Arise By Any Other Name

A Rebuttal Of The Fire Sermon

Why do they use fire extinguishers as weapons?

There are heavy dense objects in most buildings, less weighed by the medieval armor of metaphor— yet perhaps that is exactly why: perhaps it is very much like the young man I knew once who put on a metal suit but was too weak to move inside it, too weak to leave, so we had to feed him through the whale like slit of the helmet before he died regardless and swathed in silver. We too must be dying inside when we lift them up triumphantly above our heads before mercilessly lowering them as the soft sad foam lays dormant.

It was only later, in that red, bullet-shaped building, that colossal factory where all fire extinguishers are made, that I understood. When they gave me one to hold, to inspect, to feel.

They often asked me how the revolt started, knowing I was there, and I would always lie. Say that the workers burst in, having sawed, slowly, over the years, the manacles that bound them to the assembly line: that they sawed through simply by moving their hands, the same motions again and again, so there wasn't a single scratch just a worn cut through the metal.

Say that I joined them. That, as I saw them lift their hands above their heads, I lifted the red cylinder above mine and began everything.

That would be nice, wouldn't it?

But the truth is, I felt a pleasure holding the thing: forks of inner-lightning, a sudden sedimentation of all the erotic erosion of my stale life into something special, permanent. And I swung it while he watched me, while I extinguished him, that's what we'd call it, extinguishing. Solid and liquid red exploding together.

Among a body breaking against metal, among all of the assembly-line workers who watched, shocked, while their hands, unable to stop the motion, continued constructing fire extinguishers.

. . . .

From Yadwin’s History of Rebellion:

“It wasn’t shock at seeing something unimaginable done, it was shock at seeing something so-imagined undone. Our 6 years of planning, carefully, a way to tear down our incarcerators—planning every part of a single day: every day before it, in exchange for all days to come. It was the shock of it all going up in smoke.

Years spent gathering utensils—manufacturing and pawning fake five-tined forks for bribe money—, removing the sleeves of our shirts to make string and rope, coordinating with people we never saw—trusting them because they wrote trust us with the cheapest brand of ink.

And then a skinny fire-extinguisher inspector walks in, picks up one of the things, and smashes a guy's skull in…

And for us, it was as though the purpose we had slow-siphoned into 6 years of our lives was ripped out, like we suddenly felt the full weight of that time. Like the wind was knocked out of time itself, gasping but unable to pull anything in its place.

It is not improbable, I think, that what most of us imagined at that moment was lying down on the conveyor belt and letting the machine assemble us into something that briefly hurt more, but then wouldn’t hurt again: I certainly did.

Before August stood, not on the conveyor belt, but straddling it. Her bare head like the most beautiful sunrise, bright enough to fill those gasping 6 years, bright enough to fill forever, and said:

Arise by any other name.

And we stood, like we were standing out of ourselves, like we were leaving our cells behind…”