Home > Contributors > James Gouldthorpe > Patrick Lawler, "WHEN I WAS FINISHED, I CAREFULLY WIPED THE SMEARED NOISES FROM MY MOUTH"
 

Patrick Lawler

           

         WHEN I WAS FINISHED, I CAREFULLY WIPED

            THE SMEARED VOICES FROM MY MOUTH

                                                      Response to James Gouldthorpe’s “The Great American Novel”

 

The shoebox under my bed bulged with smudged guns and grunting pigs.  I heard someone say, “Try to keep the world from melting.” I had to be careful.  Whatever I drew came to life.  I suspected the man and the woman still had eyes even though they were buried behind grey glasses. 


The smell of the animals clumped in the back of my throat.  I tried not to let it happen, but ink turned into meat.  Even though I was only a boy, I tried not to let it happen.  Strange words were written on pieces of paper.  I heard someone say, “I don’t know at what point I died.”  I didn’t know what was scarier—words or pictures--and I learned I had to be careful. 

 

All I could hear were the bumping hearts of the animals.  I didn’t know at what point my mouth decided not to move. The man and the woman never touched.  Their eyes were disapprovingly grey, and they wouldn’t budge.  I heard someone say, “Try to keep the world from turning into dark drips.”

   

I was called to dinner by a voice I didn’t recognize.  When I sat down, there was a plate full of drawings—and terrible sounds came from the ink.
              
               
               Then      I
               was
               finished.
 

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Patrick Lawler has decided to live in the third person plural.  For most of their lives they lived in the first person, but it felt too confining.  “I” was too lean a place.  Too solipsistic.  It was a great pronoun to accumulate accolades and awards—but it seemed rather silly.  Then briefly they dabbled in the second person, but referring to themselves as you became overly confusing—when everyone they encountered also seemed to be a “you.”  Then for years they settled in the third person singular. He/she/it worked on a number of levels but seemed somewhat pretentious and ultimately wordy.  Thus, they has settled on “They.” The only real issue seems to be the subject-verb agreement problem—but they doesn’t seem to be overly concerned, saying, “The plural must ultimately be recognized as in harmony with the singular.”

.........................

I feel James Gouldthorpe and I have inhabited the same space, the same world, the same weird soul.  For this I am grateful, sad, ecstatic—and afraid for both of us.

All Responses:

Respond to a Prompt:

Submit your response to our current prompt(s). See our Submissions Guidelines page for details.

Patrick Lawler has decided to live in the third person plural.  For most of their lives they lived in the first person, but it felt too confining.  “I” was too lean a place.  Too solipsistic.  It was a great pronoun to accumulate accolades and awards—but it seemed rather silly.  Then briefly they dabbled in the second person, but referring to themselves as you became overly confusing—when everyone they encountered also seemed to be a “you.”  Then for years they settled in the third person singular. He/she/it worked on a number of levels but seemed somewhat pretentious and ultimately wordy.  Thus, they has settled on “They.” The only real issue seems to be the subject-verb agreement problem—but they doesn’t seem to be overly concerned, saying, “The plural must ultimately be recognized as in harmony with the singular.”

.........................

I feel James Gouldthorpe and I have inhabited the same space, the same world, the same weird soul.  For this I am grateful, sad, ecstatic—and afraid for both of us.