In the beginning everyone looked like Larry Bird
but everyone did not have the name Larry Bird
& this was confusing. Everyone had a headache
& walked around with furrowed brows. Headaches
hadn’t been invented & when people described the pain
they said: An angry Larry Bird stands on my neck
& my head is Larry Bird after missing a layup.
Even the babies were the size & shape of Larry Bird.
Since everyone looked like Larry Bird they avoided
extravagant events. All the clubs shut down, no one
could watch a Larry Bird dance without understanding
that they danced like this, pursed lips, flagellum legs,
arms like wild fire hoses. The real Larry Bird retired
to his basement. He wore magnifying goggles
& built watches of smaller & smaller dimension.
He built watches so small that he needed a microscope
to affix the springs & levers in the right places.
He built watches so small that he called them cells.
He built watches so small that he called them atoms.
In the beginning everything I said exploded. I would say I am holding a glass of ice water & the glass of ice water would explode. I would mumble to myself Where’s my cell phone & hear a small boom in the bedroom. My first word was Daddy. After that I didn’t speak for ten years.
I tried to use my explosions for good. I said shuffling feet & never heard that scrape again. I said crooked politicians but the next day there was a new batch of them giving press conferences after the memorial services. I almost said nuclear warheads & then decided that this might be unwise.
I made lists of words I could not say. Words like oak, mother & pills. Words like journalists, femurs & workers. I would walk around with my buddies after the bars closed & once I forgot & said That Dan Rather is a respectable news source, huh? & everyone froze & my buddy Sutter punched me in the shoulder. It took two weeks until there were new newspapers. I told my fiancé I loved her & just like that the love was gone.
In the spaces where the things used to be, in the craters left after the explosions a new kind of mold grows. It grows orange on some days & yellow on others. It grows quickly & always toward me. I’m not sure what will happen when the mold reaches me but I hope I will be brave. I hope I will not say mold. There is so much I shouldn’t tell you. I know your name is Seashore. But your name is Animal. That’s my name too.
A little boy cut a circle
out of yellow paper
& this became the sun.
The little boy laid
a sheet of blue paper
on the floor & this
became the oceans.
The little boy cut
a daisy chain of people
out of paper & hung
it on the wall & this
It was nice for a while.
The people were happy
to just exist, they liked
the sun & the oceans,
they liked talking to people,
they liked how the wall felt
against their backs.
Eventually they tired
of hanging on the wall.
They wanted these things:
to swim in the oceans,
to tan on their backs,
to talk to more than two people.
They passed their plan
along the chain of people.
On the count of three
they would all pull their
arms & legs in, ripping
them all from each other.
On three they all pulled.
It was the first ripping sound
the world ever knew,
this world used to cutting.
It worked. The people
fell from the wall. Some
fell in the oceans, waterlogged
& sank to the bottom. Some
drifted near the sun
& burned up. Most fell
on the earth, but realized
that they were paper
& incapable of mobility.
They stayed in the spot
where they'd fallen. Those
lucky enough to have fallen
near each other talked constantly.
All they talked about
was how they missed the wall.
There was a bunny with a broken leg
& a mink with an empty stomach,
Somehow they coexisted peacefully
& were able to create the world.
When Hollywood heard about this
they sent a team of idea people out to meet them.
The idea people were so crass
that the bunny & the mink uncreated the world.
They drank up all the oceans
& hairdried all the clouds.
They knocked down all the mountains
& flicked the switch that turned the sun off.
They sat together in the darkness
neither one really knowing what to say.
The mink leaned over to the bunny,
put his paw on his friend's shoulder,
said: Well it's been a wild ride
& bit the bunny's throat out.
In the beginning there was a book
but every time a villager read the book
it meant something different to her
than it did to her friend or her mother.
The villagers fought over the correct interpretation.
Mothers ripped earrings from their son's ears.
Children stuffed their parents' mouths with gauze.
Priests bludgeoned bakers. Twins disagreed.
Eventually someone decided to throw the book
down the well, but when she picked it up
a shower of keys fell from its pages,
each key labeled for a particular villager.
There were no locks at that time
so the villagers took their keys home
to their basements & garages & built locks
& locked up everything they owned.
They locked up their houses & bikes first.
Then they locked up their drawers & their pockets.
One villager built a lock for his mouth
& then another built a lock for his eyes.
Years later a team of scientists in white coats
discovered the village. All the villagers
had locked themselves completely still
& only a few sneezes revealed that they were alive.
The scientists radioed in for a team of pickpockets
who stole the keys from the locked villagers.
But even the pickpockets could not be of help
because none of the keys opened any of the locks.
-from Destruction Myth
BIO: Mathias Svalina was born in Chicago, where his parents were both chemists. He is the author of five chapbooks as well as five collaboratively written chapbooks. His work has been published widely in journals such as American Letters & Commentary, Boston Review, Diagram, Jubilat, and Typo. He has won fellowships and awards from The Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, The Iowa Review and New Michigan Press, among others. With Zachary Schomburg, he co-edits Octopus Magazine and Octopus Books. He currently teaches writing and literature in Denver, Colorado. Destruction Myth (Cleveland State University Press, 2010) is his first book.