Excerpt: Person of Interest

R.M. Haines


After Taxi Driver

The nation’s fantasy. Inside it, iridescent nets of fascia, plasma, cerebrospinal
fluid. Algorithms reading hormonal fluctuation, buying power, etc. What a
person is. What life becomes. (A bathtub filled with acid, a videotape in an
envelope, white powder spilling.) Travis Bickle haunts America. Up all
night behind the wheel, watching the numbers turn, the faces. There is no
such thing as society. (Credit default swap, medical bankruptcy, Reward
Point balance.) See: a killer wearing the mask of a boy, a pin in the ugly
doll. See: lithium, cobalt, crude oil, etc. In this scene, a man with no face
laughs and laughs, sinking deeper into the backseat. He tells you where to go.

A lung as a piece of metal.  Its death  as alchemy, as  revisionism, gossip.
Systole, diastole, etc. “We bought that. That’s ours.” A trachea, a shredded
cable plugged into the document cache, the bank vault, the studio (to scatter,
to grieve). Strapped in, we enter anywhere, a fantasy inside the nightmare, a
frenzy. In this scene,   Travis moves through swarms of trolls.  Thinks he
might be a cop, an outlaw, a star. Might be writing a book. (A piss-ant, a
passerby. A bloodstream a camera floats within.) Breathe in, out. I don’t want
motherfuckers  telling me  I’m not alive  anymore.  It’s  in  the  air  here,
in the news.  Doesn’t matter  what the real world is.  A lung, an eye. A
silent man passing you in the hall, his hands hidden, face a blank.

Travis uses a razor on his head. Enters a riddle, a hotel, a suitcase full of
weapons. Having done this thing, what am I? In this case: a paratrooper over
Laos. In this: Adderall, Salvation Army, a Nazi rally in Michigan. (Choking,
coughs down the hallway, screams.) Here, one stays up for eight days. One
bets it all. Asphyxiation, patience, an extended clip. “My self is all there is,
and no one else is here, inside my head, right here.” See: A series of cameras,
mirrors, unsent letters. See: A room with a view in a desert casino, a festival,
ants tracking pheromones in spectral circuits on the ground. “Take it from
me. Take it.” One last look. Americans.

Travis as a magnet. A nimbus of incels, shooters, trolls. He tears at his own
face, his fate, etc.  “This fool continues  to just be evil.” In  the video,  a
traumatized  lamb consoles  itself, nuzzling a  stuffed toy pig.  Oxytocin,
endorphin. The heart as a window becoming light. I want to be the best good I
can be. Elsewhere: a young man as a thing in a world of screens. Elsewhere:
forum threads,  the war in Afghanistan,  an obsolete  flag.  John Wayne
exterminating Comanche (to search, to delude). “We studied it in class, it’s
great!.” Looking out through the glass, through my face’s glow, the night.
And on through that, more night.

To fear what one is. What one becomes (to conceal, to lacerate). “I just
blacked out and did the thing, someone said it to me, it was like a movie.”
Travis wakes up dead to read his name in the paper. Clickbait. Clippings
taped to the inside of a locker, a closet door, a skull. We want to own the
screen and put you inside it for good. “A ratings bonanza!” A terminal,
demented son with piss-colored hair heaped up like his billionaire mother’s.
(Saturn, Pluto, Jupiter in Capricorn, etc.) In this case: the cutting room
floor, hush money, Cialis. In this case: a name-become-logo, a ghost-written
epic, a documentary on the plague. For Europa. For proud boys. “For the
nation!” he cries, watching the knife go in.


R.M. Haines is a member of the Poets Union. His first book, A Dark Address, is available on Gumroad. His second book, Interrogation Days, is forthcoming from woe eroa. More info can be found at his website

Consider supporting Protean Magazine on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!