Coda Danu-Asmara

A Fair Trade

Ah, Hadassah, you treat me so well. 


There are ten thousand, eight hundred and fifty-three parrots in Madrid. They came here because immigration was not properly regulated at the North African border. It is said that they have taken the majority of manufacturing jobs and deflowered the women. In response, the Spanish government has built a wall around Ceuta and Melilla. The parrot migration has ceased since then, as birds are known to respect land boundaries. 

Essay questions: 

1. Using the historical documents provided, please outline a system of inquisition best suited to differentiate parrots from non-parrots. 

2. Name three other events/invasive species/problems (not including the parrots) that necessitate the beginnings of a second Reconquista. Use descriptive language in your answer.

3. If the sterilization/mass annihilation of the parrots is to come in effect as proposed by the current Spanish government, there is a distinct possibility that one of the parrots may be a master poet of the Spanish language. Draft an apology memo to the public, being sure to highlight his or her achievements in a non-political manner.

{The answers have faded away; only the shadow of a few pencil scratches remains.}


I clutched the yellowing papers to my chest as I entered her room. I have seen her every weekend for years now. She lived at the end of every Metro line in every city, that special stop after every single passenger is gone, behind a door made from multi-colored glass on that empty platform. You won’t be able to find it if you’re not in the know—just rats and old plastic bags. You need to be referred. That’s how everybody meets her. I’d be happy to refer you too, if you like. 

But I wouldn’t recommend it.

Hadassah was a never changing being. In every session we had together, she sat silently, veiled in the quiet shadows, with only her long grey-green beak protruding from the darkness. At regular intervals it opened, slowly, almost imperceptibly. I had always assumed it was a mask, but now I’m not so sure. I sat across from her, on a chair made from a thousand insect legs. The beak nodded, and I told a story about myself. It always began like this.


{There is a photograph of a young couple, smiling on their wedding day. They, two women, are standing on a white veranda, and the rain is pouring down behind them in lucky droplets. In the background, vultures have begun to feast on the guests behind them, leaving a line of sinew and entrails around the newlyweds. According to a small news clipping stapled to the picture, marriage lasted for thirty-three days, before it came to light that they were both already married to each other’s fathers. On the back is a note written in red pen, detailing the above story, and also the words:}

Lot’s Daughters, before honeymoon. Boston.


When I first started going, I thought it would be hard to tell stories without any prompt, without any reason. My even voice shook when I first started talking about myself. It wasn’t even complicated stuff; just the usual—my name, parents’ names, place of birth, number of known siblings, medical history—all that common knowledge. I dipped a little bit into my childhood—focusing on the traumas, of course. I considered it all banal, but apparently it was enough—from somewhere within her unknowable cloak, she gave me that photograph. A story for a story. A fair trade. 

After I left, the door disappeared behind me. I somehow knew I was expected next week. 


FORECAST: 57 degrees is the high, with light showers expected in the evening. Thirty-five people will die in the city today, including Ms. Elena Castor, who will be beaten to death on the corner of Oak and Elm Streets at 11:56 PM. At least twenty people will witness her death-in-progress and make no attempts to help her. If you do not have other engagements, it would therefore be prudent to attend so that the required quota is reached. 

{A black-and-white picture of the woman is included. She looks happy.}


I constantly studied that wedding photograph in my free time, to the point that I even accidentally tore its corner from overuse. I couldn’t find any trace of the women in the photograph, or any record of any such wedding in any Boston, Massachusetts or otherwise. After receiving a few more, I came to conclusion that they were all some sort of experimental art project—complete fiction. Much later, I would realize that they were all true, as every story that has been told is somehow true; if not here, then in another world, another lifetime, or another existence of essence. 

In the next session, I told her another story, this time about a few fears and anxieties. Nothing too special—I wasn’t yet comfortable giving everything away—but I told her that I was afraid of shaking other people’s hands because their skin felt so coarse against mine. The beak nodded and nodded, even during my retelling of a nightmare I once had about falling in love with an ocean sunfish, who ended up being a poor bedmate. “Did I do well?” I suddenly asked. She responded only by giving me another story and motioned for me to leave.


{This story is a large full-color poster. A glossy picture of two men staring deeply into each other’s eyes takes up the majority of the picture. Their left hands are intertwined; their green-and-brown shirts slightly askew. Their bronze skin twinkles in the desert sunset. Behind them, Iraqi insurgents are being shot by a mounted machine gun. Their bloodstained turbans and beards look almost comical. A drone is frozen in flight overhead; its rotary blades still exude movement in the stillness. In its windy wake, the American flag flaps proudly. 

At the bottom of the poster are several words in large block letters.}

MAKE LOVE AND WAR
U.S. ARMY
ENLIST TODAY


I kept every story in a cabinet under my desk. Every night, I checked to make sure each and every one was in pristine condition. Realizing how precious they were, I memorized every story, but I began to mix them up with reality in my head. I confused friends when I talked about last year’s moon landing or the political viability of lizard men in American politics. But they shrugged it off; we were all artists, and they probably just assumed I was on one of those traditional artists’ drugs, like weed, or LSD, or unemployment. 

I tried to go more than once a week. I asked Hadassah if we could meet more frequently, but unsurprisingly, my question received no response, only that little paper story about the Army. 

I resolved simply to ride the line a few days before my scheduled appointment, but when I arrived, I could not find the door in the dusty dark subway stop. I tried again, riding a different train to the end of a different line, and found much the same. I called out her name three times, “Hadassah, Hadassah, Hadassah,” but it might as well have been the crowing of a rooster. I shamefully took the train all the way back, every stop a reminder of my impatience and my failure. 

From that experience, I sank into a deep depression for several days. Although I knew that I would see her again soon, being unable to have her whenever I wanted made me feel so hopeless and so powerless. I refused all food, save for a bit of lentil soup in the evenings, and called in sick to work every day. I must have sounded so terrible on the phone, because nobody questioned it—they always sounded so concerned when they told me to “Get well soon!” 

Lying in bed, doing nothing but rereading the stories, I dreaded the day of my appointment. What if I was too unwell to tell a story about myself? What would Hadassah say? Would she not give me a story at all? I thought about not going back. In fact, I decided, I should never go back at all. It was doing me harm, ruining my social life, making me worry and obsess, and befuddling my brain. Better to be done with the whole affair.

Yet on the day itself, I rose from under the covers and found myself on the subway again, sweating in the heat as a man played a pop song on the bongos for money. And when I was face to beak with her again, all my troubles and my stories just started spilling out. In the end, my worries were unfounded; she gave me a story before I left. 


DOCTOR’S NOTE

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to inform you that Ms. Tan should be excused from work today. She is feeling quite unwell for a variety of personal and embarrassing reasons, such as armpit boils and excessive flatulence, and it would be prudent to not bring them up when she returns to the office tomorrow. Furthermore, she has informed me not to disclose that she has been suffering from bouts of depression due to self-image problems and the isolation of an immigrant lifestyle; therefore, loudly screeching ‘Chino, Chino’ as she walks into the office every morning is unhelpful for her condition, especially since she is Indonesian—I would instead recommend ‘Gook,’ even if it more usually refers to Vietnamese and Korean people.

I have included my personal number at the bottom of the letter if you need to urgently contact me for any more of her confidential medical history.

Sincerely yours,

{The signature is illegible}


After about six months of seeing Hadassah, it somehow got out that I was one of hers. I’m not sure who told on me. It could have been the friend who referred me, or perhaps somebody saw me on the train, or perhaps, although unlikely, Hadassah herself. 

My friends were the first to learn. Over a game of cards in a run-down gay bar somewhere in the Village, one turned to me and said, “How’s the old bird?” 

“Who?” I replied, forcing down a draft of beer I only ordered due to peer pressure. 

“Hadassah, of course. I’ve heard you’ve been seeing her.” 

I opened my mouth to reply but he did not give me a chance. 

“Oh, don’t worry, we won’t think any less of you. We’ll treat you exactly the same as we always did.”

After that night, they stopped returning my texts. I never saw them again. 

I started getting more and more time off from work without asking for it. At first, I liked it—who wouldn’t, working as a pencil pusher? But soon it started to grow excessive. I became restless and bored. 

“Oh no, you don’t need to come in today,” my supervisor said on the phone. “Really, there’s not much work. Stay at home! You need the rest! You have a big meeting with her coming up!” 

I came in anyway. When I arrived, I found that my possessions had been thrown into the trash. Somebody I didn’t recognize was sitting at my desk, typing away at my ancient computer. 

“Don’t worry,” my boss laughed, “we’re just doing a bit of reshuffling to improve team synergy. You can work from here in the meantime.” She was pointing at the broom closet.

I raged when I saw Hadassah again. I shouted and shouted at her, over and over, at her placid, rostrate face. Pacing around the room, I called her a traitor and a life-ruiner. She did not move until I had finished my rant, upon which she gave me another document and bid me goodbye. 

On the subway home my head was heavy with tears. 

The next day, I tried to find somebody else to blame. My friend, the one who introduced me to Hadassah, picked up his phone on the fourth call. He refused to discuss her, no matter how much I asked. Eventually, I tried a new approach. “Do you know anyone else who has met her? Somebody must have introduced you to her,” I asked, my voice ragged and hoarse. 

“I try not to associate with others,” he replied. “I like to keep it a secret. I thought you would too.” 

“I have to talk to somebody else about it. I want to feel normal again,” I said, again and again, until he relented. 

“I was introduced to her by a group that meets behind the Reservoir. They are all her customers, or patients, or whatever you’d like to call it.” He paused before continuing. “I have to say, I’m very disappointed in you. I thought there was something special about you, but I suppose not.” He hung up the phone before I could say goodbye.

They met just before midnight, like all secret societies. I could easily spot them from the general homeless and drunkard population due to the bird masks and black cloaks they wore. The clothing was a cheap imitation of her majesty, but I respected the attempt. They sat around a small tree, without making any noise. At first, I thought they were playing some sort of strange schoolyard hand game—but as I approached, I realized they were exchanging tiny pieces of paper. 

I sat down in the middle of the group. They did not stop me. One handed me a story, wrinkled and worn. I unfolded it:


{It was an X-ray, depicting the mouth. In yellow pen, someone had circled the various oddities. Notes in hurried handwriting appear on the back.}

● The subject came complaining of tooth pain.
● Upon examination, it became clear that the subject appears to have only molars. Not only that, the subject also has three rows of those molars, like a herbivorous shark. 
● Every tooth has had a mark carved deeply onto the enamel. Each row had a single different mark, repeated on every tooth in that row. Being doctors of a certain stock, we quickly identified them as three Hebrew letters. From back to front, the symbols appear to be as follows: אמת. 
● Even more strangely, the subject flosses regularly.
● All these signs point to intervention of the Divine, and that this was His messenger.
● We treated him with appropriate reverence, by plunging the drill into his head while he was sedated with nitrous oxide. As expected, his body collapsed into mud postmortem. Not a single tooth could be saved for future study. 
● I have advised all my colleagues to avoid plane travel in the near future and to vigilantly screen for any possible illnesses, due to the high likelihood of vengeance.


The masked man who gave me the story looked at me expectantly, his beak glimmering in the city night. “I don’t have a story to give back to you,” I apologized. “I’ve left them all at home.” Of course, I would never have given them anything anyway—the stories were too precious to be wasted on these madmen. 

The exchanges all around me suddenly stopped. Carefully and gingerly, they folded away each piece of paper before slowly standing up to surround me. 

The one who gave me the dentist story attacked me first. His gnarled hands, calloused and covered with paper cuts, clawed at my cheeks and eyes with talon-like nails. The rest descended soon after, into a whirling melee of grey masks and red blood. I do not consider myself particularly strong, but I easily overpowered them; these Hadassah worshippers were weak, frail things, whose constitution had faded due to a drifting mind. With a grunt and a heft, I was able to push a great number of them off me and twist myself out from the brawl. The scuffle continued even in my absence. Senselessly, I watched them fight for a few minutes longer. Not a single one cried out in pain or shouted in anger, even as their heads were smashed in by steel-toed kicks. 

I quickly turned and left. I do not revel in carnage. Most of all, I was afraid of becoming like them. Perhaps it was already too late. The normal people had already acknowledged me as Hadassah’s own. I knew now more than ever I had to put a stop to it. 


The Journal of Anthropological ’Pataphyiscs

The Temporal Teleology of Diagnosis: A Survey by O’Nassis, A., Elea, Z., et al. 

Abstract: Through the careful survey of more than thirty-seven medical archives and thirteen weeks of field research, the authors have discovered that doctoral diagnosis (DD), if given by an accredited medical physician (AMP), can in fact extend past present temporal boundaries into both the past and future (P&F). Indeed, not only did perception of the subject by others drastically change for the negative after DD, so did their memories, retroactively making the subject always sick. Furthermore, DD affected the physical body of the subject in the P&F, even if s/he was not sick to begin with. In other words, it was the DD by the AMP that causes illness, not any pathogen. In a case study with eighteen participants, nine healthy (proven so through rigorously screening) and nine ridden with various stages of cancer, all nine healthy participants immediately tested positive for cancer after receiving a DD of lung cancer from an AMP. In one particular case, one healthy patient immediately collapsed and subsequently died upon hearing the DD; later autopsies found that he had died from a stage four disease, even though he had been given a clean bill of health the day prior. The authors then conclude that AMPs use their DD with discretion, especially on the general public; politicians and personal rivals are thus most suitable targets.


On my next designated appointment, I brought every single story Hadassah has ever given me. I vowed to throw them all at her feet. What then, Hadassah? What will you do when I give you nothing more?

When I arrived, she sat there, motionless as always, save for a slowly bobbing beak. I tossed the stories to the ground. I screamed. It was like losing myself.

The papers settled.

Almost immediately, I fell to my knees, nearly sobbing, as I scrounged on the ground, trying to collect every paper that I had dropped. How could I have ever let them go? They were so precious to me. Thankfully, I was able to save every one without issue—only a few bits of wear and tear, here and there. I ran my fingers over every page, counting them over and over. 

I felt the cold touch of leather on my cheek. I looked up to see Hadassah’s long face right in front of me; her gloved hands ran down my neck to my chest. She said nothing, as always, but the message was already clear. I am ill and cannot be saved. There is no magic cure. Hadassah is here to stay. I will always be marked as one of her brood, even if I try to hide it—people will know and judge and hate me for it. Her stories will constantly flutter around me like the wings of a great bird.

And yet, despite it all, I realized I could still breathe and smile.

Hadassah pulled back into the darkness. The moment was gone forever. We went back to routine. I told her my story, gained one in return, and left. 

Somewhere else, maybe in the reflection of foggy glass on a subway pulling into the station, Hadassah’s stories played out to their conclusion. My ancestors were gassed in concentration camps, my other ancestors were colonized, the love was found and lost and found again for good, and I was free to live without the shackles of diagnosis, but here, on the other side, I was still the same as I have always been. 

Through the heavy mask it was hard to read these stories, but I managed. I had to. It’s only fair—she is my keeper and treats me so well.

 

A Jewish and Indonesian man in dark-rimmed glasses and a short-sleeved white button-down shirt, holding a dark green, fairly large lizard.

Coda Danu-Asmara is a Pushcart nominated writer of many identities, including queer, Jewish, Indonesian, and autistic. His work has appeared in Thrice Magazine, The Write Launch, Punt Volat, and elsewhere. He was born in New York City but currently lives in Sydney, Australia. His lizard’s name is Siddhartha. 

 

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Rosalind Goldsmith

Wall of Glass

She sits in a rocking chair. Alone. Trying to thread a butter knife with a shoelace.  On her lap sits a brown stuffed rabbit. She tries to understand what it might be doing there. 

In the past months, objects in her world have shifted, evolved—a chair has moved from one corner to another, a comb has grown teeth. A bowl melts into a dog’s bark. Sometimes the changes are sharp. Sometimes subtle. Sly. Letters in the alphabet no longer worthy of trust. A j could be a q for instance. In disguise as a y.

She rocks back and forth, the butter knife held up to the light in one hand, the shoelace in the other. She must solve this—on her own. If she takes the plastic cap off the string, maybe then it will fit?

Was a time it would fit—but in a larger thing than a needle, boxier, like a small car with no wheels. A thing she used to wear and would lace up herself without her mother’s help. And she did it, too!

Where is her mother now? Why isn’t she here to help her—at least to move the bed and the chairs and the dresser back to where they belong.

She rocks faster, holding the butter knife and the shoelace. She looks from one to the other, then puts them down on a small table beside her chair. The table, the chair, the butter knife, the shoelace—all shrink into themselves and slink away. Thieves in the blight, slipping away into another room.  

Where is—?

Her mother should be here. 

There’s that colour in the hanging things—like the ones in her bedroom.

And the light is screaming in through the wall, a diffuse light—too bright—a fog and a thickening murk of light seeping in. This light rambunctious to say the least.

This bed in the wrong place, and not hers; nor this chair, nor that picture on the wall—that picture of—a square thing and a yelling roundness that glows all over a floor of glass—no, not quite glass—

It is—outside the room when she looks out before going into the kitchen where her mother is making breakfast—toast and jam—that’s it—that glass out there on the ground after a good rain, looks—and she can hear minnows singing or—canaries, and—what is that sound—like a sound at school. Keep an eye on the door. It’s closed—must get ready to escape—in case.

That sound, not a school sound—more like—she is eight and having her tonsils out, that bing bong sound down the hall and— 

The walls the same colour as the walls in this room, but not the picture—

The picture of glass.

Or no.

She can’t smell any toast. Heart beats fast—this bed—this bed is not hers, was never hers, will never be hers. 

She is—she must be—visiting her friend Katrina and her mother in their little apartment on the Rose Valley Road—that’s it. This bed is Katrina’s bed. But where is Katrina? And her tennis racket is not here either, so how can they play tennis with no rackets?

She’s waiting for her father to pick her up, and Katrina—she’s gone for a swim—that’s it. Lake water, pool water, that colour is: qua qua qua aqua—

That sound—no— 

Duck and cover! Don’t panic, children! If the bomb drops you must hide under your desk and curl up into a very small ball, and the desk will protect you in the event of a nuclear blast. Miss McGarrick, is that so? Are we safe? For God’s sake, Miss McGarrick—please tell us! Are we safe?

But where is her father? He must be coming to pick her up now. For this chair not hers—this bed not hers and that picture on the wall—of glass. 

The light too strong—draw the skirts across the wind. Light is hurting—oh.

That time on the lake in the boat—oh, the sun dazzled on the water and tossed up handfuls of d… of dy… of dying mountains—each one a treasure. The calm, the quiet of the lake and the call of a canary or a crow or no—a seacall. A seacall cries. Carries a fish.

And her mother on the shore waiting for her to come in with the wind—cover the wind—oh! Waves! So she can make breakfast for her. But where is breakfast? She can’t smell any toast, she’s hungry, and this bed not hers—it must be—heart beats fast—Katrina’s?

That bing bong sound. Grade six. Recite: “When I was wandering as a crowd…” Duck and cover, children. Now! Are we safe? The bell—but no—this is not that sound. It is vanilla ice cream and a sore throat. 

Katrina. That must be her bed—but where is she? She’s gone for a swim in the pool. That colour—that aqua aqua aqua qua qua qua—

Duck! Hands on your head. It is, after all, the end of the world, but your school desks will protect you, children.

“Four crows on a pond. A grass bank beyond.” 

That’s it! Grass. The picture—that colour is—grass is green.

The light pouring in now—all lost under the blind sun. Streaking of light—scalding light. Burns. 

Here is a small long thing on the table and a rope to go in it. Who left it here? And this piece of shaggy thing with ears. 

And where is her mother? Or father, who is coming to pick her up.

That sound—

No! We are not safe! Draw up the—cribbage. The castle, the feudal system, the serf and the Lord’s manor and all the knights—those pictures—on horses. Grade seven. Mr. Taylor. He has a beard. Kind.

Ice cream and a sore throat and Mummy standing beside the hospital bed and—no. 

This bed not hers—whose, then, whose? And ginger ale with a plastic straw in a grass full of—sip it in, you’ll feel better—where is her mother now? Is she alright? Is she?

It is—this room—this bed not hers—this chair not hers—that picture on the wall of glass—or no. Not glass.

The light frothing now like waves of the sea—a dense feeling of singing or concussion of light of brightness from the round yelling blind thing in the sky—that—like a baby face or a spoon or the Owl and the Pussycat or no. It was a cow jumped over it.

This rabbit—that’s it—not hers—must belong to Katrina—oh God! Where is Katrina? Is she alright? She’s been so long away, too long away—she’s been swimming in the pool—is she—is she alright? That colour that qua qua qua—  

That—“I wandered lonely as a crowd…” Mushroom crowd—how do we make ourselves small, Miss McGarrick? How do we make ourselves small enough?

Her father is late now and her mother will be waiting for her, breakfast prepared. But she can’t smell any toast—not yet. She’s hungry.

And what is this—this silver pen and this cotton thread which is as thick as a snake.

The light is a flood now, the ceiling a river, the floor a capsized boat, the bed not hers—a sunken wreck of a boat—eels creeping through like snakes, this rust of light. The chair is a tiger, the picture is a wall of glass and her father—is late. Where is he—is he on the way? Is he?

And the door opens and it is—it is—no. It is not her father, not her mother, not Katrina. It is not Miss McGarrick or Mr. Taylor. It is someone she has never seen before, standing there and staring at her, saying “It’s me,” over and over. Standing there, still. With the ocean on her face. 

Are we safe?

 

A photo of a white woman with light hair. She is wearing glasses and a plaid shirt and standing in front of a tree.

Rosalind Goldsmith lives in Toronto. She has written radio plays for CBC Radio Drama and a play for the Blyth Theatre Festival. She began writing short fiction six years ago, and since then her stories have appeared in journals in Canada, the UK, and the USA, including Filling Station, Litro UK, Fairlight Books, the Chiron Review, Into the Void, and Fiction International. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions.

 

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Paris Jessie

Unclean

As if, I’m not a seed that was once planted. Now sprouting. As if, the sun does not water me, like I don’t need it. As if, the depression and anxiety do not keep deflowering me. I don’t like it. I let them know I don’t want to be touched. You don’t have my consent. Today, leave me alone. I know: 

                I am not their maker. 
                I am a force to be reckoned with. 

I write through it. So forcefully you would think my hands are bleeding from the pen. I command myself, my soul, to get to it. Write it out. Do not let these words off into the abyss. My heart makes up its mind:

                You better put that to use. 
                You better dig. 
                Right here, right now.
                Wipe that lovely face.  

And then like holy matrimony I baptize some pages. I water that which already comes from the earth with my innerness. 

                How is that for a tree of life? 

There are elements of nature at the front door of my spirit. 

                Water, fire, earth, wind.

They’ve been sweetly knocking. But too, there is a backdoor. The hinges ripped. It keeps slamming, going:

                Open.
                Close.
                Open.

But I am not that little girl anymore. With a frailty still in my voice, I say:

                Bring it. 

Overly confident, perhaps. Delicately prepared, maybe. Sometimes my whole being just starts marching forward, while I am spinning, full, three-sixties, all at the same time. But it is okay. Because of the ease when I turn on Pip Millet or Jordan Rakei—both on repeat—dancing all over the place. I wonder:

                Where do they smile this big at?

This lets me know. I adore me. And whatever is in me shall take care of me. It is so sweet. 

***

And sometimes it is bitter. I never failed to put words like, “multitasker,” “proactive,” or “detail-oriented” on my resume. 

                Why? 

Because they live on my skin. Depression and anxiety can really just swim up your spine when they choose. So here I am, often, tasked with the role of juggling this that comes and goes. Thinking on my feet to war them off. And getting down to the root of why they thought they were welcome. Surely, this is a mistake. Or this just may be how it is. 

I am learning to “switch the script.” Becoming a kind monster, they do not want to mess with.  Backed by pens, sheets of paper, and better than ever words that triumph over when they try to speak. Depression is getting lonely and a bit frustrated, how sad. While anxiety is playing a game of ding-dong ditch, but I already know who it is. 

When I feel thrown from my body, I clothe myself with sheer cosmos. The moon wraps me like a cape. The sun kisses me all over the face. The stars outdo tears and sparkle all up and down. The mountains show off their flexibility. And yes, they have put on a show for me.

***

It’s sad, maybe—sometimes I play—knowing I won’t stay. When I let the words seep onto the page and creep like the air when inching down a window. Fraternal twins given last minute names they cling like a little one’s memorable grip on their favorite toy. There they are acting up, bending your heart, and twisting your head. 

Who would think at the age of 2 or 3 you could be learning more than the English language? Dialects of shadows that couldn’t speak any louder. I didn’t have to go by plane—foreign—was my body not wrapped in a blanket with a little bit of light hitting a side of my face. 

Who would think at the age of 4 or 5 a body would pinky promise with a mind and teach the other the art of sunbathing? Soon to be a dearest friend. I didn’t like baths after playtime. Momma had a sweet way of communicating—like soft, but tethered wind—she didn’t know I was never ready to wash off that sun. She’d say like:

                Come on, we gonna be here. You go clean your body. 

She is not at fault. I was in foreign territory thinking:

                But momma said soap is not for eating, so how do I rinse my insides when it’s all soapy?

Those fleeting moments. Who would think at 6 or 7 one would have such lung capacity? Or that at 8 or 9 one would know how to scream underwater without allowing it to crash down your throat. 

See, I had savored the space next to my mother. In her cloud. The space was different than my own. When she would dream, I would too. I could bet this one time we dreamt the same night terror all the way through. A bathroom tattered peach, yellow with a shower that didn’t work and that toilet with its own beat. I had savored the asking: 

                Mommy, can I lay with you?

You never got upset. Ever. I wish I knew how much this meant. Because now I know you were just fleeting at times, too. 

 

A photo of a Black person with short hair and dark-rimmed glasses, wearing a taupe knit sweater. Part of their face is obscured by shadow while they look toward the camera.

Paris Jessie (she/her) is a writer and creative based in Los Angeles. She is also an on-call set medic. Through creative expression she hopes to disrupt the putting aside of issues such as mental health, intergenerational trauma, and historically-marginalized voices. She is fueled by poetry, dance, and videography. Other works of hers have appeared/forthcoming in BSW Chronicles, Serotonin, and Kaaterskill Basin. Her debut poetry collection, ‘leaves and their tree,‘ is available on Amazon. You may find her on Instagram @iamparisjessie or at iamparisjessie.com.

 

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grace (ge) gilbert

closeted diaries

a fence with words carved into reading 'be gay do crime'

The New York Times documentary series is on. 

I angle toward the handsome, weary ICU doctors on the screen in a sort of reverence for information, though I am directly focused on the MacBook in front of me, which I purchased when I was eighteen after working at a fundamentalist Christian camp the whole summer. 

I designed and taught an entire arts curriculum. 

I played the Moana soundtrack 232 times. 

In return, they paid me 2,000 dollars and fed me grilled cheese with curly fries every day at 12:30 PM. 

This was when I loved god. 

O The shit I did for him.

 

 

 

 

Earlier I walk by a Methodist church that has a Pride flag staked very intentionally near the red painted doors, which seem characteristically heavy, probably a metaphorical nod to how narrow that narrow path really is. 

Mifflin Ave. 

This street is near my street, but it’s more luxurious—paved with artfully lopped bricks and populated with those tiny libraries that only ever contain obscure parenting books, Dr. Phil and/or Oz, John Grisham. 

Once I found Vonnegut (Breakfast of Champions) hiding in the South Bend neighborhood of Rochester, New York. 

My next action was to eat vegan chicken nuggets on my vegan ex-boyfriend’s porch and read it in its entirety. 

We weren’t very conversational at that point. 

I slathered the tasteless meat bunches in Frank’s hot sauce. This caused a fight, which pointed to something else. 

Fights, and vegans, tend to do that.

 

 

 

 

When I walk by the church doors I think I feel a pull. 

The pull is followed by horror. 

A sequence of feelings that are really just reactions to feelings.

I used to associate this pull with “god working in mysterious ways,” something a girl about my age said in the Trader Joe’s line the other day. Upon hearing this I whispered “god isn’t real” to myself beneath my mask. I don’t know why I did this. I texted B about it as an act of documentation.

 

 

 

 

I conclude that the pull is loneliness. 

 

 

 

 

I scale the perimeter of the building and try to look in the windows but everything is a bit obscured by the age of the glass. 

I imagine a past self standing in the outdoor chapel at Christ the King, slapping mosquitoes between chutes of stubble on my legs. 

Candles in their praise stance. Singing hymns. Singing “as the deer pant-eth for the water, so my soul thirst-eth after you.” 

Meaning it. 

Or at least absorbing the momentum of everyone else meaning it, all of us pooling together in some primordial praise swamp. 

I felt like a happy fraction then. 

Arms up & floating toward a whole. 

 

 

 

 

I don’t pray anymore, but I think pointedly. 

I think, big-G-God, if you want me to think about you again, send someone out to pray for me. 

Big fucking dummy. 

However, as I think this I am walking away already, smug as ever, heading down the brick-paved back alley that is called “Virgil Way.” 

This reminds me of Dante.

In reality it’s just where rich people put their trash. 

 

 

 

 

I scroll thru Instagram when I get home. 

I repost a stylish quote that exclaims, in sleek rainbow text, “queer people in straight-passing relationships are still queer” and another one that says “bisexual people are still bisexual no matter who they date” and finally “gender is a social construct.” 

I think about my big-B-Boyfriend and what he thinks of this. 

The first person I told I was queer was myself, and then no one again until God died for me. 

I was ten and Leah (gay now, go figure) was very, very pretty. 

I whispered, “I am bisexual” into my book (probably The Giver, which my teacher made my mom sign a permission slip for me to read) during independent reading time because apparently that’s something I do when I need (want? know?) things to be true.

 

 

 

 

A text from B—he sends a 37 second audio message explaining that, remember in the beginning of quarantine, when we’d call like every day, and it was nice but then we decided we don’t have to do that, and though he loves talking to me he kind of just wants to watch a movie and read tonight, and that he wanted to be open and honest and direct in communicating because that’s what good couples do and he hopes that’s ok.

The pull incident has made me feel more solemn and interior than usual, so I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

I make a cocktail with bourbon called AMERICAN HONEY (which is good but twenty dollars) and apple cider I mulled with nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. 

I think about the Queer identity. 

I think about god I guess. 

I think about how irritating it is that I fear being uninteresting. 

I wonder if I’m really, truly, actually known or if what is seen, what B sees, what god (?) sees, is simply a straight performance of me that I cannot keep up.

 

 

 

 

Drink up, kiddo, there’s a whole life of this.   

 

 

 

 

The New York Times reporters are good, passive company. 

 

 

 

 

They flicker between shots of trees and cars and hospitals and New York City, bringing light to my living room, which, despite my best efforts, tends toward a certain darkness. 

 

 

 

 

The television is a TCL 32-incher, which is almost the size of a classic dick joke six times over. I got it, in essence, from my grandfather—a homophobic, supercilious, toupee-wearing alcoholic. 

He’s a retired State Supreme Court justice. 

I didn’t know his name was “Hugh” until I was eleven, because we always called him Grandpa Judge. 

Regardless, he’s rich as balls, dying of metastatic colon cancer, and has always been an erratic but lavish gift-giver.

 

 

 

 

For Christmas last year he gave me a 1000 dollar check folded into a glass ornament, and a purple Vera Wang towel (which, now stained with Garnier Strawberry Jam hair dye, hangs on my bathroom door). 

A few months ago, for absolutely no reason, he gave me 3 Amazon gift cards, each 50 dollars.

 

 

 

 

I sent him a thank you card. 

I thought, sorry I won’t see you before you die. 

I bought the TCL 32-inch television.

 

 

 

 

It arrived in 2 days, as expected.

 

A photo of a white person looking away  from the camera, reflected in a gold-framed mirror mounted on a peach-colored wall. They have dark short hair and dark eyes, and their mouth is slightly open.

grace (ge) gilbert’s recent micro, poetics, & lyric essays can/will be found in the Adroit Journal, Hobart, Ninth Letter, Pithead Chapel, the Offing, the minnesota review, Gargoyle, DIALOGIST, the Penn Review, Maudlin House, and others. Their digital micro-chap, no sharp things can be found in NAILED. They are an MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh where they consume unholy amounts of cheese and dumplings. Peruse their work on their website— gracegegilbert.com, or follow them on Twitter @geg2us.

 

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Ginger Ko

Bone Clean
Wholesome Things: Scoured Bright and Dry

Preface

Something pried apart never comes back together the way it grew. With Bone Clean, I am telling you to stop punishing me for your knowing. Your knowing why you’re living this life and not another. Your face is on the wall; every spring they move the rock that hides you and watch you weep into their buckets. 

The world to you is never tested. You think we’ll all be scoured bright and dry like you, the cleanest bones in the world. You don’t even imagine: the unwholesome shreds of things. Irremoveable stains. 

I suddenly learned that I have never stopped being a thing. Calmness comes from recognizing patterns. Like how I know, instantly, that you’re supposed to control this interaction, and there is a buzzing click-jolt into place of hatred. 

How can you and I escape historicity? How am I allowed to be in the present, or the future? How can I get out of the preface of being lost to mothers and fathers, of coming back from the mountains to kill them? I am not afraid this pain will last forever. I cannot see a future at all, even a false one.

To be “new”/experimental/forward-looking, you put the present violence in the past even as it happens. 

Look how old-fashioned I am.

Look how bad I’m making you feel for something that can’t be undone. 

 

 

 

Preface

I was young, during my twenties, but not so young that I couldn’t know better.

I spent a single unhappy semester in a low-residency MFA program. The in-person workshops took place in Louisville, and during these gatherings Charles Wright was circulated with reverence by all the hipster broets who styled themselves after Dust Bowlers. A young man, dressed to look like he had emerged, avec flannel, from The Grapes of Wrath, reverently handed me a Wright book as if it were my turn to receive the wafer. I read it and thought: “What.” (For instance, in “The Southern Cross,” that long, long poem, why isn’t it an apparent problem that female gender appears only as icon or figure or city subdued or sleeping sister or a…spider?) My mentor for the semester was an old white man who lived at the top of a mountain in Montana. I stopped turning in my packets of writing to him mid-way through the semester. I did not plan on ever writing again.

While completing a biology degree in Indiana, I earned my only A in an undergraduate creative writing class. The professor, another old white man, considered Merwin unpleasantly experimental due to lack of punctuation. He liked my writing very much and slanted my writing into something so small that I was hardly upright. This professor imprinted on me the desirability of slow nature and velar sounds. I found everything very beautiful all the time. I was so exhausted from the rich precision of the meditative mode that each poem I wrote for his approval was like wrenching my spine between two fists. At the end of the semester, he told me that I did not need to turn in a final portfolio, that I had far exceeded the requirements of the course. I went home and then felt empty for months. I did not plan on ever writing again.

Bone Clean covers the period of my life spent in the lower Midwest. Bone Clean is my reparations to myself as the young person who knew things were wrong even as I did them. 

 

 

 

Preface

“I’ll suck on them,” my grandmother always said, beckoning me to hand over the leftover bones. My cousins and I would flee the room as the elders began lasciviously slurping the remains of the big family meal. My grandparents laughed as I covered my ears with my hands and squinted my eyes, trying to block out the unholy feasting of old Chinese people on the grey parts of cooked animals.

 

 

 

Preface

I needed to write Bone Clean because I have missed the late-night talks I had with the other women in my master’s writing program. We had all come from very far away to study the craft of writing in a tiny high plains town. We were all in our late twenties, married or divorced, and socially distinct from the younger, more glamorous students in our cohort because we were tired of drinking, and desperately tired of trying to find ourselves. It had already turned out that there wasn’t anything to find. Instead, since we were all living in a place that was cold and dark for most of the year, we would gather around someone’s kitchen table at night, still in our coats, when the babies were asleep, and methodically roll a dozen cigarettes. Then we would hold out our hands and ask the others to take their pick: lumpy or smooth, thick or thin, tight or loose. And then tramp outside in our boots and sit on the cold yard furniture: metal painfully grated against our backsides, or cracked plastic with too much give, or wood that never really dried out from all the melted snow. And we talked so much, gossiped and schemed and dissected.

Men would pass through our conversations—husbands letting out the dog, boyfriends joining for a smoke, friends wheeling their bikes through—but their brief intrusions were always overcome no matter how meaningful their contributions. Men who were present during these gatherings were shouted down, waved off, or left to quietly listen just outside of the circle of coated, smoking women. When the humidity was high, the smoke was hung up just above our hair. We talked and laughed so quickly and all at once that neighbors would often turn on their lights and stare out their windows. The conversations were a women’s space. The conversations were dependent on the collusion of women.

Bone Clean is my continuation of these women’s nights. We often spoke about women’s writing and relationships and health as if upholding all the subjects at once was easy. So easy that we would delve all the way down to the bone and pick it clean. I am still friends with many of the women I had these conversations with, but we are now distinct from each other. We graduated and separated. Bone Clean is my side of things, sending it out and waiting for their side of things. Bone Clean is my loneliness. My wish for a woman’s response, for our conspiracy.

 

 

 

Preface

I started writing Bone Clean after I went to view the Body Worlds exhibit when it reached Chicago. It had remained seemingly for months at one of the downtown museums and for weeks beforehand, and for weeks long after, drivers along Lake Michigan passed the unremitting streetlamp banners that displayed grotesque pictures of the plastinated bodies in various poses. Riding a bike. Posed as mother and daughter (or desexed father and desexed son), both pointing off into the distance. Suspended mid-leap/-kick with a basketball or football. All with their bright red ropey musculature and artistically flayed tendons and tissues.

I entered the halls of the exhibit expecting some kind of overwhelming smell or some other pervasive signal of decay. Instead, the museum spotlights were bright and beautiful, throwing the skinned bodies into the type of colossal beauty that serves antiquities and dinosaur skeletons. Some of the bodies were unnaturally stretched or enlarged, somehow standing ten feet tall and looming above the other bodies on pedestals at artistically pleasing intervals. These bodies are no longer bodies which are subject to decay. They are, in fact, not even preserved in time, their deterioration arrested. They have been converted to something else altogether via the plastination process, a mechanism of replacing all the living liquids of a body with plastics that are then hardened into shape. The bodies that go through this process transform into plastinates, a name that is given to all specimens that undergo this procedure, whether they are small animal scraps or an entire human body.

The Body Worlds exhibit that I attended in Chicago was a part of the Body Worlds franchise that is headed by Gunther von Hagens, developer of the plastination process. Von Hagens is a theatrical man, having founded and patented the plastination process in the 1970s. He went on to head several plastination centers and laboratories, one of which is a private workspace that is secreted away behind a revolving staircase. He wears a black fedora wherever he goes, and considers his life work to be the dissemination of anatomical knowledge. So intent on this legacy of bringing anatomy to the people, he has performed public and televised autopsies, has created several different strains of his world-travelling Body Worlds exhibits (Body Worlds: Animals, Body Worlds: Cycle of Life), and accepts all manner of bodies into his plastinated creations, including those of executed Chinese prisoners. 

I call the plastinates creations because the human and animal plastinates are posed so melotheatrically (remember: revolving staircase, black fedora, etc.), something I found appealing and humorous when visiting the exhibit in Chicago. Later, I found out that the bodies—a woman laying on her side, one hand behind her head like a swimsuit model, a nearly full-term fetus sagging from her belly; a pair of humans atop a rearing, skinned horse, the mane and tail hair intact—might not all have been encased in Western skin. The delusion of Western-ness is aided by an artifice of the most probable signifier of race: the plastination technology still has trouble transforming the odd solution that makes up eyeballs, so most of the plastinates stare out with replica eyeballs that have blue irises. Though they are outfitted with Western accessories (the plastinates ride shiny bicycles and hold shiny Western instruments), they might have, in fact, been Central or Eastern Asian. 

When finding this out, I couldn’t help but assume that the plastinates were derived from stolen bodies. If the bodies had been Western, they would have been happy bodies, donated from an excess of wealth and an investment in knowledge production. It is the Western bodies that are interested in science and posterity, as well as history with a dash of the occult or steampunk. Such bodies would desire inclusion in the carefully contrapposto Body Worlds exhibit, in which the artistry of the plastinate form is equally important to the anatomical education imparted.

If you know that the bodies of the plastinates were actually people from Kyrgyzstan or China, where bodies are devalued, anonymized, imprisoned in variously despotic ways, and totally invisibilized to the Western world, then you know that the plastinates came from unhappy bodies. They were likely forgotten or secreted, sold or trafficked, rather than donated. They would not have given themselves to science. They were more likely given to the Body Worlds industry because they were lost to their families.

The Body Worlds exhibits are the most literal embodiment of Western consumption of non-Western bodies. My work in Bone Clean is my exploration of the insatiability of Western consumption and the non-Western teeming that nourishes the richly flourishing body of consumption. This is a work in words for those who are voiceless because their bodies cannot be comprehended. Their bodies carry unfamiliar memories, and so cannot be accessed as bodies. So many feed the few. 

 

 

 

Preface

The significance of my mediated skeleton lain against the stinging lattice: is for what follows.1

  

 

 

1 “Families need proof, Koff says—they come looking for recognizable clothing and say, ‘I want the bones.’
                 I, too, want the bones.”
– M. NourbeSe Phillip, Zong!

 

 

 

Preface

When I was six, my kindergarten teacher asked my mother to bring in the workbooks that my mother bought from the homeschool store and made me complete at home. In the workbooks were line drawings of underwater tableaus full of cheerful octopuses and encouraging starfish. There was also long division and fractions, carrying the one, and multiplication tables, sites of intense sadness because I so often did not understand the problems, did not want to be sitting at them, but had nowhere else to go.

      

When I started the first grade, and was then inexplicably carried away to the second grade a few months later—for the school administration, this was unprecedented; for me, it caused my aunt to sneer at the pencil lead I had smeared on my cheek in my excitement to show her my workbooks when she asked about them (I didn’t understand, until two or three years later, that adults could ask questions to which they didn’t want to hear the answers)—the place I found to go was the bathroom. As the child of a woman who regularly rifled through her daughter’s belongings, who gave me gifts and then weeks or months later combed the drawers and cabinets to reclaim them, the lock on the bathroom door was a revelation. I carried my books into the bathroom and read them under that sick white long-bulbed light that still despairs me to this day. I remember having some time, some quiet to myself, some kind of faint untraceable sadness and satisfaction at being alone, before my parents began to notice, using the screwdriver to break into the bathroom while I hid my books behind the toilet.

It is the privacy of writing that I sought for most of my childhood, writing to ease confusion even though my mother would go into my desk and page through my attempts at working out the problems of self-story, confronting me with their contents with a righteousness that lacked any guilt. My parents attempted to turn writing into a chore, buying me special journals and forcing me to write daily entries, reviewing them when I was done. In this way, the impulse to write for any length of time became shameful, wasteful and self-indulgent, especially when my mother liked to remind me that competency at reading and writing was something accessible to all (even to her, if she had been born in this country), and nothing special. Without being able to work through problems behind the closed doors of writing, I’m not sure I thought much at all, and was mostly just a receptacle for abuse.

I must have made it easy, having been trained for it, and constitutionally suited to withstand it without crying or fighting back. I was slow, as a child, to understand jokes and identify the visual indicators that people use on their faces to relay their intent. I have memories of being insulted, my first reaction being to watch the scene as from a distance before understanding that I was supposed to feel bad. Often I didn’t feel anything at all, waiting until I was walking home alone, or standing in front of the bathroom mirror before a bath, to think about why things happened to me.

   

It is the resentment of turning my writing into something for others (the potential for the posterity of communication realized through the act of writing) that confuses me. If I can make writing truly my own, then I have no initial impulse to share it with others. I am too greedy for privacy and solitude. But what if it can never belong to me truly? Then my writing is bearing witness, forcing into existence what otherwise could be forgotten or denied.

 

 

 

Preface

I feel as though I’ve lost the language of my legacy. Those who say something is “bone deep” don’t know that sometimes it’s only as deep as the reading and speaking. I recently read the book of a great poet, and in it she writes lovingly to Lucy, the mother of us all. She could be writing to me. I am a lovely little primitive. 

Bone Clean is about how you’re not supposed to hate where you’ve grown up. Bone Clean is about how everyone else in the world doesn’t think that anyone’s hurt can be innocent. I don’t know how to be, so I am starting with the core beneath the tangled hose of my guts—my growth, my safety, my peace.

Originally published at Quaint Magazine

 

A photo of a woman with dark-rimmed glasses and hair that is dark blonde and black toward the roots. She is wearing a gray shirt, and looking into the camera.

Ginger Ko is an Assistant Professor at Sam Houston State University’s MFA program in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing. She is the author of Motherlover (Bloof Books) and Inherit (Sidebrow), as well as several chapbooks. Her next project, a book as interactive app, is forthcoming from The Operating System. Her poetry and essays can be found in The Atlantic, American Poetry Review, The Offing, VIDA Review, and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.gingerko.com

 

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Ryan Greene translates Yaxkin Melchy Ramos

Seeds from the New World I (English)

Semillas de “El Nuevo Mundo I”

Translator’s note

In 2007, as a 21-year-old industrial design student, Yaxkin Melchy Ramos began writing what would become his decade-in-the-making poetic project, EL NUEVO MUNDO (THE NEW WORLD). It is a thousand-page, kaleidoscopic work that he imagines as a “cell-book, constellation-book, or choreography-book” exploring “the contemporary world of mega-cities, science, the Internet, school, home, means of access to poetry, networks of friendship, etc.” The poems featured in this issue of ANMLY are taken from El Nuevo Mundo I (The New World I), the first of five full-length books that comprise THE NEW WORLD. Each of these poems showcase the range of Yaxkin’s poetics, incorporating visual poetry, typographical play, and sprawling lyric sequences. As I’ve worked with Yaxkin on the translation of these poems, he’s consistently referred to them as seeds. With that in mind, I’m grateful to ANMLY for providing fertile ground to “replant” them.

In 2015 I came across a downloadable pdf of The New World I, and was immediately struck by Yaxkin’s celebratory, collectivist approach to poetry. At the time, I was new to the world of poetry and even newer to the world of translation. Already, I was frustrated with the hyper-academic, prestige-driven current that I felt swirling through the stoic readings and prize tallying of many literary spaces. In Yaxkin’s work, I encountered an ethics of access and action that treated poetry as an embodied, community-rooted, community-producing art meant to live and breathe beyond the page or university walls. This was a poetry I could believe in. 

Since first encountering The New World I, I’ve been itching to translate it. This year, I’ve been lucky enough to work with Yaxkin to make that dream come true. In the throes of 2020, it’s been restorative to spend time in a collection that is simultaneously playful, meditative, and unabashedly heartfelt, while also heavily critical of, in Yaxkin’s words, “the commercialization, violence, frivolity, and egocentrism that are values capitalist culture has tried to impose on daily life and literature.” Rather than wait for a better world to come—a world of ecological connection, queer love, and cybergalactic creativity—Yaxkin writes it into existence and invites us to join. It is poems like these that help me to know that a new world is not only possible, but ready to bloom.

         

Ryan is shown before yellowgreen foliage, and beside a board painted with kawaii mammals, one goldenrod yellow in color, the other seafoam. Ryan has pale skin and thick brown hair which stands on end. Ryan is kneeling, with arms bent at the elbows and wrists, and held at chest height. Ryan wears a white shortsleeved tee shirt with red raglan sleeves, and denim shorts in a pale blue wash.

Ryan Greene is a translator, poet, and book farmer from Phoenix, Arizona. He’s a co-conspirator at F*%K IF I KNOW//BOOKS, and he’s translated work by Elena Salamanca, Claudina Domingo, Ana Belén López, Giancarlo Huapaya, and Yaxkin Melchy, among others. Since 2018, he has facilitated the Cardboard House Press Cartonera Collective bookmaking workshops at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore. Like Collier, the ground he stands on is not his ground.

   

In a grayscale image, Yaxkin is shown standing behind a microphone, before a pale wall upon which lines of text in abstract arrangements are printed or projected. Yaxkin has light to medium toned skin, and short dark curly hair. Yaxkin wears rounded rectangular eyeglasses, and a dark crewneck sweater over a light collared shirt, and holds an open paperback book with both hands.

Yaxkin Melchy Ramos (Mexico City, 1985) is a Mexican and Peruvian-Quechua poet, translator, ecopoetics researcher, bookmaker, and artisan-activist-editor. He is the author of THE NEW WORLD, a five-part “cell-book, constellation-book, or choreography-book” which was written intermittently between 2007 and 2017. Currently he is a graduate student at Tsukuba University in Japan, where he is researching ecopoetic currents between Japan and Latin America. Since 2017, he has been translating contemporary Japanese poetry to Spanish, and currently he runs the artisanal press Cactus del viento, which focuses on ecological, spiritual, and transpacific poetics. He also publishes on his personal blog, Flor de Amaneceres.

 

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Ian U Lockaby translates Diana Garza Islas

from “Probable Synonyms of the Word Sololoy”

0

The boxes are read from right to left and from top to bottom. I am here to say what I heard. Christ holds a little devil popsicle. It could be a mirror, given the inscription I Am. I Am A Honeycomb. Just a little stick. The head that is not looking at me, I am. For this they have given me a good conduct award, some centuries ago. I left it there, look, next to the snails.                            

And my body meat. And my body upside down.
Very high up, next to the keys.

Do not open the door.

There may be more things in the bottle of quinine. 
I meat all through. I dead meat.

And as if I were a fish, I shall guess them at once. 

1

The meat on the plate is served, said the nana Neera. Now wait here, I gotta go for cartridges—as grandma would say, to speak of what I would see.                                           

The house burned down. I can’t imagine this would be zebras’ work. Nor even result of the war—it was heard. An egg’s voice was, a man’s voice. (To clarify at some point that they are not the same thing.) In whichever case, the sound of three coins, three stamps, three marine fossils and many head bones next to —or above, preferably—the fishhook, and a thousand times higher than the voice.                        

(One must not exaggerate)

In the background, the sea, at the corner of the leaf factory.

Here, stirring, since I have left a spoon for it. And then one would listen to the airplane that will go on dropping dust over the span of the pine forest.                                  

And the wagging meat, and the diluted crown, falling, here, into the view of the bearer.                                

2

The reconstruction of the cabinet of Ebodia Novena is inevitable: carrying little bone flowers in a pot that starts with an a (Hebrew) and after ten thousand things returns to three, and so on. It’s inevitable: eclipse something and enlarge your bloody cheek (sometimes yes, sometimes no) with a magnifying glass according to the date.               

(We should remember that we are still inside of the end of the world.)

A line of lithium, a path of bones for dowsing right above your name. Here, perhaps, what’s eclipsed is your hair, even if I say it so as not to speak of the flag and its eagles (opals, those, angles, winged-zebras) light blue mostly dirty, and at the center.                                          

If I raise my head, I know there will be poison, even if I won’t see it. And far behind, I know that Izunza is being read. In a crystal container that everyone will need to see, because it hangs, and it’s there. I have tried to not speak of all the elements, but one goes three times a little below the eye, and not necessarily from it I enlarge.                         

And mama. At the bottom of these things is always mama.

3

In order to ride a horse, especially if we are speaking from the end of the century, we must examine the box’s three points of view. The initial call: Asmodeus! Asmodeus! Comes panting with vibroplex resources, or more precisely: locomotive. The misshapen drops, the legs I don’t see. They come in turbine form and they come leaving little red dots behind, marking a helix of countryside and balconies. It is not for showing off, but this is all about a letter.              

If you guessed it is because you wear your mirror differently. Your teeth guarded behind the vertical bar. No one filmed it? Just that and nothing else?                                     

Let’s speak then of the little wires that they would put to it: 42, c3, 00, 11h.                                    

Here probably it’s about the gut of another box. (Everything that is spoken is about the other). And it will carry nails in its name. And it will carry a handle, so you can run wild.

Asmodeus, Asmodeus: everything is in order.

(Although I still need to talk about the headgear they forced me to use the day of my first communion; and of everything else.)

4

A cocoon that something was giving birth to from concrete thorns, arrived. The little vials of elixir were on number ten. The key was also obvious and it slept (standing up) next to it. Someone was singing their desire to be a bison. Or it was the reverse. The stamp repeated: winged feet, drawn, faint and scepter.

The caduceus was a heron, for example, a sparrow or its ca-daver. Preening itself totally anonymously, already engaging the guardian:                                              

WELCOME TO CIUDAD PROGRESO.

It was an extraordinary day which we remember as “November 20th of 1910.”

Six graves there were, but only if you looked sideways, ignoring the natural enterprise of feet. The face, it could be said, stayed questioning, in a frame entirely vectorial, defeating. At every light, challenging us with its me, me, me.

—Merino Wool.

But I think that his true name was Santa Catalina and not Bison Dreamingme, Sealed Knight, Commonsense “Gar-
cía” Guardian.                                                               

Not at all.

 

Translator’s Note:

These five poems are the first in a series entitled “Probable Synonyms of the Word Sololoy,” which opens Diana Garza Islas’ 2017 book, Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera.

The word “sololoy” is a Mexican-Spanish phoneticization of the English word “celluloid,” and originated as a reference to a particular kind of doll made of the material that became popular in Mexico in the early 20th century. Celluloid, which is produced by mixing nitrocellulose and camphor, along with dyes and other agents, becomes brittle over time, and the dolls often fell apart.

In Garza Islas’ poems, the reader witnesses a breaking apart of the inner materials of language. She works with the component parts—but with a sharp attention to the cultural reference points and socio-political factors that build our understanding of words. It’s as if each of the poems that make up this series are themselves synonyms of “sololoy.”

Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera is in part based on the work of Veracruz-born artist, Carlos Ballester Franzoni. The book includes images of Franzoni’s pieces—assemblages inspired by cajas parlantes, a folk-art form from Soyalo, Chiapas. As Garza Islas writes in an endnote, cajas parlantes are “mediators of voices, healers y guides of rebellion.”

Garza Islas positions herself too, as a mediator of voices. Her playful, richly layered syntactical turns, her portmanteaus and puns sometimes turn so chaotic that it seems like multiple voices are speaking at once, that the poet is recording a colliding conversation.

As Miguel Angel Diaz writes, Islas “makes a reading of [Franzoni’s] boxes from the material approach, in the first place, to build her own talking boxes with those materials.” She creates, “‘dialogicity,’ when between two works there is a semantic and ideological tension, not just a referential transfer.”

 

Ian is shown, before a beige or white wall with wooden picture frames. Ian has pale skin and a very short dark beard and mustache. Ian wears a camouflage printed cap, a gray or drab hooded sweatshirt, and a rustbrown and grey plaided chamois or chore jacket over all.

Ian U Lockaby is a poet and translator currently living in New Orleans, LA, where he serves as Editor in Chief and Translations Editor at New Delta Review. His poetry translations have appeared recently in Sink Review and Desuetude Journal, and his own poems have recently been published, or will soon be, in CutBank, Denver Quarterly, Datableed, Posit, and elsewhere.

  

Diana is shown, before yellowgreen grasses, with the slope of a mountain and pale blue sky further behind. Diana has light brown skin and dark hair. Diana wears a patterned black headscarf, a black stand collar or crewneck sweater, and a gray wrap skirt or pants with black rounded grids printed upon it. Diana holds a yelloworange cylindrical object with both hands, perhaps a small lamp, trowel, or musical instrument.

Diana Garza Islas, born in 1985 in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, has published three books of poetry: Caja negra que se llame como a mí (2015); Adiós y buenas tardes, Condesita Quitanieve (2015); and Catálogo razonado de alambremaderitas para hembra con monóculo y posible calavera (2017). This “first yellow cycle” of writings was collected and published as Todo poema es yo de niña mirándola (2018). Her photographs, drawings, and video installations have been featured in various publications, interdisciplinary festivals, and collective expositions. She has twice received grants from FONCA (National Fund for Culture and the Arts). Texts and visuals: hastrolabia.net / @hastrolabia.

 

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