The Voice in the Closet
Raymond Federman



here now again selectricstud makes me speak with its balls all balls
foutaise sam says in his closet upstairs but this time it's going to
be serious no more masturbating on the third floor escaping into the
trees no the trees were cut down liar it's winter now delays no more
false starts yesterday a rock flew through the windowpane voices and
all I see him from the corner of my eye no more playing dumb boys in
the street laughing up and down the pages en fourire goofing my life
it's a sign almost hit him in the face scared the hell out of him as
he waits for me to unfold upstairs perhaps the signal of a departure
in my own voice at last a beginning after so many detours relentless
false justifications in the margins more to come in my own words now
that I may speak say I the real story from the other side extricated
from inside roles reversed without further delay they pushed me into
the closet on the third floor I am speaking of us into a box beat me
black and blue question of perspective how it should have started in
my little boy's shorts I am speaking of me sssh it's summertime lies
again we must hide the boy sssh mother whispering in her tears hurts
to lose all the time in the courtyard bird blowing his brains out on



alto guts squeaking lover man can you hear it now yellow feather cam
sent it to me at his fingertips plagiarizing my life boys passing in
the street they threw sand in his eyes it begins downstairs soldiers
calling our names his too federman all wrong don't let him escape no
not this time must save the boy full circle from his fingers into my
voice back to him on the machine just heard the first echo tioli how
idiotic what did he expect callow it says after twenty years banging
his head against the wall rattling the old stories ah what's the use
watch him search in his dictionary callow unfledged youth almost hit
him in the face federman featherless little boy dammit in our closet
after so many false names foisted upon me evading the truth he wrote
all the doors opened to stare at my nakedness a metaphor I suppose a
twisted laugh wrong again writing himself into a corner inside where
they kept old newspapers delirious strokes of typographiphobia fatal
however only on occasions his fingers on the machine make me book of
flights speak traps evasions question of patience determination take
it or leave it of all places hundred years of solitary work down the
drain through the windowpane something about the futility of telling



experimenting with the peripatetic search for love sex self or is it
real people america aside from what is said there is nothing silence
sam again what takes place in the closet is not said irrelevant here
if it were to be known one would know it my life began in a closet a
symbolic rebirth in retrospect as he shoves me in his stories whines
his radical laughter up and down pulverized pages with his balls mad
fizzling punctuation question of changing one's perspective view the
self from the inside from the point of view of its capacity its will
power federman achieve the vocation of your name beyond all forms of
anthropologism a positive child anthropomorphism rather than the sad
off-spring of a family giggling they pushed me into the closet among
empty skins and dusty hats my mother my father the soldiers they cut
little boys' hands old wife's tale send him into his life cut me now
from your voice not that I be what I was machines but what I will be
mother father quick downstairs already the boots same old problem he
tried oh how he tried of course imagining that the self must be made
remade caught from some retroactive present apprehended reinstated I
presume looking back how naive into the past my life began not again



whereas in fact my mother was crying softly as the door closes on me
I'm beginning to see my shape only from the past from the reverse of
farness looking to the present can one possibly into the future even
create the true me invent you federman with your noodles gambling my
life away double or nothing in your verbal delirium don't let anyone
interfere with our project cancel our journey in my own words inside
the real story again my father too coughing his tuberculosis as they
locked him into the closet they cut little boys' hands alone waiting
on the third floor crapping me on his paper what a joke the soldiers
quick sssh and all the doors slammed shut the boots in the staircase
where it should have started but not him no instead calmly he shoves
the statue of liberty at us very symbolic over the girl's shoulder I
tremble in his lies nothing he says about the past but I see it from
the corner of my eye even tried to protest while the outside goes in
then smiles among the beasts and writes one morning a bird flew into
my head ah what insolence what about the yellow star on my chest yes
what about it federman the truth to say where they kept old wrinkled
clothes empty skins dusty hats and behind the newspapers stolen bags



of sugar cubes how I crouched like a sphinx falling for his wordshit
moinous but where were you tell me dancing when it all started where
were you when the door closed on my shouting I ask you when I needed
you the most letting me be erased in the dark at random in his words
scattered nakedly telling me where to go how many times yes how many
times must he foist his old voice on me his detours cancellations ah
that's a good one lies lies me to tell now procrastinations I warned
him deep into my designs refusing to say millions of words wasted to
say the same old thing mere competence never getting it straight his
repetitions what really happened ways to cancel my life digressively
each space relating to nothing other than itself me inside his hands
progress quickly discouraged saying that it was mad laughter to pass
the time two boxes correspondence of space the right aggregate while
he inflicts false names on me distorts our beginning but now I stoop
on the newspapers groping to the walls for the dimensions of my body
while he stares at his selectricstud humping paper each space within
itself becoming the figure of our unreality scratched from words the
designs twirl just enough for me to speak and I fall for his crap to



become puppet believing he is me or vice versa born voiceless I wait
in the dark now down the staircase with their bundles moaning yellow
stars to the furnace the boots my father mother sisters too to their
final solution when I needed him the most last image of my beginning
to the trains to be remade unable to shade the light and he calls me
boris when I stood on the threshold boris my first false name but he
erased that too in a stroke of impatience made me anonymous nameless
choose for yourself he mutters a name among infinite possibilities I
tried to protest gives us blank spaces instead while he hides inside
his own decomposition homme de plume hombre della pluma reverses his
real name namredef between the lines in the corners featherman sings
his signs anticipating his vocation leaps over the precipice cancels
the real story with exaggerations I watched him long ago make images
among the beasts how many false starts for me to go but where if the
door had opened by mid-afternoon the world would be alive dust burnt
pains in the guts squeaking pretending to be dead I replay the scene
down the staircase perhaps I slept the whole time and a bird flew in
my head past his face through the windowpane scared him face to face



with myself I threw sand in his eyes struck his back with a stick in
his delirium whining like a wounded animal I squat on the newspapers
unfolded here by shame to defecate my fear as he continues to scream
multiplying voices within voices to silence me holding my penis away
not to piss on my legs clumsily continues to fabricate his design in
circles doodles me up and down his pages of insolence two closets on
the third floor separate correspondence of birth in time seeking the
right connection meaning of all meanings but from this angle never a
primary phenomenon to end again reducible to nonsense excrement of a
beginning in the dark I folded the paper into a neat package for the
birds smelling my hands by reflex or to disintegrate years later but
he ignores that too obsessed by fake images while sucking the pieces
of stolen sugar on the roof by the ladder outside the glass door the
moon tiptoed across the clouds curiosity drove me down the staircase
but I stumbled on the twelfth step and fell and all the doors opened
dumb eyes to stare at my nakedness among the beasts still hoping for
survival my father mother sisters but already the trains are rolling
in the night as I ran beneath the sky a yellow star struck my breast



and all the eyes turned away I told him tried to explain how it must
have started upstairs they grabbed me and locked me in a box dragged
me a hundred times over the earth in metaphorical disgrace while the
soldiers chased each other with stones in their hands and burned all
the stars in a furnace my survival a mistake he cannot accept forces
him to begin conditionally by another form of sequestration pretends
to lock himself in a room with the if of my existence the story told
in laughter but it resists and recites first the displacement of its
displacements leaving me on the threshold staring dumbfounded at the
statue of liberty over the girl's shoulder question of selecting the
proper beginning he claims then drags me into the subway to stare in
guilt again between a woman's legs at the triangular cunt of america
leads me down the corridor to masturbate his substitution instead of
giving me an original experience to deceive the absence of a woman's
hand makes believe that I am dead twelve years old when they left me
in the primordial closet moment upstairs on the third floor with the
old newspapers empty skins seeking unknown pleasures which is only a
amorphous substitution thinking that memory is innocent always tells



the truth while cheating the original experience the first gesture a
hand reaching for the walls to find its proper place since he failed
to generate the real story in vain situates me in the wrong abode as
I turn in a void in his obligation to assign a beginning however sad
it may be to my residence here before memory had a source so that it
may unfold according to a temporal order a spatial displacement made
of words inside his noodling complexities of plagiaristic form I was
dead he thinks skips me but I am being given birth into death beyond
the open door such is my condition the feet are clear already of the
great cunt of existence backward my head will be last to come out on
the paper spread your arms voices shout behind the walls I can't but
the teller rants my story again and I am alive promising situation I
am my beginning in this strange gestation I say I for the first time
as he gesticulates in his room surrounded by his madness having once
more succeeded in assembling single-handedly the carbon design of my
life as I remember the first sound heard in this place when I said I
to invent an origin for myself before crumbling into his nonsense on
the edge of the precipice leaning against the wind after I placed my



filthy package on the roof its warmth still on my hands far away the
empty skins already remade into lampshades past moments old dreams I
am back again in the actuality of my fragile predicament backtracked
into false ambiguities smelling my hands by reflex out of the closet
now to affirm the certainty of how it was annul the hypothesis of my
excessiveness on which he postulates his babblings his unqualifiable
design as I register the final absence of my mother crying softly in
the night my father coughing his blood down the staircase they threw
sand in their eyes struck their back kicked them to exterminate them
his calculations yes explanations yes the whole story crossed out my
whole family parenthetically  xxxx  into typographic symbols while I
endure my survival from its implausible beginning to its unthinkable
end yes false balls all balls ejaculating on his machine reducing my
real life to the verbal rehearsals of a little boy half naked trying
to extricate himself as he goes on formulating yet another paradox I
witness to substitute a guilty gesture for my innocent pleasure call
that cleverness indeed to impose on my predicament his false notions
of order truth plausibility down the corridor tiptoes now listens to



voices murmuring behind the doors refusing that which negates itself
as it creates itself both recipient and dispatcher of a story teller
told creature on my hands the smell of the package up on the roof to
disintegrate in laughter divided I who speaks both the truth and the
lie of my condition at the same time from the corner of its mouth to
enclose the enunciation and denunciation of what he says in semantic
fraudulence because I am untraceable in the dark again as I move now
toward my birth out of the closet unable to become the correspondent
of his illusions in his room where everything happens by duplication
and repetition displacing the object he wants to apprehend with fake
metaphors which bring together on the same level the incongruous the
incompatible whereas in my paradox a split exists between the actual
me wandering voiceless in temporary landscapes and the virtual being
federman pretends to invent in his excremental packages of delusions
a survivor who dissolves in verbal articulations unable to do what I
had to do admit that his fictions can no longer match the reality of
my past me blushing sphinx defecating the riddle of my birth instead
he invents me playmates in his chaotic progress for his deficiencies



to tell the truth moinous he calls them but let us be honest even if
it hurts it is some considerable time now since he last knew what he
was talking about in his flow of words that counterfeit my escape if
I dare say as he toys with my fears makes of me a puppet-child whose
strings are entangled rather than letting me be free and spontaneous
to run under the grey canvas sky in search of my present-future then
injects into my eyes a functionless reflexivity but no one is fooled
by his disabused attitude which makes me forget my mother's face her
dark eyes forces me to reshape my father's hopes to convenient usage
for a future life in some far away land sublty hidden into his voice
seeking to vanish again while he thinks words will make me he thinks
his words will eventually stumble on the right aggregate of my being
how clever he would like it to be my fault if his words fail to save
me I resist curious reversal of roles whereby the rustle of his lies
above my head leaves my storyless but through a crack in the wall of
my closet I see his hand draw a tree and on a branch a bird a scared
mockingbird the shape of a leaf I loved that bird so much that while
my scribbler stared at the sun and was blinded I opened the door and



hid my heart in a yellow feather to blank his doodling words mimicry
of my condition which repeats sam's pell mell babel object without a
proper name and inversely named captive of his designs as soon as he
stands opposite the space of this flagrant contradiction in the heat
of our confrontation but because he failed by substitute himself for
the first witness of my beginning he cannot improve his account only
reinvents what he thinks really happened on the third floor when the
door slammed shut on me summertime escaping into the trees the boots
in the courtyard moanings down the staircase my experience retold in
false versions inscribed in a fraudulent present-past space that can
barely approximate the condition of my voicelessness and so he looks
toward the days of my wandering indicating what has been restored by
faulty memory how can I progress in deliberate distortions even when
the present feeds upon the coming future of this escapee who assumes
here his true identity as he decries his own story locked in a space
beyond his hands on the periphery of his circular rumbling inside as
the selectricstud balls away whirls me in a verbal vacuum pretending
to set me free at last in the absence of my own presence no I cannot



resign myself to being the inventory of his miscalculations I am not
ready for my summation nor do I wish to participate any longer willy
nilly in the fiasco of his fabrication failed account of my survival
abandoned in the dark with nothing but my own excrement to play with
now neatly packaged on the roof to become the symbol of my origin in
the wordshit of his fabulation that futile act of creating images of
birth into death backward into the cunt of reality regressing toward
my expulsion there must be a better way to manifest myself to assert
my presence in his exercise-book speak my first words on the margins
of verbal authenticity I will step into the light emerge run to some
other refuge survive work tell the truth I give you my word resist I
will abolish his sustaining paradox expose the implausibility of his
fiction with cunning expedients stratagems that will cure him of his
madness even if the act of telling my own tale sends him to oblivion
his journey to chaos ended his temporary landscapes frozen his visit
among the beasts forgotten his real fictitious discourse denounced I
will be relentless his exaggerated second-hand tale retold anew with
the correct accent all his words obliterated from cambrian brainless



algae to imagination plagiarized his head crushed against the wall I
will step out of my reversed role speak in my own voice at last even
if I must outstretch myself to the unattainable but suppose fatigued
and disgusted he abandons me will I be able to emerge alone down the
corridor out into the sun will I be able to become the essential and
not remain a special event on the edge of the abyss stalled words in
regress without destination an historic fiasco within his hysterical
screaming obscured by faulty memory yes suppose he gives up dies one
morning among millions of unfinished moments in the middle of a word
will I remain suspended from his blood lifeless voice within a voice
without a story to tell my beginning postponed by federman's absence
now then                                              I forever been
where to        now         don't            even say why    but you
you ask                  how                                       I
skip      never before spoken       yet what         for me       no
sleep selectricstud hassle stir again in closet upright now unfolded
unself movements toward unspeakable future between two refuges alive
yet afraid yellow feather boy confined manchild symptom rarely fatal



controlled pressure producing typographical hijinx voodoo machines I
located in nakedness metaphorically exposed federman out then facing
the sun following shadows time again for another book of flights old
friend ass in gear detours speak traps crap it all symbolic evasions
rebirth this time masturbating no more false closet go run above the
stars where tension between peripatetic hysterical search for people
makes love unique case unreal america sam no less midwife to rebirth
time to admit unredeemed mess accept little boy described fervor not
in present retroactive quite never apprehended entirely echoes space
of future reinstated in stories only from past images presumed shape
reverse of farness stifling faces federman now confront much moinous
wordshit start there to provide single voice long dodge closet yet a
single word failed logos draws map of journey to chaos evoked a bird
here where moinous rendered speech burns out to better question fear
realize aspects cancel life digressively movements to touch hands or
allow feelings propelling words eventually confront mother now beast
father now antics sisters too from other side stars burning the felt
atrocity in furnace as necessary alchemical fire or both let it burn



or neither erased let it go here now again featherless risk of death
ultimate helplessness startling puppet fails to fly crafty dodger by
props replays old tale artificer of fledgling birth in retrospect of
remade self caught in unself present as yet unmade unimagined from a
soaring echo floating from future to decide discover survival toward
shared unwritten life coasting above abyss crossing selectrified eye
dissolved issues beyond death duplicating open door tearing the veil
of high priestess prepare last scroll played out ready to escape now
behind walls sssh necessary energy repulverized pages disaster words
threatens unqualifiable babble cheating original experience locked I
frantic he cunningly futile primordial elements of flight activities
rectifying themselves from different angles useless divergence draws
linearity of life undermines word circularity to voices which scream
reducible again machine discourse system of recuperation by loss end
father now mother seen sisters too measured calculated formulated by
typographical symbols within closets correspondence to what again is
seen again measured again calculated reformulated even with nearness
slight variations to something possible against background of dreams



already said already seen foolish pleasures to proliferate in verbal
mud to build come back upon retrace already traced lines inscribed a
course of action only certitude here in closet alone outside mystery
to be found helplessness of an elsewhere beginning veiled fingers of
plagiarism who speaks to whom with neutral voice the questioning lie
masks subjects from other stories toward where it dies sometime much
wordshit provides single light in closet the threat of becoming just
another paradox presence split voice in absentia from failure spoken
reconstructs past staging of possible conditionals of ifs connects a
certitude pretends to offer less said perhaps wanted less trying yet
from afar in hollow sound assert itself weakness void rather than an
absence force or source previously expected to hear better say admit
failure by designating who makes non-existence connivance laughter I
unable to invent delegating names anonymous machine in motion scream
questions affirmations texture designs negations speculations double
or nothing where sun and other stars still burn neither symbols of a
beginning nor metaphors microcosm reality gigantic mythocosm edifice
of words integrating space figures inside rhetorical perfection name



canceled as uttered with balls foutaise again reaches all balls from
impossible survival repeat even less than nothing perpetuates itself
into future-past region of ruins full circle fingers back to voice a
prehistoric closet condition doors locked in first refuge plays dead
issueless memories erased illusion of survival in excessiveness with
cries to infinity in either direction tried to mock silence as rumor
hooked to primary self into body splintered fantastically into other
versions of real story lingers as alternative traces along diverging
tracks of probable digressions onward lessness to endlessness admits
reverse of farness equals inverse of nearness in reconciliating four
swords piercing armored body by acceptance of youthful defiance with
folly sam knows perseverance furthers more shadow box of guilt after
newspaper wraps excrement on roof from rolling trains to furnace now
remade lampshades runs down staircase to night call of fear smelling
hands naked yellow star bird seeks beginning of historic fiasco free
at last to journey among the beasts where guts squeaking unfold into
laughter from darkness displacement of solitary work recalling front
page faces of soldiers staring victorious sphinx defecating his life



begins again closet confined as selectricstud resumes movement among
empty skins images crumble through distortions spins out lies into a
false version leapfrogs infinite stories falling silently into abyss
to be replaced retold confusion foretelling subsequent enlightenment
by what right a fool echoes from near farness the design of youthful
folly for neither darkness fear struggle hopelessness nor resistance
force success symmetry to grasp buried sword reluctant to transgress
as he learns to listen be silent accepts bewildered others too exist
in closet who seek acceptance not defiance of words secret young boy
with hope asks again but to ask again is importunity and here he who
importunes receives no answer to importune is folly to strengthen in
a fool what is right is holy task as spring wells up at last at foot
of mountain face of superior manchild fosters character he knows now
by thoroughness in all that he does to go on this way brings madness
humiliation childish folly good fortune from devotion gentleness but
to commit transgression for those above those below negates survival
time now then to be serious upstairs in his closet foutaise to speak
no more my truth to say from fingers federman here now again at last

*** different version ***
expelled from mother tongue exiled from motherland tongueless he extracts
words from other tongues to exact his speechlessness ubiquitous wanting to be
everywhere at the same time he disperses his words everywhere at the same


©Raymond Federman
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