Sisyphus and the DSM IV
By Jules Vasquez
Reading the DSM IV I am looking for my father I am not Abraham’s echoing plea at the dull judgement mask of the sky I am not Kerouac who should never quest the railroad earth when Leo rots in the ground I am reading the DSM IV like divining like a Rorschach like inkblots like Ouija sometimes I throw dice across pages looking for his symptoms and only finding my own I am fourteen and have my first Tarot deck the cards clumsy in my hands and already the Fool already ready to laugh at the shivering wet void in my chest there is no place in a Sanrio diary for this there is no faith that this will not bleed through the wounds of Christ has nothing on your first cramp it will be twenty years until I put pen and blood to paper that way again it is like peering into the silk surface of an oil slick briefly black rainbow on a summer day it is like seeing into a rippling void skin of suburbia sometimes I want to slip under its surface and drown sometimes Pink Floyd is in my Walkman Time hits the alarm clocks as the sun rolls through the window there is no explanation for it synching up just that way it is a conspiracy all my own mystical as railroads vanishing echoing deep ragged wild into the night some nights I laid between the tracks and waited until the trains barreled in both directions ears filling with rusted roaring blaze going half deaf closing my eyes covered in grit gravel stone I practice the rotations of the grave its positions I plan my funeral its display its aesthetics its pattern its depth of five elements after all if everyone has to go might as well put on a spread I have no intention to hurt myself on trace the curious bones that move beneath my skin still growing I dream of my bones with an unforgivable desire I dream flocks of crows whorling through my ribs as though caught in a hurricane miraculously kept alive though exhausted but satisfied after all they feed from the mouth of discord and chaos they lift me by the bones through the hallucination dim sky they lifted me through each shiver void stratosphere the heels and toes of my All Stars scrape rings like blacktop disrupt orbits all of this is normal I am a Muybridge horse impossibly caught in the act in the Principal’s office again I am a lead dirigible motionless on a trek dragged violently up I have to grow up I will instead grow bent I am fourteen flat almost all over and hoped I’d stay that way to escape the descent out through the cycle I bloom late and curse it forever my crush is into the Tibetan Book of the Dead we both hope we may escape the process peacefully in our sleep that we may stay firmly between satyr and nymph before nature curved her bone needles into us each month after her first she gave up it was a game to her she’d announce her condition with a laugh quoting Julius Ceasar I didn’t give up I am shorn haired my best friend the only punk rock girl in town did it one afternoon with a pair of house scissors I loved it immensely we’d even managed a long aesthetic fringe to slide gracefully to chin I am a tomboy with bloodied knees from roughhousing but not with boys I can still walk barefoot across the Northern California asphalt on 110 degree days if I had grown up with an eggshell mind I knew I could always find a job as a firewalker in the circus what is good for Medusa the Red Hot Chili Peppers and MTV is good enough for me it reminded me of a kid game where you open the yellow pages and dare each other to crank call one time someone called back and I hadn’t known what to do reading the DSM IV is like you want to answer the phone but are afraid to when a symptom a sign a divination a figure in the vulture’s innards before its blood turns black I am looking for myself for the page that will explain the helium in my stomach when I look at my best friend’s older sister nobody told me that part was taken out in the prior edition that it is deleted and confidential information it is pure sign of conspiracy to me I am looking for my father in the DSM not for his cure but for his excuse his cycle his law for his explanation the biles of his stars I am looking for a way to unfold and open his origami to collate him to file him under a number and name to present him a system for a ladder to climb but I am still not Abraham howling alone at the sky my only child bound in terror under my sharpened and quick blade begging now to use it instead on himself no I am still not Abraham it is my job as an only child it will always be my job and it’s failure is mine and not his the burden Sisyphean the same way I read the Bible starting with Genesis though I know I am queer or at least assumed looking not to believe but to find a way to open to pull back this was the way I could do anything I dreamt of tearing the empty vowel in God open and a drop of blood in its place I would write ten years later that the empty vowel in God reminds me of the sound of the Zapruder tape on impact with the lonely inside of the President’s skull I read the DSM the same way in the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth without a lot of planning involved he should have opted for a second draft but like He I’m still too stubborn to give up here is my diagnosis my father the manipulative animal it walks on fours it walks on two he a bestiary penned in the dark or by the blind does it matter my father paces controls holds with diabolic crush all that he can reach his appetite is not only substance but it is alchemical is process control vision and design my father wears the firm masks his decorated with bone claws and teeth his rage is the way a snake will spring at its prey poison already projectile that’s how I broke my arm I will lie about it and everyone will believe I roughhoused it too hard he is the way wild dogs can rend a pound of flesh without warning the pound for pound bite my father is a locust swarm noiseless at dawn my father a masochism saint my father the stigmata ten years later when I see the way lightning touches a peak I will say that is my father what flash what bold twisting deception until it is no more I have no such self-pity I have the stone against my shoulder dragging rough against the incline a force of gravity it can pull rend and peel the muscles with that unworldly effort I allow I am fourteen I am here to be rent and bent that year I am fourteen I decide I will be quiet I will cry I will look down I will dress for mourning I will sit and stay like Pavlov I will play dead I will bide my time I will wear the mask of easy ward easy case if a hopeless one I will let him let his guard down I will play his attack hound the sketch incomplete the verse unfinished on the next page the next or the next I will prove it without contest I will prove what I already know and my therapist can’t figure out I cannot design his cage I cannot define I cannot collate count or meet conclusion I was born in his zoo its inhabitant less than a prison more than a Spartan palace though a door closes every day he thinks I will not hear a single door slam shut every day I tell myself quiet the mind when it howls for a taste of the skin I tell it to wait its turn to feast on the enemy when it is not satisfied I offer it my own to his disgust I will desire something I do desire something and it is not him he must know already that the hands that comply today will defend themselves tomorrow he must know even a broken bone becomes a club in a primitive hand a bludgeon he knows which of us will not be too scared to raise it I am fourteen I know all this is coming already I don’t have to see in dreams or seek a crystal what I know will happen don’t have to predict what is evident to everyone yes every god even Zeus even G-d everyone except the DSM IV.
Jules Vasquez is nonbinary, queer, is an abuse survivor, thrives with a mood disorder, and is proud. Their first novel, Plague City, won the Kenneth Patchen Award for the Innovative Novel from the Journal of Experimental Fiction in 2019. They designed the cover art for Plague. They’re head editor of HockSpitSlurp, which is on hiatus but not forever. Their chapbooks include Fallout, Saints and Dirty Pictures (little m press, 2009) and Yet Wave (the Lune, 2017). They co-authored No Titles in the Bounds and The Smoke Bar with Leslie D. Soule to be forthcoming with Nat+1, and co-authored a short play Waiting for Samuel Beckett with Leslie D. Soule forthcoming with Shipwrecked Press. They earned an MFA in Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in 2016. They’ve been published a lot but don’t namedrop. Their artwork has been sold widely and even served as album covers. They enjoy cheap takeout, drone/noise/industrial music, B-rated gangster and horror flicks, and long walks off short piers.
This is their Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TrashmagickArts