10.4 (Summer 2006)
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Mark Cunningham



They're often interchangeable, forty and forty-two. You don't discover this until you reach forty-two, but already you've gathered that Ali Baba's forty thieves or Moses's forty days on the mountain are approximate terms meaning "a lot" and "a time of preparing and maturing." The turning point comes when you find Buster Keaton's attempts to plug a boat leaking below the water line not hilarious but horrifying. Now no advertisements notice when you walk through the mall. Each summer is hotter than the last, and even in winter you go weeks without seeing your own breath.



You have only two hands. That's a cliche. You are not a computer. That's a new cliche. Cycles are starting to repeat; does that make them cliches? This is not a stand-in for experience blurred beyond individual meaning—this is experience itself blurred beyond individual meaning. Cancer fever. Lacan says that the unconscious mind is present only where it ceases. So the same will be true of the conscious mind? You know this: you can draw a self-portrait using only an eraser.



You open V-8, unzip your pants with your own two hands. It might be more fun with a little help. Then you learn that one plus one equals three. Or one-half. Knowledge: a stalk with two leaves puts them out one hundred eighty degrees from each other. When the fruit comes, slice it open. Inside lie many seeds. Or the pit. Maybe one is perfection, but you weren't paying enough attention. You don't even know if that idea came from the left or the right side of your brain.



Chromosomes line up: a tuck furrows. Lips cut breath, separate. Thousands clot Times Square; a ball slips down a poll; another year vanishes. Vertigo is never a fear of heights: it's getting sucked into the hard draw of insignificance. Try to hold. Your tongue presses a blackberry until seeds grit into your gums. You clench the tartness for three breaths, six. Then the pull through the stomach and colon grips.


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