Readings — From the January 2013 issue

Knowledge

Download Pdf
Read Online

By Gordon Lish, from the fall 2012 issue of Salmagundi. A new edition of Lish’s novel Peru (1986) will be published next month by Dalkey Archive Press.

I do not have to do this, you know. It is not mandated by government, you know. Nothing forces me to say what I will — or shall! — you know. It is, rather, my means of giving back to “the” community, of one’s seeking to perform usefully, even munificently, in the — well — in the modest manner that might, on occasion, by a dues-paying member of mankind, be accomplished.

Like the alliteration I just indulged myself in.

I mean (heh-heh, see?), I could have gone farther, or further, mounting a montage of even more ems, or, if you insist, em’s.

Dub it my bearing, my engaging existence at what is judged to be a depth deep enough but not so sheer that ostentation ensues. To be sure, taking the flyer down, as I had just done in the course of my stroll back (in return, as in effectuating a ritornello) from the bakery, ripping the big sheet of paper from where it had been plastered to the lamppost, made me a degree uneasy on this score.

Was the deed too showy?

What were the chances I was being observed?

I do not believe neighbors — residents of my building, that is; tenants, that is, legitimated denizens enjoying the privileges of tenancy herein — saw me at it: to wit, my exerting no little effort to rid the streetscape of the big sheet of paper without my rending it into pieces, and then (failing at this, failing not thoroughly but discoverably clownishly at this) to remove the duct tape that was wound around the topmost and bottommost margins of the thing, tethering the whole of it — a poster, a poster! — to the lamppost with, as the poet has proposed, a vengeance.

Yes, perfect, perfect! — that’s the fashion to express it — vengeance, vengeance — vindictively.

The bastards.

Oh, I imagine the doorman must have caught me at it, mustn’t he? For he was there when I, not many strides from home, maneuvered to aim myself toward him, this worthy’s massive hand on the brasswork, the whole of him at the ready to see to it that his master’s motion not be made tardive as I glided past the good fellow into the lobby and thus into the warmed air thereinward, gaining ground ever so fluidly onwards and, thereafterwards, whilst awaiting the arrival of the elevator, calling out to the chap, perhaps a dot too cheerily, “Ferdy, have I greeted you on this merry Flag Day of ours? If not, then to you, Ferdy, I say let this day be savored as the merriest of them — i.e., Flag Days — ever, that is!”

Alas, the cunning son-of-a-bitch must have seen me at it.

Jesus Christ, what now?

Too late, too late! — the big sheet of paper crushed into parts — hidden, hooray, successfully hidden! — squeezed, as the ghastly shreds were, down into the crease of my coat pocket, a grand patch-pockety affair commodious to a fault. Whereas to the other side of myself, employing no more than the chilled tips of my fingers, I held aloft, ever so deftly, the loop of the sack in which were composed the bran muffins I had gone to collect from the pastry shop so popular in this particular (hmm, particular!) precinct of ours.

Wretchedly sorry.

Did it again — the pee’s repeated.

Really, it is the awfulest tic, I do actually quite admit it.

Oh, how not to concede that sometimes — nay, “oftentimes, oftentimes” — (as the crude, as the untutored, as the reader cannot yourself but have noted, have lately taken to saying) — if, if, if there is to be parsed the natural policy of this reported reflex of mine, this, you do see, from the lowlier view, there is thereby to be beheld, it is granted, a practice vicious, murderous — for the sake of the effect (i.e., for effect’s sake) — or (sake be cursed!) for worse?

At all events, I am restored to my habitation now: bran muffins, not yet unpacked, resting in their sack on the kitchen table, I seated (or situated) on this frail stool, inscribing for your entertainment the day’s prescribed confession, concession, you — this is the United States of America! — choose.

For this is what this is.

And so forth and so on.

Did I, Gordon Lish, have anything to do with the matter mentioned on the flyer? Or, then, call it “public notice,” if you wish.

Rhyme, rogue rhyme — hah!

(Not entirely, isn’t it, un-akin to “ah-hah”?)

The very thought, the very idea, the very thing of such a thing — willikers!

Let us first recognize that it has been years since the era when I was other than a mere pedestrian. The “public notice,” howsoever, if you still will, appertains to a “motorcycle accident,” does it not? By Jupiter, dearest forerunners in the celestial circle — a motorcycle accident, oooo, brrr.

There is no comma between attention and please read. Nor is “occurred” spelt correctly in the sentence we are looking for information about the motorcycle accident that occured this past sunday in this area.

Do you see?

Look again.

Make certain you have seen.

“Occurred” is not spelt like that, is it?

Well, for your information, it’s not.

Plus the lack of a comma between attention and please read — it’s a fucking flouting of the fucking rule — revealed, revealed! — unless the unruly, behind my back, have long since prevailed at what the tireless mob of them will never cease to resolve to come to prevail at — at, namely, at an undermining; at, namely, at a conniving, this with the overruling of the enfeebled estate of sense — the filth, the filth! — forever asquat upon their program to bolix the shit out of whatever they’ve yet to bolix the shit out of, whenever for even a whipstitch a person’s all too trusting humanistical bent has been turned away from the thuggery currently in charge of the forms.

Oh, people!

Why oh why are people so sickening?

Have they no shame?

Old as I am, I am pledged to bring to a graceful denouement my use of the municipal pavement, whatever spirit then remaining to me superbly freed, thank you, for the furtherance of the edifying of the up-to-the-instant class.

Them and their loathsome equipage.

(Or is it they?)

The rest is rich.

Get this: we his family and friends want to find out what happened.

Did you get all that?

Here we go again, every blessed particle of it a promulgation sponsored for what’s left of us to go ahead and construe as Gordon Lish’s not ungrudging treat. Yes, yes, yes — do please play the forgiving reader and do one more time try it, if only for the giggles and, heigh-ho, the anguish.

Elided commas?

I am counting a total of two of the type, right? we his family and friends want to find out what happened.

Then there is a telephone number.

Plus one of those — oh, God! — email devices.

That’s it.

The whole story.

Except to ask — for the decency of my community, for its bloody battered decency — shall this cruel business ever be deemed to have come to a proper end, lest, of course, the last of the duct tape be torn from the lamppost precious steps from where one — no, no, no, from where I — a citizen, a citizen, you do realize! — struggle, struggles — eloquently, with patience and eloquence aforethought — and in perfect innocence — to live?

Besides, since when do I, your duty-bound pedant, venture forth, on a Sunday, to fetch fiber for the bowels?

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $45.99/year. Or purchase this issue on your iOS or Android devices for $6.99.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Single Page
Share
undefined

More from Gordon Lish:

Readings From the April 2000 issue

Act

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content
Close

Please enjoy this free article from Harper’s Magazine.