For a special Incentovise, I’m going to share an excerpt from a novel on which I’ve been working. It’s an existential novel about an alcoholic lawyer plagued with suicidal ideation in a metropolis/utopia post-United States.
A golden chain dangled across a fair-skinned woman’s neck. A gold locket shimmered like a sun from the light of the lamppost. Black high-heels, one against the lamppost base and the other fixtured to earth; spandex spiraling to her waist, bare skin and a belly-button ring. An embroidered-velvet skirt high above. A sky-blue blouse torn, exposed a slender bosom. Perky, petite, Hershey’s-kiss nipples. Her face Asian.
There was rave music that sounded like a thousand shattering crystal chandeliers from the sky. Hands raised, as if they were trying to touch God, lights from a thousand lampposts blinked in and out of existence. There were shouts from people on cell phones and people just vibing with the music, with more shouts and fist pumping along the isles of naked bodies and flesh, flesh and more flesh wearing sunglasses in the dark of neon lights and strobes illuminating their young supple bodies, swept up by fog pouring from machines, into a pool of puking from bent-over sweaty, sweaty bodies. Sweet sweat dripped from dancing figures, shadows illuminated in the noise and flashes of light alternating colors, as the night cried on. Multiple figures approached the Asian. They each took turns as she moaned against nightfall. Full on paraplegics in wheel chairs healed, saved by the Lord of EDM, pulled themselves out of their chairs, garbed in white vests and red-white-duckie-ties strapped on their foreheads, seemed to summersault next to boxes and crates on which people danced and strutted their stuff, their individual islands together, next to an ocean of Jell-o-shots. Gun shots in the background—you couldn’t tell if they were embedded in the music transpiercing every mind bobbing up and down the ocean of drugs and young druggies and kids just having fun and the occasional mid-life crisis dad or milf out with her gals because fuck it she’s divorced now and no longer chained to that dullard of an alleged man, all of them constituting the ocean, demonstrating waves with seizures upon the waves of light—each waiving their rights to silence and stillness, meditative calm and a cool collective beach on which they might reside and attain enlightenment or read a book to save themselves from themselves—bodies of water-beings convulsing in waves of consumption and seizures, these hedonists swimming in the ocean of drugs—LSD-25, MDA, Xstacy, Xanax, DMT, ketamine, Adderall, methamphetamine, and of course crackid. One entire ocean of individual drops of water alone but alone together in their aloneness: each water droplet an entire universe alone and estranged in tears, with an outer shell of blood and guts and cum and just craving some good old fashion loving and crashing away from realizing their own estrangement from themselves, from who they were: children (children of all ages, including adults) not knowing who they were and fearing they’d never know and just craving fulfillment and immediate release in the wet-dark lightshow of fucking and punching as one.
This was our culture. This was our society, our underground club scene economy of blotto vainglory forming an Everclear wasteland of forgetting on the floor. This was the way we liked to take our turns lobotomizing ourselves and burning books from our memories, singing our drunk asses from PhDs and cures for cancer, praising the god of José Cuervo and Tequila and rappers who took the form of labels on seductive liquid bottles—and the clergy of youth prayed, Shots! Shots! Shots! There wasn’t enough beer; there was never enough beer. Not enough sex, drugs and partying to inebriate an entire generation of PC unicorns. But vomit. There was always too much of that. Fingers were shoved down throats, as if their life depended on it, in rainbow-colored bathroom stalls, nuked with glitter. Emerald-azure paintings that held rooms together became semi-permanent afterimages of underage girls in low-cut miniskirts, with red hearts painted on their nipples to make a political statement they couldn’t remember for the life of them. And fuckboys who failed English way too many times and debauched the language with syllabic sounds that sounded all too animalistic approached them with cheesy pick-up lines they could barely utter into inebriated sentences as their bodies swayed back and forth, barely able to stand—it was as if there was a puppeteer string holding them up and betraying their fall. Rainbows and butterflies up everyone’s asses, not just tattoos—the entire constitution of the former United States was declared and simultaneously denied in invisible ink on bodies in drunken stupor. Buddhist monks and botanists lit themselves on fire, holding dandelions and lotus, in front of the warehouse. But no one noticed them. People pushed each other to get in and trampled over the invisible voices of reason. Punk-ass boots and way-too-high heels spiked through monk’s eyeholes and botanist’s brains which went squish with goo out eyeholes. Inside the warehouse, alcohol was poured on bodies as though there was an endless supply. Poured on naked and half-naked bodies alike, bodies belonging to denizens of Dayenu with IQs of equal opportunity when sheltered in the instant gratification of conscious annulment, the ocean of deserted selves trying to find Something or Someone: low IQs, semi-functional IQs, high IQs—they were all equalized in the great Party. And their universal inquiries about the cosmos and to a God of their own Misunderstanding became nothing more than woo sounds. All wriggling their 82 tentacles about and spraying royal-blue ink into the blacked-out crowd of fucked-up youth.
Joshua Corwin, a Los Angeles native, is a neurodiverse, 2-time Pushcart Prize-nominated, Best of the Net-nominated poet and Winner of the 2021 Spillwords Press Award for Poetic Publication of Year. His poetry memoir Becoming Vulnerable (2020) details his experience with autism, addiction, sobriety and spirituality. His work has appeared in Winning Writers, The Somerville Times, Palisadian-Post, National Beat Poetry Foundation, Stanford University’s Life in Quarantine and more. He has lectured at UCLA, published alongside Lawrence Ferlinghetti and read with 2013 U.S. Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco. He hosts the poetry podcast “Assiduous Dust,” writes the weekly “Incentovise” column for Oddball Magazine and teaches poetry to neurodiverse individuals and autistic addicts in recovery at The Miracle Project, an autism nonprofit. Corwin is the editor and producer of Assiduous Dust: Home of the OTSCP, Vol. 1, featuring a collaboration with 36 award-winning poets demonstrating one of his invented forms of poetry. He is currently working on an existential novel about an alcoholic lawyer plagued with suicidal ideation.