:: Article

A Straight Line Shaped Like a Knot

By Ari Feld.

They lock you in a tower with a crumpled Italian sports car and say, “Okay, you know what to do.” You bend to the wreck with the ill-forged tools that you have always used. A drunk and a mime teach you Korean. Their pedagogy rejects yes/no answers, focusing instead on sit-ups. You must say the ineffable to all those you have slighted or admired. You build an antenna to communicate further into the beyond. You are a Twinkie in a forgotten vending machine, returning to the womb of atomic matter. You rule a fiefdom. You’re driving back to your parents’ house for Thanksgiving. The smell of blazed mouse nests has abated. Furrows in the gutted fields collect a fine snow. You don’t remember the drive taking so long. You drive through Meckridge, Wampus, Santa Locura, Pottersville, New Ankara, Clayton Farms, Deevee, and Lower Shakes, settlements the cartographer apparently rejected, entire interstates unaccounted for. You shave and save your hair until you have braided a rope long enough to escape the tower. You take it upon yourself to be completely self-sufficient, no more plumbers. You dig a latrine. You find all your own groceries. You send your children to college in another room and you act as adviser, provost, faculty, and cafeteria staff. You take in other students just like a real college. At freshman orientation you propose that no one go home for Thanksgiving: “Imagine that as a child you had to learn a foreign language. Your mental pathways realign, the neurons shift course, your brain recants its past. So too do the roads leaving campus.” You care for your mother and father through a dotage that begins to seem impossibly long and unjust to all concerned. They insist they’re fine. Maybe they are. You make a sculpture that can be seen from space. You spend what seems like years repairing a sardine net. You build up tolerance until you can outdrink your Korean teacher. You wake up every morning in critical condition until you realize that the injuries are psychological and that you have recovered. You get a job with the county, wandering a swampland, blasting an intricate and unending network of beaver dams. The inhabitants of the swampland capture you. They lock you in a tower with a crumpled Italian sports car and say, “Okay, you know what to do.”


Ari Feld was born and grew to young manhood in the Midwest. He got his MFA from Umass Amherst. He currently lives in Barcelona with his sweetie.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, October 12th, 2010.