Life and War with Mikey Fatboy Delgado
Monday, March 14, 2016
Protecting the Commanding Heights of the Economy – A Torturer’s Poems
by Anon, forthcoming in 2016 from Pink Panther Acid
While I was setting up the recorder for our interview Anon glanced without invitation
at my typed notes.
– This is problematic.
He pointed to the second sentence of my notes where I’d stated “He was a torturer for
Anon is frank. He was a torturer for the government.
– But all that means to say is that my wages came from the public purse. As far as I was
concerned, as far as we were all concerned, I think, or I thought, we were working on your
behalf, on behalf of the people, safeguarding what we like to call democracy. Of course I
know now that our function was merely to inflict pain on strangers, on other mothers’ sons,
on the off-chance that we might thereby protect the commanding heights of the economy
and our ruling class. But let’s be clear, we are all collaborators. As the law now stands if
you are not a collaborator you are ripe for torture, or worse.
During intermissions in the torture process Anon would write. That is how this book came
into being. The first poem he wrote (and the last poem in this collection) starts..
In places the torturer can sound like
some sort of poet. He says so himself.
He made the poem (An instructor in C— B—–) immediately after a lecture he and his fellow
torturers had attended. During the course of that lecture the torture instructor had exhorted his
cohort to not lose sight of the “fact” that both reading or producing poetry, and safeguarding
democracy by any means necessary, are absolutely compatible.
-We learned to believe that it’s possible to be both [torturer and poet]. That it’s possible to be
absolutely anything, and any combination of absolutely anything. That whatever it is it’s all right.
That whatever vileness which might be inexcusable and arrestable elsewhere is tolerable if in the
apologia for it the word democracy is sprinkled.
Anon notes in the poem the most terrible human exhalations that...
It’s possible to muse, for instance, that
from these rooms only sighs and screams escape.
It’s possible to believe that they are
made to flee the body on your behalf.
Even something as terrible as a
scream, which he has spent lifetimes subduing
and suppressing, cannot bear to remain
within his body when the torturer
is doing his work on your behalf.
His screams breed like rats, they breed inside the
body impregnated by your torture.
The more screams I bring into the world the
more are born elsewhere.
As is now well known the twist in the torturer’s tale is that Anon became a whistleblower and
fearing arrest and consignment to the network of secret prisons and torture rooms that dot the
globe he went on the run and is wanted for punishment.
– In our unit the work was done in that half-darkness that is calm and quiet apart from screams.
There is sometimes a ringing and we will
turn our attention from him and we lift
our small blue screens to the side of our face
and illuminate in blue the harsh bones
and muscles of our heads which form and shape
and change like corn in erratic gusts and
breezes the silhouette of his torture.
(from Taking a call from my wife while I’m killing a man)
These days Anon says he looks at people with their phones to their heads, and automatically thinks
don’t hurt me. He says this plea is most fervent in the half-dark and the dark, when he sees blue
faces and screenlit eyes in the gloom. He says he doesn’t say it aloud. It’s more of a prayer, and he
knows it will be merely co-incidental if it works. He says he knows that people have no mercy and
that everyone does a job and can’t think about it and what pain there might be in it for others, direct
They can’t afford to think about it. They
sell poisonous food. They scan barcodes and
ask if you need help packing the poison
into poisonous bags. People work for
poisoners. People work for the people
killing their children. People work in our
government offices and make peoples’
lives a misery. People work and their
work neglects other people. Why would these
people here have any mercy or thought
of mercy for me? I’ve done it myself.
(from Crating up chickens for slaughter in darkened sheds)
-I was a coward. At the start another torturer could see I was floundering. He said if you think
of them as lives you won’t be able to do this job. If you think of them as beating hearts you
will fail our country. You must think of them as oranges, as I do, or as something else.
He said I shouldn’t think about it if I broke their legs stuffing them into the plastic restraints in
that half-lighting. He said I should think nothing of it if their breathing stopped. He said I shouldn’t
sorrow at their deaths. I remember liking at the time that he’d used sorrow as a verb.
Now, in this long intermission in the torture process, Anon does sorrow. Here in M—— he is aware
of everything; the man on the phone, the muscles in his face and the flutter in his throat, scenes from
the past that arise in these intermissions, faces that he hasn’t recalled for thirty years, the boy who died
when he was six.
We didn’t sorrow for him then, or for
his mother. From that day forward
when we thought of him it wasn’t his death
or even him that we remembered, but
our terror of the word leukaemia.
(from we didn’t sorrow for him then)
-In the torture room, as in life, things of beauty dumbfound us. Only sighs escape. These sighs are given
off from what has coalesced in us, and has been silent and impatient for contact. In that way beauty drains
us of our small cries. It’s a gentler torture.
Anon in his recounting of the lives of himself and his fellow torturers says the writing of them feels
something like a loner’s furtive masturbation. He also knows that is how many will want to portray
it, to discredit it, to de-validate it. He says….
-I look back and see myself huddled there in the network, doing my job, not sorrowing, fantasy
streaming from me along with inadequacy, immaturity.
Of all the species what other animal’s outpouring would lead to that room?
Equally what other species’ outpourings lead to the bookshop and the critics knife. And which
critics will take the knife to Anon’s outpourings without
any sorrowing, on our behalf.
Plenty I expect.
We will see.