Heavy, this dead thing. Couldn’t quite pinpoint the moment of departure. There’s a second the eyes stop seeing, and it’s almost visible. Almost. But it won’t be watched, death. It eschews exhibitionism. Yet there is a before and an after, and the dividing line is so infinitesimally fine as to barely exist at all. Death almost doesn’t exist at all, except when it does. Catch me if you can, for I will sure as hell catch you. That’s death, the unseen thief: in many places at once, but never the same place twice. Murder is another story, murder is an extrusion of death. Its stain. Murder is like a swallowed firefly that continues to glow through the skin of the frog’s throat. It’s a garish light coloring the underside of the murderer’s brain for the rest of your days. You’re about to fall asleep, and it flares inside you, like the beam of a lighthouse that sweeps across the window at just the wrong time. That’s murder, a cicada that goes on buzzing in your belly. Correction, an empty cicada shell, the exuvia, haunted by the noise of its taken life, and it roars on in the echo-chamber of the murderer’s innards. Glow, darkness, glow, darkness, tympanic crescendo, silence, crescendo, whir, whir, whir. Forever. Get used to it, except you can’t. Well, most can’t, because man is a guilty animal. Homo delictum. Full of desires and rage, but riven with guilt, the ghost of slain conscience. Heavy, these dead things. So tremendously heavy. Best to bury them in the woods, where the earth doesn’t feel the burden. Gravity weighs differently in the woods, so used to keeping secrets. The woods are tight-lipped, the woods keep to themselves. Like a reflection in a hall of mirrors, a forest is a ghost in a hall of trees. It doesn’t just give up its corpses, it keeps them for its rootsy, mycorrhizal madness. There’s a rave of fireflies, a concert of haunted exuviae in the woods, where there are whole boughs of eyes, but not a mouth in sight. And despite the firefly’s strobe and the cicada’s trippy timpani, there’s no dance in the woods. No dance. Never any logical explanation for such movements as a dance. We don’t have plumage to parade to picky mates, like the strutting albatross on some windy shore. No plumage. No dance. No logic to it. And logic, lest we forget, is the last refuge of the guilty, where causal connections serve as justifications; rationales as acquittals. But the guilty… The truly guilty cannot dance, because their souls are trapped in the million-eyed stare of the woods that keep all their secrets, wrapped in the soil in a twill of the finest fibrous roots.
Man is a Guilty Animal
Stirring beneath a blanket of snow
Rustling unseen in thickets of gorse
Digging a hole in the baking earth
And dragging the same decaying corpse
through weathers and landscapes diverse,
of the fear
Anthony Doyle was born in Dublin and raised in Wicklow, Ireland. He has been living in São Paulo, Brazil, since 2000, where he works as a translator of fiction, non-fiction and film scripts from Portuguese. In addition to short stories and poems, he published the children’s book O Lago Secou (Companhia das Letrinhas, Brazil, 2013) and the novel Hibernaculum (Out Of This World Press, USA, 2023). He is a member of the Old Scratch Press short-form collective.