Introducing N. Ian McCarthy

A Drift of Dead Comics
by N. Ian McCarthy

       You lay, balanced flat across the colonnade of my fingers. A lower-left corner wags with the intervallic oscillation of a floor fan—the limb of a cotton bed sheet, straddling a clotheswire in the wind. You are almost a breathing thing: the impulse of a contracting diaphragm. You are the sucking gill of an angled fish, one who cannot oxygenate without water. My wax lips strain around the vowels of an invented dialect, during the seventh minute of my resistance to pick at the flat-folded staples that run up the split of your faulted spine. Do I engender a quake that will defoliate your season of autumn? Can I scatter your sheets like loose cedar shavings, as mulch for the bed of my own Silk Road?

            I am the yellow-eyed cat, lean and starved, who ladles the spoon of his tongue into the dish of the remainder of your souring cream. I mount a low mangrove branch to bay into the charcoal square of your nighttime doorway. Come not for me or for anyone. You are a reliquary of mutable fictions, and you behoove no further corporal appearances.

       Are you more than the sum of your linearly arranged innards—this cardboard box lined with plastic sleeves and white splints to keep your keepsakes from creasing? Are you only your cut-to-fit pages printed in four-color process? Value is a future thing, fuzzy, until the future appraises it. I hold you by your edges and delicately, like a cautious amateur rolling through brittle Egyptian papyrus. And, in the ball of this lamplight, I become a tonsured vulture who stabs the vice of his beak into a gob of your dried rib meat.

       Six years ago, I misplaced my hat at a bar ringed by soot-black acres of potato dirt, where notes of vinegar from a nearby canning plant punctuated the inferences of my nose. It was a driving cap, sewn with a damask label boasting Donegal Tweed on the bowl of its belly. The memory of its passing is an ash steeped in smudgy tumblers of neat whiskey—as all things that transpire while drunk are contractually forfeited upon embarkation. The recently tangible became only a murmur in the chill of my morning baldness. Am I more than those thick, raspy hands? The ones that likely scrubbed over its green-and-brown woven fibers? Is there any molecule of me still stitched into the band of its fit? Or do I become a novelty, minus all personal history, as is the fate of any found and inherited thing? Do I exist in a green garbage pile, awaiting my delivery unto the heap? Or am I hung lightly on a wood knob, in the corner of room buoyed by festive music?

       May the serialized volumes of my being—like yours—be bound in clear plastic sheaths and filed horizontally by issue number, their values cataloged and fondled by speculators. In my collection, a body-warm cap, tumbled from the crown of a quite common skull. Worth is a fuzzy thing, indeterminate without precise coordinates in space and in time. Permanence is a windblown page printed in chalk.


[ N. Ian McCarthy lives in the southern United States, where he writes poetry and brief prose. His works have appeared on cocktail napkins and in bifold restaurant placemats since the early 2000s. He believes in the principle of essential human worth and in the incomparable value of stories and experiences; he hopes that by attempting to understand better, we attempt to be better. He’s been fascinated by outer space since boyhood, though he has an irrational fear of gas giants. He maintains a small blog at Mad Bongo Maze.]

37 thoughts on “Introducing N. Ian McCarthy

    • I apologize. I hadn’t checked the comments here for a time. Thank you! Minds—when they work—can do dog tricks sometimes, provided they feel like it. I hope I can cajole a few more from mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I really like how you’ve woven the conceptual with the imagery in a flow of consciousness fashion. My first job was at a comic store, so you grabbed me from the get go, with the references. I hope you’re using Mylar sleeves and acid-free backboards.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think about all the hands that have touched a thing. I’m sure that’s exactly the allure of collecting things—pulling a comic out of a sleeve (yes, Mylar!) and letting it move your senses and your thoughts elsewhere, past and future. I wouldn’t mind working in a comic shop at this point in my life. Sounds about the right pace. Thank you!

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      • There was a scene in a Chuck Palahniuk book (Diary?) where he talk about the history of objects, in this case it was antique dressers, but in typical Palahniuk anti-consumerism fashion…his character gouges the surfaces of the antiques. Welcome to SD!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Gouging antiques sounds Plahniuky. I take it too far when I begin to think about the history of the component matter (elements, chemicals, alloys) in things (and people). Leads to feeling uneasy. Fine to be here. Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

    • That’s beyond praise, and quite poetic. Words and moments… I recently had a conversation regarding moments. About the idea of all moments and occurrences (even the trivial and the banal) possessing an equal significance, each exerting an equal influence on the outcome off a human life. I like to think that way. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There is so much beautiful and nuanced imagery here I feel like I could read it a dozen times and still find new meaning, new textures. But right now, I just want to feel ” I am the yellow-eyed cat, lean and starved, who ladles the spoon of his tongue into the dish of the remainder of your souring cream. I mount a low mangrove branch to bay into the charcoal square of your nighttime doorway. ” with my fingertips

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    • Thank you for taking the time to write such a kind and thoughtful comment. You sound as if you are describing a painting, which is awesome. Writing-as-painting is a metaphor that I like to hold in my own head at times. I’d like to see imagery and language as color and texture, with actual eyes. I only hope I was successful at blending all the blotches into some kind of confluent meaning—a single story. Thank you, again!


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