A Textual Harold of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker
J. A. Tyler
[Below is an excerpt from A Textual Harold of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker. Read the entire piece as a pdf.]
A Harold is the Improv Olympic’s name for long-form improv, an exercise which consists of an opening volley, a middle point, and a resolve, is built by a variety of improv games across the span of a given duration, and in which the performers seek to create a unified, driven performance based on a single theme . To the best of our knowledge, there is no previously documented history or evidence of a Textual Harold, a game which would follow the same concept and approach but written instead of acted and created by one performer, the writer, instead of by a team of actors. The following Textual Harold was performed by J. A. Tyler under the unifying theme of Urs Allemann’s Babyfucker.
Lost in it.
What is downtown?
All these girls.
Are there babyfuckers?
People who do this.
Who fuck babies.
My wife says yes.
I say no.
There is no person who fucks babies.
Toddlers even, maybe.
No one could fuck babies.
We are not allowed.
Something in our systems.
In our minds to keep us away.
To stop us from that.
To fuck babies.
What is a metaphor for?
A downtown full of pigs.
All these pigs.
And the girls.
The girls with the pigs.
But they don’t fuck babies.
Because something keeps that at bay.
A bay of pigs.
Or something else.
You are a vast book in tiny pages.
You are split into language.
You are two-sided in that way.
You use the sentence ‘I fuck babies’.
You call yourself a baby fucker.
You won a prize in a different language.
There was anger that came along with it.
You might have felt sad.
Talk To It
Did you feel sad when people challenged you?
I think your new version is beautiful.
I love how Les Figues does books.
I like the book that they made you into.
I am happy to have found you here.
I wouldn’t have otherwise.
Since I don’t read your language.
There is vastness in your words.
You are mighty with angst.
You, perhaps sent to destroy our niceties.
To cave us in.
Or are you, Babyfucker, sent to teach us?
What is it that you seek to teach us?
I am listening.
I am ready to be taught.
Read me even when you don’t want to.
Read me even if you are scared.
Read me though the words on this cover frighten you.
Why does this cover frighten you?
Don’t be appalled.
See the words for what they are: words.
These are only words.
I told my wife of this project and she freaked out. We were driving our kids home from a trip to look at Christmas lights. We were in the middle of nowhere. We had looked at all the lights in town and the newspaper reported one more location on dirt roads between towns where no one goes but where they said were countless blow-up Santa Clauses and Elves and Reindeer, etc. We went and the roads kept leading to more roads and the only lights were the stars and a sort-of moon and the occasional house that we passed on our way down the roads that led to more roads, all of it looking horror movie or psycho killing. The check engine light was on, and I had this vision that the car would stop dead with our kids asleep in the backseat and we wouldn’t know what was wrong and we wouldn’t be able to fix it and we’d call someone to help but we wouldn’t know where to tell them to find us because we’d followed roads and roads and it was bitter cold outside and maybe we would freeze and or at least we’d be cold and lost and stuck and scared. Or I would be scared, because there is so little to do with being lost or a check engine light or a house in the middle of nowhere. My wife said That book sounds really offensive and horrible and maybe you shouldn’t write about it. I explained that the book wasn’t offensive, but she couldn’t get past the title, and I couldn’t say the words in the right order and we ended up fighting, with the kids asleep, eventually finding our way back to the world, to the normal streets with pavement and the Christmas displays we’d already seen, and we were home, and the fight died down, and we didn’t talk about it anymore.
I am Paul.
I am Linda.
I am a garret.
I am a column holding up the garret.
I am the door that may or may not exist.
I am the window with bars or the no window at all.
I am Paul’s face as a vision.
I am Linda’s voice as a ghost.
I am a baby.
I am a baby.
I am a baby.
I am the act of fucking the babies.
I am the narrator.
I am the narrator’s voice.
I am what the narrator says in his words.
I am the sentence I fuck babies.
I am the basket, the creel.
I am the bed that the narrator beds down in.
I am the babies around the bed.
I am the babies in the creel.
I am the babies in the garret.
I am the letter that doesn’t arrive.
I am the slot or window that the letter doesn’t drop through.
I am the words in a letter that doesn’t exist.
I am the reading of a letter that isn’t.
I am how we guess at words.
I am language.
I am babies all around.
I am the garret and the creel and a lack of knowing.
I am what the narrator doesn’t.
I am what the babies don’t.
I am what is not.
My daughter says O shit when she drops her fork at the table, or when she spills her milk, or when a piece of food misses her mouth and becomes lodged between her tiny hips and the plastic booster chair. She is one. It is hilarious. My wife doesn’t find it funny. Occasionally she’ll smile when our daughter says it, especially if it catches her off-guard, but she thinks our daughter will grow up saying O shit at school or a doctor’s office or somewhere else and she’ll be embarrassed and I’ll laugh and we’ll look like faulty parents. But we are faulty parents. There is no denial. When my son was two he started saying to people We don’t say ‘shit’. He said it for the first time at a birthday dinner in a crowded restaurant with family all around. We were drinking and eating and everyone laughed, even my wife laughed. It was funny. But she was worried later that he would grow up to say We don’t say ‘shit’ at school or a doctor’s office or somewhere else and it would embarrass her and I would laugh and the world would think we were faulty parents. But we are faulty parents, we must be, everyone is. My parents are faulty. Their parents are faulty. Every parent I know is faulty down deep or on the surface or anywhere between those two points. Humans are fallible, steeped in hidden wishes, so making jokes about shit is like the slow opening of a balloon, venting. If we don’t vent, we’ll swell into actual monsters, pigs in a downtown city looking up girl’s skirts. Because we are pigs, all of us, underneath it, but we wear our clothes so nicely that we look preened and outwardly gentle, and embarrassment is the sign of crawling pigs beneath our skin. Our children say We don’t say ‘shit’ or O shit and it reminds us that language is malleable, and that we should hammer it into shapes sometimes, to remember what that looks like, to heft them as parade-floats in the stead of our pig bodies, instead of always and only and ever hammering those words back down our throats again so that no one remembers who we really are.
J.A. TYLER is the author of In Love with a Ghost (Lit Pub Books, 2012) and No One Told Me I Was Going to Disappear, co-authored with John Dermot Woods (Jaded Ibis Press, 2012). His work has appeared with Black Warrior Review, Redivider, Diagram, New York Tyrant, and others.