The Prophet Jeremiah

She was such a dogmatic atheist, she didn’t even believe in the heart. It’s just a pump, she said. The skin is the only truly romantic organ, and it doesn’t need to hide in a cage. You can tell at a glance whether a scar has healed. I was heating a razor with a cigarette lighter to sterilize the blade; she needed some blood for an art project.

Our affair had been brief, and had ended two years before. Thank you for doing this, she said. I wouldn’t have been able to stand the pain myself. Pain is a gift from God—a warning that something is wrong, I said, half joking. But in fact the blade was so sharp and the four, parallel cuts in the back of my arm so shallow, I barely felt a thing.

She collected the red drops in a small cup, then filled a fountain pen and began to sketch. The heart is like the prophet Jeremiah, I went on. It never shuts up, and it always has the same message: we’re going to die. I only listen to the voices in my gut, which are often louder in praise than in complaint. And while I chattered, her pen fleshed out a beautiful machine.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

7 Comments


  1. Gasp, what a tale! Really made me shiver. I could say the same of some of your previous ones such as Off/Spring. Sort of weird yet wonderful stories.

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    1. Thanks, M-L! Just yesterday, a writer friend told me, “I feel a sense of responsibility to keep it weird.” Me too.

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  2. I feel like you’ve written before about something similar; a tale from Japan, posted several years ago? In any case, this is gorgeous. Grotesque and queer, intimate and estranging.

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    1. Thanks. Yes, good memory. Somewhere I posted a story based on a psychopathic fellow gaijin back when I lived in Japan. Like that story, this one too is a bit fictionalized but the cutting really happened. To me, self-cutting for art isn’t that big a deal, actually.

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      1. As someone who has gotten tattoos, removed tattoos, and been ritually scarred (among other marks), I approach the body/skin as a kind of text, one that can be written on and revised. This resonated with me; and I was in the middle of a draft on this topic, although your post may push it in another direction now, since I’m thinking more about the grotesque/weird aspect of literally marking the skin after reading this. Good stuff.

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        1. Ah, good to hear. I think all traces of that cutting were gone in weeks, but OTOH I still have a burn mark on the side of my right index finger from when I used to smoke, at least 15 years ago now, and my left ring finger still faintly bears the mark of stitches I got after a dog bite in 1986 (when I was in Japan). And so it goes for the rest of me. So yes, I share your fascination with the skin as record.

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