Friday, August 28, 2009


Drawing down, down into a narrow circle, my thoughts flickering around my own heart like a moth around a porch light. Sometimes it takes all I've got just to sit still and talk with myself. Not much energy for the rest of the world. Out there, unseen beyond the blank reflecting windows, the surf soars and pounds in the dark. All that cold, restless weight battering the rocks.

Still, you know: no way out but through. "I have set my life upon a cast, and I must stand the hazard of the die." You asked if I ever thought about turning back, and I said, honestly enough, no: I never have.

Gently, now. Lay me down to sleep and wait for dawn. In the quiet, I do think about you all. I feel your wings brush past me, or the wind of them. It helps.

Good night.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


But I found she said talking carefully
as though explaining something
almost beyond understanding
I found I could not live without love.

And this was the full explanation, all
I was going to get. I found I could not live --
and the question was: what were we doing,
but living? And yet

You see it is complicated
almost beyond finding, and if I care
fully say I cannot live
without love, the repetition makes

it more of an explanation and less
because I too, we all, none of us can
live without love. What are you saying?
I found I could not live without love,

it is a sentence that wanders
through hallways, looking for doors.
I found I could not live without love:
I found I could not live without love.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I tether my bike at the street sign behind Tosi's, and wipe the wind-tears from my face. It occurs to me, as I'm walking away, that I have been locking my bike to it four or five times a week, all summer, and I have no idea what the sign says. I turn to look, but it's faced away from me. I still don't know what it says.

One more day in Portland, to get things finished at work and put the house in order. The kids, maybe, will go on ahead of us.

I'm looking forward to being at the beach, but I will be glad when this vacation is over. I have nearly, but not quite, made my peace with summer. It still is a deep interruption in the flow of life, an exasperating time of absences and makeshifts. All holidays irritate me. I've built a daily life that makes me happy and productive, and I don't like it to be impinged upon. I am a boring person, I'm sure, but I find my delight in a typical working Wednesday. I've put considerable effort into making my days a lovely mix of different kinds of work, people who delight me, changes of wonderful place. The morning writing or studying over breakfast and coffee, the afternoon coaxing the data elephants to dance at the Foundation (broken by a long reading lunch in the endlessly entertaining phantasmagoria of downtown Portland), the evening doing massage. Each transition marked by a bicycle ride, up hill and down hill through tree-lined streets rich with gardens. My life is perfect: why would I welcome interruptions?

After a white morning, blue fields are appearing in the sky behind the doug firs. The day will be hot, eventually. But not yet.

I cradle my death in both hands, lay myself out in my roomy coffin. Glad did I live and gladly die. I feel, as Stevenson did, that to hold your death at arms-length, and spend much time fending it off, is to hold your life at arms-length. It is, sure, an irritating interruption. But to see the sea again, the thrash of the waves on black basalt! It's good, after all, that someone with more sense than us forces us to take a vacation from time to time.

Friday, August 21, 2009


So one of the many ways to frame the question is: is it possible to write out of love and plenitude, rather than out of loneliness and wanting?

It is a strange thing to do, to set the bounds and say, joy lives that side, and seeing lives this side, and I am now in the space devoted to seeing.

But maybe much of my unhappiness in the last thirty years has come of not doing that. If you always cross over, joy becomes the enemy of seeing. And not long after that it becomes the enemy of joy.

But turn to the past, the past that has been so much with me recently. Isn't this the choice that I've always been haunted by? -- I can have love, or I can have myself, but I can't have both.

What does "have myself" mean? Not in the psychological sense, of trundling about an enormous ego with me and servicing it all the time, like some hapless Republican with a lemon Hummer. No, it just means resting with what I see as long as it takes to really see it. Not replacing what I see with what anyone else sees. Which means holding on to my solitude, at least, if not to my loneliness.

To change the metaphor, understanding needs a quiet protected space in which to grow. I've always known that. But only in the last few years have I had reason to think that maybe others know that too, and that maybe I don't need to lead a Jeckyll-and-Hyde existence. And if I don't need that, then maybe I can rid my life of its heavy insulating layer of compulsive repetition. Maybe. That's a queer thought, if taken seriously. The exposure of that thought exceeds the exposure of this little experiment. What if I no longer needed to hide?

I'm not sure I can even think much about that, yet.

So tomorrow we go to the beach, to Otter Crest. Gray water and soft light. We'll run backwards through time. We've spent a week there every summer since 1975: every summer leaves a tree ring, or a pond ripple, there. It's a haunted place now, haunted by our own happiness and unhappiness; our kids' happiness and unhappiness. There have been times when the haunting was too intense, and we had to leave. Most memorably, on our honeymoon. It was too hard to share that time of distress and grief with the ghost of our old happiness, and we fled inland, fled to Ashland.

There's no putting the pieces back together again. Every year we make something new, and something old vanishes. I wonder what it's like to be people who go to new places for vacation? I can't imagine. Maybe someday we'll go someplace new: but it will only be if we have to, I think.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


It was Robert Louis Stevenson, who also wrote:

I am a kind of farthing dip
Unfriendly to the nose and eyes;
A blue-behinded ape, I skip
Upon the trees of Paradise.

At mankind's feast, I take my place
In solemn, sanctimonious state,
And have the air of saying grace
While I defile the dinner plate . . .

(A "farthing dip," by the way, is a cheap grease candle, which smokes and sputters.)

I greatly admire Stevenson. He wrote a lot -- good, bad, and indifferent -- in his short life. For all his devotion to "boys' stories" he is astonishingly adult. That's not always a good thing, for someone's writing -- when Wordsworth grew up he could no longer write real poems -- but the reasonable voice of an adult is always there, which is probably why his stories have been so long-lived. Simple rollicking adventures, but there is a reassuring presence behind them, which says that everything, at some level, is under control. He's got Long John Silver under his eye, and he will never let the villain in him be too much admired or the hero in him be passed over unacknowledged. All that's taken care of: we can just follow the story.

And he wrote some wonderful stanzas, and even a few great poems. In my opinion, "Where Go the Boats" is one of the great poems in English. It's nostalgic and sentimental, sure. So is the Bible and Shakespeare. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating--
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Proposition of Geometry

Our art is occupied, and bound to be occupied, not so much in making stories true as in making them typical . . . Life is monstrous, infinite, illogical, abrupt and poignant; a work of art, in comparison is neat, finite, self-contained, rational, flowing, and emasculate . . . A proposition of geometry does not compete with life; and a proposition of geometry is a fair and luminous parallel for a work of art. Both are reasonable, both untrue to the crude fact; both inhere in nature, neither represents it.

There! There is my manifesto, the most concise expression of my notion of art that I've ever met. Indulge me by guessing who wrote that passage. (No googling now!)

Hint: there are not many writers of English who would grasp that the opposite of "poignant" is "emasculate." And not many that could hammer prose that fine without breaking it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Lobster in August

As I ride up tree-lined 53rd, a single leaf falls from a tree. I glance up. Still green. Just trying it on.

I haven't dared to meditate for weeks. Not now, now while I'm negotiating a new contract with the world.

(Silly way of putting it. The world doesn't make contracts and doesn't honor them.)

Struggling to think my way through to a new way of being. Which is not very smart. You don't think your way to a new way of being. Act your way, maybe. Meditate your way. Suffer your way. But thinking doesn't do much. Still, it seems always to be a part of it. Maybe it's just a formality that needs to be gone through. A new way of being has to be presented to the cerebral cortex. Like being presented to a Hanoverian monarch: it's done with much pomp and ceremony, but it's the hasty whispered conversation with the prime minister that's going to actually get something done. So I have to think my way through, try to keep my sword from getting awkwardly stuck between my legs, remember not to turn my back on the king.

Nerval, leading his lobster on a blue ribbon through the Paris gardens. You want to be careful of lobsters, said Holmes's friend: they have spent too long under the sea. (Read Richard Holmes' Footsteps, if you ever get the chance. It's a book that propels you outwards, in an unguessable direction. Like one of those whirly things in the park, you make it spin faster and faster and faster and finally you can't hang on any more and go flying off -- in some direction: you can't tell in which, until you're tumbling on the grass.)

I wonder what the Chinese for "lobster" is. The French is "homard," which sounds to me as if it ought to mean "something that likes to try out being a man."

Bluegreen. The Chinese have a single word, qing, that covers the whole color field we divide so sharply into blue and green. Useful for going under the sea with the lobsters, where everything is some shade of blue or green.

Suppose you do crawl up out of the ocean, like the lobster on the tarot card: does that make you a hero or a monster? Out here in the thin cold air, the dizzying open space, where possibility seems so much wider, but where the currents only kiss you, never push you? "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea."

Eliot didn't write very much good poetry. Enough to fill a nice chapbook, maybe. Prufrock, some of The Waste Land, the Four Quartets. The rest, as Udge observed, is really not worth reading. Except maybe the cat poems.

But. "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea": he was thinking of Nerval, perhaps. "A pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas." Lobsters again. They're everywhere, if you start to look.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Hills

And now I'm thinking about the hills, the hills I grew up with. In Eugene, the long line of the Coburg Hills, many of them bare, yellow in summer, green in winter, garnished with radio towers. And to the south, symmetrical Spencer's Butte, dark with doug firs, surrounded by his commitatus of lesser hills. In Springfield, The Hill, with its park and stone 'S' obelisk on top. My stepfather's house was the highest, the first one below that. It was a little hill, but it stood into the flow of Springfield like a rock in a watercourse.

My stepfather, Lou, was an engineer, and he had built the house with his own hands. He and his adopted sons. Poured the concrete for the swimming pool himself. He was a good man, according to his lights, so far as I know: his only fault was heavy drinking. But he grew up in a time that didn't disapprove of that much. Remember that? When drunk driving was a matter of comedy, and "holding your liquor" was considered a sort of moral achievement? No, many of you won't. That slips quietly into the stream of time, and runs away like the McKenzie.

I was desperately unhappy, much of that time. But I had books. Wonderful books. Science fiction, my first love. Books of myths and legends. And then fantasy, all those writers with initials instead of first names: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, E.R. Eddison. And later Mervyn Peake and Ursula Le Guin. And Joy Davidson, was that her name? It distressed me greatly when "fantasy" became a genre and flooded the market. It was mostly, of course, horrible stuff, hack stuff. There was a time -- or at least there was a time in my imagination -- when you picked up a book of "imaginative fiction" and you could bet it would be good, because it was such an unpopular and derided kind of fiction that you knew the writer would only have written it because he was driven to it, because he had other worlds in his head that would not leave him in peace. I lived in those books, wandering in those other worlds. And of course made up worlds of my own. I taped together sheets of typing paper and made enormous detailed maps, five by eight feet, maybe, covered with little inverted 'v's for mountains, chevrons for forests, inverted 'u's for hills. Always a Great River running through it all. But I knew, even then, that I was just copy-catting. I didn't really have the gift: it wasn't given me to be, as Tolkien put it, a sub-creator. That is really maybe what I've most minded, in my life: not having that gift. I wanted that more than even I wanted to be an astronaut: to make worlds as Tolkien or Le Guin did, worlds you could vanish into. Not my gift.

Here in Portland: Mt Tabor, of course. And across the river, the West Hills. And if you climb over to the other side of Mt Tabor, you can see Mt Hood, a real mountain. I remember how perplexed I was when I first encountered people who would refer to ordinary hills, ones with no snow on them in the summer, as mountains. Didn't they know? Hills are just hills. Mountains are sacred.

It was a long time before I realized that my love of other worlds was a religious impulse. My father had taught me to regard religion as superstition, and of course, if you're not inside one of the great traditions, or living by some lucky accident in the neighborhood of a saint, you only meet the stupid religious people, who make you feel smugly confident. The Mormon missionaries and the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Hare Krishnas. Stupid, uneducated, credulous, superstitious: clearly using their religion to feed their egotism. Easy to dismiss.

There's a scene at the beginning of one of Eddison's books. The narrator goes to a little church, and sees there a man who impresses him greatly, intelligent and able-looking. He catches up to him after the service, and starts chattering to him: was he, too a sort of tourist, seeking out the quaint? What was he doing, at the church?

"Praying," says the man, shortly, and goes on his way, leaving the narrator, and the reader -- especially if he's a know-it-all science teacher's kid -- at a loss.

The shapes of hills on the horizon are embossed on the insides of my eyes. When I draw idly, on napkins, I always draw some variant of the Coburg Hills, rising abruptly out of the flat, rich farmland of the Willamette Valley. Sometimes there's a river in front. Sometimes there are mountains behind. But there are always hills, rising ground, leading the eye into the distance, ramifying and implicating as they fade.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Faviers on the Hill

On reading a memoir about my sister.

You said you must have written the story badly, because everyone who read it felt sorry for you, and that wasn't the point.

But the thing is, you told the story brilliantly. It just doesn't mean exactly what you think it meant. The better you tell a story, the less it belongs to you. The story isn't actually the story of a messed-up kid in love with a wonderful girl. The story's actually about a wonderful kid in love with a messed-up girl. Or about two messed-up kids, both wonderful, both roughly handled by the world, who gave each other what they could.

It's kind of amazing that any of us got out of there alive, actually.

As for the Faviers? You're right, I spoke too harshly when I called us a family without hearts. But you'd be hard put to find a single instance of us actually inconveniencing ourselves on someone else's behalf, during the years you knew us. The family project was of self-actualization, and given our resources, it was a spectacular failure.

Maybe if the world had given us something worth doing we would have risen to it. Who knows? But I look back on those years with horror. Idle, uprooted, charming, heartless people, living on unearned money, determined to do anything in order to be admired. Anything, that is, but something actually admirable. It would have been difficult to find a higher concentration of wasted talent and ability anywhere, I think, than in our family when we lived on the Hill.

On the two hills, really. The Hill -- I never knew any other name for it, it was The Hill, just as in The Hobbit -- in Springfield, and then Hendricks Butte in Eugene. Always the house on the hill. The house with the swimming pool. The house with the sauna. Where the brilliant and unpredictable Faviers lived. Brilliant, well, except that we never actually produced anything.

Remember the Beatles song?

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I'm gonna be a star...

I got no car and it's breaking my heart
But I got a driver and that's a start.

That's what I think of. We were always generously offering people positions as chauffeurs for our non-existent cars. If you actually got tangled up with us, well, you found that we were too busy trying to impress somebody new to actually have much time for you. But we were happy to keep you on a string.

Money. The money in our family was sheer poison. It would have done us so much good, to have been thinking "I'll need to make some money to keep the family afloat" instead of "I'll need to find the path to stardom and universal admiration" when we were teenagers and young adults. But we didn't need to make money. Or anyway we didn't think we did. We were wrong, actually. We were going to run out before we knew it. But at the time money simply seemed to float in the windows and dump itself in our laps.

I know, you were in love with my sister. I don't want to sully that. Or to dispute that she had wonderful qualities. She held herself to her own idiosyncratic standards, as I held myself to mine: they just weren't standards that ordinarily did anyone else much good.

Or maybe they did. You say we saved your life, and maybe we did. For all our faults. We did have a family knack for seeing around corners and into hearts. Alex, I think, saw the pilgrim soul in you. I'm thinking now maybe that was the great accomplishment of her life, to see that and to reflect some of it back, so you could glimpse it too. Maybe there was a little more to those Faviers on the Hill than I've been used to believing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Send Word

My skin scores easily, so
you can write notes with your fingernails.
(Messages are supposed to be more discreet than that,
writing more disguised.)

Buy milk scratched onto my chest, and
don't forget doc appt 11 wed on my thigh.

A great squashed sun spurts light across the sky.
Fish dart for cover. Shadows slide on pavement.
My shoulders hunch, anticipating.

Sky building on sky, blue hollows,
dirty snow and white snow
I stop on the sidewalk and can't start again
under that towering ark. Two of everything but me.
The high buildings rock gently
against its jumbled hull.

Slack water. Air trickles through the canyon
of Broadway, turns, runs weakly down Tenth,
stirring the syrupy leaves. I must go on, but above me
is that huge moored disaster of a vessel
hanging like the memory of manslaughter,
and at my feet small crawling things
I must not step on. If I lift a foot
I'll never be able to set it down again.

Send word I will not make it home with the milk.
Cancel the doctor. I've come as far as I can.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Was man Herz nennt, liegt weit tiefer als der vierte Westenknopf.

--Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

What they call "heart" lies much lower than the fourth waistcoat button.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On the Street Today

In a rubble-strewn gutter, the detached bucket of a power shovel, big enough for me to crouch in, crusted with pale dirt. Like a severed hand. You feel someone should report it to the police.

Propped on a stout street girl's thighs, as she sits cross-legged, is a sheet of cardboard. Scrawled on it in black felt pen:

begging sucks
but compassion doesn't

Her head droops: I can't tell if she's asleep or awake.

By a light rail stop is a pack, a patched sleeping bag, and some other well-worn road gear. I'm puzzled to find the owner, for a moment, but then I spot him in front of the glossy brass nameplate of a store. He's iron haired, dirty, and cadaverous. He's using the reflection, anxiously examining a pimple on his cheek.

I woke slowly from the nightmare, not recognizing it as such at first, its breath heavy on me for a long time after. We had thrown off the covers in the evening heat, but at four in the morning I was chilled. The dread lingers.

A hot springs, hot water and cold water, acquaintances and strangers, on the verge of trust that never materialized. Nothing happened in this dream, you understand. Finally my clothes were off, and everyone else's were back on, and I was ridiculous. And I had always been ridiculous, have always been ridiculous, a laughingstock, trying to make communities where no communities could exist, reaching for intimacies with people who wanted no part of me, hoping that utopia would resolve the problem. Doubly ridiculous, because the problem is what makes utopia impossible in the first place. Like baboons, we move restlessly, and squabble endlessly, until the hierarchy is clear. All I want. All I want is everything. All I want is for everyone, without exception, to recognize that I am the most important person in the world.

A nightmare of wanting: all that happened was that the dream stubbornly refused to resolve into an erotic one. Everyone had hesitations, and the night was dwindling, and the heat was going out of the water, and what had looked like it was going to be acceptance vanished. And I, stranded in the flesh, a great naked whale on the beach, suffocating under my own weight. Hundred-pound lungs unable to fill. Hard sand grinding into my flesh.

Well. It's only a dream, only a dream. But I am truly defeated, stranded, defenseless. I am too huge and naked for this world. I don't belong here. I'm not wanted here.

But I linger on. Why? My huge heart keeps beating, the blood keeps rushing. At each clutch of the chamber my blood spurts out to Asia and Africa. My blood is the world's circulation: the planet throbs with my heartbeat. I'm necessary in ways I can't imagine, perhaps. The folly is in supposing my necessity and my desires have anything to do with each other.

Still I'm shaken, old, feeble, chilled. I wish it was all over. I'm ready for a new dream.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


The God of Acceptable Risk looms
on his folding chair throne, his great belly gleaming
between t-shirt and running shorts;
the Goddess of Insurance pouts at his feet,
heavily made-up, throwing dice;
the Cherub of Mild Erotic Interest flutters
at his shoulder, trying to stay airborne,
cheating from time to time
by resting an elbow on his head.

We leave it on the chubby knees
of such gods as these, and we wonder
if our offerings are acceptable.
We have slaughtered a perfect summer
in their honor, cut off our fingers one by one
to garnish a tasteful salad of ears;
laid the tongues of our children on the grill,
fat and sputtering. We've given no eyes,
which makes us uneasy. They notice
when you're withholding. They don't like that.
On impulse we open a can of cat food
And throw it on the fire too: you can't be
Too careful.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Dale Favier, Poet

I don't want to think of myself as a poet.
Don't want to be anxiously scanning my thoughts
looking for ones that might become poems.
Don't want to write as poems things that ought to be prose
because I am a poet. Don't want
to have a business card that says
Dale Favier, Poet
on it, because
well, one,
most of my poems are not very good,
and, two,
I don't want to lease out my brain or my spirit
to anyone, no matter how good a tenant
he might be. I live here.
So I will continue to write
mostly bad poems, and I will continue to post
things that aren't finished, and probably
aren't worth finishing, because
I need a place to live.

I am a poet. Okay. That means
I'm allowed to have affairs and mishandle money:
It means I'm more equal than people who write prose
and even more equal than people who write nothing.
I am a poet, and that means Li Bai and Shakespeare
will drink with me in the Elysian fields, surrounded
by houris and dakinis.

That sounds nice. But there's such a thing
as being too big for your britches.
Really I am the halfbreed
Eugene-Springfield mix,
son of the paper mill and the university,
both sides of the river, which runs away forever
with trees on either hand, the green river that,
riddling and laughing, pulls down bridges
as it goes; sucking poison from the fields
and spitting it into the sea; the river, really
I am the river, I am nothing else. The rain
all empties into my throat, and I piss it all
into old Ocean. There's such a thing
as being too big for your bridges.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

More Resistance, Less Force

I have a new article up at Writing the Life Poetic.

Also, if you haven't checked out the new Read Write Poem yet, you should. They're doing a bang-up job over there.

Monday, August 03, 2009


The more I hammer on these letters
the more they twist. "I love you" spelled in iron
beaten horseshoes: who knows what they say now?
They gained their meaning when the horses walked on them
a long time ago.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Summer, Mt Tabor

Stairs in warm shade
your arm on my thigh
a single leaf falls softly
from the pooling sky.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


It makes me realize how very temporary a life I've always lived. Everything has been just for now. I've played daily life with my left hand, and with left over scraps of attention.

I am old in my habits now, or at least middle-aged. Could I change? Would I even want to, really?

I could change, anyway, the lie behind the habits. I could make an effort to believe that there is no utopia around the corner that will render this life void. This life, this ramshackle hit-or-miss life, this country of anxieties and petty subterfuges, with its suddenly divulged -- and abruptly lost -- deep waterfalls of beauty and love, this country, this country is where I live for the rest of my life. Even if I only wander and camp here, this is home, as much home as I'll ever know. I can try to pound that into my thick skull.

It is a wonderful life, an absurdly fortunate life. It may be unsustainable: in which case I hope I will take to harder conditions with a good grace. It's all been worth it. Life has been so much better than it promised. When I was a miserable all-in-black teenager, of the sort that shows up in the nightly news as having gone on a shooting spree, I had no conception of how good things would turn out, how beautiful life would be. Maybe that's when I established the habit of camping, of living for a remote future, of paying only sporadic attention to the here and now. I hated school with a passion I didn't really recognize for a long time. I didn't recognize it because they managed to convince me, in the manner of any totalitarian organization, that there was nothing else possible. I thought I was hating reality. No. I was hating a stupid antiseptic regime of paved playgrounds and chain link fences, where touching other people and thinking for yourself and privacy and establishing your own community was absolutely forbidden. I hated it then, and I hate it now, with a pure white passion. I hate prisons the same way. I don't care what people have done: nobody has done anything so bad as to deserve that. Cut off their heads, brand them, hack off a limb or two if you really must vent your anger on them. But don't lock them up. I shake when I walk by the county courthouse and see the blind buses pulled up, the band of armed, green-uniformed sheriffs waiting for the orange-suited prisoners to shuffle out of the steel pillboxes on the sidewalks -- elevator-heads, I presume, which bring them up from the basement of the courthouse -- and make their five or six steps in the free air before disappearing into the buses, disappearing into prison, some of them forever. My knees tremble and I know my cowardice. I should be fighting this. I should be helping them. And I only don't because I'm afraid, deathly afraid, of being one of them. I have as much physical courage as the next person, I hope, but I have no courage at all in the face of that threat. I escaped from the world of airless corridors and cafeterias and bullies and dull-witted sanctimonious authority when I was thirteen. I will never, ever go back to it. It takes me to the very limits of what I can stand to bicycle past a public schoolyard, or to go and visit someone in the hospital. Malls, chain restaurants, and big-box stores have the same smell. Dead air, spilled cola, alternating stinks of AC, antiseptic, and fine dust: and people dying everywhere, dying on their feet, rotting inside their blotchy skins. Not the most garish Boschian nightmare of Hell could frighten me more.