Mal de Barquement
by Jake Owen | August 20, 2019
Wow, I’ve been on the river a lot.
Still rocking despite dry land for hours.
Back and forth, back and forth and forth and round and up and up.
Up to where?
I’m greeted by three towering silhouettes.
They leer, gnash their teeth and creep their fingers around my face until their fingertips taste my mouth.
I shut my eyes until they can no longer hurt me.
I call back to them through a tunnel of mushroom-shaped neon trees,
Let’s get this over with.
Terrified, I open my eyes, body stiff and brittle.
But the hands that creeped were coaxing all along.
Relieved beyond belief, I curse myself for expecting the worst.
They show me to their vessel and up to the feathery canopy we go.
But as we meander up, tectonic shifts beneath my surface have me brittle.
Magma melts, lava boils.
I vomit. That is all.
Now up in the trees, branches break and reconnect in an eternal dance.
And this network is transporting woven carriages.
Occupying these carriages are the most evasive of creatures,
once a glimpse is caught, back into the entangled forest they retreat.
Are they afraid or mocking?
No. Inquisitive. Wondering what to make of the foreigner that I am.
Once a decision is made, they flock towards me.
Still evasive, but at a higher frequency.
And in the glimpse of their presence they offer the fruit of their life.
My mouth erupts with feeling, not sweet nor sour but something else.
Once the resonating taste resides
My stomach falls and heart shudders.
Oh, how foolish have I been.
For once I’ve eaten theirs, I owe them mine.
And mine I can never find, not even for myself.
But they’ll find it, that’s why I’m here.
They strip layer after layer until just a hollow case remains.
And with the last layer gone, they expose a locked safe, deep in my chest.
No trouble cracking it, they brace with me now, for the darkness will escape.
I will be revealed, released for us all to judge.
But as my chest bursts an empty hollow is revealed,
Except on a shelf lies a scatter of dust.
This dust is me.
In a breeze of feathers, I am blown out of myself and dispersed into the trees.
Into the trees, not amongst them.
I join their composition.
Dispersed yet connected by this fluid labyrinth.
We soar with no burden of individuality
left far behind along with any desire to critique.
So instead a body that was once mine cracks a smile.
And on the inevitable return, euphoria gradually pulls me in.
The smile I’m feeling is presented from the past, so I shall continue to wear it.
The smile of a mind drawn from itself to engage in the world connected.
Feeling not thinking.
I will no longer have to curse for expecting the worst.
But be grateful for no expectation, just engrossed in
what is real, what is now. ∎
Words by Jake Owen. Illustration by Léa GdM.