[The Flenser; 2018]
“It isn’t necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you to be unmasked, it can do no other, it will writhe before you in ecstasy.”
– Franz Kafka, Zürau aphorism 109
To speak about pain is not to be pained. Where the “not” is spoken — not to be pained, to not be pained, or to be not pained — itself is pain, the pain of being unable to speak pain. Pain is irreducible to a language in which, as soon as it is transposed, it is no longer pain. This is the pharmaceutical language of healing: Speak pain and you will no longer be pained. As are Drowse members Kyle Bates and Maya Stoner, I am more interested in the utterance: Speak, pain.
To speak pain, to speak about it, let alone to sing it, this is impossible while submerged in that peculiar pain we call depression. To speak pain assumes that there remains self enough to speak. Is it possible while trespassing the curtain of sleep to whisper what you saw there? Or does the world simply dissolve and one day you awake asking, “Where was I?” (If you do awake…) Depression is the slow erasure of self. Pain replaces you. Pain speaks you. Which means there is no speech, only: “Was silence always this loud?”
Kyle sings wistfully, “The way it blankets my mind/ It’s hard to describe.” On the same sleep song, “Klonopin,” Kyle and Maya sing wispfully, “With slowing heartbeat, erasing the self beneath/ When it thaws slowly, is that me?”
This is an old house, a cold heart. There is a dream that I remember. And though I never remember my dreams, I am afflicted with a quickening of the heart.
Quickening: “Death Thought surrounds me: not death untimely, a wasted life, the bad person quickening inside of me. ‘We taste anxiety.’” Anxiety: a quickening that exhausts itself, a silent scream, the impossibility of facing your fears, because fear stole your face.
There remains a trace of the self that pain erases, but only in the panic and terror of a thought that never spirals to completion. A wall. A heart frozen or else breath hastening toward asphyxiation. What is behind this wall? I am running now, down the musty corridors of this heart, this house. I hear the whimpering of a child lost in shimmering darkness. This thought, is it the darkness, or the whimpering? And this house, this heart? The mold, the rot, the moths plunging to the flame, alight in their own iridescent dust and death. How long has this child been trapped within the lagging decay of a life continuing on without them? How strong are the walls that trauma erected to endure its hunger? Or were the walls raised to exclude trauma or the thought of trauma? Is this the fragility of memory?
But: there are cracks. In the cracks, there are songs. What do they sing? Pain, sing. And, pain sings:
“I’ll be where you’ve lost yourself.”
“In your emptiness I swell up.”