June/July 2004

and you realize

Kurt Newton

and you realize you have this big roll of duct tape and you’re taping up the seam of this thin plastic wall like a liner that runs underneath the grandstand of a huge stadium

and you realize the seam is breaking apart so you keep taping and you can feel the tape getting sticky in your palm from the friction heat but you keep running the roll down the seam as the wall buckles under your touch

and you realize the seam is coming apart but somehow you’re managing to keep up and hold it together rolling the tape even faster along the joint amazed that you’re keeping the two-inch wide strip in line with the seam as it runs down and underneath this stadium-like structure unconscious of how you’ve been moving along with the seam at first perpendicular and now nearly upside down the tape rolling in one continuous strip as if you have the ability to defy gravity like a fly crawling along the ceiling or a water droplet hugging the underside of a glass fixture perhaps trussed in some harness like a construction worker on a special rigging

and you realize the roll of tape is getting lighter in your hand approaching its cardboard core but the seam still has many more feet to go and it needs immediate closure or else the entire structure will collapse and so you watch as the tape winds down doing its job to the very end and you have no other choice as the tape ends and the cardboard falls away like a spent booster rocket but to dig at the skin at your wrist and begin to pull and to your utter amazement your skin begins to part with your arm and dispense its wet fleshy mesh along the seam as substitute for the tape and you feel nothing but relief that the seam is staying put and utter horror that it is your own skin that is keeping it that way and yet you continue to paste yourself like a strip of human wall paper as the skin peels up your arm and across your chest and down the other arm and back up again across your back and you can feel it tickle as the air moves closer to the nerves and yet you continue to paste and close the seam careful not to push too hard against the surface of the wall as it curves forever downward until finally you run out of seam because you’ve reached the very bottom of the underside of the structure and your flesh tears free and like a gymnast you flip in mid-air and land on the surface below with a hollow clunk your workboots meeting rusted metal

and you realize you’re standing on the surface of an immense metallic body like a submarine or an overturned ocean liner whose surface is afflicted with a pox of domelike boiler plates riveted into its skin and you begin to walk to try and find your way out of this strange under-the-grandstand like place before the tape fails and the structure above collapses and it’s like walking across an empty battlefield

and you realize as the steam brushes up against your raw flesh it burns and the more you try to avoid the drifting clots of mist the more they seem to anticipate your movements

and you realize you have no idea where you are or where you’re going or how to get back to where you were before you had the roll of duct tape in your hand and you notice that for every domelike lid there is a dial and a valve and you reach down with your skinless arm and with your hand you grip the valve and turn it slowly at first and then more quickly as the needle begins to rise until it reaches the farthest end of the dial and you begin to do this for each domelike lid you encounter running from one to the other as the wispy clouds become great jets of steam shooting out from beneath the rivets and the whole world begins to rumble and the soles of your boots rattle against the metal surface and your body jitters and you begin to shout at the world above at the belly of the great plastic bowl you were assigned to save and you try to scream above the rising din to whoever might still be listening that you have given all that you can give and now its time to take something back as the first of the boiler-like plates explodes lifting high into the air turning in slow motion until it hits the underworld above and tears a jagged hole in the thin plastic sheath and then another plate launches and then another and another in succession and as it rains metal and bits of plastic you simply stand there in awe as the steam surrounds you and your flesh burns away and the weight lifts leaving nothing but your shoes to hold you down and even they begin to melt as the surface of the metal grows too hot to stand upon and as the laces catch fire and the leather sears away you feel yourself begin to rise above the cataclysm floating effortlessly between columns of falling debris pushed aloft by the rising heat

and you realize there is nothing left of your body but a phantom outline like an invisible kite and you float away from all the mess and all the noise and all the world above worlds and under worlds and you drift high up into an empty sky and you look down and see nothing but smooth blank surface like a skin stretched across the planet

and you realize nothing lasts forever as your bones begin to regenerate and your organs fill the empty hollows and your flesh starts to spread like putty and your skin returns and you feel yourself falling gradually lowering to the surface below and you can only wonder where it is you will eventually touch down