Joe Bonomo, author of "Drafting the Beast," a short form that recently appeared in our online edition of Bellingham Review shared with us a small piece about the origins and writing experience of "Drafting the Beast."
Air conditioning fascinates me. It changes things, and changes us as we move through the air. AC creates boundaries and divisions—between me and the heat, between the basement and the attic, between the house and the yard, between the calm and the crazed. I read recently in a novel where a character couldn’t imagine another character as a kid; I have difficulty imagining generations before AC. We lived in an un-air-conditioned house for many years, but all the while I knew that AC existed somewhere out there, and could begin humming for me as soon as my luck changed.
I wrote “Drafting the Beast” as a response to AC, and more generally to the suburban experience, from where many of my prose poems and essays originate. The piece explores a few memories that I can’t shake. One is of lifting my buried hand out of sand and noting how the sand that remained created a kind of outline of bones, a skeletal silhouette. Humans are animals, creatures behind our skin, and when, as a kid, I did as so many kids do and drew an outline around my hand to render a barnyard animal, something sparked inside. Questions I asked before I realized I was asking: Is my hand a microcosm for a turkey? Am I drawing a kindred spirit? Is there an animal in my hand?? In bed that night, I played a favorite game: pressing down my thumbnail until it turned white, what I pretended was light coming from somewhere inside of me, a natural source of luminosity illuminating a dark room.
In “Drafting the Beast” I essay the feral body. That body contains light, and can speak in sounds familiar to the speaker but also foreign. When I’d walk into our air-conditioned house as a kid, I’d step between and among all of these identities that the body owns, and imagines, slipping from wild to suburban, from animal to human, and back again.