O Lord Jesus, do you think I served my time?
The 8 legs of the Devil now are crawling up my spine
O Lord Jesus, here’s the news from those below—
The 8 legs of the Devil will not let my people go

— Diamanda Galás

hē′mă-tō-poy-ē′sis ~ pericardium 

[ news

from

below ]

Constantine Jones

It’s like this everywhere I go—every building I
pass it’s all the same. I leave home & there it is
across the street still same as it’s been goin on
two whole years now. That gutted house across
the way. All its bones sticking out the plastic,
new green between the concrete slabs. On
the way to the train, that elementary school
still under repair overlooking the Parkway—
in her heavy black nets & electric lights.
A long black veil, a mother in mourning
draped in diamonds & death.

Long Black Veil - - -  [Image description: A large structure wrapped in black construction mesh stands against a cloudy skyline. Superimposed, a hooded figure draped in the same material stands beside a ladder packed with votive candles & one year’s worth of prescription pill bottles.]

Long Black Veil - - - [Image description: A large structure wrapped in black construction mesh stands against a cloudy skyline. Superimposed, a hooded figure draped in the same material stands beside a ladder packed with votive candles & one year’s worth of prescription pill bottles.]

 

I walk to the clinic in the rain & I lost my umbrella somewhere in the city & the wind it’s kicking up & all around me the bus stops are cautioned off for inspection & the splintered green partitions keep diligent watch over their lawns, clutching tight their rubble & debris. In Brooklyn yeah the trees are all over but I’m just hoping for shelter in the shade a some scaffolding soon. I am sure this walk is tired’a me by now, sick’a my steps. Just rip us up already I hear the pavement say just do it make it quick. I can’t get a read on the ground anymore. This strange deforestation. One day the path is changed. No more need for mesh or metal or wood. The supports are dismantled & I stop for a minute all confused & doe-like for a minute like do I know where I am even though—is it me that’s different now or is the street still the street. Is any of it.

Unsafe Conditions - - -  [Image description: Close-up detail of a construction site sign that reads, “Anonymously Report Unsafe Conditions.” The sign is warped, the language distorted.]

Unsafe Conditions - - - [Image description: Close-up detail of a construction site sign that reads, “Anonymously Report Unsafe Conditions.” The sign is warped, the language distorted.]

 

In the waiting room. Everyone is flustered, irate, rainseasoned. The instant coffee’s out & that becomes gracious reason enough to forget how long you been waiting here. Wendy Williams rules the room & half the TV screen’s all purple & snowy. You go in any time doesn’t matter the day & already there’s an altercation. I push the buzzer on the glass door but someone else has to hit the latch to let me slip on in on account a there’s somebody hollerin at the receptionists’ desk. I sit down quiet & catch eyes with Karin—try to do a little smile for her that says It’s me I’m here to see Sophia 30 minutes early & Sorry about all this all at once. It’s no good blaming anybody—we’re all of us overbooked & they’re all of em understaffed. Underfunded. Where’s the money aint that always the thing. Falling asleep in her seat beside me is an Asian woman so thin & dressed in bands of all kinda different colors to where she looks like one’a those toothpicks wrapped in cellophane they used to stick in our birthday cupcakes back in gradeschool geez I never thought I’d remember it warmly.

 
 
Horae (The Seasons) - - -  [Image description: A nearly-nude figure reclines on a sheet of orange construction mesh, surrounded by a week’s worth of plastic utensils, coffee cups, napkins, bananas & deli rolls. Faintly overlayed, the same figure sleeps covered in bubble wrap.]

Horae (The Seasons) - - - [Image description: A nearly-nude figure reclines on a sheet of orange construction mesh, surrounded by a week’s worth of plastic utensils, coffee cups, napkins, bananas & deli rolls. Faintly overlayed, the same figure sleeps covered in bubble wrap.]

I go in & they know me by now but still they don’t call me Constantine like I asked on account’a that’s not what’s on the chart. How are you today Mr. Jones. Fine fine, I say, can’t complain, I mean I could but what good’d it do me anyhow. She laughs at this. Alright you all set now, she says, you using the same chemist. I say Yeah I’ll pick it up on the way to the train. You take care now, she says, we’ll see you again in a while like usual, make sure you see Karin up front about the Metrocard. Same harmless script we do every time. It’s how I measure my days these days.

Daimones - - -  [Image description: Against the deep blue of a basement wall, a shirtless figure holds a cardboard box, making an altar of pill bottles and votive candles on an old wooden ladder.

Daimones - - - [Image description: Against the deep blue of a basement wall, a shirtless figure holds a cardboard box, making an altar of pill bottles and votive candles on an old wooden ladder.

 

On the long hallway out I see Rashid taking blood out the arm’a some boy I catch eyes with. He’s handsome. I recognize him as someone I might of messaged online just a couple weeks ago only nothing ever happened I mean we never did connect. I don’t recall we ever even traded names but then again that’s the way it goes. All I know is he lives approx. 1,392 feet away from me & his eyes are glacier blue & if Rashid is doing his bloodwork here I mean if he’s getting his blood done here at the clinic instead’a the health dept. I know that means we must be here for the same 3 letters I mean we’re here for the same reason. I’m wondering now & I can’t remember did he mention it on his profile or not & maybe he did or maybe he didn’t but it doesn’t matter anyway I mean I didn’t mention it on mine. Still haven’t.

Pietá - - -  [Image description: The ladder looms superimposed over the figure draped in black construction mesh. Posed as if a nun or a saint, hand outstretched, a palmful of medicine is held in offering. Natural light illuminates the face from above.]

Pietá - - - [Image description: The ladder looms superimposed over the figure draped in black construction mesh. Posed as if a nun or a saint, hand outstretched, a palmful of medicine is held in offering. Natural light illuminates the face from above.]

The ride back it’s just my bag & a bottle a bad wine, botched
phonecalls home to Ma. You can’t even send me a birthday card,
she says & she’s not wrong what can I say. Sorry Ma I love you I do
only maybe it’s a couple reasons I don’t wanna call. What would
you say if I told you. If I drape my limbs in cellophane & Tyvek
what would you say. If I told you I tasted Death’s dick not once
not a couple times but I can’t remember how many. If I told you I
don’t remember his name. What would you say if I tell you I don’t
understand I mean if I tell you I don’t understand this language
it’s too much it’s too messy it’s making my brain boil.
Who can explain to me these systems. Who can make it plain.
Aide Mama, ego den exo xronon—exoume FINAL NOTICES
with different dates on em. All of us out here keeping new score
every 3 months or so.

Soon You Better Feel Hope - - -  [Image description: A shirtless figure reclines on a sheet of orange construction mesh. Superimposed, a concrete basement staircase is lined with medicine bottles, cotton tufts, plastic bags, prescription slips, cigarette packs, religious icons & a card that reads, “Hope You Feel Better Soon.”]

Soon You Better Feel Hope - - - [Image description: A shirtless figure reclines on a sheet of orange construction mesh. Superimposed, a concrete basement staircase is lined with medicine bottles, cotton tufts, plastic bags, prescription slips, cigarette packs, religious icons & a card that reads, “Hope You Feel Better Soon.”]

If the Dead can tell the future I don’t
blame em keeping quiet.   But who—please
I need a familiar name to call—which among
you can make me understand?   Can anyone
decipher this?   Who either on the Earth
or under it could ever deliver this news

Hex - - -  [Image description: A spectral version of the hooded figure hovers over a cluttered basement corner, hand outstretched, though this time as if to collect. Paint is flaking off the walls, wires & cleaning supplies blending with window slats & the semi-transparent altar.]

Hex - - - [Image description: A spectral version of the hooded figure hovers over a cluttered basement corner, hand outstretched, though this time as if to collect. Paint is flaking off the walls, wires & cleaning supplies blending with window slats & the semi-transparent altar.]

ABSTRACT—

[ for potential reality ]

in which I come back angry as a gravity well crushing
everything to specks—a great purple whorl sucking in
entire foreclosed lots & blocks & neighborhoods. I’d
take all those weary beams & splintered boards inside
me the paintscuffed traffic signs too I’d crush it all down
raze up a kingdom in scaffolding where only the sick are
safe. We’re children again swinging from the frameworks
in paper Halloween masks & all our bags are so full’a the
big bars from the rich neighborhoods & all the lightbulbs
are sharpening the mist to steel & no one who’s Well can
get in—nobody certain or stable or safe. In here the shadows
are warm & low & the sound a sleep is never near. Out here
I have crushed the world to steeldust, my cathedral a snow
unscathed & I’m filling the halls they’re ringing I’m singing my
O Lord Jesus, here’s the news from us below—you may not know
our names but we will never let you go.

 
Danaë - - -  [Image description: A shot of the hooded figure from above. Only the hands are visible, clutching the long black veil of construction mesh tight. Natural light illuminates the dark basement, cluttered with boxes & picture frames. On the ladder, votive candles still burn beside the pill bottles.]

Danaë - - - [Image description: A shot of the hooded figure from above. Only the hands are visible, clutching the long black veil of construction mesh tight. Natural light illuminates the dark basement, cluttered with boxes & picture frames. On the ladder, votive candles still burn beside the pill bottles.]

* * * * * *
Constantine Jones is a queer Greek-American thingmaker raised in Tennessee & currently housed in Brooklyn. He teaches creative writing at the City College of New York. His work has found a home in The PEN Poetry Series, Blood Tree Literature, Fugue, Ered Condition Zine, & has been performed at various venues across New York City. He wishes to gratefully acknowledge Francesco di Benedetto, curator of the HIV awareness project, and so it happened, for collaborating with him on the photos within. 

* * * * * *