Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bill Lapham


   She got into my head with the power of her words and twisted my thoughts in pretzelnovel ways. The Samizdat of Mid-Twentieth Century Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: An Analysis of Popular Dissident Literature in a Modern Communist State moved me. It forced me out of my seat to walk in nervous circles, twitching. I felt anxious, like in that moment before delivering a speech when you come to realize there will be no substitutions.
   The power of her words came from the library. From their distribution and consumption, from the inspiration they fomented. I had stumbled on the title while binder-browsing with my head bent. From the moment I received her words inside me I understood them. It was then that knew I was fucked.
   I pictured the words flowing from her brain to her fingertips, across the electronic divide, and into the wide world with no defined destination. The blackness of the print blotted out the light and their shadows found comfort in my eyes. They got converted into signals my brain could understand, and produced meaning. She got one shot at making herself clear or leaving me behind forever, and she had gotten it right, at least for me. Ambiguity is an unstable state where meanings are lost. She made me think and I think she meant to.
   She flung my thoughts in diverse directions. Ideas were like her discarded lace clothing floating through the air and falling on lampshades in her bedroom. Her words have spanned time to take up residence in my head. Did she sit in her room to write during a summer morning thunderstorm in her pajamas? Did she sip piping hot Colombian coffee and breathe in the supercharged Leningrad air?
   She and I had been intimate, I knew. She shared her thoughts with me and I had agreed to go along. But it had been years since she had written them; could her meaning have been warped by war or her intentions perverted by the pause between them?
   Or maybe the breeze was just a breeze.
   She transmogrified herself, entered my head, influence me, persuaded me. Once she got inside, her words changed me, fucked with me, made me think about things I would not have considered in the absence of her agency. Her words wielded power and transformed me forever. I cannot undo this thing she has done. Now I know and I have no way of not knowing it.
   I am a gentle human being, impressionable and willing. She could do great harm or great good in the matter that was me.
   And that’s what made her a target for tyrants, the builders and keepers of gulags and starvation camps. To kill her words – their power and grace – they had to cancel her voice. To counter the danger of her immortality they shredded her books and burnt the shreds. They spilled their powdered ashes across the black northern sea.
   They thought they had to stop the flow of thoughts from her mind to mine. The greatest danger that they might be spread. But they couldn’t do that; the splendor had already been wrought between the teacher and the taught.
   A skeletal tree with rough bark armor, standing mindless and alone, snow drifting in its lee. They chained her to a place where bars set in stone guarded her uneasy sleep. A barren place of bare cells, crowded graves and flat gray light.
   But she had gotten in my head with the power of her words. She was in me. The damage had been done.

© William Lapham 2012

Bill Lapham is a student in the Goddard College low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program. His flash fiction and short stories have been featured here and at MudSpots, and at Six Sentences, Thinking Ten—A Writer’s Playground, and the Molotov Cocktail. His work has also appeared in several Six Sentences and Thinking Ten print anthologies, as well as Goddard College’s own peer-reviewed literary journal, the Pitkin Review. He lives in Brighton, Michigan.


  1. Bill,
    I love this on so many levels.
    I love that the words are a woman (women do rule the world after all)
    I love that you love this woman so much.
    Beautiful writing. You have made good use of your words!

  2. Of course it's the poet and the intellectual and the playwright who get thrown into jails and gulags. Nothing is scarier than a person who makes others think for themselves. I will start with the one thing I don't like, which is pretzelnovel.
    Now to what I do like: "She got one shot at making herself clear or leaving me behind forever, and she had gotten it right, at least for me. Ambiguity is an unstable state where meanings are lost." And I loved "I cannot undo this thing she has done. Now I know and I have no way of not knowing it. I am a gentle human being, impressionable and willing."
    Thanks for sending me the url to this.

  3. I thought pretzelnovel was pretzelnovel.

  4. Of course the damage was done for me since I've gotten acquainted with the writing of Mr. Lapham. He sets the bar very high, and I find myself aspiring without aspiration, in anticipation of every next piece. Gritty and real, and soothing and warm, by turns, he never disappoints.


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