In the beginning,
before the gods came, or man,
Heaven and Earth
Held each other in endless embrace.
Can you imagine the nights?
The dark young sky all around you,
the whole earth girdled in jewels of light,
surrounded in the burning glory
of a million million stars.
with your body around mine,
is like that long-gone night
in the spring of the world:
the new earth awakened and trembling,
shining in all the glory of the heavens,
before the cold holiness of distant stars.

It was all a lie, of course--a fucking, nonsensical, narcissistic lie. The letter? It never existed, Ian never wrote it, could never have written it even if it were true. In any case--dubious, the sort of solipsistic fantasy that borders on unreality even if it turns out to be true, after all.

She wrote the letter to herself--imagined it, tore through it and edited it, perhaps even committed it to paper and sent it to herself. For all those years, and after, too, the most important thing was that they--all of them, Ian, Jenny, Eric, Laura... they all really only spoke about things. They only made contact, direct contact, when somebody or something else was at stake. When it came to themselves--indirection, evasion, careful maneuvers and dodges and deflections. He never could have written the letter that she had imagined to herself-- she knew it even as she was imagining it.

And yet--there it was in front of her.

Or was it? Was it there, or all a lie, a fevered product of her imagination?

He was, of course, entirely the wrong person to write about the whole thing. Too tender at the time, and also far too believing--more than a little in love with her, who had in herself everything wrong and broken in him. She told him enough of the lies that he could imagine the rest. But he believed her and he believed himself no matter how much bullshit they laid out.

The most striking feature in the lore of Satan is his aesthetic sense of symmetry--for the Holy Mass, there is the Black Mass; for the filling with the Holy Spirit, there is demonic possession; for the Christ, he even has his Antichrist. Above all the Enemy does not desire the lordship of the Universe. He desires to be--a Manicheaean.

[Martin Kinnear, Aesthete and Heretic]

Thus Emmanuel Goldberg, at the close of the Corollaries:

All the work heretofore of theology, of liturgy, of devotion, has been the history of a phantom, a stage-act, a sham. I thus conclude only by pointing to it, cast in its full light, and comment it to the judgment of the reader.

Goldberg's act of pointing is totally untouched by Johnson's superficial analysis, much to its detriment. For here I believe is the very key to Goldberg's complicated works: the blasphemous theology of the Mirror of the Sanhedrin and the Corollaries, the poetry scrawled in Goldberg's notebooks, the whole structure of his thinking as written prior to this key passage is nothing more than a reductio ad absurdam, a pious fraud perpetrated to show the monstrous consequences of a doctrine--thus, to reflect back the monstrosity onto te doctrine itself--thus, to divorce the Christian forever from the doctrine--the doctrine that human reason can ever sit in judgment of God or Scripture. The essential process of Goldberg's corpus is a process of conversion--conversion from idolatry to God, from Euthyphraic God to Christian God, and from Protestant to Catholic.


At the very moment of deepest darkness and despair, when Jesus Christ cries out Eli, eli, lama sabachthani--at this moment Christ manifested His triumph, His Divinity. The suffering of Christ is thus history's greatest pia fraus. Consumatum est.

[Joseph Dean Kennedy, "The Pia Fraus of Emmanuel Goldberg"]

In Christ's Consumatum est, He cries out not merely the end of an earthly life. Nor the end of His salvific work--for all the generations after have had to return again and again to Christ's mercy in order to receive salvation. Rather, Christ calls out to the whole history of the world--it is finished. Christ ends world history at the moment of His death. All the generations after, were yet before Christ. The Mass takes us to the sacrifice of Calvary again--and thus to the Absoltue Future of God--which is yet the past of the Crucifixion. And the Second Coming of Christ will be--the First. Crying out Consumatum est--the Crucified god split history asunder.

[Maximillian Thoenner, "Epistle to My Congregation"]

He hadn't thought that three words could contain all the pain and horror of the Universe.

"I was raped."

His mouth opened, then shut. His tired eyes widened. They sat without saying anything for a long time. Finally, he stammered, "Jen ... Jesus ... I didn't --"

"Yeah, well, I know, okay?" She was biting her lower lip. Absently she tugged on her black shirtsleeve.

He felt suddenly the presence of his arms, how they hung stupid and limp by his sides, his thumb toying with his index finger, his fingers randomly clenching and unclenching. He haltingly reached a hand across the table.

She took it, smiling tightly, and squeezed it once before looking down and letting it go. He realized that his clumsy attempt to comfort her had turned a somersault: she had squeezed his hand to let him know that she was surviving, that the darkness had passed, that she wouldn't be blown away by the next wind. He had tried to offer his presence as an anchor and an aid, but she took his hand briefly not because she needed or wanted his support, but to comfort him.

He felt lost and confused. It had happened two years ago, but to him it was immediate and demanding. He knew it would be hell dealing with it, but he felt guilty even for his pain; how could he so self-indulgently suffer, with what she had been through?

It was a fantasy, a stupid fantasy, and he should have known it. They couldn't be the boy and girl next door. They couldn't be defiant, star-crossed lovers. They couldn't be anyone but themselves. The sooner he accepted that, the sooner he could once again breathe freely. No--that, too, was a fantasy. No matter how much he pretended to expect nothing, to accept the imbalance in their relationship, they would still always be there: misread glances, innocuous touches, pretended intimacies -- those tiny, fragmented delusions laying in the place of his shattered, grandiose fantasy. Crawling up against their "understanding" like ivy on a wall. That, more than any past heartbreak or present awareness, was the pain and the burden that he would have to bear every time he saw her.

I want to write about something more than love
And stars and flowers and bitterness
I want to sing and unravel
Tapestries of heroes and timeless themes,
Or anything besides these silly adolescent troubles.
I want to be beyond this
place where I create pathetic domains
to tweak every response and every glance
in ways I never could,
where I set blocks up to knock them down,
just so for once the collision will seem to be inexorable Fate
and not my own stupid mistakes, and hers
and blind dumb chance.
But I tell myself I have more to say.
More permutations for the same old crap to unfold into.
So I convince myself to wait back here,
Scribbling sickly-sweet fragments of a murdered fantasy
and bitter remembrances of the fallen blocks.
I guess I fell in love
Because she didn't treat me like everyone else
but it seems like when I told her,
she did.
Weather one more night waiting for her
And she'll come to you with traveler's tales
With ale and song until twilight falls
And she reluctantly departs with a kiss.
Wait one more night for her and she'll come
With her gypsy caravan and whispered tales
Saving the bitter dregs of the day for you
(The last drops left after he drinks his fill).
Cry one more night for her, maybe she'll come;
the muddy tracks left in the morning's grey mist
and crumpled notes in the dirt
tell you she passed wildly by in the night
with the bitter dregs she lovingly saved for your lips.

The house was empty, stripped. The bedroom where I once lived was empty. We hovered around like buzzards, picking away the scraps of memories from the carcass.

I can't tell you any of this without lying. Everything I tell you is pulled out of the past, and it drags with it so much fuming and analysis and rereading that it's almost never anything like it was when it happened. Meaning is always forced onto events that can't really carry it, and eventually collapse, leaving only the interpretation behind. I don't like telling this story, but I have to -- no, that too is a lie. I like writing about my own life and especially about her, because it gives me a control I never felt like I had. At least when things crash, it's because I crashed them -- not my stupid mistakes. Not hers. Not blind, stupid chance.

I'm not a nihilist. I don't have anything against projecting meaning onto things. I just need to be careful -- it's too easy to become self-righteous and forget the cracks where it doesn't quite fit.

I wrote her a letter back -- for the first time in four years, I finally knew what to say -- sometimes screaming, sometimes biting, telling her what I finally grasped in my confusion: it was over. It was all finally over. I didn't need her anymore ...

That, too, is a reconstruction. At first I wrote furiously, spilling out nonsensical responses to things she had said half a year ago, that I'd never gotten to answer the way I'd wanted to, because I couldn't think of anything to say until I'd fumed about it alone. And before I'd finished the letter, I was giving her my new address and phone number. I was saying we should get together over Thanksgiving. I signed it -- "Love, Charlie."

And that's the way it's been. No ending. No lessons learned. I never even mailed the letter. The only resolution I got was to write a story about her; it's called "Complications" and it's all lies. I told the story my way, which meant I omitted, burned, and altered until it became an inexorable and just collision, full of meaning, and finally growing up. It's sitting right in front of me; I think I should burn it and be done with pretending.

That, too, is a reconstruction.

My girl's mouth has beautiful corners
Which I often think about
When I see her smiling
(wide & free as an eternal yes)

It seemed as though the Earth was bleeding -- reddened, angry lights welled up from ragged slashes, forming stars and lattices sprawling over the wounded ground.

She sat down across from him. "Hi!"

He looked up. She was smiling.

He smiled back.

. . .

She laughed.

He looked away and exhaled slowly.

He turned back to her, trying to grin. He knew he wasn't doing it very well.

. . .

He rolled over again. Finally he sat up and turned on the light. It was still only 9:30.

He reached for the phone and dialed each digit of her number carefully.

After he had pushed six numbers, he hurriedly hung up the phone.

. . .

"I mean ... I know I couldn't go out with any of you guys. I ... I wouldn't want to risk what we have."

They nodded. He shrugged and looked down.

. . .

Her voice over the receiver seemed impossibly distant.

"No, I can't ... I'm going out with Joe tonight."


. . .

He inhaled slowly and released, desperately trying to break down the wall of nerves.

"Okay, look. I ... I guess ..."

She looked out the window.

"Don't say it. I know."

He sat there with his mouth open.

. . .

"Do you love him?"

She shrugged. "What does it matter?"

. . .

"How do you grow up ... without growing apart?"

She shrugged again. He began to cry.

She looked down, not knowing quite what to do.

All around, caps littered the floor. They reminded him of flowers on a grave.

Cuando te amo,
Creo que el sol
sobre los árboles
Creo que
las gotas de luz
en las hojas en crepúsculo
me mojen las mejillas
Cuando te quiero,
todo el mundo se calla
Tú existes solamente.
Sólo tú eres.
She said she wrote some poems
And I asked to read the poems
But she said no so I shrugged.
She was probably afraid
that I'd pick over them and mark them up
all red and blue and green --
Little knowing that (when it comes to poetry)
I prefer to shove it aside and say it's great
Or subtly choose the least bad
And nudge towards lessons
Not writing them in red marker.
And I'd say all hers were great
Just because she wrote them.
I could show her all my worst
I said
But she shrugged.