The Empire of a Corpse Folds Inward


I know the dead silently fuck once more learning how to suffer
— Joyce Mansour (translated by Serge Gavronsky)


Because the dead felt ashamed of dying in the walls

Because the dead felt ashamed of the flowers that covered their graves

Because there was a war in my skin

My skin blemished with the guts that dripped from the rotten chickens hanging above me

Because we were trapped underground absorbing the silent fucking of the dead

Because the living felt ashamed of the dead trapped in the walls

Because the sky was so full of gas and we could not see the moon

There were pictures of naked bodies drawn on the chalkboards of the rooms they buried us in

Every once in awhile, they poured milk through the hole in the wall and we cupped our hands and drank it even though it was sour and made us vomit

We were rotting under the florescent lights that covered our bodies

Because X had no chest they filled her legs with honey and set her outside on the lawn

We watched the ants devour her

We watched foam come out of her skin and the room grew so humid

Slippery bodies we fell over ourselves and got hungrier as we watched the ants nibble her flesh

Y told the story of how X had an orgasm in the pond

She let the water rush in between her legs and rubbed her pelvis against the rocks

Her hair went out to sea

Her tingly skin her pulsating skin the wavering beat of her heart

They watched this and when she came out of the water they put her in a room to examine what beast had bitten her

They determined she had been bitten by crustaceans that had lodged themselves into her thigh and abdomen

There was no choice but to penetrate her more deeply

Funnels of foam

Funnels of ants

Squeezed into her orifices from multiple angles while the computer systems analyzed her pulse, her blood, her metabolism

They forced the minions to reproduce her body

Twenty six reproductions of her body placed in a holding cell multiplied in a systematic fashion

We were commanded not to speak while there were bodies rowing through the excrement of the flooded streets of our neighborhood

We were commanded to be silent while there were comrades choking on flesh sobbing on blood puking greenish bacon

The autopsy revealed the systematic fabrication of the clitoris

The names of our wounds were displayed on banners or painted on our bodies

The names of the corpse-emperors and their vampiry poems were pasted to our bodies

Soil on our lips raw meat on our tongues jars of mayonnaise to aliment to lubricate to bluster

It wasn’t the fault of the warden when he got an erection

A scabby finger accidentally patted his crotch

He didn’t mean to force the scabby finger onto his crotch

With a dark sheet he covered the face and body to whom the scabby finger belonged and he helped the scabby finger undo his zipper

What were the scabs on the finger from

He thought about the scabs on her finger

He thought about the blood trapped in her finger and it was not his fault he kept his erection

He thought: ejaculate and stuff her flesh with worms

He thought: reach the end and fill her mouth with foam

He held his breath as the moment reached and when it passed he thought:

The bodies buried in the wall the gutter the earth: the present is always the past for them

They must be killed again and again





The Mistress and the Master



The mistress orchestrated a massacre
(there was nothing to see)

The mistress commanded the master to kill forty-three women with sticks, machetes and hammers
(why was she opposed to guns?)

In the middle of the night, the mistress ordered the master to inject the bodies with disease
(the needles were sterilized)

In the middle of the night, the mistress brought a wild pig to attack the little boy’s face
It bit off his lips, his nose, his ears, you could see his tongue through a hole in his cheek
(there was no pig and he never had lips to begin with)

Before the mistress ordered the master to set fire to the church, she pushed his cheeks against the hot grill
(there were no black marks on his face)

She placed his hand on the charcoals
(there was no fire)

She bit his neck as his hand sizzled against the charcoals
(there was no meat)

The mistress said to the master: throw the ladies in the church with the other cooks
(they did not believe in God)

She said to the master: spray the front door with lighter fluid
(he prayed as he did this)

He lit a match and threw it at the door
(he was just doing his job)

He studied his weapons system
(an act of cultural analysis)

He still had one grenade
(he wrapped it in an old sweater that belonged to his grandfather)

He took his grenade for a walk through the garden
(the garden of new recruits)



The master thought: gardening is a thing that relaxes me

The mistress does not relax me

She upsets me

She makes me do things I would rather not do

I would rather do other things than do the things the mistress asks me to do

I would rather do relaxing things

The master thought: pets relax my mind and he thought about a cat he loved

I love that cat more than I love the mistress, he thought

The master was the only one in his house the cat was nice to

The mistress did not like the cat
(she was planning on having it stabbed)

The master had found the cat in the street, skinny and wet on a rainy night in Western Pennsylvania

He named the cat Lucy
(at the vet’s office he learned that the cat’s testicles hadn’t descended)

The master changed the cat’s name to Peter
Peter clawed everyone in the house except for the master

Peter had issues with abandonment
So did the master

Peter slept at the foot of this bed
Or he cuddled with the Master

This cuddly little thing called love



On Tuesday, the mistress beat the master for taking a breather while everyone else worked

The mistress needed the Master to shove some heads in a toilet
But the master wanted to rest

The mistress needed the master to do some gardening
But the master wanted to rest

The mistress needed the master to grill some meat so that the new recruits could eat lunch
But the master wanted to rest

Roll some tortillas, the mistress ordered the master
But the Master was having second thoughts about his life and the questionable choices he had made

Bad idea, master!

But the master did not have too many second thoughts about his life because on a previous occasion when he had had second thoughts about his life the Mistress rolled his face in fiberglass

His face was asking for it

Also he shouldn’t have forced the mistress to make him lick the tines of a dirty rake used to lift leaves from muddy puddles

On Wednesday, the mistress ordered the master to poison the water supply with animal waste

The master felt good about the mistress and remembered how she liked to decorate the house with flowers

The master thought: I should bring the mistress some portulaca and he pulled some flowers from the dirt but she insisted on planting the portulaca in his nostrils, his mouth, his arm pits

The master thought: I should skip through the forest like Little Red Riding Hood and when I am eaten by the wolf I shan’t have to worry because a woodsman will cut open the wolf’s belly and me and grandma will escape: whole, happy, unscathed

The master thought: this is a dream song in which I look life square in the face and tell it to fuck off for awhile

The master thought: this is not a song about regret

He remembered a song he had learned as a new recruit about a boy who is convinced his body will swallow its own organs

He sang a song about his tongue

He sang: I used to dream of biting off my own tongue

Feel the master’s tongue hanging out of his teeth, dangling from a few threads

With just one more flick, he can tear his tongue off all the way

When the master imagined his tongue falling out of his mouth, he remembered the fragility of the people from the South

He remembered how the mistress ordered him to trap them in the back of a truck

He couldn’t believe how many of them could fit in the back of a truck

He remembered throwing them a bag with sixty-seven poisoned hamburgers from Wendy’s

He remembered watching them vomit after they ate

He felt good while they vomited

He remembered how the mistress made him set the truck on fire

He remembered how, contrary to the wishes of the mistress, he did not make some of the children go inside the burning truck

He thought: some day, someone will remember how I kept a few children from burning in the truck and they will think fondly of me

He thought about the day he brought the mistress some fresh eggs stolen from a chicken farm

He expected her to be happy

Instead she whipped him

When I whip you, she said, this means I love you

The mistress did not make love to the master

The master made love to the mistress’ maids

But he did not love the mistress’ maids

He loved the mistress

And because he did not love the mistress’ maids, as he made love to the mistress’ maids he thought about zoo animals in a German city roaming the streets in the aftermath of a bombing that killed thousands of innocent people

The master thought a lot about the deaths of innocent animals

The master was obsessed with innocence

The master thought: when I was a new recruit and they buried me in the mud floor of that peasant’s house: that was a time of innocence

The Master thought: the first time I saw a corpse and felt a little vibration in my belly: that was a time of innocence

The master did not like to think about the past, the present, or the future

The master did not speak unless spoken to

The master liked to sit in silence

The master often thought about his own death, about how he would die and return to innocence in the seconds before he stopped breathing

The master thought about locking himself in a room with his brothers’ torn bodies

The master thought about setting his brothers’ torn bodies on fire, and setting himself on fire along with them

He thought: I think this way in order to honor the mistress

The master purposefully cut his flesh one day while watching a baby bunny being devoured by a strong, feral cat

The master sat in the middle of the forest and twitched with pain and enjoyed watching the blood seep out of his skin

The master dug a hole and thought: this hole is not big enough for the number of bodies we will have to jam into it

The master was sad

He thought: I will never build a big enough hole



vomit clean up feeDaniel Borzutzky’s books include In the Murmurs of the Rotten Carcass Economy (Nightboat, forthcoming); The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011); The Ecstasy of Capitulation (BlazeVox, 2007); and Arbitrary Tales (Ravenna Press, 2005). His poetry translations include include Raúl Zurita’s The Country of Planks (forthcoming, Action Books); Song for his Disappeared Love (Action Books, 2010); and Jaime Luis Huenún’s Port Trakl (Action Books, 2008), among others. His chapbooks include Data Bodies (Holon, 2013); Memos for the Rotten Carcass Economy (Insert Press, forthcoming); Bed Time Stories for the End of the World! (Bloof Books, forthcoming); One Size Fits All (Scantily Clad, 2009); and Failure in the Imagination (Bronze Skull, 2007). His writing has been anthologized in Telephone Books Anthology of English-to-English Translations of Shakespeare Sonnets; La Alteración del Silencio: Poesía Norteamericana Reciente; Malditos Latinos Malditos Sudacas: Poesia Iberoamericana Made in USA; Seriously Funny: Poems About Love, God, War, Art, Sex, Madness, and Everything Else; A Best of Fence: The First Nine Years; and The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century. His writing has been translated into Spanish, French, Bulgarian, and Turkish. His work has been recognized by 2013 grants from the PEN American Center and the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Chicago.