Seized by Meat
by Th. Metzger
At the groundbreaking ceremony for a little Anabaptist church where one day my funeral shall be performed, I saw a one-day-old goat, mewling, barely able to totter, and I was struck dumb with pity and horror. Those rectangular pupils, that tiny tuft of scraggle-beard, the whispery piping of baby goat-song. The little Mennonite girl who’d brought the goat fed him milk with an eyedropper. She said the goat’s name was Peace, “and no one will ever eat him.”
I said: Hear O Azazel, the Lord our meat is one meat.
In ancient days, the scapegoat was sent forth with human sin incarnated in his flesh. Into the desert where the wasteland demons howl their cacophonic cadences all night. Pour your crimes then, the facts of your flesh, into his physical form and drive him away, screaming.
A thousand years after the fact: truly, the word became flesh. And two thousand years after that, on Easter Sunday we proceed toward the ham, the standing rib roast, the juicy tom turkey and reenact the most primitive of all rituals: eating meat spodee odee, eating meat. You betcha! “Dad, pass that bloody slab. Mom, pass the meat-bomb.”
Sigmund means Victory-Mouth, in the tongue of my father’s fathers. And Freud means Joy. So we take very seriously what Dr. Victory Mouth Joy has to say about Meat and Monotheism. His science of the soul teaches a plain truth: our salvation lies at the exact point where our totem meets our teeth. The taboo is also the torque. Repression is the essence of all culture and each time we say NO to the impulse, we crank down another turn on the steel spring of psyche. Bring forth the ancient animal wherein resides the power of resurrection and subatomic angst. Give me the Master Meat Molecule or give me death. Or better yet, make it a double!
Scapegoat — scapegrace. Escape artist who proclaims: “There ain’t no Escape Clause.”
Lo! Harry Houdini twisted in a straight jacket at the end of a craned-high chain, dangling by this spider thread like a sinner in the hands of an angry God. His most curious and most troubling act of escape artistry however was to go deep within, not to hang in plain sight. In the fall of 1911 a huge bloated sea creature washed up on the ocean shore of Cape Cod. Described by the newspapers as a “cross between a whale and an octopus,” this flaccid mass of rotting sea-beast was trucked to a Boston theater, and a handcuffed Houdini was sewn inside and chains padlocked around the amorphous, salty goo-sac. Into the mother of all he was thrown, into the decaying salt-womb, into the bag of suboceanic guts and gore. Did he make his escape? Of course he did. But never again did he attempt this type of highly unhygienic hijinks. Likewise, into the foul darkness you and I must return, and whence we must be born again. Imprisoned and then released from the nauseous body, the stench-maw, the clench-paw, liberated by secret knowledge.
Anthropometric science teaches that by your meat you shall be known. Thus we employ the calipers, ruler, double dogleg prong, the pincer gauges and Bertillon’s registers to take the measure of the man, the malefactor, and mark him, know him, well. Alphonse Bertillon taught that there is no human with the same eleven factors as any other human: length and breadth of head, of right ear, length of forearm, arms outstretched, middle and ring fingers, left foot, trunk and height of foot.
My great grandfather, Walter Mercel, was a disciple of Bertillon. From 1890 until 1925, he made a career of measuring criminals. Not their minds, but their meat. So many centimeters tall, so many across and around and through. He was the chief engineer at the Monroe County Jail, now utterly effaced from the landscape, only a spectral storehouse, where the souls of lawbreakers still languish. Twisted souls trapped in precisely-measured flesh. Well-regulated bodies trapped in the massy brick rectangle broken by dim barred windows. Now only those “Who Hadst Known” can see the ghost of the prison, the Temple of the Rod, the repository of penal ectoplasm.
Walter Mercel was the crime-stopping Bertillon Man, secret agent of scientific certainty. He worked with calibrated wands, with a special chair bolted to the floor so that his photos were exact. And on Easter Sunday 2007, I dug through a box of mildewy pictures, a hissing hoard of Kodakery, and found the evidence which I had long sought. There he was: Walter Mercel, captured forever with his calipers, his stiff collar and bow tie, his shoeshine, suspenders and Northumbrian mustache, in the chamber of metrical meat. That afternoon I’d eaten my fill, and more than my fill, of expensive underdone standing rib roast at my mother’s table. Then we proceeded upstairs to retrieve the boxes of evidence. In sheafs of amber-tone imagery, among endless doubles and faded lost faces, there we found the Bertillon Man. And today begins his resurrection.
It is said: all meat is mystery meat. It is inarguable: the word was indeed made flesh and dwelt among humans. It is eternally true: carnalepsis can not cured, though pork can be, with hickory smoke and the passage of time. To be carnaleptic means to be seized by meat. No more ghost in the machine, but a machine capturing the spirit, squeezing with steely meat-prongs. Millimeters, centimeters, endless tiny notches on the silvery surgical gleam of the gauges. It was known, then forgotten, but as of this day, this Easter eve, it is ours again, the savory science, the gnosis and the prognosis.
A bleary-eyed goatling ghost still totters in the grass. The church now stands, solid and rigid, where once there was merely a fervent glimmer in the eye. In the upper corners of the sanctuary, where plain white planes meet at oblique angles, here the holy ghosts do dwell. A church is a box full of spirits. And this church, this little Anabaptist bastion, was brought fully to life on Easter by four-part harmony, echoing back the genetic ictus which beats in my brain, more steady than the heart or breath. We sang “Old Hundred,” the decimal hymn, heard for half a millennium, and still ringing in the high white places.
On Easter morning we ate, we sang, we ate some more. And it was good.
About the Author
Th. Metzger studied infinity and the fourth dimension with Rudy Rucker in the 1970s. He has since committed a number of bizarre investigative and novelistic forays, including Shock Totem, Drowning in Fire, This is Your Final Warning, The Birth of Heroin, and Blood and Volts. He lives in the Burnt Over District of New York State and is a student of the the area's lost spiritualist history. Metzger refers to his Flurb piece "Seized by Meat" as "Carnaleptic Communiqué #1." There may be more communiqués to come.
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