The Propagandist

The Propagandist woke up,
tangled in his tattered
blanket, and patted the
floor looking for his
spectacles, the ancient pair he
has repaired countless times with
bits of wire.

Long nails of light punctured the
boarded up window and
lasered the dusty air.

“Work to do…”
he muttered,
“work to do…”

The room was tiny,
forgotten, hidden; he
was safe here.  Other than
the blanket and urine jar there
was only the Machine.

“Work to do…”

He climbed on, fitting his
feet to the pedals, lowering
his bony buttocks to the worn
seat and leaning towards the
old microphone, suspended
by a coat hanger.

He began to pedal, grimacing
at the pains in his joints.  A
series of chains and sprockets
connected his pedals to a small
generator, which was in turn connected
to an ancient radio transmitter.
He pedaled, the tubes glowed
electric, his sallow face became
sheened with sweat.

“What a mess…” he whispered into
the microphone, “it will never work.  Is
this really the job you want?  What if it’s
the best you can do?  And you know, she doesn’t
really love you, but who could?
Everyone else has a better life than this…”

He strained against the pedals, his
face a skull of concentration.  The tiny room
smelled of hot wire.

“What a mess…” he whispered,
“you must be exhausted…”



When I got older I
came into some money – it was not something that I
expected – it didn’t really matter, but,
there it was.

I didn’t need anything at that point –
I got it into my head that I would use the money for a
cranial autopsy.

This didn’t sit well with some people,
argued that I could give it to charity, or
give it to them, but by
then I had learned to live without
other people’s approval.

I don’t know what I expected,
it’s not like I’d learn anything – I’d be
on to the next thing.

I’d made up my mind.

And so, one day I
went.  Not in my sleep, like
I’d hoped, but in the late
morning, while reading a book, which,
believe it or not,
was fine too.

First, my scalp was drawn back
like a blanket on a bed, then the
comical little buzz saw.  The
medical examiner was doing the
work, the student watching, preparing to
see, for the first time, the grey
cauliflower that had once made me
who I was.

God damn.
The student tried to be alert, not
knowing what to expect.  The
medical examiner’s face was
grimaced in shock.

The bees moved slowly, like
sleepy children, not
used to the air and the
light.  One, maybe the one who
wrote the odd poems, took off
and flew in erratic circles around the
fluorescent lights.  Then

The doctor hurried to a
phone on the opposite wall, and the
student absently dipped in a
finger and touched it to his tongue.

I wish I’d been
there to see


Do me a favor

If I lose it –
and you know what I mean –
if I become a
stranger to myself, and
to you,
do me a favor –
don’t talk to me about my
history, even if you believe
it might strike some tiny match of
memory: don’t tell me that I once did
this and that, wrote poems and stories,
played in a rock & roll band, any
of it.  Don’t make it worse.
Tell me that I was born in that
room, and that as
rooms go, it is perfectly
Introduce yourself as a
friendly stranger, and
make sure that I have
one good book
I can read



And it tells me something.

It tells me that I was right, that
I have a precious secret, that
I am a changeling, that my
doubts were forgivable mistakes,
that my confusion was, in fact,
clarity, and it reminds me of
things forgotten but not lost,
and it soothes me like a mother I’ve
never known but always

And it is the one mirror that
is not distorted, and it is the tool
that fits in my hand, and it is the
found clothing that fits as if
tailored for me, and it is the
letter to me in my own handwriting,
bringing me good news from the

And I weep with joy.
And by tomorrow I
will have forgotten

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