Dromomania

“By the term ambulatory automatism— dromomanie— is understood a pathological syndrome appearing in the form of intermittent attacks during which the patient, carried away by an irresistible impulse, leaves his home and makes an excursion or journey justified by no reasonable motive. The attack ended, the subject unexpectedly finds himself on an unknown road or in a strange town. Swearing by all the gods never again to quit his penates, he returns home but sooner or later a new attack provokes a new escapade”

-A. Pitres, Leçons cliniques sur l'hystérie et l'hypnotisme faites a l'hôpital Saint-André à Bordeaux,  (Paris, 1891)

 

 

 

 

in one such case a woman was found so forcefully fornicating with her feet the soil under her that they thought she was attempting to bury her own body while standing upright. when pressed, she confessed that she had heard of travel and was attempting to push her body through to the other side of the world

there are many such cases

 

 

 

 

in one such case a man so beaten by debt two wives and four girl children menstruating in orchestrated vengeance against the greasy rupees in his pocket rolled his bedding and straw mat and carried it out of his home after he’d shat out his gruel and before the cock crowed into the cadmium sky

later this story was told to four girls, all wives, pulling straw matting and feathers
from their cunts smelling of sleep and gruel— the afterbirth stamped and dated

 

 

 

 

in one such case a man was promised  a wall made of gold bricks in a land where palm trees bled almond milk and oases of honey pooled wherever he stood and so he took his passport out of the rinsed milk-bag and offered it to an agent who flew him to a desert and left him there where he drank his own piss and never returned until his wife married a man with an identical policeman’s mustache years later

later this story was told by the neighbor of a policeman greased with
Palmolive margarine and lifting a grinding stone above his head and onto a sleeping
infant

 

 

 

 

in one such case a woman embroidering the name of her fourth child into the mantelpiece tapestry was called by her husband to suckle oil from the Persian gulf in a city that clotted around a oasis where centuries ago star crossed lovers failed each other— Layla and Majnun: she dying in waiting, he walking miles and kissing every wall to know if she lived behind it— and from which she would return without her hair and with a spool of thread to spell again

later this story was told to children in a kitchen while smoothing the ruffled
gills of fish and sharpening knives on grey slabs of granite drawn from
a quarry where men had fallen over and over in love with their own destinies

 

 

 

 

in one such case a man who wore a snake around his neck used a mountain as a churning rod and a serpent as a churning rope and curdled an ocean of milk until the mountain sank so far into the cream that he swam in his skirts and turned himself into a turtle to carry the mountain on his back miles under milk and fat

later this story was told to two girls unbraiding hair slick with coconut oil
and tied with polyester ribbons: the stuff of couch stuffing yacht insulation
holograms bank notes

 

 

 

 

in one such case a woman exchanging aluminum paise for whole mackerel was called by her father through a gardener who was sent by the scullery maid who had heard from the family’s jeweler that the bloom of gold which secured her marriage to the man from the land of arrows had a heart of wax and so this woman walked backward oily slivers and scales flashing at her bangles and pink roe spilling to the earth until she reached the land of arrows and rent each shaft in two and returned wearing fletching in her hair like firecracker flowers—genus crossandra; lifecycle perennial

— and later, there was no later

 

 

 

 

in one such case a man searching for his wife who had been held captive by a demon with ten heads and with a sword that slices the wings of vultures built a bridge across the ocean and when he returned with her flung over his shoulder he asked that she sit in a wooden pyre on fire where she burned and burned while the three-striped palm squirrels stroked by her husband on his quest  flourished on fallen gooseberries and raw cashews

later this story was told to a classroom staring at a blackboard gone white
with chalk guarded by one sentry spitting beetlenut blood and the other
scratching an ashy elbow

 

 

 

 

in one such case a man who had been driven off a cliff by a soldier with frayed epaulettes pulled from the linings of his pockets anti-tank missiles and anvils and muzzled-load barrels like feathers off a batshit bantam and when he faced the salty rock he finally pulled out his compass and sunk it to sea his feet fast behind him sooty feathered and on fire

later this story was told to a girl child squatting on freshly washed ground
her ass powdered her skirts ironed her two feet planted and floating like any
other rhizome ready to be sliced braised and served at a wedding

 

 

 

 

Contributor

Divya Victor

Divya Victor is the author of Kith (Fence Books/ Book Thug), Natural Subjects (Trembling Pillow, Winner of the Bob Kaufman Award), UNSUB (Insert Blanc), & Things To Do With Your Mouth (Les Figues). She lives in the United States and Singapore, where she is Assistant Professor of Poetry and Writing at Nanyang Technological University.

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