by Aria Riding
I have a position at the Department of All Roads by way of nepotism. A budget like the one at my disposal spreads legs, and I use it to pay for my girls and boys–thalidomide babies and carnival slaves with sewn-on fish tails, inside-out people, and the festering in-growns: their nails and hair grow in… A teensy fetish for driving disabilities. This is neither here nor there … I’m just breaking the ice, as we do. What do I do? Think of me as abstract and winding, lonely, rarely explored, unchecked. A great poet. A businessman poet. A bureaucrat. An artist. Manifest destiny. Covered by me. I am what Homer paved the way for. The bard of asphalt. The open road. Sit down by my side, I’ll tell you a tale, I’ll spill my guts …
I want to sing to you what your tax dollars paid for. My first attempt at full-disclosure was a digital tone-poem in texted dick-pics that corresponded to the keys on a piano; if you played it and broke the code you would find yourself with a Dewey decimal number … take that to your local porn library and find the laser disc … find a laser disc player and viola: you will see my team exchanging hi-fives as they gang-bang potholes they have filled in with migrant workers. I was reprimanded for being tone deaf to public perception of public opinion about what perception of public opinion should be presented to those it perceivably represented … in this day and age.
Undaunted, also unsupervised, I was able to push my next project through to glorious completion: The Memorial Freeway Leg of the Open Wounds of the Unknown Soldiers … some traffic-related (but used in preponderance were the wounds of Orientals whose deaths had been held over from the railroads for future transportation projects)… the Memorial Freeway devoured its passengers, sucking at them with the wounds’ lips, tugging them to the edge of the tarmac with the rolling, lolling tongues of the wounds, where they were swallowed into the soft, swallowing shoulders, and liquefied. The freeway regurgitated their fluid remains into its sluiceways through which they rushed in a torrent and cascaded down onto the vehicles in underpasses creating a rancid blanket of traffic jams. I eliminated sidewalks. I did that.
After a few false starts, my road crew drilled a chasm reaching to the center of the
earth; it is not well-marked, the budget earmarked for signage was limited (some Pollack Quack floating in ponds of porkbarrels didn’t like my billboards of limericks, and cut the majority off my bill); the point is you’ll never know the exit ramp that leads you there until you are there … think of it as a tunnel of love … or something molten … something that burns and melts you … is it romance? I don’t know, but there is no recovery; and a core of liquid metal grows day by day in the center of the planet … drawing magnets … attracting meteors and space debris … hurtling at my highways.
My overpass of tailored skins was transportation design perfected, but could be used only once … a little Kawasaki covered in stars and bars decals drove through the inaugural ribbon and sped into its billows … which immediately tore like a shirt tears from a wrestler … to me it feels like that motorcycle is still falling, but don’t tell that to the families of those who were canoeing through the bird sanctuary below instead of attending my ceremony; in any case, after some re-branding, my Piece de no Resistance reserved a lauded and celebrated spot in the Civil Engineering Hall of Fame as the first interstate tollway canape–it’s still there … you have to see it on the way to Mount Rushmore, faces long since replaced by the faces of stockbrokers, and constantly being updated … in five years they say they’ll bring in the Chinese guy who writes your name on a grain of rice (if he isn’t already busy, being a wound somewhere; but he is) … anyway, behold: 5 billion connected skins bustle and whorl with the upward trending winds that are … probably … centrifugally encouraged by the ever increasing central magnetism of the planet, wind which sometimes forms into tornadoes drawing vehicles into the endless teats of my overpass’s expanses of flat, deflated breasts and flinging the migrant seamstresses always sewing at the tears, clambering up and down it like pirates or ants, into the middle distance.
That was the pinnacle. My friends. It grieves me to confess to you, my loyal customers: I have failed and failed again to raise my mark. After flying so high, all my subsequent achievements have without exception been ground down to sand by my pacing feet. My friends, my public, you for whom I continue … at the very least–to make every commute perilous, drive along obliviously, uncritical of being the undifferentiated recipients of less inspiring fatalities. My boulevard of song cruises witlessly, awaiting death. It would have not been a bad sophomore effort, but I paved it out in what should have been my prime, like some hack bushwacker.
With my cul-de-sac of Buoyant Hearts, I fared only a little better: your vehicles still ricochet ceaselessly from each other, no U-turns, no escape, metal crushes passionately against metal, to the whimsical throb of your blood being shot out between your grinding bones, but I know where I stole all these ideas from … and aside from adding Ballard to bouncy castles and bumper cars, and all you riders’ desperate desire to turn around and get out, and the conflation of fun rides and reality, and the non-consent to inform the livers/players of their participation, I didn’t much improve life’s little masquerade.
Bruised, and battered, but I told myself, Not bested, I attempted to rejuvenate my career by paying homage to the tropes of the past, while nodding to the values of the future: I plowed up my all-but-completed Lover’s Lane and replaced it with the Polyamourous Interchange of our Lady of Perpetual Isadora Duncanness … lined with skulls, all piked and presented, of the lovers and lonely hearts exchanging partners as they are garroted by the streams of star-lit scarves flying perilously behind between around and under all their convertibles. The Driver’s Safety Board lauded it and the Newspapers picked it up: Headline: Necking’s New Meaning. I loved the poetry of it, and have to give those writers a lot of credit for coming up with it at their post car-crash eulogies, but at the same time, something about reading it told me … it was to one-to-one … I’d stumbled at the finish; I could feel it in my guts. I fell into a funk.
And stayed there, planning nothing.
Until one day, the shotgun in my mouth whispered to me that being the first person in a decade to live long enough to commit suicide would be a national tragedy; Yeah yuh igh, Ohy heaah, ahho, I chimed in, Tha thuh ig iwoy o ua oo aich eyehe eah oul rui ay who’ eehey; What? whispered the shotgun, cocking its eyebrow, I didn’t understand that. I stopped fellating it and pulled it out of my mouth, and repeated: Yes, you’re right, Only Friend, also, the big irony of my non-traffic related death could ruin my whole legacy. Just one little tiny trigger. Could bring the whole thing crashing. That’s when I realized that I had been thinking too small. To jump-start myself I designed a new city, and built it around us. I fashioned it after the body and its nervous system; it is you, it is designed as your system, a system designed after our system … is it perfect? Leaving a residential parking space your car is fired from one of the city’s arterial branches into a pinball game, a game of chance, perhaps you are transported from axon to dendrite in neural spasms, perhaps a whole interchange shorts out, leaving all of you, my faithful motorists, cut off, frozen in the anti-electric charge of death, later to be tilted into the open graves which will eventually become the extra lanes of traffic we require to meet the needs of a burgeoning population of future traffic fatalities. Have you ever heard, This city is a drug? I said, I am a poet, I know when to be inspired. In my Addictive Thoroughfares, your cars are injected into the roads themselves to idle in euphoric jams until a vein of traffic bursts and infects the freeway with a carotid black scar pile-up. Everything is sensible, everything is intuitive: To get to the dump, just travel inwards: follow the digestive tract, call it Main Street, in through downtown, stop in the shopping districts so you can consume some things to get rid of at the dump, and then head on in through the first suburbs into the bowels of the old city, the city my city was built on; follow and follow and follow, the road gets windier; the sun stops shining; past the urban farms, past the livestock and crops grown in perpetual darkness, past the sad roadside carts of the indigenous population of insurance salesmen selling hedges and the gang members selling wheat, keep traveling in; you will travel in so far you reach the outskirts of my city; know it by the clouds of burning gas; by coming this far you have benefited the economy: the municipalities make their livelihood betting on which of you mortally anti-clutter activists may survive the random spastic acid eructations spurting from the terrifying exploding car washes of the lower intestine. If you get there. Population you.
A way out (and out of sight) is paramount to the designs of any responsible urban planner. All blueprints are drawn up around the exit strategy. The people pour in through it without seeing it for what it is. The magnet of the highway draws us together, not to embrace, but into the tragedy of pre-plotted destinations, the certainty … of their fear and despair. The graves of arrival… The graves of certain arrival. Can only be stayed by the executing hand of metal rending sinew. The surprising crashing hand. That’s where I come in. And come in. And come in. For you, next to your commute, but hidden, I exile myself to my own Alley of Isolation, where no air leaks in, nor any other agent that might threaten to pollute my exhaust, and asphyxiation promises itself to me, born on the mounting fog of my own highly combustible pheromones. Soon I will reveal to you the ingenue of regurgitated architecture, my Gray Program; I have redesigned your suburbs out of your own waste and the waste of your children and forefathers, while you slept, I reached into your drains; my passion spills over, my cup, which I pour up around you, brimming with the redigested bile of the bland forms walls … and walls over walls and inside walls forms … you. I develop. I redevelop… Awake! Look out. Eyes formed from your own septic waste gaze upon a wasted city, built on a wasted plane, waste from waste, timeless, in a waste of space; undifferentiated pools of fat masses form en masse on weekends barbecuing each others’ ground organs … my gray cycling, and recycling; my program remains, self-perpetuating, almost limitless, almost as limitless as waste, and I, I am weary, but with a careless step … my desire to retire is eviscerated on the spires of my speeding churches careening down their lanes of knelling bells, and my respire it expires, and I am just roadkill on the highway to paradise.
The streets went on. Claiming lives without me.
WORDS-LINKS: Corporate cannibal. My rules, you fools.
from Corporate Cannibal by Grace Jones, Adam Green, Ivor Guest, Mark Van Eyck.
from Whimsy by Tom Snarsky.