ISSUE 6 · SPRING 2011
within the face
what other faces swim?
GUY R. BEINING
XIT: thoughts covering (1938-54) (youth)
XON: thoughts covering (1955-70) (adulthood)
XOR: thoughts covering (1971-86) (middle years)
XUS: thoughts covering (1987-present) (ripened)
All four characters are shackled together at the ankles, and each one is wearing a false facial piece, with XIT wearing a false left ear, XON a false right one, XOR a false nose, and XUS a false mouth. Above them is a billboard where a man is drawing facial sketches.
XON: It’s nice to be privy to something.
XUS: Privy to what?
XOR: Something going by the wayside, perhaps?
XIT: Being a part of something strange that’s going on but that’s hidden
XON: Yes, like that. In 1969, for example, in early spring I was observing the apes in the Central Park Zoo and after a time I realized that I was being watched by some forgettable man.
XUS: Observing the observer. Were you approached?
XON: Yes, rather bluntly. I left as quickly as I could.
XIT: I went with a bunch of kids once to a movie. Was taken by this balding man. I remember us all singing “Row, Row Your Boat,” and I sat in the front seat with him. On looking back I’m sure he had designs.
XOR: In my black period, too long to swim through, I found myself one night in the den of ex jail birds.
XUS: Booze, it seems, led you to the worst possible places.
XOR: Somehow I edged out of there, but it was very tricky.
XIT: On the way to the movies he drove us past a nuthouse.
XIT: That’s what he called it. He took great relish in showing it to us. It was a sad, desolate place.
XON: Perhaps he was visiting his old roost. What tempts such derision?
XUS: Even with all my experience in the strange angles of life I became a pawn. It was about a dozen years ago. I was walking in my neighbor-hood in Rego Park and a car pulled up to me.
XIT: What is a nuthouse to a kid? They were called insane asylums then.
XOR: Black and white, black and white, a blanket on light. The edge of speech goes nowhere when dealing with the rough boulders of night. You never spin out of it all.
XUS: ‘Hey Mike, how you doing,’ the driver says, leaning over the rider next to him. They looked like characters from a 1950s movie. I just say, ‘Hi.’
XON: You didn’t say, ‘I’m not Mike?’
XUS: Maybe I just smiled, but I kept walking, but he kept pace with me and says, ‘Haven’t seen you in a while. Come on, get in.’ I stop and say, ‘What do you want?’
XOR: There’s always some debris left. I mean I got out of there but the setting is still in my head. We never leave anywhere. It goes with us. The petty thieves of night still gather.
XON: I left the apes that were a mechanism and the ill face of a peering man, and yet thirty-five years later you can’t just leave.
XUS: I wanted to clear up the mystery. It didn’t make sense. Maybe I looked like this guy Mike.
XIT: I know that we were laughing at the faces behind those barred windows. Who says innocence is sweet?
XUS: The guy next to the driver was just observing. ‘We thought you had left,’ the driver says. ‘Get in, we’ll take you to where you’re going.’
XON: That’s when you make your point and say, ‘I’m not your man, you got the wrong party,’ and then split.
XUS: I got in so I could convince them.
XON: You getting in convinced them that you were Mike.
XOR: A few years later I ran into the guy that had led me into that den. I’m walking along Eighth Avenue and he comes up to me and says, ‘How come you called the cops on us?’ I told him the truth. ‘Why would I want to do that?’ I said it reassuringly several times. Crowds came from the subway and I drifted away.
XIT: That man we were driving with was a pervert. Cunning though. Maybe just being among kids got him off.
XON: Weren’t you getting a bit old for this pick-up routine?
XUS: You know that this was quite different. ‘You can drop me off at the corner,’ I said. He asked me if I’d been to Sal’s Fish Shop, lately. You know Sal? I knew the place and had bought fish there. I told him that I knew the place but my name wasn’t Mike. I was in the back seat watching these two men glancing back and forth at each other, trying to make me out. ‘Let’s drive around the block,’ he said. I don’t get panicky. If I did I’d look guilty. He kept driving while the other guy was humming.
XON: It was criminal of you to get into that position.
XUS: Was it? They apparently lived in the neighborhood and now were connecting with me. I had to straighten out this misdirected vision or I would just get in deeper.
XON: Perhaps you did get it right.
XUS: ‘Who is this guy Mike?’ I said. ‘I have no connection with Sal’s Fish Shop. I live in the area and that’s it. I live a simple life.’ They take it in and keep looking at each other. After a while with nothing said the driver slows up and says, ‘Do you want to get out here?’
XON: Another bullet that can be spit out.
XIT: It was getting dark on our way back from the movie. The light from the street lamps were cutting across the fat man’s face, stretching it, shortening it. A steady pace of leers developed.
XOR: Images at night are always jarring.
XUS: I walked away feeling a great sweetness sweep me down the street. I didn’t turn once.
The man above gets down from a ladder, leaving the billboard full of faces. When he goes off stage the foursome turn to the billboard and apply each of their false features to the board, creating another face.
Guy R. Beining has had 6 poetry books and 25 chapbooks published over the years, and he has appeared in 7 different anthologies. He is in the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, Vol. 30 (Gale 1998) and A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, 2nd Ed (2000). Guy has recently appeared in chain, ep;phany, perspektive (Germany), New Orleans Review, and The New Review of Literature.