john bennett | an interview with the shard writer conducted by the poetry editor of the only swahili lit mag in the state of mississippi

Swahili alphabet & pronouncation


I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy life to grant me this interview. I want to thank you for paying my plane fare to this barren wasteland in which you eke out a living and scribble Shards. I want to thank you for coming to my rescue when they detained me at the Seattle airport. I wish to–

Yeah, yeah, think nothing of it. It’s all part of the game.

Is life a game?


You just said–

I said it’s part of the game. The rigmarole is. The game isn’t life. If you start thinking the game is life, you’re up shit’s creek without a paddle.

What is life? What is shit’s creek? Are you speaking metaphorically?

Good god, man–focus! Concentrate on the Shards!

It’s hard to concentrate on the Shards. When I read the Shards, my concentration explodes like a cloud of doves.

Ho! A cloud of doves! That’s good! Why don’t you move up here and work for me? Sooner or later you’re going to get killed romping around Mississippi speaking Swahili. Are you really Swahili? Your English is awfully good. And you’re pretty short for a Swahili. How tall are you?

Now look who’s losing focus.

Now we’re getting someplace. You have to talk Shard talk to talk about Shards, don’t ya know…

When did you start writing Shards?

Yawn. Next question.

Are you angry at the world?

What’s today? Is today Sunday? Never on Sunday. Sometimes during the week, and once in a blue moon on Saturdays, but never on Sunday.

Is blue moon a metaphor?

It’s a tavern in Seattle. Once I got angry in the Blue Moon and a bunch of bikers dragged me out on the sidewalk and beat the living crap out of me.

Did you write a Shard about it?

Shards aren’t about something. They are something. And I wasn’t writing Shards back then. I filled out a police report and they locked me up and tried to beat a confession out of me. Turns out the bikers were undercover narcotics agents.

Did that provide raw material for your writing?

Life’s raw material.

Ah! Now we know what life is!

The cat’s out of the bag.

This isn’t going the way I thought it would. Can we go back and start over?

Not unless you want to U-turn in a freeway fast lane during rush hour traffic.

How have Shards impacted your life?

Ha! ha! ha!

Have they changed the way you think?

How I think?


Thinking is the highest form of censorship. You can’t think and write Shards at the same time.

This is all very confusing.

Now you’re getting the idea.

Do you think you’ll ever be recognized?

I repeat, thinking is the highest form of censorship.

Why do I have the feeling you’re ridiculing me?

I don’t know. Paranoia?

Has anyone ever threatened your life?

Well, there were those precinct cops after the Blue Moon incident.

Are the Shards so much a part of you that you don’t have to think, is that what you’re saying?

The Shards are not a part of me. The Shards are taking me over. I’m disappearing. The way things are going, soon I will not exist in concrete form. My corporeal being is shimmering out of existence. It’s a little scary.

Can you elaborate?

Sure. Can you?

Will you elaborate?

Somewhere down the line, it’s possible.

You are ridiculing me.

Never ridicule a Swahili.

Even in Mississippi I have never been treated so rudely!

They don’t treat you rude in Mississippi, they hang you.

Why are you scared?

Wouldn’t you be, if all of a sudden you realized you were disappearing?

That is your imagination running wild.

That’s my imagination running scared.

Damn you to hell! Elaborate!

Well, seeing as you put it that way… For years now I’ve been so dazed by, amazed by, blown away by the Shards that seemed to be pouring out of me, that I felt blessed, felt there was some powerful force that had cloaked me with its protection. And it’s only recently, in the past week, actually, that it began to dawn on me that I was shimmering out of existence, that the Shards weren’t pouring out of me, they were taking shape somewhere outside myself. Here’s my theory on it. Some time ago I became obsessed with putting together a definitive collection of Shards, and recently, after a year of culling, I published The Book of Shards. And that’s when this realization began surfacing that my essence was being sucked out of me and converted into Shards by an outside force. And now that this book is completed, I’m damn near an empty husk. I’m nothing but a worker bee, slaving away for some Queen Bee deep in the heart of life. It’s a broken sort of feeling, and last night I had a dream of confirmation. I walk into this writing area, my command center, if you will, where we’re sitting right now, and this wrap-around desk that I had custom built, with my computer and printer and piles of manuscript on it, is gone; and in its place, stark, the drawers empty, nothing on top of it, not even a pencil, is the old oak desk that I worked on for years back before Shards, before computers, carted it around the world with me. I’m stunned. My granddaughter and the father of her child are in the dream. They exchange glances, and it’s apparent they were hoping I wouldn’t notice the missing desk, the switch. “Where has my desk gone?” I ask. “Where is my computer?” “There was an accident,” says my granddaughter. “That red shelf broke off and destroyed the desk.” But there is no red shelf. “It’s outside now,” says my granddaughter, and I look out the window to see the wrap-around desk and my computer, busted up and tangled in the hedge…”

I…I don’t know what to say. This is all so…unusual. This isn’t the way an interview usually goes. I’m not sure we will be able to use it.

Of course you won’t. But I thought I’d give it a shot anyway. A last hurrah sort of thing. I’m close to out of here now. But hey–you won’t be far behind, Swahili or not. The essence is being sucked out of everyone. Soon the entire world will be gone and not know it’s gone. What will be left still walking around I called Drone Zombies in my novel Tire Grabbers. No one blinked. People thought it was a fantasy book. Or a children’s book. Instead of an apocalyptic prophecy.

Frankly, none of this makes any sense to me. Have you sought psychiatric help?

Listen, I can run you over the mountains to the airport to catch your return flight to Mississippi, but I’d rather you take the shuttle. Would that be okay with you? It really rattles my cage anymore to drive out of the valley.

I think I would prefer the shuttle. Don’t bother showing me out, I can find my way. And good luck with your writing.

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