The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 14 no. 2


Chris McCabe

untitled (1:03:01 > 1:12:21)



The crow. The owl. The lamp. The safe.

Arbogast enters the parlor.

The crow.

The owl.

The safe.
You make a mental picturization of something & then. . .

It’s Bates’ neck that is the object in itself, a parcel of digestive tract,
the pump &amo; flue of how each swallow connects with breath
and gives away what we think, the neck just a hook to hang
truth’s fish-hooks on, balm-shaved, each nostril shorn of dust or follicle,
reading his own register for what it shows of himself to himself,
eyes wet in the hang-dog irony of knowing the worse he acts
the closer he gets. . . the neck flickers its trip-switch of conscious
salivation, arches across the register Wrigleys-cool, swallows
back the dust in specks of white—traceless as the word cash—relaxes
at the fluke-joke She’s still not here is she? That’s the part he’s sure
about, that lubricates the lies because the language fits, his neck
a windpipe for vowels, a suction-pump for candies.

There are benefits to a place like this: a motelier who wants to know
why you’ve come this way, keeps clean sheets, lets you use the phone
at no extra cost, counts the drops you shake off as rain, dexterous
with attention to every detail, a motelier so in control & clean that you
feel strange—a story required to say where you’ve been—
and it drops its cache in sense just why the sign BATES MOTEL [NO]
VACANCY has cancelled its plural because there’s only one of you
to check-in, one night like this, one breakfast to go, one cabin, one bed.

One last chance to still be back in an hour, maybe less.

In the parlor the crow is whispering to the owl
whispering the one thing visitors should never know,
that Bates has a vulva inside him, the same one
he was born from, a vulva inside him made of the same
cells he pisses with, a vulva of dry woodwind that sends
him to sleep each night on a rockaby of calm beginnings,
a vulva inside him that is learning to talk, talk freely
through the sacristy of a long open skirt, a vulva
that can’t be fooled—especially not by a woman—
a vulva, then, that wants a man? Could Arbogast
be the one with his strong white teeth, Latino grace,
and if Arboghast knew that Bates has a vulva inside him
would he want to know, if only to help with the case?

The lamp’s too bright.

The safe tight shut.

The crow & the owl show Arbogast the silence.