Caren Beilin

He loses his legging. The sidewalk is rubble, ironed. He needs the river. He actually feels he has eggs inside of him. Philip Roth wrote about a man turning into a breast. Marie Darrieussecq wrote a novella in 1996 about a woman who turns into a pig. This man loses his legs on the street where he walks, the sidewalk hard but broken, like the moon, that pregnant gravestone, fell down on it one night, being kicked. Salmon run. Legless, in spring. Their skin is different from their flesh that is—a schmear of glass, the skin darker and sparkling. There is the Detroit River. On the street the man turns, to look at a woman, and then he turns, to a purpose, but he's legless, belly to the pavement, the scratch of that hardness. He's breathless. He flaps beneath his overcoat. It was already big. He flaps beneath it, bloodless, or blood bright. Roe. He remembers, from a restaurant. He forgets. He can feel his need to splay them. Sometimes this does feel better than even having a brother or a sister, to just shit. Where is the river? He tries to smell, his nose lost in an inverse. Now his nose feels somewhere in him, dispersed through flesh, spiraling. There's Gregor Samsa. That man turns into a bug after dreaming. How do you die if the others are alive? Aren't you still living, even if you die? Aren't you still alive in all of the other iterations, other fictions, fanning across the universe, multiverses, other galactic versions of places, where salmon are king, or baboons, or the clouds—in the absence of the American moon—are really the only lighting around, dim and mauvefilling dumb lanterns now spilling out rain, or Detroit, this city's galactic twin is out there, somewhere, paved, with pearlskin, with the skin of whites and why not, for the way the hose twists in a city like this and because of who, in our universe, always gets shot on the street? By a pig. This is what the man has to think, because he is dying. He has to think.

Don't farm salmon, it's not good for us with all of the antibiotics, but how he would have loved to be deposited just then into a fish farm, a small farm, too small for him, crowded in a slithering pen with other salmon all waiting for our neckbreaking, and given grains, some say corn is even given to American salmon. He would have, dying there so dryly in Detroit, perfectly loved to find himself at that farm. At least for a moment, before he would regret it. A hose opens, because it is lying there vulnerable and something happens, an activist is cutting the throat of "the man" through the conduit of city hosiery, the hosiery of this city, cutting them all open, all these lovely legs of strong but boneless women, the hoses are on our side, want us to cut them, lie tangled and kneeless in waiting, to get what we want, what anyone would, the river gushing from them, a ripening little river coming over this man made salmon, the coat floating off and he up the sidewalk so fortunately at a slant, him, so fortuitously having been walking up a hill on a city street in a typically unhilly place, and so he gets to flow, to run upward as salmon run, alone, toward something such as spring, wanting very much to splay them, the roe he feels still, the beaming of these beads against his guts, if he only might pop them strategically into a gutter, after all he used to be a man and has strategies in him, in bones now thin. But a hose in this place is only so giving, and this spontaneous minor river, minor savior that it was, runs to a dribble, to a dusting of mist. These stories are all about death. Death is so common. So common in metamorphosis fiction. It's not death but forgetting, he thinks, philosophizing, as these stories become these little philosophies, especially Kafka's, maybe it's enigmatic but it's there. Nobody said Kafka did not have a heavy hand, though it is interesting to everyone, well to some, what kind. Marxist? There's not really a river near. Not in this neighborhood. Its better this roe should die in me, he decides, right in me, but these stories do vary, don't they, in their degree of omniscience and impressionistic narratological access and in this case, the man does not know that he has actually already splayed out his roe, and they did scatter down the gutter and there are frogs and rats and filthy rabbits therein who know what this is, something, they don't know what, but they're sure, it will appear, something more, and they wade and waddle and follow smell. The man dies, as he always will. He dies near a lamppost, not lit. The moon is not out. Dusk hardly puts her gray perfume into the evening, a pinkschmearing and orange pockery below not yet the stars, which will somewhat plump up, a dumping up of dumplings that shall twang. The sky twangs with nipples that are twinkling. Of white women, white men. Both of them. On a dark canvas that is breastless. Are we then the breast, pushing out against a rounding-around-us universe, that sucks? Philosophy fucks you, he thinks, in the end. What will it take to die without thinking? I'll do anything.

The stars will soon enough be everywhere. There is such a thing as a Detroit starriness. And anyone might assume that a salmon like this, dead by a lamppost turning on, at last, might have fallen from a vendor's load, and not everyone picks something such as this right off the street like this, if it is not on ice, if it's not living. If anything will eat this man, turned to salmon, it will be a thing subhuman, a dog or a homeless person, often you see them blighted around trashcans burning, a brew of stars therein these cans browned into ripped flags of rum, lighting, or they're blighted in their homes, even then. Even behind doors. Doors are nothing. Or are they everything there is, the knobs the busts of white fists?, he thinks. Like shooting fish.