from The Company of Cannibals

[A note on the novel: The Company of Cannibals follows the intertwined stories of women who share an obsession with the fate of the earth. Paula Schweike is a Bay Area poet turned secular mystic. Abandoning her writing career to give public performances in which she burns her journals, she unexpectedly acquires a following of fervent young disciples. They face a terrible choice when their leader, distraught at the seemingly terminal condition of the planet, ends her own life after requesting that her supporters ritually consume her remains to honor the ideal of “a world feeding on itself.” Lizzie Tollefsen, Paula’s right-hand woman, is a revolutionary genius who has given up on securing justice in her lifetime and aims only to destroy, by any means necessary, a “cannibalistic” world order based on runaway consumption. Told partly from the distant perspective of a far future time in which the Universal Crash precipitated by the Paula cult is but a chilling memory, and partly from the very close perspective of participants in the drama, The Company of Cannibals both parodies and mourns the history we are actually living.]

We, The People (I.K.B.M.)

     Where such a wiry scrap of a boy-woman get such a wide walk? She kannied out all right. Parker, the Mighty Micro-Scop. Kanibal original.

     Going Kanibalistik (The Empire Eats Back)
     by Parker

     I was born a child of this cannibal nation
     but I’m scoppin wise to the situation.
     You gouge my heart and swallow it beatin,
     you snatch my eyeballs for snack time eatin.
     You always like the dark meat best,
     pretty soon won’t be no planet left.
     You heap your plate with more of my peoples,
     quench your evil thirst from my mamas nipples.
     You lay back peaceful, chew your cud
     in a hot tub full of poor folks blood.
     Chow down so quick you forget to taste
     till we bout to drown in poison waste.
     Consume, consume till you blue in the face
     ain’t makin you no master race.
     Your malls and burbs they soon be rubble,
     master scops done bust that bubble.
     Like Pharaoh’s army fell to dust
     your fine machine gonna spoil and rust,
     your glutton glory, plunder lust.

     Ready, set, devour.
     Defoliate, deflower.
     Ain’t no outside to power.

     Here’s how it might have been, here’s how it was--

     Young people roaming the streets and you can’t tell they boys or girls. “Scop on, stay Black” they steady chanting and you can’t be sure of the color, some of them, they pass you by in such a endless blurry stream. A raggletaggle crew, heavy luggage on their backs, kannied out in the yield from some serious dumpster diving. They got their fanciful mixes and matches, African mud cloth and the usual brand names, all styles of tame and liberated hair and hidden hair and no hair--yet and still, there’s a family resemblance. Midnight dark, albino-pale, and every shade in between, they’re Kannies, got that look. They on a mission.

     Ready, set, devour,
     Defoliate, deflower--

     “Everybody Black when they scop de bop.”

     And everywhere you see it written, high up on the sides of 20-story buildings in enormous spray paint letters, freeform and artful and taller than the train car you’re riding in is long, so it look like the tag artist must’ve hung from a helicopter. I.K.B.M. Inner KaniBalistik Missile. Bigger than advertising.

     And the schools half empty. Some of them like ghost towns.
     Lizzie, she move among them. Her and Parker. Tight. Tight.

     That one single summer, months when it came together.

     Advancing in their thousands, unafraid, raining death on cameras. Eyes only for each other, the future, and Paula Prophet. Steady chanting, scopping, flashing the sign of the True Bones.

     I’m the Kanibal who cried I Can!
     We going to Washington to eat.

     This the small little trickle, the puny headwaters. Nothing to indicate this jukatu creek destined to swell and swallow up the world. The Universal Crash a thousand miles downstream.

     In the upscale burbs, every door is shut and locked. The alarm systems armed, because that’s the mentality, though it don’t take a Sherlock to figure this massive swarm of Kannies not likely to be deterred by methods put in place to deal with common criminals. Lots of rural communities, too, people stay tucked indoors. Other places, the local protes turn out en masse, gaping, smirking, cheering, slapping five. Moms fussing, freaking out when little kids who can barely talk start making the Bone Sign back at the passing Kannies. Fans, sympathizers, and suckups waving cash donations and offerings of small electronic devices which get collected by Parker’s scops in 20-gallon garbage bags, then sold to raise money for food and supplies. It is said that a Kanibal never forgets a kindness.

     In the inner cities, they a army of liberation. The neighborhoods with the bulletproof glass in between you and the bottles in the liquor store, those the ones where you see the Bone Sign scrawled and scribbled everywhere. That’s where the graffiti blossoms--

     Killer cops?
     Call the scops!

     But if these Kanibals so harmless, like beneficial insects, ladybugs or thick red worms in your compost heap--if they not armed and dangerous--how it happen that Channel 4 News helicopter, hovering for a better camera angle, got plucked from the sky over Lincoln, Nebraska? Pilot snuffed, camerawoman maimed for life. Projectile discovered to have come from a hand-held rocket launcher manufactured somewhere near Guangzhou, popular in the last Balkan war.

     They got a point, though, about the media. You can see why they so into Innertainment, when you look at the Entertainment we got around here. Any prote can have a camera to embalm them. A state of the art sound system pumping their voice all over the street like a fireplug spewing water in old time city summers, back when we never gave a second thought to where that H2O was coming from.

     Takes Parker to rearrange the social scape so everywhere you go you hearing someone soft chanting. Caruaru, Grenville, Kumasi, Veracruz--you hear the kids and older people too, steady chanting. Could be that’s all the English they know.
     Da Nang, Ankara--

     We had a plan, we had a dream,
     opportunity knocked, destruction came.
     Everywhere we looked we was blocked
     and locked.
     We was shocked and mocked.
     I watch you feast and can’t do zip,
     just wait my turn to pass your lip.
     Peristalsis, one-way trip.
     I’m hip, you equipped, we whipped.
     You the cannibal hypocrite of all time,
     call eatin human flesh a “heinous crime.”
     You makin the call but it’s my dime.
     You the one waxed fat on me and mines.
     You the slime, why I’m doing time?
     I take one bite off a dead white lady,
     you scream bloody murder, these niggaz gone crazy--
     then fly over Iraq, butcher some more babies.
     Gobble up more kids in Lebanon,
     same way you did in Vietnam.

     Who you barbecuing now?
     Mad African? Mad cow?

     In your cannibal democracy
     I’m just the cheapest calorie.
     Fufu, tofu, human stew--
     the stuff you eat turns into you.
     Why you still don’t grasp I’m people too?
     We all become the folks we nyam.
     Digest the other, you be him.
     I’m supposed to grin while gettin chewed
     but I lost my taste for bein food.
     Pop top my skull and scarf my brain,
     another at risk mind goes down your drain.
     Why gourmandise
     when you despise?
     Feel my pain.
     Switch lanes.

     Ready, set, devour.
     Defoliate, deflower.
     Ain’t no outside to power.

     They chanting Parker’s words, making up their own meanings.

     Time coming when every cab driver in Cotonou, Accra, Abidjan, Ouagadougou got that I.K.B.M. sticker on the dashboard. From Kinshasa to Dakar they got those plastic True Bones replicas dangling from the rear view.

     Indigenous folks a little different. They the land’s memory, rooted in that one special spot time out of mind. So they got their own chants. Their own survival strategies. Dig camas root in the morning, cruise the Net in the afternoon. Check up on eco-insurgencies in Peru or Bolivia.
     They say, got to establish multiple transmission routes. Piggyback on the Net to build mind to mind.
     Which is part of the reason why the Universal Crash also known as the Epoch of Indigenous Resurgence.

     But all that’s still the future. We focusing on Now.

     Ten thousand strong, a chicken bone in each raised left fist.
     No sign to show who among them has tasted recycled human protein.

     Like locusts, or a plague of Mormon crickets, but friendlier and more fun to watch, they arrive in your town. They camp in the cemeteries, dig shitpits in county fairgrounds. They more or less organized. They reasonably clean, considering the numbers, how they living on the road and can’t get regular baths and showers. They don’t help themselves to nothing much without asking, not unless they need it pretty bad. Some of them write in their notebooks all the time. Others scop in strange tongues.

     To them, you the Protes. Don’t mean nothing bad by it. Just a friendly reminder--we all Human Protein.

     Of course there are rumors. Keep your kids indoors. Tales of homeless disappearing from park benches, second and third graders in neighboring states who evaporated into thin air between the school bus and the driveway.

     Where the Kanibals foregather, freeway systems cease to function.

     No outside to power.

     I.K.B.M.: Inner KaniBalistik Mindbomb. One fantastic Senseless Demo all the way. 24-7. Three thousand miles.
     A mystic purpose animates them. D.C. Gotta get inside the Beltway. Get there for the Laying of the Bones. There on the Mall, right next to George Washington’s boner. Justice slow but you can’t cheat her.


Launch on warning, red alert,
my genius payload hits your dirt.
K-bombs twinkle in the sky,
your ass gonna sizzle like a crisp french fry.
Yo, land so brave and home so free,
check out my kanny trajectory.
You yell Incoming, duck and cover,
frontin real slick like you my brother–
hey, chill, you ain’t no kanibal lover.
IKBMs hitting high and low,
this thing no virtualistic show.
Strike one, strike two, strike three, you out
and still ain’t scopped what the war’s about.
Think you fallout proof cause you the Man?
No missile shield built can block my plan
when the kanniest mindblast hits your land.
I’m the kanibal who cried, I Can!
If the food group fits you, wear it.
Got protein? Time to share it.
Justice slow but you can’t cheat her,
payback never tasted sweeter.
Grab a fast McPrayer, prepare to meet your Eater!

Ready, set, devour.
Defoliate, deflower.
Ain’t no outside to power.

     Perhaps, some venture, their mission is otherwise. The ultimate destination will be revealed in due time. Cape Cod, the Outer Banks, the far tip of Long Island. Some piece of desolate something sticking into the Atlantic, deep water imbued with evil it hasn’t yet forgotten, won’t be cured of any time soon. (Too many slave ships resting at the bottom. Too many bones of rageful Africans.)
     Didn’t TINA tell us: You’ve got to befriend Death.
     Or maybe we turn right at the Mississippi.
     Strange fruit near ripe when the meal eats back.

Jan Clausen is the author of nine books, including poetry, novels, and the memoir Apples and Oranges. The recipient of fellowships from the NEA and NYFA, she teaches in the Goddard College MFA in Writing Program and at Eugene Lang College.


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