Maldoror, Suffering From Kidney Failure, Tapes his Weekly Television Show

A still camera films a face that is looking straight on. The room is beige and the camera does not move. The face starts to speak:

Hello and welcome! This week we'll begin with some premises, a few facts about myself:

My body is coated in a hard sharp hair. I have a hooked barb instead of a penis. My face is a sandpaper desert. No matter where, you will bleed to caress me.

I'm sorry. I don't know why I say the things I say when I'm on the tv.

Let me start over: This is a situation comedy. The situation is that I'm dying.

I used to think dialysis was dial a sis. I thought it was some kind of cross-dressing sex hotline, not a washing machine for blood.

I will break this machine and wash this whole office with blood. I will stain this carpet to have left some kind of mark somewhere, some big fading illegible blot.

I probably will not do any of the things I say when I am on tv.

We will open your mouth with a crowbar and turn it into our hiding cave. I'm the star of this program but I'm sick of you people seeing me. We will live in your molars, I mean it.

When I say 'we' I mean me and the other characters on this television program.

When I am on tv like now I say whatever I want to say because the tv will make it true. That man with the barbed-hook penis lives in the camera man's mouth, someone will say. I heard it on tv they will say.

I really will build a fortress of lost and broken off teeth. I promise I will, using carpenter's glue. Please send me your toothsome envelopes. I live at 273 North Street in Buffalo, New York. We will build it together if you want to come over.

I might tear out your kidneys and try to tape them into my side or glue them into my side with carpenter's glue.

Whenever I am on tv is when I talk this way. I promise this is true, like everything I say on tv.

I am the main character in this situation comedy. The other characters are a chair with eyes and a squid that looks more like a jellyfish. The other characters I drew with my own one hand.

I will draw characters on the outside of your kidneys if I get my hands on them.

I will mark up your kidneys so bad that your blood needs a good long cleaning.

We can watch old video tapes of Richard Pryor because after all this is a comedy.

I will draw the other characters in this tv show all over the front of your camera and pull out your teeth and kidneys and build things out of them and draw all over them.

I will pull the pieces out of you and leave myself all over them.

We can laugh at the comedy videos on the television screen.

My face is a beautiful scrap of sandpaper to make love to for a camera. This is a situation comedy. Next week: my spurting catheter malfunction that will ricochet, if you send yours, off my wall of donated teeth.

So again, your teeth. Send them please to me and may they fall out in droves for my using.

So until this time next week, good night and good luck!


Mother Tongue

We're speaking of your tongue, how it regenerates, that you cut it over and over from your mouth, how the blood pools in the cave of your lower lip until you spit it out and parcel us your tongue in strips. You use your front teeth then, them a sieve to strain the blood, to shift its path to ground. For the time after, you like to sit listening, sometimes humming, while we partake and take to speaking of your tongue.

For speaking of your tongue of course we use the other tongue of yours, your language, that called-tongue not eaten.

Tongue growth takes an hour and then, again, you can scalpel us mouth muscle, lay it on the skillet, season neatly with lichen and onion grass. I collect the water from the rock trickle and the twins set to scavenging what growths can be gathered. I collect also your spat blood in the blood pail for boiling to broth.

We're speaking around the constant fire that when you spoke you called 'eternal flame'. We lit it from the dregs of the last of the gasoline pumps. This was when there was still canned food and you would call the daylight 'school time' and cage the twins in the metal shopping cart. School time was when you pointed and spoke and with your fingers would help me right my mouth. Later, the twins came also to speech and I was called Teaching Assistant or TA or my last little TA and it was good that those days you kept my hair a length for tousling.

I'm telling you this because you ought to hear how I remember the time between the times your body fed me. I know that then was when you felt most mothersome and tenderhearted. You should know I know you past your meat.

But you see Mother, the twins, the twins who came late to speech and never into proper names, the twins have cast their votes together as always. And Mother, I fear you ought not to have passed on democracy as a part of our inheritance.

After the first growth or miracle, when your tongue returned (though we all saw it flat on the floor, severed from your seizure biting), you said, 'You see, your mother is indeed a saint!' And on the second accidental bite-through, you again were so happy to feel it re-grow. 'God knows,' you said, 'I've still some things to teach!'

But you must admit that your tongues have taught less and less since the food stock ran out. We agreed then that the places for tongues are mouths, and we agreed also that slicing was worth an attempt, and then it returned and you spoke of your 'prodigal tongue.' We cheered then, all of us, remember? The twins and I gave praise in hunger as you braised your tongue on the fire.

It was one tongue daily for each of us for some time after, until our growing required more cuts to sustain us. Now you only reserve a working tongue for the lecture hour. Do you not see your progression to silence? This change is only really a continuation.

We took the vote while you were sleeping. And as the twins are two and I am only one, well, who was I to vote at all? Your own vote, beside my held-tongue, could not have saved yours, so I felt no compunction to wake you, chose instead to let you sleep in peace.

But now is no longer time for words.

Now is time to open wide.