The Muse of Inebriates

Her nest is in the Void, which she leaves to practice black magic in the world, sniffing out base matter in those who are vulnerable and in emotional need. She lies through her teeth that what is most shameful and degraded in human nature she can transmute into gold, but of course she never fulfills her promise.  She’s a daughter of the Father of Lies.  Love forever eludes her, the procreative power, the life-giving light.  She practices her craft rather with what has been cast off, percolated into poison, hate and anger the demonic spirits animating her concoctions.   Shadows obey her and follow her around, conforming to her every move.  They wrap like a cloak around her; the same shadows form into wings when she needs to fly.  In shadows she obscures herself when she espies one who grovels and wallows in secrecy and isolation and who she knows couldn’t resist the medicine she has to offer and, after a taste, would bow down and worship her.  But she’s patient and careful in her approach.  She quietly circles around her prey from a distance and lingers; then so unassumingly that nothing seems out of the ordinary she emerges slowly into the dim, reflected light, a seductress mysterious and enchanting, and like a nightclub stripper rattles her bottles together.

The sound of the rattling summons a hissing snake from the depths of the Void. Transfixed the prey suddenly feels a tug from within, followed by a sharp sting, afterward being suffused with a tingly warmth.   Pain is numbed, anxiety is neutralized, fear is left behind.  But there’s a deceptive tradeoff, an infernal contract being entered into for this temporary release.   The snake as if calling to the blood winds its way around bones, enters the ribcage, wraps itself around the heart, before slithering back down into the pelvis, throughout its slippery movements sapping and draining willpower and replacing natural desire with the monomaniacal fervor which possessed Ahab in his pursuit of the White Whale.  The same is in the Inebriate’s pursuit of the ever elusive Golden Moment of Intoxication which through constantly repeated attempts to achieve it destroys both body and soul, which delights the Muse and sometimes sexually excites her.  On her belly a round portal opens down into her womb and passes through to her backside, a portal revealing the Void, and out of it slithers the snake, its head curving upward, threateningly hovering, as the tail extending out of the front of the Muse stands wickedly erect. When the Muse raises her fiery glass in a toast, shuddering with pleasure, her pet companion loosens and slithers its tail gracefully around the Initiate’s shoulders like the arm of a sympathetic friend and treats him to some of the finest venom.  The Muse can’t wait to see how he behaves under its influence. On the stage of humanity she hopes it inspires from him one of his greatest performances, operatic in scope, containing episodes of both tragedy and comedy, laden with drooling sentimentality and capitulating to drama punctuated by misguided and out of control fireworks.

To the sober this Muse is a femme fatale and a harpy, a dangerous chimera, but to those who fall under her spell she’s a saving grace, a Goddess like no other. With absolute contempt for moderation she goes to extremes with ease, appearing to thrive and grow strong on coarseness and vulgarity, insults, cruelty, lust and jealousy, and outbursts of violence.  She drinks in all she can of the hate and anger in the world and stores the infusion for future use when she returns to work in her distillery, spitting fire into her furnace and coughing up spices to enrich her concoctions.  She’s a genius at luring into her sphere of seduction those who thirst for the infinite and for oblivion and who stop at nothing to achieve the mystical union.  She rewards with stronger doses those who go to hell in themselves and don’t give a damn about dragging others down with them.  To one who has reached for the heights and fallen into the gutter, broken and having lost everything, she remains as relentless as ever, offering her hand and promising a return to glory.   “I have a new drink for you, better than all those which brought you to your present condition.  I have one which will heal you and make you whole again.   I’ll lift you to the stars.”   She destroys her victims coldly and methodically, in cycles which begin loose and casual but with each relapse becoming like a noose tightening around the neck.   She regards each blackout she causes as her pride and joy, as a squeezed out basilisk egg to be hatched later, or all the blackouts together as the rarest of jewels, black pearls, which one by one she plucks out of each passed out and hardly breathing body and smuggles back to her nest in the Void.  Her ultimate goal is to destroy and kill through slow poisoning as many as she can, and she likes to experiment with combinations. She doesn’t care about anyone you love, your friends, your family, children, your brothers and sisters, cousins, your Mom or Dad.   She’d poison one and all.   If she could she’d drown the whole world in alcohol.


  1. Dear John,

    This makes for an utterly harrowing read. You must be writing from experience, for no one — save he who has at some time fallen prey to it — can describe with such accuracy and visceral power the chaos alcohol is apt to wreak. Moreover, in your drawing, you have conveyed perfectly the mad and hopeless subservience of the Inebriate. As always, your mastery of word and image astounds and amazes. It is extremely rare for one to be in possession of both gifts. I wish I were able to furnish you with some constructive criticism, but alas, no such criticism dares to come forth.

    Your own praise for our work at The Colossus — we are a two-man venture, as you may or may not have noticed — is, on balance, so wonderfully laudatory that I sometimes question its seriousness. We truly appreciate it.

    You have correctly observed that our attentions are at present very much trained upon overtly political issues. It may well disappoint you to read that this shall probably not be changing,

    I have realised that the writer-activist must abandon all flourishes and curlicues; he must value substance over style every time; he must pack away the ego and leave it behind. Thus far, I have failed abjectly in all of this, and I feel nothing but faint embarrassment upon reading guilty passages. From now on, my writing shall serve its subject matter rather than its author’s vanity.

    Of course, I hope you continue to read it.

    – SB

    • The Colossus:

      You are correct that I made this image and wrote the accompanying words from my own experience of alcohol in my private life, and as a witness of those I love having their less than honorable traits brought out under its influence. I myself go through cycles. I’m not a fall down drunk, but in my family drinking is insidious. I believe genetics play a significant part in the disease. I’m definitely at my best – a better human being – when I’m sober. Alcohol lubricates and warms social interaction. It can be especially tempting to writers and artists as an aid for getting to the other side of creative blocks. It loosens one up inside, softens contours, aIlows one to submerge and dwell atmospherically in problems. I’m not deluded and know I shall be tempted again. The poet in me always hankers after intoxication. Alcohol is just a cheap means of achieving it. As you guys must know from your own work, through your own joint endeavor, sometimes one may experience after hard work which finally leads one to a break-through, from passages which finally come out right, another kind of intoxication, a deep and abiding joy which doesn’t end in a hangover but rather causes one to open and blossom with self-awareness like a flower.

      Your incredibly generous and encouraging compliment of my talent for both writing and image-making, coming from two I respect and admire mutually from what I have so far read and understand of your intentions, has gone straight to my heart. I sincerely thank you. I don’t know you guys in person but in this spirit of creativity and intelligent inquiry and expression we share, I regard you increasingly in friendship.

  2. Wow, John. Is this really you? I have only seen you at your most self-depriving, soberness. It is hard to empathize with the misery of alcoholism when, like me, allergy to the stuff dulls its appeal – I vomit long before I can get any desensitizing pleasure, and I have never been obliviously drunk. A drunk to the likes of us is just a bore or a clown. This illustrated essay exposes the misery and suffering which we cannot sense.
    Unfortunately, thanks to the deliciously, if disgustingly, phallic tail, I will never again be able to enjoy a pigskin wine bag.

    • Dear Tailessmonkey: The figure in this image isn’t strictly I; it’s more symbolic but still identified with and deeply felt. Hurt and anger also fueled its development. I wouldn’t deny it’s something of a self-portrait, but it’s not only that. I also see others I know in the figure, and not necessarily by facial features but by the figure’s position and expression. As an artist I hope to avoid moralizing and preaching, instead trying to breathe life into symbols and to animate them in a way that they correspond to living reality or resonate with some aspect of inner life, to make the invisible visible. I don’t think I’m up to the task most of the time. I’m delighted by the pigskin wine bag association you’ve brought to my attention. The association is indeed there and I didn’t even realize it. Poetry has a way of conferring a power on us not our own, summoning things in us we weren’t fully conscious are there, uniting us through mystery and transcendence. Thank you for your response!

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