This man is a city. He carries a city with him; he is bowed under its huge weight. I can wander across – through – this city of flesh, if I want to, but I am unfamiliar with it. In this city he puts up signs. Signs for roads and other ends. They corral the arteries through which blood flows inert and unblinking. Cars in their haloes. At some point all the blood was emptied out and replaced with this. He could if he wanted to turn all the signs to red, make all the lights red, making the huge stammers of the vehicles clench to a halt. At night I insult him and the city comes alive. With a static hiss, a roar smeared across a million little radios, it comes awake. The corrugated eye levers open. I give him a wound and
the city gives me in return a vast pallor of skin curled up like a fist. In the city buildings come up; construction happens, intricately. Buildings come up, all wonders of sutured concrete. People go in and out of the buildings, which are all empty, and some of which are burnt. The buildings gleam. The buildings share the noon’s tyranny, standing there godding the sky. I try to go between them but they close down, they close in on me and the spaces quickly disappear. Junctions emerge, bud and stiffen like nerves. I turn and a full fathom of blocks comes up in the space of a breath. He is a constructor, and he works fast. I laugh and an asylum rises and snaps shut around me. This is a rude joke.
I move in him and highways fold back on themselves, bend and crack and join, building a cage for an iron queen miles and miles across. Apartments slip and slide down glaciers of tarmac. He is a palaeontologist, an industrialist with an immaculate sense of place. Gates are put up in the veins, bald bones with hinges. I move again, testing, offering condolences, but the red savannah of the liver is in my way, choked with life and fixed in a grin. The grin is made of paving, or something much like it. Doors and gates flap open and shut like teeth. Gates, so many gates. There are things outside the gates,
even. He knows the need for commerce. Risks have to be taken. All cities have defences. There is a luminary in him that is not the sun. The luminary indwells the city and the city indwells him and I can hold the outline of his heart for ransom, but not from here. Maybe
now, exactly now. Along the estuaries to the heart the cars stop. A voice volleys the blood, the ribs hinge open, his cells grow bald and gibbous. He doesn’t bother to wait. It was never really like him. A static thunder comes wedged against the sky, lengthwise. He might be awake now. This might be the way the city says this. After all cities do not usually speak. And they do not speak clearly.