1. Bomb’s not indifferent.
Bomb believes in the Way. Bomb speaks in tongues, wades into water for full-immersion baptism, expects complete sanctification, observes the Pentecost, understands the necessity of the half-way covenant but isn’t crazy about it. Bomb carries the Word close to his heart, tucks it right in there, walks the narrow path, gets all foursquare about stuff. Bomb is God’s exclamation point, gospel proof that we’re living wrong. Bomb has God’s good ear. Bomb feels things.
Once Bomb sat out all night in a drizzling cold rain because Factory Worker left him squatting in a gunnysack at the near edge of a field or an empty lot, not one hundred feet from the company fence and a couple of goons or guards, depending on your point of view. It was a moonless night, 1909, ’10, ’11. Something like that. Union matters. Forgetting or ignoring or neglecting or nursing the cause that had brought him that far, Factory Worker walked toward the light of a tavern for a drink to settle his nerves. And then, Bomb suspected, Factory Worker had another and another until his nerves stretched out and relaxed like back muscles or a hand after a long day at the machine. Or maybe Factory Worker simply lost his nerve and went out the back door of the tavern because it was the easier route away from that which surely would’ve gotten him killed or jailed.
Either way, it turned out badly. The next morning, Bomb was discovered by a couple of kids on their way to school. Neither the girl nor the boy bothered to look inside or listen for the chattering bomb parts made cold and wet and tired by the drizzle and the anxiety that came from waiting for Factory Worker to come pick him up and do the job Bomb felt passionately about. Bomb knew they were kids, heard them talking, big sister and little brother, and he hated Factory Worker for the nudge, nudge of canvas and the kick that killed the boy and blew off the leg that belonged to the girl with the canvas-toed kicking shoe.
Had it not been for the string of meaningless jobs that followed, quiet jobs really, involving the loss or damage of property nobody but insurance companies gave a shit about, Bomb might have stayed in a funk for years, might have gone the way of a lot of other bombs. Grizzled, tattered, smelly, drifting from one thing to another, no pattern to their contacts, no purpose they could explain to anybody. Even if proud, nothing much to believe in but survival and the odd bit of property, nothing special to get passionate about, the word “cause” foreign to their vocabulary of social indifference. And, in that way, an especially dangerous group.
2. Bomb has a big penis.
Big. A seven-pounder he carries in a velvet box. He’s a trickster bomb with roots sunk deep in the kind of soil that gives birth to tricksters. Injun soil. African soil. Kind of soil that gets fertilized by everyone’s desires and frustrations. Soil that gets used to explain why bodies just ain’t natural for some folks, why those selfsame folks live in disconnect, can’t dance, their soil shallow, dirty, their world a wasteland.
Trickster Bomb’s insatiable, disruptive, tumescent, an ego-mad, shape-shifting, rug-cutting motherfucker from way back. Trickster Bomb’s male enough to carry his penis with him wherever he goes, but he can, if he likes, grow a vulva to shame a beauty queen, seduce his own father, and give birth to a litter of bombs that look just like Mama, who looks just like Daddy.
Trickster Bomb tells dirty jokes and loves a story as long as that story makes somebody laugh and/or teaches somebody a lesson. All the better if the story makes the listener work at it. One time, to make a point, Trickster Bomb pretended he thought he was impervious to natural functions (what, me shit) and ingested Laxative Bulb despite Laxative Bulb’s nonstop chatter about what would happen to Trickster Bomb if Trickster Bomb ate Laxative Bulb. After forty days and forty nights of bloating (feel the horror), Trickster Bomb finally erupted, blew gas that scorched the planet, denuded the earth, killed every living thing, and deposited him atop Mt. Everest, from which he shit and shit and shit for another forty days and forty nights until everything, properly fertilized, began the process of returning to normal, which meant that Trickster Bomb awoke next to a river where he had to wash his own shit off his own damn penis box. To this day, if you believe the tale and you know where to look, you can still see the stains in the velvet.
Nobody’s so high he or she can’t be brought low, knocked down a couple of pegs, humbled, returned to earth, to soil deep enough for roots. That’s Trickster Bomb’s primary message.
Here’s another. Bomb’s a teacher, and sometimes teachers have to put themselves in harm’s way to make a point. Sometimes they have to lay it on the line, risk their own ruination.
3. Bomb is good.
Without death, no life. Bomb creates new life. Bomb runs a hard comb through the overgrowth, ripping and tearing the tangles that need ripping and tearing so the better hair can grow and find its place in the sun.
Bomb’s a smart comb.
4. Bomb is bad.
No, he isn’t.
Yes, he is.
Bomb’s an enemy of the state. Bomb’s a tool of the state. Bomb sneaks up on people and kills them. Never mind the bullet that kills one. Bomb kills ones by the bunch. Good Bomb’s government-controlled. Our government. Or a government-controlled ally or lackey, depending on your point-of-view. Occasionally Good Bomb acts badly. Result’s an unfortunate accident. Bloody. Death-dealing. No other way to put it. People feel bad.
Not all people feel bad. Secretly some people feel happy. Some of them can’t explain it. Some of them can, but they choose not to. They fear reprisal. A few of them simply don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to argue. A whole bunch of people feel happy in very public ways. They throw their hats in the air. They honk horns, yell things, kiss and dance under confetti, hold up signs and flags. One person’s Good Bomb is someone else’s Bad Bomb.
Occasionally Bomb blows up a government building somewhere. One of our buildings. Someone else’s. Hardly matters. Horrible consequences. Bad Bomb. Might as well write M’s for misery across a big blanket and drape it over the whole thing. Except people need closure. People need to employ as many of their senses as possible in grieving. People need to know what the dust of a couple of collapsed skyscrapers looks, smells, tastes, sounds, and feels like. You can’t do all of that with a big blanket tossed over the top.
People we might know, or relatives of people we might know, people who live here with us, have their lives rearranged, sometimes their bodies. We know we could be next. We know it might have been us. The whole thing, the horrible event, the tragedy, is turned, as it should be, into a series of events, many overlapping. Bomb gives birth to the mangled and the dead. Story becomes stories. Not to excuse Bomb, but heroes are also born. Images of misery and victory-over-oppression get tattooed on our memory boards.
Never mind the people more immediately and more deeply affected by the bombing of a government building far away from the media capital. Say, another country or maybe just another place in the skyscrapers’ own country, somewhere in the too often forgotten middle. Death’s important there too, and people who feel left out develop conflicted feelings during Bomb stories.
5. Bomb is the stuff of art.
Bomb is beautiful. Eternal. A classic. Bomb has stood the test of time. Hollywood loves bombs of all shapes and sizes for the same reason the general population loves them. They explode and make big noise, big sudden shapes and reconfigurations of landscape and skyscrape. Nobody’s better.
Oh, there are some natural phenomena. Volcanic eruptions. Hurricanes. Forest fires. All of them very impressive. Extravagant. Gorgeous. But Bomb’s money. Put Bomb where you want. Move the cameras into place. Set the timer. Hold a match to the fuse. Prepare to push the big red button labeled “Bang.” Someone say “Action.”
Money shot every time.
One bomb or twenty, one after another. Firecracker caught mid pop between index finger and thumb. Informant (who likes a snitch) turns the key of the car as someone’s yelling at him (huh, wha) not to. Flash of metal fire glass bang boom KA-BOOM just like that all at once. God the Bomb, a big beautiful cloud mushrooming over a desert or an ocean, remaking the world in footage for a hundred uses.
Or footage of the gunnysack and the canvas toe. Swing of the foot to this edge of bang and quick-cut to something moving the other way, a hand pulling a weed or sliding a sheet of paper from a pile on a desk, visual movement bridging one scene to the next, the bang layered over the wrong action, creating an arty disconnect between the bang as mere sound and the bang as percussive, death-dealing pain.
Or footage of the leg blown off in real time for the director’s cut, black-marketed as auteur stuff for the hardcore ballistic cinéphile or the sick twist who’ll have it or the real thing, one way or another.
Bomb art’s cruel beauty. Way of the world. Money.
Originally published in 580 Split #6 (2004).
Creator of the Bomb image is Foca.tk.