Jayson Iwen (bio)



Wrestling with Gods


I’m in a walled garden full of ornamental trees

A man steps into the blue moonlight from a bluer shadow

I’ve been waiting for you a long time

It begins to snow

Who are you running from

I listen for my pursuer

It's silent but for my own breathing

What's in the briefcase

I don’t know what to say

Shall we take a look

I hand him the briefcase, and he opens it

Ah, my manuscript

Thank you

I beg your pardon, I finally blurt

          I'm sitting at a desk, in a motel right now, copying this dialogue word for word from the manuscript you just gave me

And this is what I say next

You see, I made you come here alone

I made you hand it over

I even made it snow

And you

He points at me

Made it all possible

Without even knowing it

Though, of course, you had your suspicions

And that's why you got the job

I even know what you're thinking now

          He crouches down and plucks a pebble from the grass, then steps forward and holds it before my eyes

          Here's your stone, a stone so heavy it breaks my heart at the thought of it, a stone so heavy the whole of creation rises from the depression it has made in time, a stone so heavy with sickness I cannot lift it one moment more or I shall perish


He tosses it over the garden wall

          ‘Abdu Manaf was the strongest man among the Quraysh, and one day he met the apostle in one of the passes of Mecca alone: “Rukana,” said he, “why won’t you fear God and accept my preaching?”'

That simple

But here's the real kicker

There’s an infinite chain of sets of god

Each self conscious set containing the previous set within it

And each emergently conscious one becoming aware of the next larger set

Becoming it

For example, one is thinking both of us right now as our story rolls through its mind

          And as long as it holds us, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are part of its infinity

As the heart of all layers is the utmost layer

'“If I knew that what you say is true I would follow you,” he said'

          You see, common consciousness now is realizing you're a character in other people's dreams

But you're going a step further

Listen carefully to who it is you talk to when you're alone

The schizophrenic may be the human to the limit

          Will we find who we are talking to one day and see that there is no longer a future, perhaps when we are all together, at the beginning and end of time

Will we decide to begin again

          'The apostle then asked him if he would recognize that he spoke the truth if he threw him, and when he said Yes they began to wrestle, and when the apostle got a firm grip of him he threw him to the ground, he being unable to offer any effective resistance'

When the whole speaks to the individual

When I speak to You

And now you ask

You want me to worship you

No, I couldn't love someone who didn't consider me their equal

Besides, I contain only one more than you

Now that I'm aware of you, what am I supposed to do

'“Do it again, Muhammad,” he said, and he did it again'

Wrestle me

Wrestle you


That's ridiculous

Every threshold is

'“This is extraordinary,” he said, “can you really throw me”'

What are you doing

He kneels down, turtling himself before me, and I hear his whisper in my ear

You must make me submit

But you've just submitted

I'm different than preceding gods that charged like mad bulls

I'm a bit more subtle than that

As long as I breathe you will breathe my air

          ‘That same night he sent his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, across the ford of the Jabbok'

I'll just walk away

You can't

I turn to the wall, but it's risen to the stars

It glorifies the next greater god to grapple with you

By contrasting itself with you, it reminds itself what it is

The cold and night make a silver bouquet of my sigh


'Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak'

The voices of my teachers return to me

          You must close the distance between yourself and your opponent so he cannot strike you

Don't leave gaps so he can slip an arm or leg in

If one is flexible enough to do so, one can break holds that strength alone cannot

Hold him closer than a lover

          'When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him'

With your right hand grab his collar and with your left hand his belt

And lift

Creating just enough space to slide your right foot between his armpit and his thigh

We're enlightened through such struggle with the other

          For example, 'jihad' is properly defined as an all-encompassing engagement of one's self with one's world

Between one and one’s limitations

'Then the man said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking”'

What you call yourself is this conversation between 'You' and 'I'

Just between you and I

Move so you are standing on his thighs with both feet

Through the narrative generated by such struggle is vision most viscerally achieved


And through the physicality of figuration most effectively transmitted

'But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me”'

          Now use both hands to hoist up on his collar, while thrusting your feet between his legs to the ground, assuming the 'back mount' position

          When I enter a classroom, I don't see Protestants, Catholics, Sunnis, Shias, Hindus, Buddhists, Maronites, Druze, Agnostics, or Atheists

I see gods sitting in the desks, filling the room with anxious radiance


          Lay your right arm over his right shoulder and under his chin, with the inside of your arm touching the tender of his neck

'So he said to him, “What is your name?” and he said, “Jacob”'

What can I say to keep this uneasy host from tearing the world apart

I am mortal, and have but this short day of mine with which to grapple

          Grab your left bicep with your right hand and place the back of your left hand behind his head with the palm facing you

          'Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed”'

And make a fist

          Each grapples with me in turn and only through flexibility do I survive their superhuman embrace

          Once the fist is made, do the following things to create pressure on the arteries at the sides of his neck

Bend your left palm away from you

Flex your biceps

Squeeze your right forearm toward your right shoulder

And hold it

Though the Earth may tremble


          Take these snowflakes, each as similar and as different as the memory of your first kiss recalled at different moments in your life


            I catch one on my tongue and it melts from staggering diversity of design into the unity of water, and diffuses into my bloodstream across the membrane of my parched throat

It is no longer the blood of a single man

It is the blood of the universe

          When reading, you think you are merely having a conversation with a writer from elsewhere in spacetime, unpresent and undead

We drink it endlessly

As we drink in the sight of our lovers with our eyes

          But you and the text have become part of a greater consciousness, speaking to itself, working something out in its mind

The sky dripping with what has ever evaporated

With what has ever condensed from confusion to exhaustion

What has ever left a stain behind

          As the unconscious ancients were right to assume the voice of conscience they heard was the voice of a god

What we in the privileged present call consciousness

You drink the blood of all life

Of the exhalation we inhabit

Of earth and stars and endless space

As knowable as time alone allows

          Wrestling with a god was wrestling with a new form of consciousness that was overcoming you – a new level emerging – and if you lost, you remained in that god's service – and if you won, you looked down at your feared, beloved, defeated god, lying, panting, on the ground, and for the first time you spoke to yourself – in shock you asked

What now

And the voice that answered from then on was your own

He lies on the torn grass breathing laboriously

So I've defeated you, I say


I was once in your place

Now we must both move on

Now you must do what I did then

First close your eyes

Now listen carefully to my voice

Sol sinks below the Earth

I'm in perfect darkness

I realize everything I've seen has been summoned by voices

And a new one is articulating a darkness about me

I touch my eyes

They're closed

I open them

I'm standing alone on an empty plain, beneath a single burning star

I raise my hand to my lips

They're moving