Two from The Book of Interfering Bodies

Daniel Borzutzky

The Book of Glass

It is impossible to read the Book of Glass without spilling blood. The reader pulls it out of the tower with special tongs and sets it on the ground. A dagger sticks out of the cover and it is stained with the blood of previous readers. Smaller glass daggers stick out of the larger dagger making it impossible to touch any point on the larger dagger without wounding hands. The blood against the yellow and purple glass of the larger and smaller daggers, when hit by sunlight, is stunning to the eye. You will have to take my word for this: it’s so beautiful it causes the reader to lose her senses and she can’t help but try to open the book. The reader grabs for the cover, and the blood that is then drawn forms the text of the book, which is filled with the blood of previous readers. The reader’s blood swirls across these first pages and the blood informs us that the text is about writing itself: here the writers are readers and they have gone too far with their own mortality. They die to read, die to write, and in the blood that swirls around the page and mixes with the blood of previous writers and readers there is the image of a massacre: the readers are rounded up by a God-man and some are forced into rocks and some into caves and some into mountains and some into rivers; and the water and earth and grass and leaves and air are dead and filled with the murmurs of the lovers who wait for that silence where thought refuses to think. To die to read, to die to write: the Book of Glass is a constant reminder that when people die their words unravel, flow out of their mouths like poison, and when their words hit the earth the soil loses all of its nutrients, the rivers dry up and the readers are thirsty. Or so it says in the Book of Glass, whose final chapter, written with the sharp edges of broken bottles, tells of a man who dreams of his own death in the pages of the Book of Glass. In this tale the Book of Glass is enormous, and the man is tiny in comparison. He needs a crane to help him open the cover, and when he finally gets it open he hops onto a page. On one corner of the page, there is a tower of sharp glass, which reads: in order to continue you must climb this tower. The man hoists himself onto the tower, and with each step he takes blood is drawn from his feet, hands, legs, chest, arms, and fingers. The blood drips down the tower, wells up on the page between the deadly glass formations and coagulates into a sentence that says something along the lines of: the book will end when there are no longer any readers; your job, dear reader, is to disappear to make the words possible, to make the blood possible, to make the destruction of the book possible, and this can only occur if you live forever and die on this page at the same time. The man continues to climb the tower of glass and as he climbs he feels himself becoming a parable about a parable that does not know if it is reality or parable. He lives like this for many decades until finally he forgets about himself, which is to say that in the final scene birds carry him away and drop him in a field of strawberries or sunflowers, where he forever murmurs the question: what is the weight of light?

The Book of Forgotten Bodies

The reader who opens the Book of Forgotten Bodies finds nothing. There are no horses galloping through deserted villages in search of the men who used to ride them. There are no children crying for their parents who were thrown out of air planes and into the sea. There are no soldiers who had their arms sliced off for refusing to obliterate innocent bodies. There are no rich men leaning against paradise trees as the drunk bodies of poor men stumble up to their houses to kill them. There are no bodies of hopeless virgins smashed on city streets by Mercedes Benzes cruising through the gentle drizzle of a foggy day. There are no bodies abandoned on beaches. There are no corpses floating down rivers. There are no bodies hanging in the military barracks on island XYZ off the coast of nation ABC. There are no bodies that pound rock against rock. No bodies that stand on one leg with hoods over their mouths mumbling words we don’t understand. No bodies covered in mud murmuring to the bodies who lie on top of them. There are no bodies that smell of chemicals and rest in puddles in the rain waiting for flowers to fall on their heads. No blind bodies that are painted by artists who value aesthetics over breath. No bodies that imagine their children’s bodies as ghosts and cadavers and skeletons. No bodies that live in bodies that no longer know if they are bodies. No bodies that fall from windows as they try to catch glimpses of the bodies that have fallen before them. There are no bodies discovered by rabid dogs in houses abandoned before they could even be built. No bodies surrounded by barbed wire as the countries die in the distance. No bodies whose skin burns in the strange machines that buzz like tropical nights. No bodies that burn in buildings that have been set on fire by bodies with no reason to live. There are no bodies that fry in the sun, that drown in the shadows, that roast on gas, that ooze algae and moss, that are covered in black rags as the lakes and the mountains die. No bodies that hunt or are hunted, that murder out of charity, that are murdered out of charity. No bodies that shutter the windows and hang themselves in libraries of their favorite books. There are no soul-less bodies, no frozen bodies, no bodies gnawed to death by insects. There are no practical bodies, no transient bodies, no empty bodies, no blank bodies that twist between forgotten body and dream.

Daniel Borzutzky is the author of Arbitrary Tales & The Ecstacy of Capitulation, as well as several translation projects.