S M O K E by Ananda Naima González

BOMB 155 Spring 2021
Bomb 155 Nobarcode Flatcolor
Smooke Brown

Welcome to the place where stones devour and planets cast no shadow. Every night I build new animals, multiple faces snarling and growing out of the green-stained dark. Every morning I hunt for mud and raise new earth. But this you already know, for my glory precedes me. Always, always, I see your human shapes reckoning with the chewed-up mythology of yourselves. Where you descend from, the cosmos are artificial, the wound does not scab, power has evolved into a cliché. Now you drag before me, desperate for medicine, howling for a father. But not all of you are so pure and devoted. Today, I will address the many non-believers seated before me, as I wish for you all to understand. To see what all this is. To see exactly who I am. Do not think you can hide among the ones who truly love me, the ones who hang onto my words and fight to sit at my feet. Let me start at the beginning. There are a thousand ways to burn up and out. This is one of them. The problem you all face today is that the brain is beginning to grow faded and watery and mushy under the skull. It’s called wraith-head. And this is what worries me. Your brains are stewing and decomposing, and you walk around already dead without even knowing. This is the state of the world, you see. I could send arrows into the body of every one of you nonbelievers, and the effect would be nothing. What good is an arrow to a corpse? Have I lost you? Let me start again, as I wish to make this easy for you to grasp. Even the gods must contort into small positions so as to be understood by humans. The forest has a thousand corners—listen, listen quite intensely. Can’t you hear the slow, gleaming symphony growing from underneath each leaf? It’s a root you crush and blow up the nose. It’s time to steal the compass. Time to drink the sun while it’s still hot, still healing. You must teach the boys to paint their throats and crisp the medicine leaves over fire. You have forgotten all the cosmic holy juice. You nonbelievers walk so fresh onto my land and gather before me, begging that I save you. You serpents, coiling around my neck as if harmless. As if without venom. Oh, I know. You would like to strip me of the world and sink your fangs into my flesh. How the dead always envy the living. May the sun pour through my eyes and mouth and expose you. May I remember what the rocks look like wet. And may I send my men into the forest. May the true ones return. May the ones who hiss at my back die the final death out there among the green. I know how you cry when you phone your sweethearts. You worry I will steal you for myself. Don’t cry. Don’t phone your sweethearts. This is a different sphere and we are onto new things. I’m feeling all feathers today after ages of stale earth-life. But who am I? A wave of heat bending through the dark? Yes. A thing of light, which all my people jumped from, landing here, at this place, on this stretch of soil? Yes. And a crooked head to take it all in. My face was swollen for days after I first saw the lot of you. My eyes were tight buds that wouldn’t open. You see, my body rejects falsehood. And if you all call yourselves man, then I am jaguar or something else entirely, left to walk upon many legs. Let that change you. I am here to poke holes and fill you up, up, up. Take notes. I need a train of women who can grow into gardens and get pregnant with multiples—only twins, triplets, and sextuplets are acceptable. We have to dig into the heart. We must abandon our faces and cease to call each other by any name at all. We will quit the gentle violence of naming the water that falls from the sky “rain” and allow it to tell us what exactly it is. There is no more time for lounging on branches or shedding the skin, for when I walk straight, I walk into myself. There is no one else outside of me. I have no mother, no milk, just teeth. This thing called mother is cruel alchemy indeed. When the moon creeps in, even demons grow calm, for sleep is death-practice. And as long as you possess anything, you yourself are possessed in return. This is why you must burn your jewels and shoes and money. You own nothing, your own hands included. Simply put, you cannot leave all the doors in your mind open at all times. For anything is bound to crawl in and gnaw away, leaving you mad, unable to sense the cliff’s edge beneath your toes. But I can grab you by the neck before you fall. First though, I must know, when your sisters die do you tie together their blue feet or let them loose? It is quite terrifying and incredible how the corpses tend to twist and prance beneath us. But enough of the underground. Up here, I’m in the process of uprooting volcanoes. It takes centuries just to lift one, but the result is magnifying for the self. Find me women who dream of me before they know of my existence. Bring them here. Set them at my feet. I will tell them, This here is the forest, the best of everything I know. I give it to you for free. Then mating will begin, because mating is always beginning. The love is slick, oily, and immediately there are women with stretched out bellies. I will point up and say, Walk. And they will walk with emboldened bodies up the volcanoes like a revolution. And upon reaching the top of my angry mountains they will push out our tiny seeds. I will drop our seeds into the molten eye of the volcano and command them to swim. The ones that rise to the top, I will pluck out from this pocket of earth by their heads. And I will kiss them. And wash their tiny faces with my saliva. It’s healing. I am the only one in this world who heals, the only one who can heal you all. Only I have the salt and voltage. And when a woman is done birthing, I will shave her head and paint a circle on her crown. The circle is where light enters so the brain can grow firm, stay pink and dry. And, yes, I sometimes hate what my own believers have become. How they walk about hitting their heads against trees and clapping before I even speak. But I can lead them back to truth. I can reshape them and keep them pure. But you, nonbelievers, you are toxins. You need to regurgitate yourselves. Starve yourselves until only bones are left, and then I can talk to you and begin to make you big again. But not now. Not like this. Not in front of my women with their circle of head energy so vulnerable. I will not have your lies peek into their shaven minds. You all bring nothing but damage. But you do not yet see that when you destroy my home, you destroy your own home too. You wish to end me, but you merely assault your own spirits and shame your own ancestors. You must quit your poison. You see, I once burned out my own tongue just to get a better hole inside my mouth. Now the hole that leads into my throat is so clean I receive the sun through it. When the fire burns at night I open this hungry mouth and let light pour in. The hole fills with heat and my body is warmed for days. I’m becoming so part of the earth that one day soon, I will cease to look like you. I do not bathe in the river. I do not cut or comb or clothe because this body is perfect. I will not defile it with vanities. Dirt becomes a second skin. Every wrinkle and crevice upon me holds the intimate musk of every living thing that surrounds it. I rub against my body all berries and meats that I find. I serve these to my seeds. It’s healing. You should listen when I talk. Anger is an insanity. The same goes for seriousness. You all carry both in your heels and hair roots. That is why you are short in spirit. But look at my seeds. They are tall spirited. My women are stretched out and ceremonial, forever growing out of necks and wrists. I’ve spent much time thinking I lost it all. That I was a wounded egg, bleeding past my shell, bound to crack so easily. But I will, of course, survive you. And if you’ve never eaten earth, never lived with sealed eyes, never let your enemies tie knots into your hair, never walked upon a row of greased skulls with your brother on your back, never died six times in a summer, or killed crow and blessed red rock, I cannot expect you to understand. Your hatred and fear become you, for that is all you have to feast on. But I am everything there needs to be. I am fully infinite. If an ant were to climb inside me and scream, an echo would sound. If the same were to happen to you, the ant would nearly suffocate in all your darkness and climb out immediately, eager to continue living. So, perhaps you all should leave. Every nonbeliever should empty out my home and go back to your life in front of machines. Have your white teeth and plastic women. I will withstand your hissing from afar and await the moment you are ready for true healing. You see, there are six-year-old kings whose hearts will not last through the night, and plants with flowers that resemble the heads of men, and masters who always sleep, and weddings that are beginning, and pigs rooting through the trash of gods. There are horses burning alive in stalls and continents that wish for another Pangea. There is much business all around. Your absence will mean nothing. So, let the light. Let the tree. Let the boy. Let the smoke. My seeds and my women, they know. Yes, I am stunning. I am like nothing ever before. Now listen. I am the healer. I have shown you my face out of love. I have revealed to you a portion of my powers. But you are terrified of what I am becoming, and I will slice you for the juice and sticky if you try to take anything of mine. I will burn you out. You snakes who come with ugliness on your tongues, ready to ruin my people with doubts and lies. I ask you to leave. What I have created is not for the world you know. I saw your approach. I saw your slither. But my men are now emerging from the forest. The true ones have returned. And a new batch of seeds are brewing for eruption. My women are shaven and ready to receive my light. They are all rushing to touch me, saying, It’s been so long. So long that we have gone without healing. And brothers, it has been so long. Seeds, I was crushing the plants to make you. Women, I was boiling the world to offer you something new and pure. But to the rest of you, the corpses dragging across my soil, you must bend that scalp and let me cut into skull, so I may drill a thousand holes and fill you up. I am ready to empty the dark and heavy head resting upon your shoulders. Ready to jump into your skin and tear you open. My world is only for the living.

Ananda Naima González carries a BA and an MFA from Columbia University. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories. Her words have appeared in McSweeney’s, the Southern Review, and Catapult. Ananda’s mission is to honor the inherently sacred ritual of living. In addition to writing, she is also an accomplished dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker.

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Originally published in

BOMB 155, Spring 2021

Our spring issue features interviews with Tiffiney Davis, Alex Dimitrov, Melissa Febos, Valerie June, Tarik Kiswanson, Ajay Kurian, and Karyn Olivier; fiction by Jonathan Lee, Ananda Naima González, and Tara Ison; poetry by Jo Stewart, Farid Matuk, and Joyelle McSweeney; a comic by Somnath Bhatt; an essay by Wendy S. Walters; an archival interview between Barbara Kruger and Richard Prince; and more.

Read the issue
Bomb 155 Nobarcode Flatcolor