from 18000 Silk Road
There exist certain strains of joy seeming only to arise when art is created or consumed. This thought is prompted at a red light by a song from the early 2000s that sounds as though recorded in a violent wind. Its circumstance is impartial—my meal first and later my waste. A friend creates custom clothing for fruit, places the outfitted fruits inside dollhouses in familial configurations (sitting together at a table, sharing a bed), and surveils them ‘til they rot, livestreaming through liquefication. She tacks the stained, tiny frocks to peg boards as homage.
That we could speak through ourselves to the sources of our pain, sound converting to touch. As a child, I rifled through drawers in pursuit of community: clips mingling with yarn, stamps, matches, and capsules. I haven’t seen my friends in years; I read their books so our love won’t atrophy. On someone’s porch at 4 a.m. we watch a man swap out letters on the church marquee:
YOU ARE THE CAUSE
OF YOUR SELF
I felt underqualified. Never knew what to do when I was free, so I wrote poems that were laws to protect myself. I was unaware they had magnetized me to my death.
Wisdom’s ballistic, repulsive: standing in a crowd I vomit, bodies scatter
He draws my body as the earth and installs his drawing on the outer half of my right eye. I find the image grandiose and try ignoring it, but when I stop rubbing my eye I see I’ve torn the paper—a young couple I passed on the street crawls out of my lower abdomen, lays side-by-side on my pubic bone.
What future could I possibly give them?
Heat. The chin tucked down to preserve it in the neck. Oils the imagination, or the mechanics of the image—a broad blue sky encrypting, folding into itself again and again
Passing one another on the street: “no problem”
I feel drunk. The binding element vaporizes
Obviously I am drunk, wading through traffic
All the dogs want me, they veer toward me on leashes
on the sole of every flexed foot
Eventually they move along. Can’t bear not to. Time blows through the trees, rustling money. Their wrists aching holding nothing—piece of shit wrists, bundle of wet sticks rotting from the center. The car cold and lonely, a small red light blinking inside.
And wasn’t it him who told me my name? Your name is Decidua, mother of the fallen, he said, exhaling a fat bong rip. I was called otherwise; door to my left burning bright (first song I ever heard)
First I was made out of clay
Then fired into brick
To shatter glass
Heat is precision. Movement. A hand rubbing the back in circles until something dispenses.
What is the most effective medium
for your life?
Written into the world: you have dreamt
of injury; you will search
for the face
that injures you cleanly and without compromise.
The forensic artist who draws her brother in every composite sketch
is a practitioner of algorithm, indivisible from her hand’s stammer.
A sensation of being touched
as the voice speaks to you.
In a project called NO RELATION, another friend takes family portraits of unrelated adults and children. Participants travel to his home; they’re introduced and invited to join each other for a communal meal. After dessert, he asks the group a series of questions: tell me about your family; what does the word “family” mean to you; how do you feel when you spend time with your family; what are your relational titles as a family member (parent, sibling, grandparent, cousin); tell me about a person who isn’t related to you, but who feels like family. Participants answer each question one by one. They’re driven to the shoot location, where he reads them a prompt he wrote in his head on the drive. To avoid listening, the children sing incessantly. To begin speaking, the adults form their mouths then hold their breath. The process of posing participants is—if I’m wondering— collaborative.
“Now that the project is ruined,” he says, snatching his keys midair.
The high-rise balcony offers a generous stage for rotting desire, accelerating one’s experience of the past, present, and future in such painstaking synchronicity that time itself becomes septic. What is the half-life of such a condition? One looks to the street for answers and gets sick, sending down a representative in place of their body, a space taken and to veer from, to walk around.
Sometimes I have to drop
one thing off. A coin, clip
or dish. A tack driven
through a stack of paper, representing a wish for order
by having hands.
Still, I’m called into daylight
to represent myself with my chosen object.
Pill wearing off, show my stomach
in public. I cry on the train
and a woman holds my hand, rubbing
her thumb over the meaty spot
between my thumb and forefinger.
She gently wakes me
before getting off at her stop. All
in silence. That jar filled, lid
spun tightly. Thinking that I might
feel less worthless if I converted
my thoughts to music. Someone spits seeds
through their railing above me
and I kick a little dirt down
from a broken planter.
where attention was due, that far-
feeling countenance. And nothing
Lily Duffy’s poems have appeared in APARTMENT Poetry, Bone Bouquet, Yalobusha Review, Dusie, TENDE RLOIN, and The Journal Petra, among other venues. A chapbook, Sour Candy, was published in 2018 as part of Really Serious Literature’s Disappearing Chapbook series. Originally from Maryland, Lily currently lives just outside of Denver, where she is an MSW student at Metropolitan State University of Denver and interns at a domestic violence shelter. She holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Colorado Boulder. With Rachel Levy, she edits DREGINALD.