Fall 2008, Volume 5

Poetry by Matthew Keuter

The Gorgon and the Gorgon Hunter who are a two-headed Basilisk discuss infidelity

You're forgetting the parable of the Hun, who woke one morning from a dream wanting nothing more than to return everything he had ever plundered: treasures of the far and near east, invaluable artifacts, land titles, virginities, keys to county jailhouses, local municipal ballot boxes, love in the thousand soldiers' hearts he mailed to the Senators of Rome wrapped in tobacco leaves.

I know the story better than you. A messenger boy delivered the trunk of hearts and Attila's message to the Senate:
                  Put these in your pipes and smoke them!
The unlucky youth was tried for the murder of a thousand Roman soldiers. The night he was publicly executed, the Hunic army, disguised as pig farmers, decorated a low lying hill with a thousand severed heads on six foot spikes, leaving the heartless corpses to the pigs.

Your story is too fantastic. There were ten heads returned to the doorsteps of ten wealthy slave owners, with their tongues split like a snake's. But the heads aren't important. The story of Attila the Penitent is a parable of contrition; its organ is the heart. Legend has it during the siege on Orenburg, Attila was bitten twice by a poisonous Krait, and his excited heart quickly pumped the poison throughout his body. He was saved by the army's excellent surgeon, who practiced his medicine in the dreams of his patients, visiting them disguised as their mothers, offering them his breast to suckle.

You're speculating. What we know is: Attila was snake bitten. And the medic put Attila and himself to sleep on a heavy dose of a strong narcotic tea. Attila slept peacefully, while the doctor suffered violent nightmares of a young girl dressed in a black-banded albino serpent that coiled the length of her body, so that she moved at once forward and around herself, the serpent rising above her head like the fearful Trojan Crest. This was the demon the doctor battled in Attila's dream.

They say Attila never recovered from his wounds at Orenburg. That he would remain awake for days, sleep on his feet like a horse, until sanity cracked like an egg hatching a million nightmares into the snoring mouth of madness. When the doctor refused to treat his nightmares, Attila opened his head with the jawbone of an Arabian Oryx, scrapped the brains from his skull, and ate them like shellfish. As an act of contrition, Attila gave up his worldly possessions to wander the earth for fifteen years. To become a house of fleas.

That is until he returned to Orenburg and performed his only recorded miracle: the healing of the town mute (we'll call her Gayle) who lived on the banks of the Ural River, raising a bastard son in silence, since the rape of the Orenburg women. I'll tell you how the story ends: Attila arrives in Orenburg, on its busiest market day, where he finds Gayle hunting ripe melons. Confronted by the man of her nightmares (nearly toothless and something shriveled like a vole) she cries out, Devil be gone! And falls to her knees as if struck: mouth Agape, by which I mean, wide open to receive a God who suffers troll cocks to be victorious: bent like the moon; like a swan's neck with a tongue that fires from its pink eye seismic grail chases flowering your epicenter so good you cum babble in Latin. So you see Basilisco, there are worms even a chicken can't swallow.

That's all very pretty, but it's not the end of the story. The son, mistaking Attila for a wandering ascetic, fell to his knee beside Gayle and cried, Thank you father for restoring the virtue of my mother. And Gayle, mistaking her son's gratitude as proof he recognized his biological father—forgave it all in a flash—the word miracle was on everyone's lips. For three days, in the vegetable peeler's house, Attila heard the prayers and petitions of the townspeople, while Gayle chatted happily with the women of Orenburg, who unwrapped their gifts to lay at his feet.

BIO:  Matthew Keuter is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. His poetry has appeared in Adagio, Diner, Mudfish, Skidrow Penthouse, WordRiot, among others. His works for the stage have been performed in AK, AZ, CO, NY and London. His first collection of poetry The Short Imposition of Living, is forthcoming from Rain Mountain Press, Summer 08.