To further support Action Books’ growing community of writers and readers, we’ve decided to launch a new initiative on the Action Books Blog. Selected by our editorial staff, a recurring series called Action Fokus will highlight excerpts from 12+ radical manuscripts submitted by poets and translators during our 2022 Open Reading Period. Today we are featuring excerpts from Tim VanDyke’s Memoir of My Assassin’s Body.


This collection is an attempt, on the one hand, at a personal reckoning with my father’s kidnap and murder by terrorists, members of FARC, in Colombia, South America, in the early 90’s. On the other hand, it is an attempt to characterize the peculiar sense of cruelty that was Colombia to a colonial tourist during that time. Us little white kids, a sort of cruel Lil’ Rascals with an inverted sense of where the wild things really are. It is an attempt at identifying with a history and mythos that I feel part of in a way only felt trauma can make you feel part of something, while at the same time realizing the futility of such an act.

—Tim VanDyke





get still


When I got shot I got still

Manuel Marulanda sang a song into the reflection of my flames

I did not know how to address him as my body burned in the field

I told him to get still. I said Get still, Manuel.

Get still at the orifice of my resurrection

Get still and witness the speed of my carcass

Get still in the night as I cast a shadow darker than shade

Get still with the cocaine and the police and the army

Get still with whoever still prays to St. Sebastian

Get still inside the intestines of a goat being strangled by an anaconda

Whoever gets still gets the blessing of the Lord

Whoever gets still gets damnation

I got still so I got to sing to the cattle

I got still but I didn’t get to address the counrty

When the country gets still it collapses like a soundwave

Get still in the presence of the broad night

Get still in light’s favored crevice 

that being in it leaves the rest outside

to establish themselves, dissolve, and congeal again

Get still at the stung light of arrows plunged into my eye

I will burn on a field of freedoms as I address a country

that will always turn me away  

I will get still to the worms reanimating my body

you got still and built a factory of the dead

you got still and rejoiced at its sight, at the factories 

made of marrow from the stillborn revolution

the Corporeal Mass knit together with bone

come to vibrate its body against mine

to rip out the roots of the rough jewel made of teeth

still illumintating, still casting shadows across the tree

you are throwing me against it again and again










Dear Door


Dear Door— what does death hold for me— Quihica— your clay

frame— all blood is driven from it— the space of a nail— space

and blood revolving like the lunar orbit found its head— which is

yours come this way— to this place— all the lonely spheres come

to pay their debts with the hot gouge of a dagger— the apostates of

democracy come to pay their debts— the women covered in black

shawls come as I care for my wife— they pay their debts—remain

faithful to the thread of humility— the threat of virginity— Dear

Door up on the Mountain— the women up early to make tortillas

for the day— grinding the corn without a mill for fear of the

foreign sprouting in their fields— it will eat them up— Dear Door,

my wife came close to passing through you today— I care for her

in many ways— her women care for her and I care for her— as

surely as you care, in your way— Dear Door, what do you open up

to?  More moons?— What a fate— the women,

they cry out in fear for the city— they call out to it— to Bogotá—

there are bodies rotting in the river— hearts cut out and bled— I

mean to say I love you to my wife— I do say I love you— can I

also say I am sad— they float in the river— someone should tie

stones to their necks— Dear Door on the Mountain— the women

out early, up in the cold— gleaming machines of the Latifundia

chew up corn as easily as they chew up the people made of

maize— as it is taught by the catechists— there is only one God—

only one heart— but it’s not true— there is also the Sun, the heart

of the sky— there is also the Night and hellish stars— there is also

the great space of the synaptic chasm— there is me and the women

and my wife— we  all say I love you to the living— to the dead—

I don’t know











you’re not there


The further I drift out from myself the more 

I am left with a yearning to scrape the valley out of my chest

the more I inhabit this suffocating closeness coating my bones

the more I dwell in this star 

my body flung through the sky until it reaches hell’s threshold

and the light envelops my memory

 made sacred through words marked with spittle

marking tomorrow with my children 

marking my children with voices that thrash the silence with thorns—

Time comes between us as a membrane inked with colors

color of my corpse blotting out the Sun

color of the song caught in my throat

color of God where he fell to earth

color of love        Color of birds and color of night

color of the faithful vomiting bullets

Manuel’s white face the day he survived the raids

color of his rage the day it burned me—

but I’m not there and you’re not there

in that memory, in that membrane of colors

when your glance falls outside the window pane

with no way in that being in between

in that devastation and oblique flight

I’m not there and you’re not

the place where our specters meet

our faces deformed, destroyed by


no vestige of desire left

we meet there     & hallucinate agonistic presences—

o angel

in my dream your hand goes under my head

I insist you place your hand under my head

again and again

o angel

the durable mud of my skin is crumbling from atop the aerie

I want to feel the tremor of those heights











Pegged Peggy


Us little white kids pegged Peggy to the wall where she was often

found— or Tristan did and we followed suit—

us little white kids silencing the good— silencing the god in us—

we played as moon kings in Hell’s ascent— in its scansion—

expanse that shatters the insides of my immaculate eye—

You are my Xibalba I say— I think of the Mayans plotting the sky

as they looked up at hell— as I look up at you, o angel— sound of

your neck gently snapping— nakedness of these stars— your form

recumbent as they drag you through the tall black grass— there is

no eye left

to see you— macula simmering and empty— no code sent to the

cortex— your wings shield my sight—

We pegged Peggy who you don’t know— pegged her with rocks

just for being green— said she was fat but she didn’t care— said

our penises were inverted— she liked that— the world ran on into

another genocide— another genome— the world asked where it

comes from— from the soldiers— where do the soldiers come

from— they come from the anatomy of the night— where carnage

runs rampant— where blood spurts out in gobs and semen spurts

harder— soldiers trembling as they cum in the black breeze—

Peggy from the wall covered in hairspray and a lit match— 

when I saw the fires my father kept lit I wanted to rip his

immaculate eye right out of my head— wanted to throw it up at the

stars of Hell— those little white kids— the games they played—

Peggy’s skin screamed as much as Peggy did— silence the good—

not so much silence as a softening— grain glass through the

retina— I smear the sclera onto my cheeks— I smear my armor

on— my gut face— pitch justifications for God to my dog— the

fires my father kept lit were fueled by paraffin made from his

skin— skin that fell apart like a desert into sand— his organs—

Peggy’s organs— like lemmings set themselves on fire— like

monks set themselves on fire— their anatomies derived from the

grist— the wildness also raised by the specters of the dead— a

unity pried open in space and in darkness— which is the deeper

scar?— bear us up, who only seem to be bearing— bound to each

other by our crimes we charge flaming into the orifice of the

earth— suckle each other like kids at their first funeral— Us little

white kids given a free ticket into the pew— infernal father

motioning toward the light from the pulpit— code light— what to

speak and how to speak but not why— hanging above these a

crimson vertigo— the edges of Hell going out and out into the

night sky— it is left spiraling— until wings exit the church— the

white of their eyes extinguished like a cigarette ground

underfoot— and us ekstatic— us lighting fires as a gesture to the

moon— as a marriage between it and our partially paralyzed

faces— set like stone to look on the gradual erosions in the

landscape— a boundary between my father and the fire dissolves

in the moonlight— or our skin galloping across the sand— we

dream and hold the whole weight of our sins in our hands— the

night shines through our transparent heads— a phantasmagoric

judgement written upon the parchment of my father’s skin

the dreamed of boy

the tar we vomit











Memoir of My Assassin’s Body


My assassin’s body sits in the sun— pity be on the daffodil’s

head— like thick harlots riding a dragon— plummeting from the

sky.  Dogs sniff it and lick it by the pool— leave it there and wade

in— an abasement that keeps me in good spirits

to pursue that poison—

that toxic angel— that is to say— what words I ask— what it

means— two lovers to pursue each other— to say— I love you—

nucleotidinal excess spills out onto the synaptic threshold that

holds us in awe of the sayable— The soldiers satisfy their

phantasies— each side resting in trenches— in the recesses of their

scrotums— no one god dripping—

the pool is named after the river it sits by— the Guataquía— river

in all my dreams

I dreamt my father swam the whole night— threw his body on the

shore for all to see— My father’s body— a prism that let others

peer into the darkness— let us see the many shades of color


His body was blue all over on account of death— body covered in

soft teeth from the dogs— baby teeth from us little white kids—

the punctured lungs of my assassin—

Us little white kids pee in the pool but no one listens— I stoop to

drink and find blood in the drain— flakes of skin float like lily

pads— Us little white kids peel back the face of my assassin—

stuff it with spinach— stuff Popeye with spinach— Popeye who is

Escobar’s assassin— green like spring and well-muscled—

My father’s body right after his execution— displayed in a

morgue— displayed across the nation on TVs— on Good Morning

America— beamed into my living room right before school— beamed into the homes of countless watchers— and entering the room I watched, too—

what does it mean to praise the word of the angel— to sing— frightened at the precipice of its mouth— to ask of it— for whom is the cannibal adorned?— For what battle?— O angel— are we meant to be lovers in mutual manducation— Is it the groin— is it the drooling sea— 

without sap 

without song 

without orifice—

peeking into the window to find that the pane is intact— with shit

studs— bullets of an Onanic orgasm in their eyes

My father’s body is a plumb line in the pool 

eaten away by the toxic eyes of onlookers.  

Escobar’s assassin— Popeye— who killed 250— is still hunting

me— sticks to the concrete by the pool—

The angel is toxic— not given to pity— not given to the

vicissitudes of the living— the angel picks itself up off the dead—

as us little white kids are dead— as I want to die— Angel that all

of Villavicencio reaches to wipe off its face—

my father’s face— my assassin’s face—

both brushed by pollen— 

silence the good— silence the god in us— disable the moron

motion screen

Conjure a lyre to soothe ourselves— Conjure a salve— Our lips

are bleeding— the tender points at our temples are bleeding— us

little white kids fallen into the arms of our mothers— carried there

til thunder cuts us down— the onlookers grow phobic— leave

greasy handprints on the remote—

rolled light at the base of my father’s spine— the daffodils sprung

up there— flowers for the living, too— spiraling towards

Heaven— the television calls it a satellite in the loam— the earth

spins— the daffodils knot into zeroes— infected splice of the

machine— Behold, I saw my assassin beside the pool— I stuffed

her mouth with my eye’s filament— sat and looked on as she

swallowed and spat










Lazarus’ Face


I looked into the fires my father kept lit, then his sudden distance.

Saw Lazarus’ face there. Saw us little white kids, too, stealing

moonless songs— saw us quite alone. Our bodies lay in the

starchy soil, dug in, starched shirts covered in horse shit. Cattle

low on the hillside break into stampede. They trample their

young— nothing troubles the image. The slope of the hillside

makes our vision slip. We reframe their death as the death inside

us, a love that will turn necrotic in the end, its pustules congealing

inside us— inside our inside eyes— 

We dare not say anything to the stars. There are none now.  Saw

my father’s fire in the distance. Perilous brute and moon face—

lone carcass strewn dream. Us cracking the marrowed dirt.

Tremble of the unmarked grave. My grave resides beside the river,

between dream and the city’s violence. Once I told my friends to

shoot me in front of a mango tree. When I turned 40, I was certain

I had a full beard.  Lazarus’ sparse stubble tickled mine in my

sleep. I had two good hands at 40, used them to drag my body

back so us little white kids would have a place to stay. Appearing

through the veil as though an altar had sprung up in the forest, or a

complex of spirits— the dead in mid stride marred only by the

cattle, or as the cattle tread the grass the ghosts blink into and out

of existence— In my 13th year I saw Lazarus’ face on a taxi driver.

From my 2nd story window saw him stop in the street. A man on a

motorbike gunned him down with an uzi. Once every year I see

him in my dreams. He tells me about the mothers who sit, who

stand and walk. forming and transforming the geometry of the

field— light of stars colliding— stars exploding once a year to

form again— the mothers to form it again around Lazarus’ face.

Harsh murmur from the dead. Heart’s murmur passed amongst us

little white kids, silent as though a lyre fell in the soot at our feet.

Praise the lyre that also sleeps with the dead. Praise the soldier

who catches you at the throat as all turns ripe in your heart— the

swift herald of their love— swift music that decays in the air—

swift sun o angel—

A string’s twang breaks it as the return of sound gives us back the

moon. I saw the fires my father kept lit from a great distance. The

forest in sublime trance sloughed off its mute accusations. I

sloughed off the skin on my face, strode up to see the city on the

hill.  I was pushed back— back into wildness.










What Snake


What snake us little white kids asked— the bullets were running

down our cheeks— bodies trapped underwater— what snake asked

all the naked ladies— spread-eagled in newspapers— hanging

from tienda ceilings— what snake encroaches on our palms—

us peering around Papa’s leg as he peed— what snake— 

us little white kids in Colombia—in Meta— in Villavicencio— at

La Fince Esperanza— found a boa— seven Feet— chewing on all

our tiny dogs— lopped off its head— cut it up into chunks—

steamed it— dipped it in butter— white rubber in our mouths—

we said what snake—

peering around Papa’s leg as he smoked the tobacco— what

snake— naked women huffing glue— screaming—

vomiting in the street— what snake—

we sat on the flat rocks— what snake the Guananos asked— what

snake came—millenia ago— what snake and what dance—

what Creation— in the river coiling close enough to touch from the

canoe— stars vomiting flame above our heads— hissing as the embers hit the

water— Moon thought it was leaves blowing by its

empty oculus— what snake— us with blood stains— us standing

on the winding staircase— us straddling a coffin— sliding on it

down the stairs— first day of winter— what snake posing next to

the succulents— us little white kids peering around its leg— stench

of rot— stench of potatoes in the garden— stench struck us in the

face— what garden— what memory strikes us now— what

whiteness strikes at market— struck in the face by a young boy—

threw a potato— rotten— the market—stench of meat— stench of

fish— stench of blood on our lips— young boy walking, yelling


each morning he pushed his cart— what snake— 

us like lovers embracing its corpse— so big— so big it takes two

coffins to house its body— halved like a cake—

twenty fingers inside










Memoir at Dawn


Crawl, corpse weed

Of vegetal grace 


Crawl out through the skin 

by the bright river


Ganglia of trees enmeshed overhead

A trumpet sounds in the forest


No one god is spent 

their womb scooped out


A swift orgasm in the night 

Penis split from base to head


A swift Sun, o Angel


The women up early

Planting seeds

Becoming no one

The women swallowing their tongues

Us little white kids 

swallowed by the birds flying west

Swallowed up by all departures


At Dawn we swallowed the water in the river

The fish bit our insides

Jumped out our mouths again


At Dawn us little white kids stood up on the bank

shivered for the bodies above us 

Wrapped in cerements for the funeral


We marched up the mountain single file

The body of my assassin in our arms

We were headed toward a sacrifice


First day of winter

Dry banks of the Guataquía


An eye glistening in the rising Sun

Gazing at the pebbles

Slick sheen of slime


O Angel

Your shining path beckons 

From the face of the Moon


Us in our skivvies

Possessed of kindling for the butterflies’ wings

Possessed of hairspray for the frogs’ skin


First day 


The Sun shone on our blue bodies

Even the grass burned


What few flakes of father’s face were left

Burned blue in the milky morning


Us little white kids milky in the eyes

Us sick with too much blood

Us peering out from under a pile of bones


When we got sick 

we got took to the river

we got put out of our misery

us little white kids punched holes in the bucket lids

murmured resolutely with our pants at our feet


thinking we were virgin 

a wolf was brought

it was almost a duty


the Sun lit up the water


we were sick on fear

on the light 

the light of the river


sick on my assassin’s body

thrown to us by the mountain


flesh of lovers with fast speech 

hollow whistle carved out of the lower gutturals

an hallucinated presence


horizon of scraped out marrow

whittling a canoe out of the whale’s rib


pounding a sum into powder

snorting it from the palm


Forbidden Day suddenly remembered

Tongues swelling from fever


Us little white kids take root in the riverbed

Finally asleep

Ablaze in the head


First blush of Dawn

Sets the whale’s skeleton on fire


Lay the placenta

Formed again and again

From my assassin’s body

At its feet


Us little white kids cover our faces with leaves

Cover the face of my assassin’s body

Cry as we eat her flesh

A mercy given us

A blight

A mercy on my assassin


the water and the light are high up now


we chew our maladies to dust 

as we fuck each other and the buckets fill


a horizon brims with nightlight blood

whispers I’ll take you away with me

as it climbs out of reach







Tim VanDyke is a poet living and working in Arkansas. Much of his reading and current work grow out of his experiences in Colombia. His work plumbs both American and Latin American traditions, drawing from Dickinson, H.D., and Frank Stanford as much as Zurita and Vallejo. Much of his work is ekphrastic. He is more concerned with Botero and Goya than many writers. Much of his writing might be construed as a writing of Place, a sort of wilderness drawn from various lines of myth, history, and memory. His poetry has been described as, “a Cosmic lyric written in blood.” He has published a full-length book, Topographies Drawn with a Divine Chain of Birds (Lavender Ink/ Dialogos, 2011) as well as three chapbooks: Fugue Engine (Cannibal Books 2012), Light on the Lion’s Face: A Reading of Baudrillard’s Seduction (Argotist 2012), and Farallones (Garden Door Press, 2018). His most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Brooklyn Rail, Typo, and Charm Poetics.