“Guitar” by Louis E. Bourgeois


You’ll never play the guitar again, I was told right after they took my arm, forever.  In fact, at the very moment they told me, the arm, my arm, was being taken outback to the hospital crematorium to be burned to ash as if it never existed as a part of me at all.  I asked to at least be given some of the ash but they wouldn’t let me have any of it saying it was against hospital policy and probably against state law.  Think about it, they wouldn’t even give me the ashes of my better and former self, which they took without my consent—they said they had to amputate in order to save my life, that bodily life that was left to me in fragments and I say, all right, fair enough I suppose, you had to take some of me in order to have any of me left for my parents and for society at large, but now that you have these fragmented remains of me, what on earth are you going to do with me now that I can’t play the guitar or fish and swim like I use to?  I’m alive all right, too alive, like some kind of post-post modern self, in more honest times they would have called that self a monster or at the very least a cripple, now what?  I’m more alive now than ever, then you’ll ever be able to deal with—extreme mutilation brings a person to life all right—you’ve never seen some one so greedy for life and so arrogant just to be alive at all, some weird elitism—I demand all things at once right now, but back to the guitar—we mustn’t forget our thesis here!  It was a beauty of a guitar that my rich uncle bought for me when I was 9 years old and he paid something like $1,000 dollars for it and it was on sale at that, $1,000 dollars, at that age and at my socio-economic level, I thought that was all the money in the world—finally, they let me go home, I guess they got tired of me, or, finally realized I didn’t have any money to pay them for taking my arm—I had to go home with nothing in my left sleeve and needless to say I felt a little awkward about that, a little horrified really…I was a beautiful child and now I was still beautiful but in a totally different way that would take a little getting used to you might say…there was nothing to hold my left sleeve together, no arm to feed it, you might say—Mama drove me home of course, silently, then talking about Chinese food for reasons unknown, poor Mama.  It was her fault she now had a crippled son, no, at least not completely her fault, but God’s fault too, but little did she know there’s no God only darkness, that’s what I discovered when I died 4 times and lived to tell about it, no God only Darkness, the self is nothing but darkness, dig…when we got home I immediately went to the closet to play the guitar, for I was dedicated to the guitar on moral principles alone and was literarily addicted to playing chords and notes, but quickly I realized the hospital people were right, I couldn’t play the guitar in any traditional sense.  Perhaps I could learn how to play with my feet like that armless guitarist did when he played for the Pope and brought real tears to the Pope’s eyes, but, no, I’m not that smart or talented, so it was time to accept the gruesome fact that I’d never be able to play my exquisite guitar again.  I just got drunk for a long time and left the guitar to collect dust in the closet until about a year or so later when I took the guitar out of the closet, which was still in the real leather guitar case, and walked deep into the swamp; walked further into the swamp then I’d ever had, and that’s a long way because I was raised rural my friend…in any case, I found a little hill of dry ground and opened the case and placed the guitar on top of it and poured gasoline all over it and dropped the match on the thing I loved more than anything in the world and watched it go up in red and orange flames. The warblers and sparrows in their evening bushes twittered and tweaked as if nothing was happening at all.


Louis E. Bourgeois