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.
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
People pass in meditation
The trees bend down
To tell what they know of me
Sometimes a silent self flits by
What I should have done
On the bus, I sensed something off
Should have pulled the cord early
Changed direction, doubled back
Onto another line where I
Should have pulled the cord early
I saw a face, a gesture I must have known before
His white tee, the cold sweat
Peeling off his coat. He appeared
To carry nothing but a fistful
Of an olive parka, not even
When the object it concealed
Appeared. I thought I saw him stand
But there was not even time
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. 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.