999 rooms, 34-66: rooms of experience
In room 34, dogs are beheaded with cleavers and suspended over buckets to let the blood collect; the heads are thrown in a corner, where a rickety adolescent burns away the hair with a oxyhydrogen torch before piling them up.
In wide and bushy room 35, a tiger wanders about.
In room 36, your father breaks your nose with a punch.
Room 37 is well-set and furnished and upholstered and on fire.
Room 38 has no ceiling,
still night there is pitch-black and merciless;
the room is a pool or a pit,
more pit than a pool with its narrow shore
(half a meter of stone or reef)
and there, in the deep dark water, struggling
hard to keep afloat, swallowing gallons
and constantly sucked back in the
briny deep, bobbing like a piece of cork,
in no time surfacing again,
eyes focused on the diminutive shore,
a frenetic young head (sixteen
at the oldest) bearing deep and gory
wound, gashed open by the point of
some hidden reef or nail or fang.
The walls of foul-smelling room 39 look like being wallpapered in black velvet; still, if some noise is made, the velvet reveals as a mat of flies which will buzz around in clouds, unveiling glyphs painted with feces before getting back into place.
Room 40 is a cloister where vine-covered, living pillars whisper appalling words amid a numbing smell of ambergris and kemenyan.
Room 41, whose walls would be best described as tissues, vibrates at dawn, pulsates at night, exudes poison at times.
in the bottle
on the table
of room 42
has six mothers.
The austere instruments in room 43
made of polished walnut wood and tight hemp rope
and wrought iron
are rarely used, their mere display usually
being sufficient to draw prompt abjurations.
In open-roofed, broad, ivy engraved room 44
one after the other gods of clay are shattered.
“In room 45,” an old man once said to me, “I’ve seen patterns, I’ve seen beings; I’ve seen the wheel; I’ve been the wheel; I’ve experienced potential realities peeling away from me. There I burned ears of wheat, ate albatross and drank mulled wine after mulled wine.”
In heavily draped, candle-lit room 46, your mother copulates with a number of hideous, bearded men.
The table on room 47 has been set: pomegrenates, barbary figs, a cabbage and the severed head of a sardinian sailor (a wide hole carved where the fontanelle was) inside which lilacs have been bred.
In room 48, which some would call a corridor,
you’ll have to run, because – yessir – they will shoot at you,
and yes most people running besides you will fall down,
faces in the mud, under the shuttering rifles’
rapid rattle, and no there’ll be no pause nor relief
and yes some will scream but you will leave them behind you,
while others’ll step on the wrong clod and be hurled away
in a firework of charcoal-gray earth and smoke and flesh.
Behind the chestnut desk in room 49, your master does sit.
Diminutive room 50 is a tsantsa-in-the-box.
Sinewy men dressed in colored rags,
wrap’d ‘round the waist like dervishes of sorts,
copper bells at the belt,
break into room 51 at night or
when dawn breaks; mouths wet with wine and foul words
they open wide the door.
One takes it from the legs
one takes it from the arms
and up the body goes in the tumbrel
toppling and settling over the others
in a cloud of horseflies.
In room 52 an altar has been built,
with letters and french novels, all neatly gilt.
Room 53 is a high-vaulted, narrow gothic chamber; the cobwebs have increased with the years, the paper on the davenport is brown and sere, the ink is dry, yet all is in its place since that one fatal day.
In a corner of the shanty
that some did call room 54,
left there like garbage the body of a ballerina,
eleven at the oldest, in a dirty pink tutu.
The irregular shape of room 55, with a number of concavities and convexities, may look strange to the delver who doesn’t realize he is inside the head of a statue, whose eyes are nothing but the oval windows from where he will see dark columns of smoke raising from a distance and fire eating whole quarters in flashes of brimstone and ships sinking one after the other and all those oh so tiny drowning men.
In room 56 insects or things dwell,
more things than insects, that quickly,
when the door creaks open, in a thousand nooks seek shelter
behind candelabra and bronze idols
in the jars full of hystrix spikes
in every dusty hydria and crack and skull’s hollow eye.
– Bring him in room 57.
A man with a bushel on his head walks in circles, around a heap of broken icons, on room 58’s caltrop-covered floor.
In certain late spring evenings
over the blacken’d, leady earth
floor of room 59
shadows of ancient soldiers
are seen drinking ale & mead
while ancient dogs parade.
You’ll first enter a vestibulum
where you’ll be given clean linen clothes
an animal mask and a fur cloak
before being admitted in room 60, a perystile,
from every side of which they will scream
at you and throw you fruits or objects,
and one’ll advance in an agony
of giggles, and kick your ass hard while the singers begin
Hoson zes, phainou,
meden holos su lupou;
pros oligon esti to zen,
to telos ho chronos apaitei…
In room 61
(which has no ceiling)
only the moon rages,
yet skin falls and flesh burns
and bones become mercury
and screams become silvery
rings of bells, pleasant to the ears
of distant passers-by.
Saints carved on the walls
(sound of rain on stone)
a cloak and a sword
lying on the altar
and no bread nor wine
in room 62.
Room 63 is a bathroom full of spiders.
Your spouse provided you with the key of room 64, but forbid you to use it.
Room 65 is rectangular, the northern and southern concrete walls measuring ten meters, the eastern and western ten and a half.
The room is accessed through an iron door on the southern wall, which is then locked from the outside.
When the cyanide pellets are dropped from the ceiling and start to vaporize, the people inside instinctively go for the corners, searching for air, stacking, in those few minutes of desperate fumbling, one over the other, the heel of the father crushing the ribs of the son, the living dying over the dead and already being climbed and crushed by the still alive.
Ventilation, prior to disposal of the bodies, is provided by an electric fan system.
In room 66
you are obliterated;
only your shadow
remains, imprinted on stone.