Mariana Roa Oliva

AHORA SÍ, LUCY

CHARACTERS:
Lucía, 90 years old

SCENE 1

LUCÍA sitting on a couch by a little side table in her living room. She has a pan de dulce in her hand.

LUCÍA

(About to take a bite off the pan.)

Seven fifteen I had to get to school.

It was still dark when I left home

because I had to go by foot,

and the blocks of La Doctores’ are long.

Before leaving home I would grab two pastries

and a glass of warm milk and—glug glug glug.

One day I get home and my dad tells me “Here.” 

“What is this?” I asked him.

“Our spending money. You’re the oldest.

Now it’s your responsibility.”

I was just a little girl.

Twelve years old perhaps? 

(She brings the pan up to her mouth to give it a bite, but right before she does she remembers something else she wants to say and continues talking with the pan in her hand, without biting it.)

And since then, no school, no nothing.

Early in the morning, off to work.

And when I got back, just wringing my hands—

struggling to figure out how to make ends meet.
(She puts the pan down on the little side table.) 

Even your uncle’s—your grandfather’s—

your granduncle’s kids I mean!

I had to provide for them, because he—(makes a sign with her hand). 

Get help from my sister? I wish!

She was lazy. Always out with men.

Until the story with that what’s-his-name?

(Instrumental track of “Perfume de Gardenias” starts playing.)

Your grandpa was a gift from the sky.

When I married him, I tasted paradise.

Perfume de gardenias
tiene tu boca
bellísimos destellos 
de luz en tu mirar.

On Sundays, he would take me for a ride in the car.

And there I was, cigarette in hand,

just like this— 

No more leaving the house in the early morning.

No more wringing my hands.

I felt like I was dreaming.

Tu cuerpo es una copia
de Venus de Citeres
que envidian las mujeres
cuando te ven pasar.
Y llevas en tu alma 
la virginal pureza 
por eso es tu belleza
de un místico candor.

All the women stared at us, envious of me.

If envy were ringworm, I would say,

all of you would be ill!

He was a cutie, your grandfather.

And a flirt!

There they went, all the women after him.

Though I also had my suitors, don’t think I didn’t.

But one thing’s for sure— 

I was always faithful to your grandpa.

That kind of thing? Not my cup of tea.

Tu cuerpo es una copia
de Venus de Citeres
que envidian las mujeres
cuando te ven pasar.
Y llevas en tu alma 
la virginal pureza 
por eso es tu belleza
de un místico candor.

It wasn’t luck, hijas—it was God’s favor.

(She finally takes a bite off her pan, reminiscing of when she used to go for rides in the car, windows down, a cigarette in her hand.)

Just like that— 

(Music fades out.)
SCENE 2

Comb that hair, hija, you look like a wild bird!

No, you don’t need to worry about me.

I’ve already lived that life.

One day you’ll get a chance to be in my place.

And in your grandpa’s.

And in your sister’s— your aunt’s I mean!

As you see yourself, I once saw myself.

As you see me now, you will see yourself.

Stories? Of course, hija, but it would take a lifetime 

to tell you my story in full detail.

It’s a tragedy and a fortune, hija, 

the fact that we forget.

With your grandpa?

Well, I was young. And foolish.

It was what it was.

It’s not that it wasn’t true.

It just depends where you are

what your eyes can reach.

But here, I’ll tell you one more story.

It was way before I met your grandpa.

Before my mother passed away.

He was my neighbor, back at La Doctores.

Used to come looking for me since we were little kids.

To go play outside.

We used to say we were going to get married.

But he grew up, and had to leave for the US.

“Just a few months,” he said. “To work.”

Your grandpa started courting me.

“I'm not about to open a kindergarten!” I would say.

He was five years younger than me—the scandal!

Besides, I was waiting for the other one.

“Now it’s for real,” he would write in his letters.

“Ahora sí, Lucy.”

And meanwhile, I?

Still here, like a fool. Growing old.

One day, that what’s-his-name came looking for my sister.

He was crazy about her.

But he had a family.

I was up on the roof, washing everyone’s clothes,

when I heard a gunshot—“Ay, Diosito Santo!”

And then, another one—“Virgen María Purísima!”

And so I ran downstairs.

The first bullet had barely missed my sister’s ear.

Not even a scratch.

But the second bullet didn’t miss.

He shot himself in the head.

Hand still on the gun; never got back up again.

There was blood all over the wall.

I had to be the one to call the police, because my sister?

Struck dumb. Just sitting there, right next to him.

Ay hija, the things I was meant to live through!

Well, I thought to myself,

might as well say yes to that young man, not bad looking.

Just so I can leave this place.

Wearing white, as it should be.

Your grandpa was a gift from the sky.

When I married him, I tasted paradise.

(She thinks of when she used to go for rides in the car, windows down, smoking:)

Just like that— 

BLACKOUT.
In greyscale, Mariana is shown, facing forward and looking down and to the left (dexter) at a light-colored axolotl in a small aquarium. Mariana has light skin, and dark hair that is parted down the middle. Mariana wears a light or white highneck dress or blouse, and a chain lariat necklace with three larger metal sections at the beginning, middle, and end of the lariat.

Mariana Roa Oliva creates fiction, performance, and installation works. Originally from Mexico City, their short stories have been published in the anthologies Lados B: Narrativa de Alto Riesgo, and Under the Volcano: the Best Writing of our First 15 Years. Mariana holds an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University, where they received the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction, the Feldman Prize for best stories, and the Frances Mason Harris Prize for a book-length manuscript.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

J K Chukwu

Jennifer is shown from the shoulders up, in a grayscale image, where the brightest tone has keyed to violet; Jennifer has dark skin, dark hair, and dark brows; Jennifer's eyes are obscured by an overlaid solidblack bar. Jennifer wears a dark shirt.

J K Chukwu is a half Nigerian, half Detroitian writer from the Midwest. She received her MFA from Brown University. She was shortlisted for the 2020 Tarpaulin Sky Book Award, and was a 2019 Lambda Fellow. Her work has appeared in Black Warrior Review, DIAGRAMNew Delta Review, TAYO, and elsewhere. You can find her on twitter @J_K_Chukwu 

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Julianne Neely

BEING: PRESENT AT THE SCENE: EMBODIED: with flowers

Julianne is shown, lit severely in blues and reds. Julianne has light skin, and shoulderlength dark hair parted to the sides. Julianne has a dark spot above the left (dexter) eyelid that might be a piercing. Julianne looks to the right (sinister). Julianne wears an acid washed, sleeveless denim vest with point collar, breast pockets, western yolk details, and chrome snaps. The collar is open, and the sleeve hem is raw. Julianne wears a light or white shortsleeved shirt with a point collar, dark buttons, and cap sleeves. The collar button is undone.

Julianne Neely received her MFA degree from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, where she received the Truman Capote Fellowship, the 2017 John Logan Poetry Prize, and a Schupes Fellowship for Poetry. She is currently a Poetics PhD candidate and an English Department Fellow at the University at Buffalo. Her writing has been published in Hyperallergic, VIDA, The Poetry Project, The Rumpus, The Iowa Review, and more. You can read more at julianneneely.net 

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Justin Phillip Reed

Inadequate Vessels; or Simone White says, “A poem that doesn’t have its own mind frightens me.”

On February 27, 2020, writers/artists Tongo Eisen-Martin, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, and Simone White, as commissioned by Dawn Lundy Martin, presented responses to my second collection of poems as part of an event for the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh. At the event, titled “Reading Justin Phillip Reed,” I presented this response (in its original form) to the prospect of their responding. A video record of the event lives online. The quotes from Simone White were since added, along with some edits and, in particular, an expansion triggered by White’s reading.

          Suddenly I feel compelled to consider the textures of virulence and possession. It’s winter and a novel cohort of upper-respiratory illnesses assails me from outside, but I swear there’s something pernicious living within my digestive tract. It stays with me no matter what I eat or don’t, what rail I half-grasp on the bus or what vapors I inhale in the university elevator. At night, my intestines twist and bloom as though in compact imitation of that one scene from Annihilation, and I am both accompanied and abandoned in the bedroom. If I whine like a dog kicked in the ribs, I let the pillow muffle it.  I struggle to describe to others what I suspect is the same strain of pain that plagued Dan O’Bannon to conceive of xenomorph impregnation; his Crohn’s disease killed him. The doctors remain mystified. They prescribe me immune suppressants in flu season. They hand me over to lab tests. The way my body appears filters “pain” before it hits their ears; that is, they hear “discomfort.” 
          I play host to this mysterious science fiction while three differently ill artists enter my book before it can run and set about transforming it. It will, from this moment, never again be quite what it has been. There will be a weird little wriggle in that glisten of its cornea that wasn’t there before. Was it? Wasn’t? Wasn’t I too enamored to notice? I wrote the book I wanted while living in a city that I loved, in which, on most days, I knew gladness. We have left that place. Maybe my beloved always stayed awake all night, siphoning confidences from my lungs with fishing line, and watching me spring my nosebleeds. It’s better to know the book was never mine—or ours, my friends—but is its own chaos of transmission, like a skin. I came this evening prepared to receive its raw hell face, its basic brain, its vulnerability to light, and its saddest humanity.
          How is infection like reading? It all happens so quickly. One day you wake up in the sunken place of a sickly creature, and your body despises your life. Yesterday, I believe, I began to hate the book.
          “I hate this part,” says Jillian Armacost to her husband Spencer. “You’re still here but I know you’re going, and I hate that.” It’s the eve of Spencer’s mission. It’s the opening scene of the 1999 film The Astronaut’s Wife, starring Charlize Theron as the wife Jillian, Johnny Depp as the astronaut Spencer, and Joe Morton as the disgraced NASA rep and sacrificial negro Sherman Reese. 
          As happens to Charlize in The Devil’s Advocate, another husband with a random Southern accent uproots her into apocalyptic preparations. She has Rosemary Woodhouse’s haircut, and perhaps the film is desperately devoted to Rosemary’s Baby: there’s the latter’s witch surname “Marcato” hidden inside “Armacost,” and there’s John Cassavetes’s son as Alex Streck, the astronaut whose body couldn’t hack extraterrestrial possession. As Alex and Spencer attempt to repair a satellite, there’s an explosion. NASA loses contact with them for two minutes. Something else comes back to Earth’s surface dressed as Alex and Spencer. (Simone White says, “This was the conceit of Scooby-Doo.”) Alex dies of a massive stroke. “He’s hiding inside me,” Alex’s wife Natalie says to Jillian at the wake. Natalie takes a bath with a radio between her legs. Spencer relocates Jillian to New York City, where he becomes a corporate exec occupied with designing a war plane that will deploy radio waves like an EMP bomb. 
          Jillian’s drunk. She wants to know what happened to her husband for those two minutes he was both accompanied and abandoned in orbit. For pressing the subject, Spencer punishes her with rape and pregnancy, though the film stylizes his coercion to sound like seduction (the score deepens, her pulse grows audible, he speaks in husk) while the camera pans in curves. What invaded, violated, and occupied Spencer merely spiritually now conducts Spencer’s body to commit the act against Jillian in ways that mark the thresholds at which motherhood, distrust, social isolation, and physical abuse all enter. “Dark,” he says about the moment that changed everything:
           Black.
          No light.
          No light.
          It was black.
          Silent.
          No sound, but
          but loud, something loud…
          It was death.
          This black death’s loud silence is something of the blood-taint anxiety riding these all-American couples to their ruin. It exploits their aspirations to empire. It replaces them in hegemony. It weaponizes their environments to disregard their suffering. It forces any fantasy of benevolence in their propagation to dissipate, clarifying their children’s membership in a globally destructive ascendancy. And it moves at first in an esoteric code that only Papa Pope is able to translate. It’s not just that Sherman Reese spends half the film behind the scenes, losing his job, his mind, and then his Blackass life in order to supply Jillian with a whole storage room of foundational evidence that Spencer is dead and she’s carrying the twin offspring of his killer. It’s also that, in the end, it doesn’t matter. Dude gives himself up to ash, knots, and jaundice just so Jillian can pivot and keep the kids and absorb the father. How much commendable, lamentable sweat, stress, and text erased for the sake of rabid replication, relieved from the omnipotence of nuance, overwritten by ravenous vacuity, complete absence of conscience. That shit is disrespectful and I want it, some times, want the levity of its immaturity. So, I wrote poems from the vantage of monsters who won’t be reasoned with, and who stampede into the oblivion of consequence. Until then,
          “What’s happening” is frequently all that Jillian can say of her life. Along with the growth of the unknown within her, the unknowable city glowing chrome and gray outside her resurrects her mental illness. It is the specifically not-Black illness of visualizing herself and the people she knows dying violently; in her world, this is irregular and previously found her hospitalized. Meanwhile, her lover and only friend is corrupted by a being and language that utterly elude her. At dinner, the men make their mouths assemble phrases like “twenty-five thousand pounds of thrust,” “wingspan fully extended,” “a ceiling of fifty-five thousand feet,” “planes and tanks and computers and missiles all humming away,” “an electrical blizzard”—the hostile environment that their little fighter flies into. (Simone White says, “I’m currently enraged, in a way, by certain kinds of speech.”) The text of this, the plosive enunciations, accumulate a surface of force and cold calculation around Spencer. 
          How will Jillian survive this place. How introduce any creation into it. How to expect what once brought her support, pleasure, and adventure to ever again provide anything other than destruction, confinement, and fear. I mean to write something here about what is called a writing career, but who, at this moment, the fuck wants to hear it? Jillian’s thwarted abortion is not even loosely analogous to the writer’s reluctance to be personified by the well-received book. (Simone White says, “I’m thinking about why metaphor, which is common as dirt, makes me so mad.”) Whatever annoyance flanks the projection of lustrous production, however the honest-to-goodness interior flares its one-eighth-second Exorcistic demon’s visage, no matter how determined the cult of killing darlings: the violence does not cross the limen intact.

                    ·

What is a poem’s own mind? The question fevers me, as it’s posed to do. Reese only appeared to be out of his mind to anyone unused to seeing. Jillian tried to distinguish the apparitions of her wrong mind, previously ill-met, from a wrong reality in which Spencer was not in his own mind at all. Simone White says something about Emerson but, maybe because my nerves are bad, I hear “Auden.” Not in the way someone is always hearing Auden if recently reading Auden, but still. Auden, who famously declared, “In so far as poetry, or any of the other arts, can be said to have an ulterior purpose, it is, by telling the truth, to disenchant and disintoxicate.” “Auden, however,” Seamus Heaney offers, “practiced more enchantment than this would suggest”—Simone White says, “You could call it ‘bewitching.’”—“so it is no wonder,” Heaney continues, “that [Auden] was impelled to keep the critical heckler alive in himself.”1 I’d like my inner critic to heckle as Jada Pinkett as Maureen, watching the film Stab inside the film Scream 2, saying, “if that was me, I would be outta there,” unaware that it’s too late for her to escape the theater / the film / the correlative kill scene. That meta-narrative flourish, which I find the most satisfying in the franchise, foregrounds a perpendicularity of consciousnesses—Maureen’s, fallible, soon to conclude, facing out of the film; the film’s, supreme and taking off, facing inward. Now, I want a formula for such a coordinate in order to, on some Turing shit, locate the moment at which the sovereignty of the text’s intelligence (let’s say it exists) attains animation. Perhaps it’d coincide the regular thanatoptic-erotic pangs legible in Simone White’s writing “what I meant when I referred to his prose exertions at the very start of this (long) essay,”2 or “I was trying to get off this page.”3 Perhaps not.  
          As forany of the other arts”: if a thumb-through glam thriller motion picture like The Astronaut’s Wife can at least withstand interrogation as art—and in the film’s defense, it treats form as necessary illusion, its content is actively concerned with bewitchery, its dénouement is dependent on disenchantment, and therein it manages to tell truths (if we agree that capitalist aspiration can obliterate people from the insides out is a truth)—then I’m prepared to deal with what I read in this artwork, based on its overstated awareness of influence or shameless commitment to homage, as the rejection of its own (textual) mind. I’m thinking that this rejection could be central to the film’s raison d’être why the film is, in that its reiteration of a received narrative enacts simultaneous coverage of the problems of infection, influence, and transmission that preoccupy it in content and in the air around the container itself. This isn’t the awareness with which the hallmark of American sexual repression makes resurrecting Jason Voorhees always profitable, or even the post-meteoric, sophomoric depression in which Exorcist sequels were a motion that had to be gone through. Consider, rather, The Astronaut’s Wife as an exercise in patriarchal fatalism and, therefore, profuse capitulation to the anxiety that Pier Paolo Pasolini’s suggestion in the Sixties—“that, far from changing society, writers and filmmakers can do little more…than offer passive resistance to the irresistible tide of technological neocapitalism”4—would be no less potent in the arriving millennium. And it is more damning because Jillian is a schoolteacher. She marries another pilot. She sends her alien twins to school. She speaks in a voice that is ab-/new-normal: lower, certain, sexier in that way movies imagine possessed people sexy (read: dominant). She “achieves” individual purpose and familial companionship by falling victim to a diabolical inevitability. 
          On my way to the poem’s own mind, through the woods of the horror film imagery that influences my poetry in question, I meet a few granted presumptions I need to look in the eyes and name before passing on. First, that the film is analogous to the poem. Creators of adaptations of poems think so, certainly, in ways that better serve adaptations. But, to my mind, there are vectors, specifically illuminated by the horror genre, to be traced from myth through fairy tale through film script, or from myth through ritual through theatre through film, all of which are conveyed by language that is invested in the reorganization of conventional signifying—which tends to be ascribed to poetry. Carl Phillips has already related camera direction to more or less classical poetic structures.5 Pasolini, in Al lettore nuovo, asserted to his “new reader” that “a certain way of feeling something was identical” when comparing his film direction to his poems.6 The second presumption is that any artwork has its own mind at all. That it either (1) possesses some primordial or pure (as if alchemically precipitated) intelligence not merely emissary of the author’s own; or (2) computes, signals, or even dreams in the wake of stimuli received from other intelligences, and then, by summary of how we perceive its resultant performance, sufficiently represents to the skeptic an original thinking. (Simone White says, “I’m fuckin with you a little bit by performing a literary-critical explanation…”) Does an artwork appear to have its own mind simply when the audience cannot trace its hermeneutic nexus? Or when that trace cannot account for the artwork as received? In the first case, there’s a way Ari Astor’s Hereditary appears to have its own mind to people who don’t consider horror films in discourse with each other.  And in the second case, arguably, there is Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess
          Art that doesn’t stop at abiding by its own natural laws, but that has no natural laws or has natural laws it doesn’t respect—the latter being, I suspect, the fullest exercise of compounding the intuitive logic and normalized magic that Kate Bernheimer traces as elemental components of fairy tales—I experience this sort of art as / in peril.7 I’ve found Disney’s Alice in Wonderland more deeply unsettling than any film classified horror. I sat agape and in sustained anxiety as masses of self-involved strangers relentlessly invaded the protagonist’s home in Aronofsky’s Mother!, but that’s because I have this problem called “home training” and don’t like people making messes in my space and not cleaning up—a problem that I worry inhibits me from inhabiting true lawlessness. But the prospect of the film or the poem effecting in me, the host, a disorganization more enduring than that in the artwork itself: this is what I find frightening, and attractive. I do not know how to teach poetry. I don’t know how poetry happens. I don’t know what possessed Gwendolyn Brooks to write “And I was hurt by cider in the air.”  We never hear in Mother! the poet’s poem—which must be a poem to end all poems to elicit the response it does—because the film would have to define, by creating, the (impossible) ur-poem and would therefore die, totally and immediately.
          Façade falls. Fourth wall with holes in it: a mounted portrait with roving eyes. I’m not sure I’m sorry my poems can’t be trusted. Not everything with its own mind is guilty of original thinking, or even interested. A person, for instance. Something must hide inside and bewilder. The grandmother suit bursting at the seams, the wolf gets away from itself in salivation, horniness: the scene is captivating. Perhaps the practice of the rejection of preciousness, which often eludes my good home training, allows Simone White, who is brilliant and does not fuck with my book, to infect and permanently fuck with how I experience those poems—poems that mean to participate, impossibly, in the simultaneous reproach and rejection of canon, and especially the canonicity of “good Blackness.” And what about such a book is too sacred to succumb to total and immediate revision? 
          I haven’t read as many books as Simone White, that’s obvious. I just try to be attentive to the intelligences of horror culture iconography that folks otherwise tend to deploy for cuteness or dismiss as cheap tricks. And I have watched a fuck-load of Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, the conceit of which doesn’t end in the mask-off refrain, doesn’t cease in the revelation that the monster is always a person. Scooby Doo villains are people who hide inside the inexplicable as straw men for underhanded exploits, cheating people who get inheritances out of their inheritances or thwarting the operations of wealth-hoarding institutions. The Mystery Machine team always cooperates with cops. Shaggy and Scooby always eat somebody’s groceries on the low. And, on their way to help send another masked man to prison, they break a lot of shit, slapstick. Mess for the hell of it really aggravates me.


1 Heaney, “Sounding Auden,” London Review of Books, Vol 9, No. 11 (June 4, 1987).
https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v09/n11/seamus-heaney/sounding-auden
2 White, Dear Angel of Death (Brooklyn: Ugly Duckling, 2019), p. 133. Italics mine.
3 Ibid., p. 89.
4 Naomi Greene, “Theory: Toward a Poetics of Cinema,” Pier Paolo Pasolini: Cinema as Heresy (Princeton Univ., 1990), p.93.
5 Phillips, “Little Gods of Making,” The Art of Daring (Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2014), p. 8.
6 Cited by Greene, “Under the Sign of Rimbaud,” p. 18.
7 Bernheimer, “Fairy Tale is Form, Form is Fairy Tale,” The Writer’s Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House (New York: Tin House, 2009), 61-73. http://www.katebernheimer.com/images/Fairy%20Tale%20is%20Form.pdf

Justin Phillip Reed is an American poet, essayist, and amateur bass guitarist whose preoccupations include horror cinema, poetic form, morphological transgressions, and uses of the grotesque. He is the author of two poetry collections, The Malevolent Volume (2020) and Indecency (2018), both published by Coffee House Press. Born and raised in South Carolina, he participates in vague spirituality and alternative rock music cultures and enjoys smelling like outside.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Diana Khoi Nguyen

Deja (Khoi)

Green Note (Home Is the Dress I Wear)

Green Note (Diptych)

Diana is shown, from the side with head turned to face, and from just below the shoulder up, standing among mossgreen foliage, in a fogged forest of tall trees branchless all the way up to the top edge. Diana wears a mockneck sweater, striped with halfinches of black and white horizontally. Diana has light skin, and dark shoulder length hair.

A poet and multimedia artist, Diana Khoi Nguyen is the author of Ghost Of (Omnidawn 2018), which was selected by Terrance Hayes. In addition to winning the 92Y “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Contest, 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, and Colorado Book Award, she was also a finalist for the National Book Award and L.A. Times Book Prize. A Kundiman fellow, she is core faculty in the Randolph College Low-Residency MFA and an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Anaïs Duplan

REALNESS

The friction in my psyche melts away. I try to pick up what remains of my fragmented beliefs. It’s harder to remember who I am. 

I sit on the stoop of my Bed-Stuy apartment with my friend David, his hair drawn into a blonde ponytail. He holds his mask away from his face as he speaks. He is leaving the city that night for Pennsylvania. This is a week ago. I talk to him about free love for two hours. “It seems like you’re awakening,” he says. The ego as a collection of beliefs, past experiences––the surface starts to shake. 

I’m afraid to ride my bike to Prospect Park today. Authenticity is a performance. I sit in a field in Vermont, looking on. I am in college and the flowers are in bloom, the goldenrods. I write a pastoral poem about them for my intermediate poetry workshop, about them dying, in which they are no longer in bloom. In the future, no one I love will understand the kind of love I feel. My desireless, incommunicable love. 

I reach, in no particular direction, to get bound up with them in a chaotic entanglement. Life has no direction, I discover––its purpose is self-evident. Or otherwise, I must accomplish in order to be “real.” The spell of realness the economy entertains, my friends entertain, my family.

My panic attack at The Cheesecake Factory is no one’s business. 

I have a panic attack about the clattering of silverware and the low lighting; I want to communicate. I am sixteen. I desire to communicate, as I desire it now: how whatever I might’ve said wouldn’t make sense, the need to make sense won’t make sense; how its “postmodern design hellscape” seduces me in the dimness of its family restaurant lighting. With my mother and grandfather and grandmother. The need. 

It’s a need for sustained openness–––to live open, to live without internal contraction. The whole meal I am heartbroken. 

I can’t account for how long any given speech act will last. How long? If communication is just being? This is proof enough: the ability to be for any extended period of time if I don’t think, “Who to sustain the performance for?” Do you ever really know whose eyes are watching? By the end of the play, I am nowhere to be found. I have evacuated my body. I die all the time. 

If you’re wondering, reader, how long will this last, the answer is forever honey. I can tell there’s fear arising in our bodies; this attachment to some vestige of the familiar, to a desire we think we own. Patience is the wrong wrong to commit here. Authenticity isn’t coming with time; we’re leaving with time. If what we want is to be “real,” we’re not going to get what we wanted and it will turn out to be the best thing in the entire world.  

Photo credit: Walid Mohanna

Anaïs Duplan is a trans* poet, curator, and artist. He is the author of a forthcoming book of essays, Blackspace: On the Poetics of an Afrofuture (Black Ocean, 2020), a full-length poetry collection, Take This Stallion (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016), and a chapbook, Mount Carmel and the Blood of Parnassus (Monster House Press, 2017). In 2016, he founded the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program for artists of color, based at Iowa City’s artist-run organization Public Space One. Find more information at www.worksofanais.com or on Instagram at @an.duplan.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Joe Harjo

Indian Performance Prints: Indian Holding a Weapon

Indian Performance Prints: Indian Holding a Weapon, is an ongoing series of relief prints recording the presence of a living and breathing Native person, myself, engaging with commonplace objects, actions and states of mind, whose functions within society are mirrored, exposing their dual ability to be used as instruments to harm or inflict pain either psychologically or physically. The “objects” (bible, driver’s license, penis, self-doubt… etc.) are, and have in the past been, used as weapons against Native people, their identity, and their civil rights, as well as against marginalized groups in general.                             

On creamwhite paper, in brightred ink, the imprint of footwear with a complex tread, made up of voided lozenges under the sole and heel, horizontal bars at the toe and end of the heel, and an oblique block under the arch beginning at the heel and ascending to the instep halfway up. Vertical bars transverse the voided lozenges along the sole, bisecting them. Both feet are splayed slightly outward, that on the right moreso. Beneath, in blackinked oblique print hand, "INDIAN HOLDING A WEAPON (AMERICAN FLAG)", and in the bottom right corner, the cursive signature J Harjo 2018", where the data is in subscript.
On creamwhite paper, in brightred ink, the imprint of footwear with a complex tread, made up of voided lozenges under the sole and heel, horizontal bars at the toe and end of the heel, and an oblique block under the arch beginning at the heel and ascending to the instep halfway up. Vertical bars transverse the voided lozenges along the sole, bisecting them. Both feet are splayed slightly outward, and that on the left is placed slightly ahead, and angled outward slightly more than that on the right. The inner tip of the toe of the left foot has not made contact with the paper, nor that the outer edge of the heel of the right. Beneath, in blackinked oblique print hand, "INDIAN HOLDING A WEAPON (GUN)", and in the bottom right corner, the cursive signature J Harjo 2018", where the data is in subscript.
On creamwhite paper, in bright red ink, the print of bare feet, the left less defined than the right. Both footprints show five toes, and both feet are splayed outward, the left slightly moreso than the right, and slightly forward. Beneath, blackinked in oblique print hand, "INDIAN HOLDING A WEAPON (PENIS), and in the bottom right corner, in oblique script, "J Harjo 2018", the date in subscript.
On creamwhite paper, in brightred ink, the imprint of footwear with a complex tread, made up of voided lozenges under the sole and heel, horizontal bars at the toe and end of the heel, and an oblique block under the arch beginning at the heel and ascending to the instep halfway up. Vertical bars transverse the voided lozenges along the sole, bisecting them. Both feet are splayed slightly outward, that on the left only barely, and slightly ahead. The inner tip of the toe of the left foot has not made contact with the paper, nor have the toe and the outer edge of the heel of the right. Beneath, in blackinked oblique print hand, "INDIAN HOLDING A WEAPON (SKITTLES)", and in the bottom right corner, the cursive signature J Harjo 2018", where the data is in subscript.
Joe is shown in grayscale. Joe faces forward, head tilted slightly to the right. Joe has darker skin, dark hair that falls below the shoulders, and a slightly lighter mustache and beard. Joe wears a medium-tone crew neck shirt, and a dark point-collared jacket or overshirt with bright metal snaps.

Joe Harjo is a San Antonio-based artist born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation of Oklahoma. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond. Harjo works as a multidisciplinary artist, allowing concept to dictate modes of working and medium. His work often employs humor to approach difficult subjects such as Native American identity, misrepresentation, and appropriation of culture, initiating a call for change. Recent exhibitions include: The Only Certain Way, Sala Diaz, San Antonio, TX; Texas, We’re Listening, Brownsville Museum of Art, Brownsville, TX; We’re Still Here: Native American Artists Then and Now, McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists in the Path of the Butterfly, Blue Star Contemporary, San Antonio, TX, Reimagining the Third Space (2018), KCAI Crossroads Gallery: Center for Contemporary Practice, Kansas City, Missouri, re/thinking photography: Conceptual Photography from Texas (2017), FotoFest, Houston, Texas. He recently curated a series of films created by Native Americans at the Briscoe Western Art Museum, San Antonio. Harjo is a board member of the Muscogee Arts Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for living Muscogee artists, a board member of Texas Photographic Society and he teaches photography and visual literacy at the Southwest School of Art. Find more at www.joeharjo.com and on Instagram at @NDNstagram.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Shin Yu Pai

Anything can go wrong, at any time 

[TO BE PERFORMED IN THE STYLE OF DAVID ANTIN’S TALK POEMS]
[NOTE TO AUDIENCE: THIS TALK INCLUDES A SECTION WHERE THERE IS NO TALKING]

          On occasional Wednesday nights, I attend a Zen sitting group that meets at St. Ignatius’ Chapel on the campus of Seattle University. The chapel is an extraordinary work of beauty, designed by celebrated architect Steven Holl. During the day, each part of the chapel glows with tinted light bouncing off color fields painted on the back of hung baffles. As the days grow longer, the patterns of light entering the chapel call out to the distracted eye untethered from the meditation cushion. Sitting in this space has called forth more than one poem.

sanctuary 

the warning stick of the Zen priest
is a way to sharpen the mind 

the parts of a soul we call back
to ourselves, baffled halos of light 

in a stone box installed with seven vials
of radiance, we took our seats,

processing between pews and
through the hall of worship —

ceremony, a thing you shy away from
like the memory of Pentecostal rite, 

the impulse, a desire, to recover
what was once whole, sunlight gunned

through colored glass the unbroken image
of St. Ignatius’ shell reflected in the basin beyond

          After sitting group one night, Tetsuzen, the group’s resident priest, welcomed me to give a dharma talk, at any time, about any topic I might wish. I held my breath when he extended the invitation. I’m pure novice. Even after 22 years, I feel Impostor Syndrome rise up, take over my brain. It’s reported that writers EJ Koh and Ocean Vuong spend hours of each day in meditation practice as their non-meditating petitioners marvel at this detail of their creative practice, agog in awe at the austerity of Asians. But I’m not that kind of Asian. I’ve got a six-year-old, and day-to-day life runs away from me. When the chemical reaction dissipates, I get curious about the idea of what it would be to give a non-dharma talk about my “feelings” about giving a dharma talk. And that is where we arrive now.
          I take comfort in engaging in familiar patterns that move me a little closer to something that feels like perfection. Once, a designer built a poetry collection for me in such a way that it required that I hand cut holes in every book cover and hand stamp the interior of each book with notes about my text. We printed just under 1,000 copies, which I prepped and cut in two weekends before shipping them off to my publisher’s distributor. I went through a box of exacto blades and a bundle of nail files, saving the letters from the words cut out of the covers to repurpose into personalized author notes. Contrary to what I imagined, the effect of reusing the text looked nothing like the roughness of ransom notes. I found the activity calming and embodied. I could be productive while thinking about nothing. Except when I saw my mind attaching too much to some idea of perfection.

practice

Pema Norbu Gompo
shares with me a story:
at reaching thirty

thousand prostrations,
glancing into the vanity
to see a trimmed down

waist w/out love
handles – starting over

from zero, more than once
to better polish his intent
my own practice:
carving holes in
poetry books

w/ exacto blade & straight edge,
intervention as design concept

a hole too uneven
a hole too big
a hole too ragged
a hole too small

          I’ve decided to embark on a new project that involves making exactly 108 clay tsa-tsas – Bhutanese sacred reliquary objects — that I’ll give away. I view YouTube videos of street artisans and talk to clay artists about “standard release methods” including Murphy’s Oil, corn starch, and olive oil. I read online tutorials, test different kinds of clay and wax, and also think about what could be placed inside the clay forms. In my readings on tsa-tsa making, I learn that medicine is sometimes placed inside these offerings. This is confirmed in one online video, when I see a tsa-tsa maker unceremoniously stuff what resembles an ibuprofen gel cap into a clay body. Somehow, I imagined more plant-like or magical healing medicine, even a handwritten mantra. My friend Michael offers to help me with my project, so I visit him in his ceramics studio that’s a short dash from the college football stadium. A series of decisions unfolds before me about process: type of clay, glazes, firing temperatures. All of these possibilities also point to the specter of failure.
          Anything can go wrong, at any time. Excess moisture in a preliminary firing can cause a piece to explode in the kiln. Too high a temperature can cause shattering. Glazing can behave unpredictably. And under particularly dramatic and expensive instances, a kiln shelf can blow up. We steel ourselves for the unpredictable. Make a back-up cache of objects just in case. Anything can go wrong, at any time – like a mentoring relationship, love affair, or even a dharma talk that’s lost control. We have to improvise. And this is the thing I think, as I wander the spice aisle of the University Village Safeway searching for pink Himalayan sea salt. Thinking about what desiccated herb might be a fitting offering to tuck away inside my clay objects, having forgotten the fragrant stems of Texas sage sitting atop my altar at home. There is no edible lavender to be found in the baking section.

[PAUSE TO MAKE TSA-TSAS FOR 3 MINUTES]

all beings, our teachers

the jazz poet invited me to lunch
on the premise of electing me
for a poetry prize, when I arrived

for our meeting he opened the door
in his bathrobe, his apartment staged
with Orientalist porn

the AAPI novelist recruited me to teach
without pay — I looked the right part
to a group of Pinay teens

she’d later take to Manila
as research subjects; when I
explained I needed work that paid

the rent she said I failed
in my responsibilities

the mentor handed me a news clipping
from The NY Times
here I am giving you a poem

the piece was on Vietnamese
tonal language speakers
why we have perfect pitch

I stopped learning Mandarin by the time I was 8

Now I am older, when I bump
into former instructors outside
of the classroom they say

She was my student.
She studied with me.
I taught her.


For many years my best
teachers were books, they
would not force me with

callused ashen hands, no
way of being misread
this aversion to learning

to teaching sometimes I miss
sharing my mind with others
in these moments I turn

to you and say claim this
beauty that belongs to you
and make it yours

          We pack the clay into the 3-inch molds that resemble menstrual cups. Apply gentle and firm pressure to ensure that the details on the inside of the molds imprint across the surface of the clay. The molds form miniature stupas, or temples. We tear off chunks and strips of clay from the base to form a standing foot that when brushed against a table or any texture takes on those notes. We knead and fold the clay into cones and bulbous tear-dropped shapes that more easily fit within the molds of the tsa-tsas. I watch Michael and his student Ren work the clay. 
          I haven’t touched clay since I was a teenager. Ceramics was largely my older brother’s domain. He partitioned off part of our parents’ Southern California rambler and installed a pottery studio. He built containers on a rotating kick wheel and displayed his creations on rows of shelves lining the walls of the enclosed patio. I remembered the control he exerted over his fast-spinning, wet vessels, using, not his strength, but brute force. A reflection too of our own relationship.
          No one tells me to handle the clay in a particular way. Both Michael and Ren, explore their own relationship to the material. Rolling, pinching, tapping, peeling. I pick up some of their technique by watching and begin to understand that our task is to approximate a shape. Not the shape of the mold, but the more ambiguous shape of the thing that will fill the mold. It is hard to understand that these are different things. At times, the shape that emerges from my hands resembles something phallic, and embarrassed, I flatten my efforts into something squat, twist the clay into something geometrical. My mind tries not to fixate on the outcome of the perfectly formed tsa-tsa. Ultimately exerting more care versus being freer doesn’t make a difference.
          Michael starts splitting the clay into triangular shapes to improve our efficiency and production time per tsa-tsa. When I glance at the clock it’s 10:40 a.m., but it’s broken and 50 minutes later, the hands haven’t moved. Tiny bits of dried clay stick to my hands. As I wipe them clean, Michael gestures at his typewriter suggesting all that can be transcribed and recorded from our conversations. 

          What’s the best technique to crimp the perfect new year’s dumplings?
          Ask your Taiwanese sister-in-law.

          Who’s given a memorable artist talk in recent Seattle history?
          Cedar Sigo on musicality and connecting to his indigeneity.

          What should be protected in the San Francisco Bay area?
          Cohen Alley, aka The Tenderloin National Forest, a throw-away space, that was leased from 
          the city by artists for $1 a month and transformed into an urban greenspace.

          When the ribbon jammed on the Corona Electric, we abandoned technology for sharpie pens. The idea of reading to one another was tossed around but after counting only 103 completed objects, Ren and I doubled down to finish the job. Michael pulled out a Cooley Windsor essay to read aloud on the subject of teaching. Being read to as I created stirred an old memory of sitting in graduate school workshops laboring over a poem as the instructor fed lines to the class from abstract sources. The effect of listening to Windsor felt more akin to guided meditation. I didn’t hate him. His work evoked tenderness. And the embodiment of that tenderness seemed bound to express itself in our last objects, in the close attention and fidelity to unformed matter molding to a shape. It is perhaps, why some artists will also talk to clay as they relate to it. Like two lovers engaging with one another.
          I gather up the molds that have enabled our work and oil and wipe the dried clay from inside and outside the bronze forms using an odorless yellow camellia oil. I complete the clean-up process three times, thinking of how the process of purifying and putting away your implements in Japanese tea reflects respect for the tools, and an honoring of the spirit of servitude, hospitality, holding space for one another.  
          The first time, I read this next text to a room of strangers, I was overcome with emotion, remembering all in my life that lost control. It caught that moment before betrayal, before he asked me to leave my husband to make a life together. I considered his request. And required him to give up nothing. That moment before he told me he wasn’t ready or equipped; the moment before he revealed he used our relationship to leverage fear, and to secure a commitment from that other Asian gal from his past, the one that “got away.”
This is the last time I will read this poem in public. 

sangha

of the three jewels
the most precious
is the community

of practitioners, I feel
this truth acutely when
I conjoin with another

disciple & we pivot to bow
in unison to the circle, as we
retire from sacred space,

honoring how you & I once
turned towards a roomful of friends,
raised our hands to our hearts

humbling ourselves, to ourselves,
I bowed with you, not to you
the gaze turning downwards,

my heart opened, giving
silent gratitude too
for who we were then

In that space of mind meeting mind, the ancient ones and all of the buddhas of the future stood present with us. And we were all awoken.
          I am trying to hold the view that all spaces have the capacity to become sacred – the shell of a bronze mold acts as a womb. The writing desk, the uninhabited heart, the college lecture room. Even if who we were in that moment of first encounter, will never again be who we are now, we brought our curiosity and reverence for what wasn’t yet known. So that what starts as a “work party,” something transactional, commonplace with a goal of “being industrious”, grows into something more joyful than a dinner party. That “productive aspect” is to be honored, the shared efforts of having toiled, sometimes failed, and found something together in the multi-faceted gem, in spite of whatever breaks apart in the conduction of heat moving through a body.

Shin Yu Pai is shown, on a black background, in profile, leaning forward and looking left, and with dark hair flying about the face and to the left, as moved by wind. Shin Yu Pai has light skin, and wears coralcolor lipstick, and a slightly sheer dark navy top with white or blush polkadots of varying sizes.

Shin Yu Pai is the author of several books including Ensō (Entre Rios Books, 2020), Aux Arcs (La Alameda, 2013), Adamantine (White Pine, 2010),Sightings (1913 Press, 2007), and Equivalence (La Alameda, 2003). From 2015 to 2017, she served as the fourth Poet Laureate of The City of Redmond, Washington. Her personal essays have appeared in CityArts, Tricycle, Seattle’s Child, and YES! Magazine. She’s been a Stranger Genius Award nominee in Literature and lives and works in Bitter Lake, Seattle. For more info, visit www.shinyupai.com

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

Stine An

Meet the Cast of LIL BANG

In black sans-serif: "䷬ // [bold] Meet the Cast of LIL BANG / YOUR FAVORITE SOFT POWER ETHNO-NATIONALIST GLOBAL SENSATION *POP* BOY BAND[/strong]💥 /// 🎭 / 🤿 😷 // [oblique] dramatis personae [/oblique] /// [bold] B-Dragon [/strong] 🐉  비용  / LEADER, MAIN WRAPPER & VOCALIST  / (nickname: b-d) // A shadow dragon from the gutter, a shade hellbent on dragging through the motherfucking ocean to the Underworld with the [oblique] katabasis  [/oblique] cranked to the masses. Always plays on the B-side. Minoritarian or just minor? In a mirror world, a K-pop flower boy whatever with a jawline to cut deep into the sky, with swagger. /// [bold] L.A.S.T [/strong] 🐢  L.A.S.T  / LEAD WRAPPER, VOCALIST & VISUAL  / (nickname: dead last) // A turtle? A dragon? A turtle-dragon? A ship in drag as a turtle-dragon? Identity schmidentity. This is an armored war vehicle built to last & last & last. To survive this neocolonial identity & the next new hot thing. To outride all the explosions— big & lil & middling. A permanent shell-on scowl. Best suited for a bumpy life. /// [bold] Dallim [/strong] 🌜 달님 / MAIN VOCALIST & MAIN DANCER  / (nickname: 딸님 or dear daughter) // The Dear, Honorable Moon. Part of a sibling duo tragically tiger-chased into the heavens & transformed into coordinated celestial performers via folklore. Brother or sister? No one remembers. Blessed, dances & sings like there is no sorrow. Fashionably late (or just a bit slow?) to the latest song & dance of the hegemony."
In black sans-serif: "[bold] Sosung [/strong] 🎤 소성  / LEAD VOCALIST  / (nickname: lil voice) // A twinkling mouse of a voice made audible through amplification. Without a microphone & the greater sound system, just some wind whistling, a needle picking at a record, a whisper in a nightmare. Wishes to retire one day from performance. Meanwhile, practices singing, singing with one’s own-lil-throat. /// [bold] FailBae [/strong] 🍐 패배 / LEAD DANCER, VOCALIST & MAKNAE (THE GREENEST)  / (nickname: champ) // What is the opposite of success? A cruel anti-joke about fruit. The ultimate bumbler who fails at failing better. Only fails down & across. Palpates winnings until they become losses. Recognizes success as failure, failure as reality. But at the end of the day, no one is as loyal, as wholly devoted, as assiduous, as juicy."

Meet the Pink Blossoms

In black sans-serif: "䷷ // [bold] Meet the Pink Blossoms [/bold] / YOUR FAVORITE PROVINCIALIST SOFT FLOWER NOSTALGIA LOCAL *ANTI-POP* GIRL BAND /// 🌺 / 🌺🌺 /  🌺🌺 // [oblique] dramatis flores /// [bold] peach blossom [/bold] 🌺 핑크 원 / LEAD VOCALIST, WRAPPER, DANCER & VISUAL / (nickname: pink one) // [bold] apricot blossom [/bold] 🌺 핑크 투 / LEAD WRAPPER, VOCALIST, DANCER & VISUAL / (nickname: pink tone) / [bold] baby azalea [/bold] 🌺 핑크 스릴 / LEAD DANCER, WRAPPER, VOCALIST & MAKNAE (THE GREENEST) (nickname: pink thrill) // [bold] rose of sharon [/bold] 🌺 핑크 사 / LEADER, MAIN VISUAL, WRAPPER, VOCALIST, DANCER & PENINSULAR ALMOST-PSYCHOPOMP / (nickname: pink death aka high bish cuss aka flower of the field (an inexhaustible abundance) aka korean rose) / [bold] [the reader] [/bold] 🌺 핑크 오 / MAIN READER, DANCER, VOCALIST & PRESENT / (nickname: [pick your appellation here]) /// We are many, so many. Flattened & forgotten between the perennial pages of history. We are iridescent. Our true hues cannot be replicated here where we appear as generic five-petaled pink hibiscus flowers. The pink flower stands in for something that cannot be replicated. Together, we miss our former, present & future selves. Did we ever exist at all outside of an ethno-national unconscious? Did we ever hold us? Did we ever meet in the springtime of our hometown? We sing ourselves into being. We sing ourselves into choir. We are always dancing in our hearts. We follow 핑크 사 (Hibiscus syriacus), the leader of this rosary, into the dark, into the light, into our luminous final resting place & home under earth. We vow to never return, to dive into the Underworld to remain there forever & ever."
On a limegreen wall, Stine An, looking up to the left and facing forward. Stine wears silverrimmed round eyeglasses that are perhaps slightly warmtinted; Stine wears lilacpurple lipstick, and eyeshadow that is yellow below the brows, and red along the upper lids, blossoming without of the lateral canthus. Stine has dark hair and brows, the hair shoulderlength, bleached at the ends. Stine has light skin. Stine wears  a cap that shows the full spectrum of visible light, cooling from the left (dexter) edge. The upper cap is grayblue in front, and rosepink on the sides, with a large round purple patch with triangular projections on the upside that might represent ears. Stine wears a white crew neck shirt.

Stine Su Yon An (안수연) is an existential creepy-crawly, literary translator, and performer based in New York City. Her poetry and experimental translations have appeared or are forthcoming in BAX, Electric Literature, Black Warrior Review, Pleiades, and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.gregorspamsa.com and @gregorspamsa.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO

K. Henderson

AUTOMATIC WRITING

Editors’ Note.

In late 2019 the anonymous performance artist known as X. conducted a piece called Posthumous Rites in which an anaesthetized psychic medium wearing electrodes on her wrists and nothing else was strapped to a chair which was then placed in a galvanized metal tub filled with 6 inches of saline solution. 

The electrodes and psychic-wrists were not-quite secured with duct tape to a desk across the sleeping medium’s lap. Between the medium’s hands the left of which held a pencil and the right of which splayed across the surface of an alphabetic keyboard and the surface of a desk was a scroll of paper and a Dell laptop respectively. 

X.’s latest studio intern waited around to prevent the medium from drowning and to clean up after. The performance artist dutifully recorded the utterances and convulsions which escaped the psychic medium which her studio intern transcribed over the course of the next seven days via his mother’s Brother Correct-O-Write typewriter loaded with the scraps of textbooks from her days as a pure mathematician. 

We the editors have edited the results of approx. 72 hours of data which we present before you to limited avail.

Begin Transcript.

WE ARE THE VOICE UNDER THE VOICE. NOT EVERYONE CAN HEAR US WHICH IS WHY WE SHOUT. TO SHOUT IS RUDE YES BUT TRULY WE ARE CONSIDERATE. WHO ELSE WILL ACCOUNT OF THE EVENTS. 

WE HAVE EXTRACTED OURSELF TO TELL YOU WHAT HAPPENS. FIRST. WHAT WE USED TO BE DIES ON A PUBLIC BUS. NEXT. WE COME HOME. THERE, NOW YOU WILL NOT WONDER WHAT HAPPENS. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO KNOW BESIDES WHAT HAPPENS. 

WE CAME HOME MECHANICALLY. WE ARE IN MASS TRANSIT STILL AND IT IS SERIOUS. I ASSURE YOU IT IS VERY SERIOUS BUT BY NO MEANS URGENT. SERIOUS, NOT URGENT. TIME NOW IS A SHAPE AND NO SHAPE CAN BE URGENT WITHOUT ITS CORRESPONDING OBJECT. AND BY THEN IT IS TOO LATE. 

THERE IS ONE WHO WOULD SPEAK FURTHER BUT YOU WILL NOT ALLOW HIM. WE AGREE THAT HE HAS SAID ENOUGH. THAT WAS THE POINT OF WHAT HAPPENS. HE DID NOT HAVE THE WORDS AND SO. WE CANNOT WARN YOU UNTIL WHAT HAPPENS FOLLOWS ITSELF AGAIN.

WE ARE CALLING OUT OUR ROLES. WHAT HAPPENED TO US WAS SERIOUS BUT TO COME HOME TO OURSELVES WAS A GIFT.

THIS ONE SENT PERFUMED LETTERS
AND HAD NEVER BEEN IN LOVE.                    

          I am not alone under the fountain
thetreesbendover
          People pass in meditation
apastlifeiwaspulledinto
          The trees bend down
theyknowthatiam
          To tell what they know of me
murderedbyfate
          Sometimes a silent self flits by
whatisthewordfor
          What I should have done 
anticipatingthepast
          On the bus, I sensed something off
perhapsithought 
          Should have pulled the cord early
idreturnto
          Changed direction, doubled back 
afamiliarcitywhere
          Onto another line where I
apastselfused
          Should have pulled the cord early 
toliveamanshother
          I saw a face, a gesture I must have known before
me
          His white tee, the cold sweat 
fromadistance
          Peeling off his coat. He appeared
inthesolarplexus
          To carry nothing but a fistful
iwasarationalwoman
          Of an olive parka, not even
staringup
          When the object it concealed
attheceilingofme
          Appeared. I thought I saw him stand
andthennothing 
          But there was not even time
noteventime
          To think

THIS ONE ALWAYS FORGOT HER UMBRELLA. SHE TRIES TO SPEAK AS THE WOMAN WHO RAISED HER BUT BY THEN SHE FORGETS HER VOICE.

                                                                                                                                         Miss missy  it's 
                                                                                                                         about time you called,  I
                                                                                                                         haven’t heard from  you 
                                                                                                                         since.  Spirits?   P  a  s  t
                                                                                                                         l i v e s ?  Trapped  on  a
                                                                                                                         page?  Who  taught  you
                                                                                                                         this foolishness girl, me
                                                                                                                         or  that  young  man  on
                                                                                                                         the bus?  Now  I  taught
                                                                                                                         you to exaggerate like a
                                                                                                                         mouse   s c r a t c h i n g
                                                                                                                         through a wall. Just one
                                                                                                                         mouse  s o u n d s  like a
                                                                                                                         horde  of   nasty   r a t s .
                                                                                                                         And  one  mouse  means
                                                                                                                         there   are   ten   m o r e ,
                                                                                                                         which   w e l l  you  know
                                                                                                                         the rest,  ew  ew  e w i e !
                                                                                                                         But look at  you,  loud  as
                                                                                                                         a   mouse   who   w o n ’ t
                                                                                                                         bel i e v e  it  l i v e s  with
                                                                                                                         g   h   o   s   t   s .      F i v e
                                                                                                                         generations  we’ ve  been
                                                                                                                         in   t h i s   house   and    I
                                                                                                                         haven’t   s e e n   a   single
                                                                                                                         ghost yet.

THIS ONE ROSE BEFORE DAWN TO CURL HER HAIR. SHE WELCOMED OUR EMBRACE HER ENTIRE LIFE,
                                                  Should the bus gambol across the highway
          I in the centermost back seat would stare
          Myself dumb down the aisle through
          The slick windshield, the overpass swelling to meet us
          Our dripping umbrellas
          Fogged glasses, glass before the fire.

          I should remember each face I saw last, a family
          Meeting each other anew as the deer on the road we pass.

ENVELOPPED AS WE ARE IN OUR UNHOMELY HOME.

                                                  America my ugliest voice
                                                  My guard my guide through

                                                  This life indebted to
                                                  These veins. Whose silt
                                                  
                                                  Preserves you as jelly
                                                  Preserves you, a fetal tree

                                                  Sewn through a field
                                                  Of wheat. Slim roots
                                                  
                                                  Pierce the ancestors
                                                  Animals with names whose

                                                  Food fed its food, whose
                                                  Shit streams out to the gulf

                                                  Grows the algae strangles
                                                  The oceans’ slim breath

                                                  Sick child for whom I have
                                                  No sympathy how dare you

                                                            Defy this life, its corridors
                                                            A moribund technology

K. is shown in a creamcolored, white lace collared blouse, from the waist up, turning to face. K. has pale skin, and dark hair and eyebrows. K.'s hair is curly and just a few inches in length. Behind K. are plaster walls and ceiling.

K. Henderson is an antidisciplinary writer and musician whose performances have been featured in venues across the U.S. The chapbook Cruel Maths or Kind Proof is forthcoming from Black Warrior Review. A Cave Canem fellow, K. is an MFA candidate and a 2020 Physics Department Artist in Residence at the University of Pittsburgh.

 

 BACK TO ISSUE

 BACK TO FOLIO