Their Ugly Spirit

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IT BEGINS WITH A GUNSHOT WOUND TO THE SKULL.

I had no choice except to write my way out of that ugly spirit and into this beautiful soul. Full of junk. Full of insects. Full of murder. If the living can have a kind of knowledge of…, love of…, memory of…beautiful souls, then the dead can have a kind of knowledge of…, love of…, memory of…their ugly spirits.

Freedom, in 1936, is a $200 monthly allowance. By 1959, the book, the desert and I, belonged together. I turn degeneracy to decadence, bound to the paper weight of word by time’s binding force. I’m a vagabond – the interzone, my bliss. My habit and final fix.

The kick is freedom. But if you asked someone why they were a narcotics addict, the sick fucking dope feigned would tell you “so that I can get up and eat”.

Accidental manslaughter. I shot that bullet too low, drunk and playing a sloppy round of William Teller, a highball glass balanced like an apple on the head of…her name isn’t the same, anymore. With no person behind it, it’s a meaningless negative without spontaneity. A negative of a negative.

The trouble with happiness. You expect it to come and then it doesn’t. Here, in the interzone, war never ceases. War is peace and peace is war. The less you see of it today, the more you’ll see tomorrow. The problem is, you can’t make people see.

In the dim glow of the half-light of a lower east side zen boarding house window, hipsters and lushes mournfully gather around the loose papers of several manuscripts: Junk, Queer, and Yag. By the end of the session, they all get mixed together. 

In my life as a writer, I threw out at least one-thousand pages and these pages were most certainly among them. I haven’t the faintest idea how they survived. It is dubious to me and will remain so.

It doesn’t matter where you start reading now, the lovelier memories of her have become interconnected vignettes. That’s how I remember my wife with the hole in her head, as someone you can know more now than when she was alive, as someone you can write towards, as an indelible end and so know, absolutely, that it was the end of her.

If the soul is just an electromagnetic field that activates an organism, then you are no more your body than a pilot is the plane. Consciousness is an accompaniment. And we, us all, are soft, wishing machines.

By the end of it, I get too high and pass out in the bathtub for a while. The cap I just did makes me vomit into the toilet, my stomach rumbles, trying to hold down a bottle of grapefruit juice and a bottle of milk – which is said to help settle the stomach.

Numb and out of touch, out of contact with that ugly spirit of mine. The stink of hallways as I leave the building – the smell of other people is hell. Or is that just me that smells of piss.

I sit in on a set at a queer bar and order a glass of icy clear vodka stained with coke, just to be out. The bar is so full of queers that they spill out onto the sidewalk.

I shouldn’t drink liquor anymore, it burrows holes in the heads of the ones you love. And if you drink a beer every hour for two weeks, it will kill you.

There is some relief in knowing that a dream was a dream, but there is no relief in knowing a blackout was a blackout. I must have drank more than I thought I did because there is a period of time that I can’t remember any of the intersection points, the synchronicity that makes up a story.

Musicians tune their equipment in the foreground, turning knobs and hitting big loud Stravinsky chords. Laughing with the woodened face bartender. Talking a blue streak. Drinking bottle after bottles like automatons.

Jazz is the sound of a more visceral object, withdrawn to a place and withdrawn to a time that takes the sick feeling right out of a junk neighbourhood running on junk time and replaces it. Replaces it with a place and time that belongs to the qualities of the instrument as much as it does the player: It is where a piece of forged brass is lung blown to life; or a dry skin is stretched taut over a drum and hammered by wooden forearms; it’s a just voice made electric; or a hollowed out tree trunk with fingers thrumming copper coil strings; the tension between the white and black score all smashed together. Not sound out of silence but sound out of noise.

When you have a hole in your skin that’s waiting for junk, music makes the nausea easier. It always had this effect on me. There’s something brain change about it. Something just in our nature.

Keep a distance and your soul will stay beautiful. There are inhuman places that a person can fall into, where the claustrophobic sky of closeness is too near and you have no way to wise up or out of the bardo but to be what you already are. A monster in a trap, with no exit except through another monster, the same as you. But there is not another monster like you, is there?

You just can’t put a prohibition on a state of being. Even if the states want to arrest drug addicts for being drug addicts.


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I’M IN MY STUDY IN NEW YORK CITY, SMOKING A STICK OF WEED AND TRYING TO WRITE A DREAM.

The typewriter is a parasite, waiting for me to press secret buttons, to unlock the file cabinet of the mind. Dreams and drinking nightmares.

I’m out of phase and throwing off the whole damn show with the blast of a handgun. A punctuation like an interrobang. A howl in the horrid night. A Naked landscape, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every horizon.

The obscene manuscript, more alive than you or I, was reaching adolescence. It had been raised on wicked love. And gave the impression of a deep depression and an even deeper danger.

The real black meat isn’t heroin, it’s the junk that inhabits every cell in your body. Junk sickness takes everything. Gives nothing. The picture, of course, looks different when your on it then when you’re off of it – it has a different angle. One in which life is the murderer.

Old junkies went wrong, got time or packed up and left the states. In the infinitely curving body of the naked landscape – the American dream dreams us out of it.

And wherever I go, there she is: Vollmer, and her hideous gash, leaking inky blood into my paragraphs, gushing out black clouds of insanity around the edge of her face until the blackness spreads to cover it. She wanted to be seen, when all I wanted was to crawl away into the chaos of another page.

If you believe in telepathy you know that it is a two way street. You can’t just be a sender of outgoing information, you have to also be a receiver. Maybe that’s where the American government and there attempt at mind control through synthetic drugs went wrong.

My eyes roll back in their sockets. We went too deep, together. We sipped too heavy, together. My tequila fingers teased the trigger that morning, in Mexico, when the sun didn’t rise in me any longer.

I loaded bullets into the firearm. Our friends, they laughed. We were beautiful souls, then. Before I fired. It was beautiful. You said you were so doped it wouldn’t hurt if it hit you. After I fired, the devil took you. It was uglier than any experience, it was clinging and raw and exposing all the same gold that was now gone in you.

The thick glass of the tumbler, elegantly balanced on your poised head, dropped and rolled heavily on the floor. Thud. You, crestfallen. Without your expression changing, your softly sunken benzedrine face hung together. Biting  your lip with marvel and sadness.

I was accidentally alone. Carelessly, alone.


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2 thoughts on “Their Ugly Spirit

  1. Definitely a cool, hard piece of writing! The spirit of Bill Burroughs is alight and flowing through the keys of your typewriter. Joan is there too, and you just knew they weren’t going to make it on their Texas weed ranch with Huncke shoveling and Kerouac stopping by. Nervous with Neal Cassidy bouncing around in the background, yelling about the lousy transmission of a car that had been new once. Unraveled and destroyed in the glowing mixed-up madness of one more Benzedrine blasted mind…Til next time, I’ll be hiding in the shadows…Damaged Skull Writer

  2. “If the soul is just an electromagnetic field that activates an organism, then you are no more your body than a pilot is the plane. Consciousness is an accompaniment. And we, us all, are soft, wishing machines.”

    Nice. And that last beautiful line has some truth to it.

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