It all started with a letterpress. It always starts with a letterpress. Some years ago we were nothing more than a ragtag band of rabble-rousers with a mild addiction for reading. Nothing heavy; adventure stories with pirates and buried treasure, a damsel in distress, rockets to Mars, magic swords and curses out of ancient Babylon. We ate myths and legends for dinner with a side of folklore for dessert.
Soon we were drinking ourselves stupid on cheap Bukowski and smoking the Beats down to the filter. And somewhere along the way the books just weren’t enough anymore, the need grew heavier. We bought a smuggled copy of Tropic of Cancer out of the back of a car down some darkly-lit alley and shot up Burroughs in squalid rooms. We stared in the glass dimly and saw our reflections in schizophrenic narratives.
There was still magic in the world, but the darkness in the ink of so many pages read in the dead of night had filtered into our thoughts. There were shadows everywhere. Multinational corporations tracking our movements; secretive, governmental agencies intruding into our thoughts, our actions...our reading habits. Waking up from the dreams of youth and rebellion against authority packaged in sanitary wrappings and priced to sell cheaply on dollar racks in cities between here and nowhere, we realized the monsters and villains of our bedtime stories were real and running the show.
We wrote poetry to the denizens of our dreams, to the people we had once been and the lovers we had lost on the way, but we also wrote poetry railing against the things that are and dreaming of the things that might be. But all of our poetry and angst didn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Our voices were faint compared to the din of capitalist, consumer culture gone critical, the ancient churning of the war machine drowning out all rational thought and marching us down the road to empire.
That’s when we found the old letterpress. She was beautiful. She was half a ton of cast iron with curves the devil designed. She was a link to the past. She was the heavy chains of fate wrapping around our souls. Fate had spoken; it had been decided.
Eventually, we collected more presses capable of printing more and more varied texts and books. The letterpress will always be our first love, but the times demand of us more, demand we blanket this town and this world with the scraps and fragments of our dreams.
Our waking nightmares are fodder for the mill, grinding out letters and words and sentences and poems and novels, a whole ecology of the fictions we tell ourselves to reveal truths and lies barely concealed beneath the thin veneer of a cynical, childish narrative.
We write our own lives, accepting our many faults as proof of our immortality.