Clemens Meyer


When she coughs it feels like her lungs are opening up inside of her, like the tiny vesicles are filling up with blood, and when she closes her eyes it seems to her she can see them, shining reddish gold, deep inside of her. She feels it under her shoulder blades, under her skin, under her flesh, pressing there, pressing out of her.

On the plates made of glass there really are wings inside her body. Which only the Lord of the Rays can see, only the two of them can see, and she doesn’t like the Lord of the Rays passing them on, handing out the plates to the doctors. “I can see my heart, I can see my wings,“ she called out the first time like a child, a joyful, surprised shout, the electrical humming of the machine, the blueish­green flickering light of the rays in the dark room, “I can see...”

She walks up to the bar, striding across the room, this other room now, in silence. Only women around her it seems, women forming a corridor for her, her staring out at more and more bodies shrinking back from her, the narrow twisting route to the bar. Thinking she’s dreaming, knowing she’s dreaming, she’s not surprised that the heads to the bodies change at her every step. She feels that the small figure is walking alongside her again. When she lowers her eyes she can see him – her small hunchbacked companion is usually on her left – but she doesn’t have to at all, doesn’t want to at all. She calls him Cinnabar, a brightly coloured, cone­shaped, gyrating opening instead of eyes in the middle of his face. A fairytale that someone read to her when she was a child. Little Zaches, Called Cinnabar. My mother? It’s a lie, she thinks, when they say colours disappear in dreams, like they do sometimes at night. It’s a lie when they say you can’t remember there, in your sleep, all the things that are outside: rooms, bars, people, the sounds, lights, the streets where you lingered awhile because then you weren’t alone, walls that smell of earth, real nonsense and stupid games, the lakes, because I do so like to bathe, the big tubs in the big hotels, and what the tiles felt like when you ran your fingers over them... bath curtains, damp settees. Sometimes they’re upside down, and she looks with her head lowered, her neck extended, it’s getting longer and longer, at the incandescent plates, and doesn’t want anyone else to see – her innermost – and knows it’s not the case. Her bones, her leg bones, are so thin and slim and long. One step to the left, one step away from that side, curl up on yourself, matchstick woman – “Music, music, give me blue notes!” – a figure made of matches and conkers, silent movement.
I never want to lie down again. Who said that to her? Her mother? No. One of the women in the long, skinny street that winds away from Hackescher Markt? Curl in on yourself, wind around a tree. She used to do that as a child. Wound her way up there. Turned into a ribbon of strange colours.

I had prescribed myself a little protective programme beforehand: Look at it very carefully – will anything present a problem? Will you come out in spots? Is anything unpleasant for you? Would you like to get out of here? Blue Notes. I was always a happy child. What people always think – that you have to have a bad time, that’s why, and so on – that’s all rubbish.

And when you stand like that your legs are a kind of downward­facing platform, and you do feel a certain power, don’t you?
She can’t transport these plates, behind or in front of which the light focuses into pictures, not even in her sleep, there behind the barrier. Sometimes you wish you could heave the luminous plates in front of people’s eyes. Dream is a very strange word. Strange is another funny word. So imprecise. But that’s the funniest of all words. Because at some point you always reach your limits... and so on. Step by step, she moves between the women’s bodies towards the bar. A counter at the end of the world. Bury me behind the bar. But someo­ ne else said that, far away from her, in the future, “everybody loves somebo­ dy sometime,” wormholes, like cones through space and time and bodies, shaped like maybe... flowers that open up into cones. Dean Martin’s face pupating. Vanishing into its own wrinkles. Then here come the people and hassle her. “Oh, oh, oh... floooowers.” Don’t stare so sentimental. If only I wasn’t so tired.

Look in, look out. It’s a lie when they say you have no memories of outside in your sleep. I always dream of it, I always imagine I can still stand.
Who said that to her? Was it perhaps hunchbacked Cinnabar, her dwarfish companion with the hole in his head, whose hunchback keeps getting caught on the edge of the holes that drive him from impact to impact, in the mael­ strom of time, in the maelstrom of colder layers of air? But Cinnabar only limps, but he walks and he runs, earth spirit, woodland gnome, king of the creepy-crawlies, and his head is so askew that his one­eye becomes an ear, without lobes mind you, “everybody needs somebody sometime,” and he feels and sees others’ pain and joy as if his brain were encased in those plates of glass, the other way around, which the Lord of the Rays presses to her white, holey chest, pressing her chest flat. And there was a cool humming on the back, so that there came a knocking at the pane from inside and from behind. “I can see my wings, I can see my heart.”

It was on one of those streets where she lingered awhile. Because then she thought she wasn’t alone. Where the plaster rained down on her neck and shoulders when she leaned on the damp walls. Stony dandruff. That suddenly grew soft and warm. As if I were the little match girl. When you talk about the fires, my sweet, you know nothing. Because your bones are so thin and skinny that they’re not protected by the flesh. Which burns away, “the splinters of my own bones and the others’ other bones pressing into my own flesh. 

And then later I see that I’ll have to creep along on my rump from now on and for all time.” Across cobbles and streets and carpets and so on. Pale pink is the shade of the season in the slaughterhouses. The mighty, colourful cones of the explosions. The deformations of life. In the cathedrals. In dreams. Heads on respiration machines. A parade of heads, a rebellion of the behea­ ded, their paths taking them beneath the stone, into the damp cellars, under the thick, bristly surface of the city, maelstroms opening up in the dark light in the shade of these caverns, the strands clumping together, the tentacles emerging towards us from the depths, the portholes glowing orange out of and into unknown dimensions – breathe in, breathe out – sail­like newspaper double­spreads flattering, error, news, red­and­black front pages, terror, an 8 tips over, papers, everything shaping and decaying, fabrics, despite the lull in the winds, mouthpieces, ear trumpets, tales of two thousand nights and twice as many days, Princess S., whose various names creep with her (still on her way to the best bar in town in the midst of all the bodies) around the tree trunks, the growth rings with gaps in which tiny insects with heads much too large pupate, roots, squares, Stranger, bear word to the S., resin drips into the vessels. We move to the music. She dances sitting down, she dances silently. Just one breather. Now that we’ve lost our way after all. But who knows? Stick out your neck, it’s getting longer and longer. Breathe in, breathe out. T’wards Ginnungagap. And what’s that supposed to be? The edge of the world. Norse legends, more like fairytales. Someone read them to her once. Like the other fairytale. “Iron Hans, Iron Hans, we shall cover our wounds.” She looks at the plates, suspended before her like a heavy glass apron, and she hears the electrical humming, ear holes, eye holes, the flickering light penetrating deep inside of her. She pulls on a mask, a hat, over her face, passed to her by someone from somewhere, she feels the touches through the... fabric, and her own breath.

My face always feels split down the middle. On the left, for instance, is this spot, and I get the feeling it sometimes opens up, opens out sometimes. As if something or someone had pressed a button. It’s important to really go into a thing. Not to be afraid. I wanted to try out a lot of things in life, as long as I don’t come to any great harm. I’ve always looked out for myself pretty well, made sure I don’t go to waste. It’s a kind of membrane that keeps on opening up, even if I don’t want it to.

Are dreams and sleep a kind of husk that we have to break out of? That I have to break out of? The dream barrier. Sometimes all we want is nonsense. Like children. I fold my arms behind the golden bowl, behind my shoulders. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. Oh Cinnabar, dark red and skinny and silver, precious stones on your back. “I can see, I can see, but it’s tearing me apart from inside.”

And I lie down, simply lie down on the stage. My mouth opening to the floor. My cough goes into the ground. And my neck is getting longer and longer. Animal bodies. And I ask myself, how do I get there? And where is my limping friend Cinnabar? Am I sleeping outside or am I sleeping inside, in a dream? All around me the heads of animals Rings. Horn, horn, horns. I draw my legs into my body, I am Anita, the woman with the soft fur. The girl with the golden fleece. The skin around my head grows taut. I don’t want to say skull. Anyone who touches me hurts their fingertips on the sandstone. As black as tar. As roughened ebony. The air hisses out of the corners of my mouth. Pale pink is the shade of my holes, pale pink is the shade of the slaughterhouses of the season. I’m much too loud.

She walks across the room. It seems to her as if it’s all been here before. Been the way it is, or something along those lines. Wormhole barriers, cone­ shaped barriers. Belts dangle before her, from the room’s ceiling. Her hands thicken into boxing gloves. She falls on her knees and feels the spikes brea­ king out of her. PLOP. PLOP. Drops of blood on metal. That can’t be, can it be? This isn’t a dream, it’s what they call reality. Animals baying and roaring out of the mass of human­like entities around her. Her lungs pulsing, deep inside of her. Drops of blood in the tiny ripping vessels.

Golden scales coat her body. Then disappear again. She’s in permanent flux. She’d like to speak, talk to the people around her, who a moment ago were women with terrible heads, but her mouth is swathed, covered, closed up, and she breathes her words loudly and quietly into the layers now closing her mouth, over and over. “I want music, I want out, I want blue notes.” And while she’s pressing with the strength of her tongue and her breath – “every­ body loves some roses...” – she feels up there, under her hair, under her bowl of hair, her surface splitting open, someone cutting very gently across her skull bones with a long, skinny blade, she feels the draught, or whatever it is she always feels there, across and on her open brain. Drops of rain. Dreams. Confusions. They’re nothing but... Colours shimmer and change before her eyes, which can still see, but there on the stool, on the long­legged barstool, its legs thin and alive like a spider’s legs, sits a dark black woman without a head, with no limbs, a dark leathery torso that speaks to her out of its nail­bristling open neck, while the stool beneath her resting black moves unnoticeably, “What do you want, Medea?”

And I lay myself down, I never want to stand again, I angle myself on the lovely cool floor, at the feet of the benevolent, angry prickly pear, feel my tentacles seeking a hold, my open brown brain snuggling onto the ground, everything melding in with what they call reality. Layers of time and bodies. Brown long and twisted. “What do you want, Medea?”

“My name is Lady Pinhead, you lunged human, you human machine. Have you never heard of the Cenobites?”

“Anita, Anita.”
“You’re the Anita.” But by then they’re floating around the woman who calls herself Lady Pinhead and them Cenobites, girdled, skinless, bodiless skins, many­eyed carbuncles, glowing nerve paths, long souls, she laughs against this insanity and yet knows she’s a part of it herself. Salvation. How heavy with pathos, she barely dares to think it, that word. “I am Doctor Moreau,” she hears the torso whispering behind her, and she creeps away from him or her, “Mrs. Moreau from the beautiful island where we breed human insects. Among other things.”
She creeps over to the very slowly rocking dark cushion of cold tar, the portal of heavy sleep. “...perhaps too... never to awaken.” And there she sinks, is absorbed, sucked in, covered up, limb by limb, curve by curve she links herself up and becomes one, inside and outside, Anita, Anita, let down your dress.
She hears the calls, hears the whistles, and over and over she’s sitting on her stool, writhing, the golden mermaid, praying mantis, dancing with her arms before she arises, and over and over she stands before the heavy plates, rays, people, lords, feels the invisible scalpels on her skins, her layers, tiny cuts, silvery­shining cell nuclei, hair­covered heart, how beautiful a person is inside too, she thinks when she sees herself like that on the green dark glass, even in the act of decay. No time left.

“It’s showtime!”
And she steps out onto the stage.