violent, shades of white i associate with lightning, with the end of the tunnel, with inexplicable holiness
“you are not as big and strong as i thought you were,” i say, now shoving not just letters but words and not just his mouth but through his nostrils, “here have this: abandon, freedom, highways, morality, devastation, hurricanes, static, white noise.” i push them in, using more than one finger, suddenly prepared to use fists, “these are words you may not know,” raised eyebrows, “but they’ll do you some good, or maybe not, I don’t know who am I to say?”
he is gesturing with great emphasis, wildly even, gestures associated with frantic, with panic, the kind of things you see in pamphlets, on TV, in the movies. he has left really pale moved to limply barely vertical
‘it’s too much?” i ask “what does it taste like? tell me, what did you learn in the belly of the beast, tell me what it feels like to swallow something whole tell me which would you prefer to be, whale or jonah, and why don’t you pick just one?”
i press my fingers to his heart; there is sweating; there are wet layers to his skin now and i could stop but for the headlines, the subtitles:
“here, have the leaves changing too early is this autumn; here, all the letters it takes to spell russia being the voice of reason; bodies left like excess punctuation post-chemical warfare; populations devastating fields of food daily; here have dumpsters full of thousands of loaves of bread deemed not aesthetically pleasing for the American public – wait, you have dribble on your chin.”
i stop because he is not making too much noise now but is still sputtering is still giving back water. it’s a gesture, i think. i pat his soft malleable cheek gently.
“there there,” i say like a good calm mother, “there there it’ll be okay it’s just a lot at first, taking it all in like that really compounds the system but it’s okay you’ll feel better when you get there just let all of it settle, eventually it will and you’ll feel better.” but he isn’t standing now so much as draping himself across my body regardless of the space around him but still, i let him fall there, across my lap, sweating into my pores, looking for all the world like a dreamer
“there there,” i say softly, ”this is what it’s supposed to feel like.”