Unwritten by Shaun Levin

My creations fit into my mouth to be birthed out of it, the way all forms of life come into the world, melting like chocolate, hard as earth. Moving between soft and solid, hardening like boiled sugar in water. From blood to ink, spit to ink, dribbling onto the page. This is how my four-eyed friends are born. Sometimes they have two. Things repeat themselves. The yes at the end of eyes. A muddle of breasts and beasts. The mouth the same, cheeks. Some of us have wings some of us have nothing. The rest, we have arms. All of life is obsession, all that matters, repetition and variation into ritual. When they’ve gone, when they’re asleep, when they’re dead, when they’ve left, just left, or left me, or been sent away by others or by me, when it’s just me alone I give birth to creatures made visible by spit and blood and skin. This is what they look like, me naked, four eyes, one eye per cheek, cheeks for eyes, breasts for eyes, eyes for breasts, omphalos for eyes cheeks breasts, and some of us have wings some – arms the rest – nothing. In my room when they’ve gone or disappeared or died or been killed or stayed behind, all the ones who’d counter the compulsion to do this, alone in a room. The moon means nothing and the trees mean nothing and the earth and clouds. Some things you say even if you don’t mean them in order to know what you really don’t think, only to find out what you do, because all of that, the clouds and earth and moon and trees and rain and time create the clay from which we came. You are clay and everything you do is clay, everyone you know, everything you make and dream and eat and shit is clay. From earth and yes, this is another thing that you land up saying which is not true. Every animal (you included) is not from the earth but your life depends on it. Your life is earth. Everything you need to survive is from it. Paper and ink. Plants. The earth’s juice. Wood and bark and water. A feather filled with the ink of squid. Without it you die. Without it, your own blood, peeling skin to lick your way across paper, spit to create surface, a river, the lake, the sea, where water meets water, ink to spit. Ink comes into its own on the page. Anything that leaves a mark must be solid, must be thing, or pain, or joy. A word marks something done, something left, something said, defined. A word is behind you. You write and something is left or waiting to be alive, heard, children lost and screaming for mothers. Saliva is ink, blood is food, and so I write. Parchment to skin, parched. Skin is paper. My hair and nails make lines across a page to keep me from going astray. How brave are you anyway? I know that I must write about what matters. That’s what you must write about: the body. My own and theirs. What if you never make peace with it, your uncured condition, will you write about that? What, in the end, will be left unwritten?

Shaun Levin published Mark (a novel) in 2021. In addition to being a writer, he is a visual artist, creating artist’s books and writing maps. His collection of short stories, A Year of Two Summers, was published in 2005. A novella, Seven Sweet Things, was published in 2003 and reissued in 2012. His work on Isaac Rosenberg has appeared in Desperate Remedies and in the monograph, Isaac Rosenberg’s Journey to Arras: A Meditation. He founded and edits the A3 Review and Press. Learn more about him here: https://shaunlevin.com/

Sketch of two people looking at stained glass. Text reads "In Venice, the Lovers in a Church Look at Art by Titian."
Illustration by Shaun Levin.
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