There’s a lull in the music. For the first time in his life, the priest realizes his supernatural aptitude is a curse. He steps down from the podium and begins to walk away. He quickens his pace until he’s running—looking for paintbrushes, looking for new forms of nature/existence, looking for war.
He changes location semi-annually, using new space as a point of entry for the sermons. If you close your eyes you can hear the landscape in his prophecy—when you open them again, the landscape is newly emboldened, as if outlined in black ink by a caring, attentive hand. This will remind you of your childhood when, to impress your parents, you traced out an image from one of your books, perhaps a tiger or an eagle, onto a clean white sheet of printing paper: Look mom, you would say, look what I’ve drawed. She would correct you, The word you’re looking for is drew, then add something like, That’s nice but you shouldn’t lie. The priest’s enchanting spirals to a full stop; his voice breaks. You can see the way this magic taints his body. Welcome to the religion of impermanence… attendance is always low, interest level remains static.
His affinity for landscape leads to painting. The marriage of ART and BEAUTY—two distinct categories in the priest’s mind—nearly eliminate the sense of duty he once felt to preaching. Unconsciously, his decision to sermonize outdoors and in changing locations comes to be more a way of saving his God-given plot than any innovated method of teaching the Word.
He’s the Willie Stark of Christianity, mutters the genius, carving hateful epithets on the walls of his makeshift home. The priest is the angel of his own artifice, eyes closed to the bitter vigor of the masses. There was once a time for the city, a time for the tundra, a time for the prairies and the forests and the vast bodies of open water. Now all he wants to do is drop a bomb on it all.
Aside from landscape painting, the priest’s other vocation is film criticism—particularly war films. The hour is late; the priest huddles in the dark, perched over a text. He reads aloud: The category of war film is uncontentious. War films are about the waging of war in the twentieth century…
There’s one room in the house he can’t enter, one plane he will never colonize. He can almost hear the midday drone of war announcements clutching his ambition with a titanium grip. Every night he stands at the foot of his bed, admiring the false imprint of a crucifix on his blankets. Give me my honesty again, he gurgles while clawing at his collar. The shirt won’t come off, either because he’s had seven drinks too many or a vindictive deity has decreed that this is the end. Give me my honesty again, he repeats, crumpling into the shadow. He splits its pattern into a trisect of incompletes, drowning in his own whiskey-vomit.
Matriculating into the darkness, a fever descending upon his brow, the priest traverses the valley. The open wilderness yawns below him. When he reaches the highest point, he takes one last look at ALL THE BEAUTY before hurling hand grenades into the forested chasm.
His newest painting is a disaster—he fails to implicate himself on the surface, to encode his grief in the translation. And that’s all it is, really, he chokes out. Really, continuing some low form of translation, the priest sputters. You crane your ear toward him in an effort to listen. He’s hardly discernible through the noisy mess of snot and tears: I just got it all wrong. Pious self-pity in the temple; nomadic loneliness on canvas.
One can see cars riding the highway all night; men in camo shorts sell dope until sunrise; hookers shuffle from bedroom to bedroom provided HONEY GOT THE CASH OR A FIX; the seagulls form plagues in the sky, courting and mating frenetically, confusing the notions of UP and DOWN in the artistic effort to GAIN RELEASE, to CONTINUE THE SPECIES without asking WHY and WHAT FOR. The genius thinks all this—or fantasizes about it—while picking at the tabernacle, curious as to what’s inside.
The criteria of combat, meanwhile, has exercised a number of theorists, critics, and historians. Traditionally, the concept of combat places men in trenches or dropping from planes; pits tanks against rifle fire; divines upon guerillas who manufacture impromptu weaponry in the dunes just beyond the mood. This is largely an unimaginative definition. Consider briefly N.L. Priest’s notorious film A Mirrored Flame. Quite literally, the mono-angled film stars an aging war veteran sitting at a bar running his index finger along the rim of a full glass of whiskey, contemplating firstly whether he should drink it, secondly pinpointing the genesis of his alcoholism, and lastly speaking, in its only line, about Shutting out the din of remorse entrenched in his skull. Similarly, we as critics of the war film genre should consider Priest’s posthumous release, simply titled War (Priest’s title), which consists of a single continuous shot: a gloved hand rolling dice on a linoleum floor (a notably unclean or old linoleum floor).
The genius is huffing glue behind the altar. You can hear him in the silent moments—the hot, nasal whine of chemicals bombing his brain. He’s surging with dope. He’s burning holes in his knowledge, blanking his memories, praying quietly out of sight.
- thecoldestmonths posted this