What should I call you—devil spawn, Satan’s imps, lost ones? Or do you prefer Legion? Something elegant about that collective I, that singular we. I always got it wrong in Sunday school, feeling pity for you rather than loathing. Of course I sorrowed with your victims. What horror to suffer possession one wound, one goring rape at a time. Afterward, they frothed, fell into fire, broke chains, cut themselves with stone, etc. But things came right eventually. Take Mark’s account of the demoniac man of the Gadarenes. The possessed one regained his mansion of organs and a mind swept clean. Jesus, who began as itinerant preacher, ended as Christ, casually transubstantiating himself into light and truth and taking a ship to the next town. Even the pigs you drove off the cliff drowned quickly, and will one day resurrect, floating out of boiling waters, like lemmings on rewind. But you, Legion, you have no body to home to. You are less than smoke haunting the air. Do not mistake my curiosity for solicitude. If I can settle on what you are, maybe I can hold a mirror up to myself. Are the same unclean spirits assigned to me for life, or do you switch at will, greedy hitchhikers inventing your own route to Budapest? Do crosses around the neck keep you off? Or holy water on the brow? What is this garment of flesh I fill but do not possess? It wheezes and grunts, prickles with heat, gobbles fetid air, slobbers like a dog after every passing lust, stares out windows into echelons of blue, drowns each night in pools of ether we call sleep. This is what you want, this cloven hoof part of me? I’m tired. You who remember all, but believe in nothing, what was it like in that minestrone of waiting before this life? Did you, did we, have godly names there?
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.