by Lito Elio Porto
Alive it covers itself inside the modesty that is its survival, behind the gruff bark, meant to dissuade penetration.
A sweetmeat, and once severed from the rest, we suck its fiber for juices, the ensuing intoxication we call warmth, or solidity, or home.
Stronger than our thigh we learn to kick with it. We massage it with acrid oils, applying make-up to its corpse. We stroke it and hide behind it from the wind, or one another. We pray for it to crackle with dryness, and acquire the contagion of fire. Once ablaze, we ensure its contagion does not escape the deepest crevice of the home that is the hearth itself. The rest of the home must not see that madness; it must not know how brilliant wood can be.
A forest is the first calendar factory. Inside each tree a series of shadows, without light, circular lines demarking the heft of every winter, the jubilance of every spring, the satiated tedium that is summer, and the inevitable fall. Each woody column a testament to the ability to endure – if only for a while – the ravage of a difference that will not end and will come again.
Like perverted children we fall it just to look inside, to feel perhaps less lonely, to find a mirror to concentric, barked-up, defoliating – sometimes flowering – selves. On occasion, we forget that we had to invoke the wood’s death to be able to look inside its act of living, and see how long it had lived, what had perturbed it, and when. This happens inside a forest, which is where most wood can still be found, when you arrive with a blade.
Braided strands recall a hanged uncle, the chair kicked out by his own steel-capped boot, a casualty of his own war, or the ropes that hold the drifting ship tight in a harbor it may only know as a firmer form of fog. Holding to that port in a meridian embrace, finding among the mists of port-rot an inability to produce its routes, its halts.
Goodness emerges when let loose, adrift in the wind lost from its origin to the smell of crimson leaves and evaporated glances. Evil stills when condensed up where haloes belong, buns bunched up hiding the flaxen fruit, taunting the boiling core to come closer to itself, to where it is said that things really happen.
Out it comes without remorse or rest (even, morticians say, during the final set of dreams). Inside the larval lobe the incessant regurgitation, the quieted mind an ultimate vermifuge, unable or unwilling to stem its final progeny, born in a moment of darkness that knows no sin, a moment nocturnal, hyphal. Out and out it comes, the silk of apes, the fur of vermin, in thousands of muted tendrils, polymerous, immemorial. Hair.
LITO ELIO PORTO is based in Austin, where he teaches literature and writing. His publications include critical essays, political essays, poetry, and fiction, with recent work appearing in Diagram and Sleepingfish. He has recently completed a book-length manuscript, Outfitting Emptiness: Energy, Ecology, and Meaning. [email@example.com] [leporto.net]