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.

7 Replies to “The Prophet Jeremiah”

  1. 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.

    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.

      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.

        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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