Is it possible to say, there is no such thing as evil, evil as the complete absence of good in any amount, not even a trace or an iota?

People have committed horrific, unspeakable acts, the immorality of which cannot be denied.

The actions of some people are so utterly contemptable and wicked that nothing good can be said about such persons. Who can comprehend or explain the calculated, uncaring, and craven actions witnessed in history and witnessed today, wherein persons take part in an extraordinary negation of life, paradoxically, such that it seems life, the will to live, plots against itself, aiming towards its own self-destruction?

What terrible force, what blunted feelings, what ruined empathy, could animate certain persons to love death, pain, and suffering, and more so to love the ways to inflict death, pain, and suffering on others and on themselves? What is to be done about evil? Do we seek out evil and annihilate it where ever it is found? If there is a belief in annihilation as the permanent end of annihilation, it could be well-intentioned, but it would be insidious. It would be evil.

A framed 5 x 7 picture, sepia-toned and worn, sits propped up on the otherwise bare middle shelf of a dining room hutch: A short, rotund man in dirty overalls waves, his hands splotched with grime and dark grease. His smile opens to a mouth missing two or three front teeth. A large piece of machinery is in background. Sooty black exhaust piping into the air clouds the upper right of the photograph.

I don’t want to listen to you eat. The fork scraping on your plate, your open mouth chomping, your saliva-moist teeth grinding, wet and obscene.

Telephone lines swing down and garrote

                                                    the sun’s voided afternoon

reddening front lawns in long, thin spatters

               pink necks already had neat lines where white skin was breaking

                                                                                  fat settles and it creases the skin, baby soft Anglo skin

                                                           residential suckling were invaders

                                                                    colonial fat settlers

The kids riding bikes are easy targets

Watching their

                                                               small heads easily clip off

              After blooming, trim to encourage fresh growth

and fall from their young

                                  neck stumps into wire baskets mounted on their handlebars

Think about stumps degenerating on hills alone not knowing the

                                                              poles are powerless dead trees

powering houses

Transformers spark and electricity cuts out

The show was climaxing

                                                                                       He loses it

                                                                              The internet cut bleeds

              loss in connectivity is suicide

              Telecom giants roamed the earth

                           disconnecting satellite tv

Neighbors kept grandpa in the converted garage

                                                                he would’ve been under

                                                                        the floorboards

                                                                     under the concrete

                                                              buried in a windowless cell

                                                                    it had a tv screaming

                                      the animalistic screaming made it easier to not care

a cathode tv, mounted on his head, had replaced the sun

                                                        the sun as good as dead to him

              bound up in a makeshift straightjacket

              an ammonia odor like that of cat urine

              a deviant tube leaking from above

                             the cracks refuse to drain away any more

The old TV suffered atresia

               illogical slogans

               animus and dead eyed stares

                                                                           He didn’t know

                                                                      He was neutered and

on a list

negation of life
that life itself
plots against

Split pea soup and meatball gravy rivulets have finished dribbling down the step. Daubing a finger on the surface of the liquid keeps some dirt out. Bits of turquoise porcelain are mixed in. I picked out most of the largest shards. In the dark, the smaller pieces of the plate are barely visible. The pieces are small but sharp, cutting into gum divots, craters where teeth had been housed. That’s the worst pain, worse than the scrapes in my throat. But no food, not eating for a day (or has it been two days? three days?), means the urge to eat, even if it is barely enough to survive, is overpowering. Between starvation and a bleeding mouth, self-injury must be the lesser of two evils.

The death toll matters less than the lives that were saved.

                                                    The mold in the pantry was not threatening

                                                                          In grandpa’s diapers

                                             squeezing shit and gravel through the thigh holes

                                dirtying his flannel jumper and the run off

                                struggle in the drainage grate leads to stoppage

               Goddamn it not again

               No one can work when there is no blood

               The street shitting heat because the sun wastes its energy on us

               The sun could

               meaning should

               kill the aggregated lifeforms

gathered here

in a tribunal

                the crops don’t need light if the bulbs have been attuned to leaf frequencies

                                                                  And so the sun aged badly

                                                    A star no one has cared about in ages

                                                    ages ago could die

no one fucking cares

It’s easy to know what is evil because people are evil. Just look at yourself. There. That’s it. There’s no philosophy behind it. Simple observation is enough.

There is a persistent myth that hair continues to grow after a person expires
Expires is a dumb euphemism
As if there is a ‘best by’ date barcoded on the chest
But it is true people have to be used
Used up completely

It looked like a dead body
A man in the seat of a steamroller
Except for a yellow vest and
The ring around his forehead
Of a helmet’s remains

Unusually long strands of hair
Loose and catching a slight breeze
It was a dead body

But it wasn’t
Because he was operating the steamroller

             White lips engorged
             Like two thick slugs
             Touching end-to-end
             The transparent, prismatic slime circles
             A dark hole that tries to mimic human noises

Thinking more, how would someone not see evil in everything.

                                 Hemophilia is an ascetic practice
                                 Bleeding is cathartic
                                 Unstoppable and severe
                                 Very bloated and full of blood
                                 Missed the regular draining
                                 Doubling the normal amount
                                 The flooring is too porous
                                 Puddling is expected
                                 Settling is natural
                                 The lowest point becomes the deepest puddle
                                 A basic mop will do
                                 I had feelings
                                 I became faceless
                                 And existence cuts like the instruments in an abattoir
                                 But I can be brutal, too, and those clots don’t get in my way

the permanent end of annihilation

              Bitter in his cell
              As the house is leveled

People are as quick to label a person or action as evil and go on with their lives as they are to dismiss their own capacity to commit evil.

Don’t get in my way.

                                                                                      I lose it.
                                                                                     I explode.
                                                                                    I obliterate
                                                                               ten square blocks
                                                                                in a millisecond,
                                                                   willing a masterful blast radius
                                                                              from my epicenter,
                                                        perfect circles of destruction defying physics
                                                                         and growing in strength,
                                     flattening homes and schools, an abscess deepening in the ground
                         where I stood in the house and went nuclear, devastating this fucking planet and all its god-awful plans until I am emancipated, invincible and

Do you remember how this all began? Do you remember when grandpa left the front door open and Muffy escaped? You helped design the flyers that we stapled to telephone poles and handed out to neighbors. “Missing cat, orange with white on front.”

Two days later, you saw a turkey vulture squatting on the side of the new, freshly paved street two blocks down from our house, where a new apartment complex was being built. You wondered what the vulture was pecking at and brought me down there to investigate.

The vulture turned its bald head towards us, bits of fur protruding from its beak. You gestured at the vulture until it squawked and waddled away. There we found Muffy. Her whole backend was flattened as if she had been run over by a steamroller. Her eyes were missing. Dried blood matted her abdomen fur.

We were both shocked. We sat on the sidewalk and cried. You insisted on a proper burial. I came back with a shovel and a trash bag. I scooped up Muffy and slid her into the black plastic coffin, the same bag we later buried her in, after you dug a small hole next to the rhododendron in our back yard.

I regret buying you that .22 rifle for your birthday. You agreed to take gun safety classes. You agreed to only use the rifle for target practice at the shooting range. You wanted to go deer hunting when you got older, following in the footsteps of your grandpa, who had so many trophies in the garage.

I found you in the backyard one afternoon. The rifle was set against a wicker patio chair. There was a dead turkey vulture on the patio table. You had grandpa’s hunting knife in one hand, and the fragment of a bullet in the other. Bloody feathers scattered beneath your feet, as you took a few steps back, surprised that I had caught you in your act.

I was livid. But I contained my anger. I needed to know why. You explained that turkey vultures were ugly birds, not worth the bullets you shot them with. That’s why you tore apart its carcass: to retrieve the bullet. Them? How many had you shot? I saw more birds piled up next to the compost bin. I was aghast. I took the rifle, hiding it away in a locked room, determined to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Not more than two days had passed when I once again came outside into the backyard to discover you, this time partially hidden among the budding pink flowers of the rhododendron, the barrel of the .22 rifle sticking out from the leaves and aiming at the patio table. There sat a turkey vulture, picking at a plate of raw steak, the steak I had left thawing in the refrigerator for that night’s dinner. I called out, but it was too late. The gunshot rang out. The bullet must have struck the metal that rings the glass of the table. The bullet fragmented. Part of the bullet ricocheted. It struck my right eye. The bullet tunneled around in my brain like a worm in an apple core, bouncing off of the inside of my skull and leaving a long, round hole in several lobes before settling in my thalamus.

Memories vacated my mind until there was only an absence where memories belonged. The sky and trees were drained of their colors. You were screaming. Sensations that inhabited me retreated into a void, leaving me abandoned on the back patio. Most of all, I missed you, until I couldn’t anymore.

You aren’t evil. You were hurting, unable to cope with the loss of our beloved cat. Retribution is how you processed and understood your emotions. I should’ve done more to help you grieve. I won’t be with you any longer but I will be ok. Please stop crying. Grandpa will take care of you from now on.

T.W. Selvey’s work has recently appeared in The Babel Tower Notice Board, Ligeia Magazine, Misery Tourism, Filth, Expat Lit, The Centre for Experimental Ontology, and Nauseated Drive. T.W. tweets sporadically @docu_dement, and is the proud curator of a haphazardly curated blog, http://www.documentdement.com

*Image credit: From Vito Acconci’s performance ‘Trademarks’, 1970.