by Ander Monson

Any first-person narration from someone other than the self is necessarily speculative. But I think too that even when we are narrating ourselves in essays, that’s fiction too.


I want to punch a slack-jawed motherfucker out a chopper door and look down on him so he can admire my grin as he descends. I hope he keeps a memory of me—the little halo of my mouth—as he hits the fog and disappears. I wish it made a little poof like in cartoons. What he sees after only he can know. No one will remember him, not even me, not soon. Days I’m onscreen you’ll remember me: you’ll want me or want to be me, sometimes both at once. At least you’ll want me on your side.

I’d like to blow myself all the way out of myself and see what’s left without me there. I make Blain moves and think of Blain. Say the same Blain things I always say. Are they evidence of he or me? Who knows? Who cares? Then I dream of air, and, after that, of nothing. Is there such a thing as nothing? Can you see it if there is?

I know how I’m seen, a sexual tyrannosaurus with my little arms and ridiculous mouth pumping into everything faster, just like the future. If you’d told me that ten years on from this I’d be telling deer hunters in Minnesota that it’s cowardly to hunt at things that can’t shoot back, that the only hunting worth respect is hunting men, and then getting elected governor, then after that hosting a television show entertaining conspiracy theories like the one about the Denver airport secretly being built atop a huge satanic nuclear bunker I’d have bled you in the jungle.

I am mostly pretty sure that I will never die. If I pay little enough attention to it I can stop time.

The wars I was built for have come and gone but I stay on camera where I belong and become a hymn I sing to man, a homophone for him. The idea of being one—a man, a body—I still think about it after all this time. I know that I’m alone out here, surrounded by these other men I cannot know, but when I see them look at me I’m full. They want to believe, and I do too, and so I do, and that’s how we make the magic.

When night falls in the jungle and my memories of muzzle flash begin to fade, I start to see things differently. Here I’m far from where I began; I think of ham, hard lives, and then of God, an action film, my forever home. I say I don’t believe in him but when I am stilled and the world is too and I have nothing else to do I find myself listening—what for if not for God?

I should know by now the song I sing is suicide. When I stop speaking I begin to feel myself, a sensation I do not like. And the more I feel the less I’m full, a fallow field, C4 without a detonator, a big unloaded gun. What am I to do? Remember? If I focus all of my energy on the past I can almost believe it’s there beyond the lens. Maybe I knew them well, those fields, those folds of corn, that loneliness. How I feel must mean I came from it: a state with one I and a lot of sky.

I am lonely when I rest: I can’t stand being second-best. When I finally find the time to bleed I find bleeding’s all I do. All I was then was holding in, and now all I am is emission, exhalation, a sign of smoke, a scent of rain remembered from the plains where I am telling you I’m sure I must be from, I have to be from somewhere, a little hum coming from my mouth before I even notice what I’m singing and I see the alien fire bursting out of me, and only then do I begin to believe.

“Blainsong” occupies a space—for me—between fiction and nonfiction. I suppose it could be called a kind of fanfiction, if the fiction it aspired to was more interested in the stuff of fiction (or of fanfiction). The project it comes from began as a poem about the 1987 movie Predator. Then it became a book. Then it became an essay. I think it is an essay, and it’s interested in the stuff of essay and indeed of nonfiction: cultural phenomena, politics, history, film, celebrity, masculinity. In the narrowest definitions of nonfiction it’s not, is it? It imagines Blain’s interiority and moves through it to Jesse Ventura’s, the actor’s. Any first-person narration from someone other than the self is necessarily speculative. But I think too that even when we are narrating ourselves in essays, that’s fiction too. We exaggerate; we tweak; we edit; we build characters of ourselves in sentences and in how and what we see and how we tell or think about what we see. How much of the I in an essay exists anyway before it sprawls out on the page? How much of a speculative leap is it to jump into another’s vehicle instead and speed off with it?


Ander Monson is the author of eight books, including the forthcoming I Will Take the Answer and The Gnome Stories from Graywolf. Among other side hustles, he edits the magazine DIAGRAM <>, Essay Daily <>, and he directs the MFA program at the University of Arizona.