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Leonora DeViti: a psychosexual study of an infantile reminiscence


“I knew just how Sally Ramsay felt being a pacifist and having sexual dreams about Henry Kissinger. Not that I’m a pacifist but I understand how it works at the political level. Maybe it’s all political. In my case it was Scarfa, whom I knew from the old neighborhood. Even when he was a child, you expected him to grow up with a sort of instinctive kinship to thug politicians and Southern racist governors and militarist bureaucrats and so forth. I told Sally, Kissinger is a prince of peace compared to the Scarfa I remember. As he grew older, education made him worse, he imbibed all the glib justifications for his unspeakable thought system. He’d spout elaborate theories about racial supremacy. He was also a holocaust denier, he was. Once at a neighborhood barbeque he told me that democracy was an historical aberration; I heard him hiss “Go, Leonora” behind me as I walked away in disgust. A flower between my legs wavered that night in the dream, as if in a breeze, I think it was a geranium; Scarfa savored it, growled and laughed, a single gutty holloa to see it, the twin sounds somehow simultaneous, encased and inextricable, seemed a single utterance from the bowels of the earth. This was a deeper than human thing, more like a collective rape, my submission an admission hearing which he toppled whole edifices, razed sacred citadels, as if because I was begging for it, on my knees for his penis, the civil rights movement and the peace movement and the environmental movement, all, all of it dishonored, utterly, everything in the world worth believing in and fighting for worse than abased, self-abased, as exultant the fascist captain sneers to win his world, a whole world, win it all the more winningly for the thrall, my thrall; a great shameful orgasm it was, Marco my boyfriend sick abed, beautiful Marco barely breathing through the mucous that felt to him he said like cement, nothing in the world he can do. That was when the longing I couldn’t help having – to be toppled, along with all that I am, that was when…human beings can’t be nakeder than when all they stand for spreads its legs the moment they do. Scarfa reveling holds aloft the vanquished gonads, Marco so sick, incapacitated, he was at the mercy, Scarfa dressed the part in black above me; irresistible, an oily cog in the Mussolini machine; onward the rapine hordes, elegant inexorable silhouettes. Scarfa leads the yawping hordes, walks the earth, goes to and fro in it…I’m not religious, Doctor…”


“Avanti a Deo!”


“It was a desire so great that I’d expend myself simply imagining what a kiss would be like, the feelings I’d catch were I to plunge my tongue through the thick flesh of his lips. That’s Sally Ramsay’s language; she told me once she couldn’t bear to kiss a man she was sleeping with because of the ‘feelings she’d catch’ were she to do so. It’s what a kiss can do, unendurable, intimate in a way sexual intercourse never is, fateful in a way sexual intercourse never can be, more than what a lonely woman can bear to yearn for in the aftermath when in the inevitable aching hours after he’s gone home to his wife, remembering that unspeakable communion, time and space are empty continua absent his constant intimate companionship. For me, it was different. The way he petitioned my father, the patient daily protests, the multiple demands, the wearing down of all our well-worn politics, he was a Gandhi come to judgment, a veritable Gandhi come to judgment, yet it was the taste of his soul I craved irrespective of his cause or his mission; the stern but sweet spirit of his I wanted to crush like berries in my mouth had he only been a janitor in the building or a passer-by on the street. He beguiled me. He tormented me. I wanted to kiss him until his head fell off. I was like a man who must own what he loves. He made me a man. That too is what a kiss can do. You can own someone with a kiss. You can grab his spirit, you can eat it up. You can keep it on your trophy shelf, the dead shell of the container of the spirit you envied and now suck on forever. Kingdoms rise and fall and rise and fall as my father looks on in horror, oh the things I could imagine I was hearing he was saying to my mother, herself the dead shell of the container of the spirit that life itself decades long ago kissed out of her. I suck on the icon with its sockets shock-still, round and wide, a bottomless maw, the spirit I’m still sucking still alive down there somewhere, some remnants of the flesh of Gandhi’s head rotting on the edges of the reliquary until I’m sucking away at last on the mere memory of the soul I once ate. The world looks on, who can understand? My father only says what he says, to my mother in a silent mourning of some sort.”


“Sie ist ein Ungeheuer, deine Tochter.”


“No one’s ever jealous of anything spiritual, no one ever, not in all the history of prayer, not in all the annals of love. Sister Mary doesn’t begrudge Mother Louisa her devotions nor Brother Xavier Father Michael’s sacred intimacies nor Dan the special clarity of the dicta or dogma engraved upon the cortex of Jack’s intangible mind nor does Jomo despair if Jim lies anywise more bellywise when God speaks through the thunder nor does Alexos hate Nicos because lightning struck but once where Nicos wept and prayed and will never strike again here or there until the final hour. Sister Mary reveres Mother Louisa all the more and Brother Xavier honors Father Michael all the more and Dan celebrates Jack all the more and Jomo embraces Jim all the more and Alexos adores Nicos all the more. Bernard was not jealous of Abelard nor the Romans of Peter nor the Bishop of Constance of Jan Hus nor Hitler of Bonhoeffer. To envy us, the devil must see us as flesh, radiant and imbued in the flesh but in and of the flesh nonetheless, as he first saw Eden and those that dwelt therein, for even the devil cannot be jealous of distilled and sinless spirit because only distilled and sinless spirit can know distilled and sinless spirit and distilled and sinless spirit is not jealous, it cannot seethe, it cannot loathe. So it was I have loved Ricky from before we ever met, I would have loved him had we never met because back in the ancient days his spirit soared toward me from beyond the boundaries of galactic light and mine waited recumbent behind the breakwaters of time. Our bodies are the mere husking of our love, our voices the mere chirruping of insects beside what invocations our souls aloft chant past Andromeda, grandly past the Whirlpool and the Sunflower. Such ripeness is all, I never need to be beside him nor him by me. Rennie said, Are you sleeping with him? I said, Don’t be ridiculous. He said, You’ve spread your legs for him, haven’t you? I said, Stop it. He said, I bet you grunt for him like you’ve never grunted for me. I said, I’m telling you to stop it! He said, How big’s his Johnson? I said, I’m not going to listen to this. He said, Has he had you up the ass, I bet he has, I bet you told him you’ve never done it that way with me, I bet he thinks he’s got my balls on his trophy shelf. I said, You’re disgusting. He said, You dance naked for him, don’t you? I said, stop violating me. But then, I’m not sure how, he found out for sure Ricky and I never really ever had sexual intercourse, so when once again in that eternal dream-bliss sleep of the mind that goes on forever beneath the mind, our spirits rose and like a fervent angel he pierced through all the cloud cover and found again as he always will the throbbing invisible wetness of my utter nakedest sacredest being and he possessed me in some anagogical dance in which he was absolute space spirit transcending space itself and I was absolute yearning hungry grateful time spirit transcending time itself, Rennie was ok with it and from then on we all got along just fine.”


“Non è dubbio, il feroce decreto.”


“Only now’s so cold so still so fair may I see him smile such a smile. That hard man though never so hard be here so gentle, his eyes which the undertaker (I love the word: he who undertakes to take under) forgot to close, dote down on me, dear Doctor, don’t you see? More light, more light the icier his flesh. He just beams! He rises, to galactic summits. Observe. How his spirit. Bravely swells, eternal tool. Though fully calm, his soul throbs. From his lips embalmed with joy, a fragrant musk, it sweetly wafts. Doctor, hearken! Feel with me, see with me. Am I alone, only these ears hear the lilt, the throb of tone, joyful and triumphant, the text of time, my wedding day, the croak of his corpse entering me, beloved peristalsis, singing in me? I hear music everywhere, a translucent spirit embracing me, are these the waves of breath after death, are these the petals grown of noble rot? Endless crescendos, nude music wash over me. How shall I listen? How shall I breathe? Shall I lick the transforming flesh, shall I be immured in the transformative scent, fade to nothing in the anarchy of blending scents? In the billowing intoxication, in silences like a symphony, in the surge, in this galaxy of galaxies, I topple down. Hold my breath. Thought is quietude. Nothing more. Quietude is all.”


“Westwärts schweift der Blick.”

Triin Paja


Larry Smith’s “Leonora DeViti: a psychosexual study of an infantile reminiscence” is from a collection called Floodlands, published by Adelaide Books, which also published his collections, A Shield of Paris. Smith’s novella, Patrick Fitzmike and Mike Fitzpatrick, was published by Outpost 19. His stories have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Serving House Journal, Sequestrum, Exquisite Corpse, The Collagist, and [PANK], among numerous others. His poetry has appeared in Descant (canada) and Elimae, among others. He lives in New Jersey. More at