SYNTAGMA

Grublike bodies flinched under overripe robes as I passed through the flocks of faithful. They did not see me. They could not because you had decreed that I do not exist. You made the manifest light and easy to bear. We only had to love you. So I believe.

I remained breathing the Garden’s familiar glow of jasmine, moving discretely among the Disciples, not out of fear, from deference to the finality of the occasion. Like them, I dressed in concealing black garments, a plastic hood ripped around my bleeding gums. You can imagine the torments of my nights.

I had dreamed once of feeding you little strips of my flesh I would flay with a device of my invention – a combination of spatula and knife – passing them up to your generous lips, watching the blood drip onto your breasts. We had spoken of this, and I think, for a while, you would have been willing to. But my body had become something obscene in your eyes and, by extension, in mine; swollen as the abdomen of a spider, pallid and replete with infected cuts.

I had become a thing of offal and shit and so I crawled in the dark, under the furnace of the sun.

At the heart of the Garden lay a brutalist pavilion whose bleak courtyard frames skies empty of all celestial objects, other than a black moon on an irregular orbit. The phenomenon is recorded in the lost Syntagma, compelling obeisance rather than speculation and I offer none here.

The passage of twilight in these latitudes is imperceptible. Etched shadows of stone and cypress accrue millennia in a pause. They release time into a motionless instant. You walked onto a concrete platform from the level gravel of the largest circular court in the Garden; movements graven as tableaux, stages of an unnarrated spiritual journey.

Here you are eloquently prostrate, your loose robes in disarray baring your delicate shoulders and red welted back; kissing the ground while your followers wait, licentious bats that they are, as shrouded and as detestable as I.   

Adjacent to the garden is an area of scrub ground around a ruined red factory, separated from the garden by a narrow boundary ditch.

The Disciples had laboured in dust and midday heat, sore and burnt, driving spars into the ground, assembling mechanical components according to the directives. The rough ground dictated that they must be lifted with the greatest care from bearings in the backs of the lorries that had rolled up all day on the old Factory’s cratered service track.

I wake in the stench of my apartment, delirious from the night sweats that signal the onset of my prostate cancer.

I pruriently review the tableaux of the Assemblage and its aftermath on my phone. With this meditative aid I move from confused deliriums into a bleached sun of exorbitant clarity: the rent in the fabric you have taught us….

I exist only in the most tenuous, suspended sense, beyond the reach of your forgotten promise; beyond saving, since your story has been erased per your instructions. It is too early, however, to entirely forget.

To read some marginalia of the Syntagma, one might have inferred I am a revenant; some demonic fragment of this ancient, cursed world; its putrid Demiurge. Every interpretation is true.

But as I see again your swan neck and translucent face cutting your body with light, I know that my wretchedness is here to magnify you.

I thought you glanced in my direction as your voice trickled above the roar of the mob. There was a moment when my eyes encountered yours; but you did not seem to register me.

I am validated by your indifference.

Did you see me? Impossible.

You could have had me removed, roughed up, killed. A word would have sufficed. I would have acceded.

You are, consequently, the vanished mediator opened to the primal gaping and yawning χάος. You are kiss and wound: a tearing whose abject flower is love (ἀγάπη). The unrepeatable, unprecedented kiss…

There is nothing to be properly opposed to you for the wound contrasts to nothing, being the medium of opposition itself.

No, in that dying, brilliant evening, I was not your antithesis.

Nor as the Disciples’ sentiments became feigned and idolatrous, reifying your voice, your body, and mind.

I served you best, here, becoming forgotten.

Even your words are lost on me, while declarations of fidelity are broken. My pornographic testament is all we have. That and a used condom, dried up in a corridor.

In truth, I only ever wanted to be vermin. My destitution alone cannot lie. Nor can that penultimate gift, a message from behind the mirror – its tain, the dull laminate under appearances.

You prepared yourself in the recesses of the Pavilion. There you opened the container clinically. Its segmented shell – the carapace of some hypertrophic insect – eclosed bags of tan human leather, eager, in their abrupt fashion, to be seen. 

You carefully removed your ceremonial dress from the Garden. The pins of chastisement still stigmatized; wet ruby trails scabbing on your breasts, belly, and inner thighs.

You are dust.

The skirt was steel wire; incurved talons on skin lacerated you whenever or however you chose.

This clip shows you drawing its bodice from sacs of cultured prepuce, delicate webs of flesh tearing around its jet-black thorns.

The bodice was as subtle as the skirt, designed to bite into flesh without this tearing and for its wounds to be not so much worn, as written, soon erased. When you felt it pierce your breasts, that first tincture of love, you hissed. This protracted sound seemed to emanate from the night air around me.

I hovered in the moon shadows of the inner courtyard, feeling the gravity of that anomalous planet. I smiled as a spider might.

As I smile now.

This clip shows the Disciples taking up positions on the catwalk, raising crops to agitate your voluptuous martyrdom.

In another, you are approaching the spiny assemblage of pneumatic cables, transcending into the red mist of torches and smoke.

You lay in the machine and delighted in our perfect, hooded envy.

You gave yourself to the pincers, to scalpels and drills.

According to your careful specifications, the Crucifixion Engine sawed into your meat. 

This sacrifice is not for us. Nor is for the sacrifice.

Once again, I watch you turn on the catwalk for the last jaded paparazzo, meshed in a glittering confection of thorns. The pose, I think, is your final echo, an inaudible scream.

DAVID JOHN RODEN

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