Haunted By Their Eyes, Possessed By Their Goddess
“A billion spirits slip through the gills of the Beast to reach us.”
When I close my eyes, I see him staring at me from across the gravel lot where his throat is being slit. We never blink, and on day fourteen without any antidepressants, his spirit tugs at my subconscious in every free thought, every passing shadow and pet. The trigger of his bill shaking open to cry, silenced, echoes absently in the mourning doves’ morning songs precipitating tea leaves undeniably in the form of his last life, a duck.
In the dark bead of his eye, all the Marxist theory I can digest is waiting for me to catch up from culture and conditioning, to meet him on the other side of this Leviathan called modernity, to break free from our exploited conditions as laborers, and soar in pagan ecstasy back to the wilderness. I am haunted by him, and all the others like him. I never even gave him a name. I never even knew him that well. Still, his spirit remains.
To be haunted by a duck is laughable to probably 99% of humanity, Pagans being no exception. Today’s Pagans prefer animal guides who are unquestionably powerful, agile, vicious, or mysterious, and ghosts who are human spirits, rarely (if ever) even living animals. Pagans name themselves after hawks and stags and wolves and bears. Pagans hear gods and goddesses and ancestors and faeries and shiny crystals mined by slaves in dying forests and mountains. But a farmed animal? And not even a magical one like a goat or a cow, but a duck?
I must be crazy.
And I’m taking this cute vegan activist thing too far. Of all the critical causes in the world right now…
At supper, a family member orders veal ‘to make up for’ the emasculating presence of my ethics and newfound health since re-adopting a vegan diet (paraphrased). Another time it’s a meat-lovers pizza with extra bacon. If I had ordered chicken, it would have been fish or even pasta. Now my salad and steamed vegetables are too triggering. Men need constant reassurance that I’m not judging them, that I’m not hitting on them, that it’s okay to fuck women, eat wieners, and have a dick.
They want me to reduce all this to something manageable: a difference of preference, only. Live, and let live (unless animal). A mental illness, beyond my control, and beyond their stability, their certainty. A phase. A quaint pet cause informed by soy-filled, radical idealists ignorant of nature’s omnivores, disability, poverty, and the correct way to morph our politics into socialism. Less vulgar language—it’s meat, not an animal, it’s just the way it is, not slaughter, it’s a by-product, not blood, it’s just dairy, see: not slaughter, they’re just bees, see: not slaughter, they’re just roaches, see: not slaughter, they’re just worms, see: not slaughter…. They need forgiveness for this fissure between us, escape from the absence of justifications they truly believe in made present by the reality of what my hands and tongue will and will not do. They need approval for seeing the world differently.
Meat good. Man right. The nuance of human animal intelligence is baffling in its breadth and adaptability. Meat is cock. How can I be a homosexual and not consume a juicy piece of steak? Will I still eat a meat-eater’s ass on a desert island if I have an unnamed disability and cultural heritage that requires me to consume raw blood three times a day in ever-increasing amounts? When our rescuers can only save a precious lily white baby or a sick rabid dog, which will I choose?
I realize there are so many men out there conceptualizing their sexuality as coercive. I don’t relate my sexuality to meat because I don’t make my lovers live in captivity, perform labor, bear children for me to eat or sell, and finally give their life for the myth that slashing someone’s throat can always be ethical. Is sucking cock to make myself your animal?
Who is animal?
I don’t want to get out of bed. For the last three days that I refrain from taking my antidepressant, I can’t even eat. There’s bones in the garden, blood and soil like the Nazis chant. And it was put there. It wasn’t wildlife that chose to shit or die there. It was raised captive, raped, bred there, fed on our schedules, in makeshift pins there, made to perform labor, and killed when its value as a carcass surpassed its value as a slave laborer. It fed us. Its death rotted where our plant-based diets sprouted. Its captivity drove down the prices of all the food we share with it.
There is no ethical consumption under capitalism.
I pass in and out of consciousness as my body shuts down and adjusts to no inputs. I hear baby pigs squealing as their tails are snipped. Each piglet’s yip is different. I feel the warm tears of their mothers hearing this symphony of man’s horrors. I hear the chains of cattle still fighting to get free. I hear their feet sloshing through the blood of mother-sisters, wide-eyed in the reality of this ‘one bad day’ they’ve humanely been presented. I hear the gurgle of baby kids from hippie homestead dairy farms just learning to trust humans enough to leave mama and come into the shed.
I find a new disgust for ‘fake meats’ designed to look or taste or feel like animal products. And I entertain a new purpose for myself: to become food for farmed pigs, alleviating the guilt at all their screaming bodies I have deafened myself to, while simultaneously guaranteeing their execution out of the Anthropocene, and inevitably triggering cancer in every human who dares feast upon our corpse.
The Animal Goddess cradles me in serpent dreamform. She is no longer the Soil Woman I gave my garden starts to at the beginning of spring. She is darkness, unperturbed by light. She is weaving mutinies of Her animal kingdoms. And She has made no promise not to shrug us off in flood and fire and carnivorous bird pecking at every morsel of our screeching hides. I weep like thunderstorms, denied Guan Yin’s thousand arms to reach each and every living creature before me, and unable to drown out humanity with the malice of Noah’s gods instead.
My vomit is an organic compost of suffocating marine life and the dark brown blood of so many dying expressions of the planet we’ve decided to destroy. It swirls black as the eye of an animal, and my guide returns in the flying lifelines of the hardwood floors beneath me.
He is not powerful, he was cornered and trusting, hung upside down, throat slit, and bled out. He is not agile, he has been bred for waddling. He is only as vicious as his circumstances allow, biting and raping in feeble attempts to establish a pecking order in this system so foreign to his monogamous mallard ancestors. He is only as mysterious as we choose to see. In his dark eye, he needs no language between me and him. He speaks in the spray of blood and impending death. And in his whole life he did nothing particularly remarkable but endure the conditions we created for his life and death. Still, his spirit remains.
Not yet willing to starve myself to death, I began taking my pills and eating from Leviathan’s trough again. Responsibly, I made a handful of appointments with an OCD specialist to work on coping strategies for my ‘food-related phobias.’ Realistically, I know I stood at the maw between us and the deep ancestry. I gazed into Her eye and heard the animal tongues spoken without alphabets.
I have chosen to go back this time.
The Goddess as Jonah awaits regurgitation.
On an urban foraging mission to collect sawdust for a new compost project, and spin reclaimed plastic waste into yarn for weaving, I pull a wooden goose out of a trashcan. ‘Are you going to biochar that?’ No. It’s special. The Anatid is still speaking silently in his presence-absence from this world. A billion spirits slip through the gills of the Beast to reach us.
In the rain, the spring peepers are fucking. The wind speaks in leaf tones. Appalachian witches are ascending the trees in defense of the back-country. Hog-runoff pollutes a thousand Flints, and the next pipeline is straining at the seams, already. The whole thing is alive and responsive with an electricity beyond words. And it is madness to behold. I have post-capitalist stress disorder. I have anti-modernist tendencies. I am bird-brained and fowl, I am a quack, and I have become a complete loon.
Designing solitary bee habitats and smelling climate change in the molding petrichor of our new monsoon season, I am trying to remember the language we have chosen to speak and hear in each other. I am trying to find the words to say my existence and my values are not about you, are not about people. I can be autonomous. I can think and decide things for myself. I can determine my own ethical boundaries. I do not have to answer for you. I do not have to cross your chasms for you. You are not my calf. I do not owe you milk.
My sunburn peeled off my back and chest and feet. I found my consciousness crawling in gut bacteria and skin fungi. I found my body buried in the soil already. Snakes came down from the trees and up from the compost to let me know there are goddesses in the woods and duck spirits who will carry messages to the future in what we plant today.
I am not certain anymore whether I watched him die, or if he watched me.
Pat Mosley (LMBT #16882) is facing down the existential void with his animal friends. He works as a massage therapist and farmer, and
is almost just finished earning an economics degree from a well-known business school too. He sees all these interests as deeply connected in the art of human ecology and the need for interdisciplinary action in response to climate change.