Author Notes

I came to write this because I was heavily influenced as a kid by “Miami Vice”—wasn’t everyone? This particular scene stuck in my subconscious for years, and I never really thought about it again until I was helping a friend edit his history of Gonzalo Fernandez De Oviedo Y Valdes, a contemporary of Bartolome de las Casas’ in 15th c. West Indies. The image of the man murdered with his head in the toilet just made a huge impression on me, I guess, and it reminded me very much of the tortures that the conquistadores made upon the Native Americans in the New World.

—Kate Dusenbery  


Death Mask

Kate Dusenbery

I realized I was suspended upside-down
above a toilet, head just seconds from an imminent
flush. My suspenders filled the bowl with the flour
of my trade, a submersion in the cardiac attestation
that this position was once centrally featured
in an episode of Miami Vice. Throat-slit, blood purpling
the powder below-reverse elimination,
a bleeding of a brain, but no brain behind it.

And then it occurred to me that this was a familiar position as de Las Casas
noted Columbus hanging twelve indigenous men in memory of his Apostles
from Columbia we came to disperse that particular particulate, mushroom cloud
suffer it white little over Miami we rode that balloon as long as it took until the
cartel took it back

The mice the lice the six sided dice O Fortuna
fish Ace in the Holiest of Holies Blubber Whomperhead,
I haven't seen her. Did you see Oscar Santillanes? He was in here
last night. Told a story about Veracruz. Something about dead fish
washing up and putting their dicks in the sand. A circle of stars
in the dust. There were horses running on the beach
in the moonlight. Silver mercury stream droplets from waves
ran by too. I saw it through your dream.

I've never been there spend my life getting near. what about a car accident?
said Oscar. it takes the responsibility out of living. happens all the time. A life
evaporates water on the dash. a cat casts accusatory glances. forboding
whiskers brush my nerves

Yesterday I put my dick in you, today I hate you.
And the funny thing is you can't figure it out. Don't you see,
a used-up pussy is like a twice-chewed piece of meat.
pink to begin with, then gray. Not to be blunt,
but a cunt is a cunt is a cunt.

Just this morning I painted my face
in bold stripes of blue red purple a means to divide
between the living and dead sides, a beaming
mottled with blood a filament of a film of death
negative of features cemented in the concrete
circling the drain in the bathroom floor

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