Scantily Clad Press, 2009
Acknowledgements: Matthew cuts an artichoke and reminds me that he doesn't know how to cut an artichoke. At the end of the night, the artichoke is cut. All this hesitation and still there is a space for wonder.
Credits: “New Accounts of Selfhood” appeared in elimae. “Halloweeny” appeared in Black Robert Journal.
Prologue I want to suggest a way to begin: What do we do with all the delicious delusions, all the excited cupids and rounded roofs? We borrow silences from our own ghosts and growl about poisoned arrows, the arrangement of chemicals in our brains. Later, we cut open the cows and find a bursting cloud, another kind of silence. Once upon a time there was me looking at you. Please, the ending of the story is exactly what you expect, I just can't remember. This is what happened: I was averagely envoweled, it was winter, but it wasn't like winter. I mean, I don't know if you can imagine all the hatching eggs. Another particular is hard to imagine properly. I focus on just what is happening in front of my face, the exploding potato bug, the boy who puts a stick in his eye. Desires get muted. How pretty, I think, that we saved our baby teeth in a ziploc bag. I am serious, this isn't the story I planned on telling.
To differentiate between intention and what happened makes what happened less precious. Imagine how often I wanted to be doeskin. I'm not sure this isn't wrong. We like to tell stories about other people who pass out on the subway. In the past tense, the war started and we don't mention that it is still starting. There are numbers about how many beetles are born each year, but not how many soldiers are hallucinating. It's Thursday and there's talk about an ice storm. My bedroom is tidy and the widow says she'll amputate her own legs.
December tomorrow, I really mean december something or when the poinsettias are pinned to my apron and I'm going to tuck a parrot between your legs, put a lampshade on your head. my tongue touched the tongue of another. let's call it an antique, let's call it â€œabout timeâ€? since it is about time you were wrapped in wasps nest and drunk enough to triangle a narrative dropped from the ear. really, this new story blinked from my eye: there was an egg and toast, but it wasn't morning. time for a birdbath, empty spaces. the space between phrases is not as unbearable as the space between my stomach and vulva. you pinched four sentences and bruised the punctuation. this makes you not an easy sell at the vintage store. you are too new: mistake. I would call you a splinter in my thumb; I would lick you and that would be a subject we could put in the store window. a thought takes space, a thought takes space and we are being asked not to think about our government, not even the polar cap. I am knitting a hat and trying to think about a ferris wheel, you, and no specific reference to wire hangers.
(The white rabbit is pulled, revealing a blue kidney and preserved fishes) Rather than unicorn, we headdress almost nothing of importance: September, I'm afraid I'm telling the story all wrong. What I feel I know now is not what I knew at various times. The war is on us. Like chairs falling over. Gone dotty. This great business of love: I've the hiccupsâ€”I mean suspension, suspicion. It's suspect to sit down and lean against someone else. What if gravity loosed and we found ourselves?
(remember a story that never actually happened: the exit) remember a story that never actually happened: the exit was not properly identified. the body counts from ten to one so that it doesn't hyperventilate or feel enclosed within itself. the body is double, meaning the body has many faces. one of which is eating spiced wafers. one of which is you. you might read this in two ways: (1) I wish emergency doors were part of the brain. (2) the butterfly is trapped in the brain meaning a turbulent place where girls insist on a t-t-t sound; like sticks along a fence. everything buzzes because everything is haunted. The holy city is mostly confusion; the helicopter pilot lost both his legs; I'm thinking of putting a pillow over my head and growing some pears, a horn, and a paunch.
I've Forgotten About the Story Everything touched turns to sugar including the heelbone. The lime kept spooned like a spleenâ€” This is the sea walnut of our ellipticity measured in an ell and kept second banana to the heart. Which has a windmill arm but isn't quite an amusement park. More parenthesis. Sharp angled fragments are complex wind chimes resembling chinaberries, the same purple flower chirped and somersaulted into spring to make love to the sock eye salmon. Look to the snuffbox over the ear, There is more accuracy in the smell of a spanish onion. Our ear will almost always fall to the ground before it can be caught in a goblet. A glued hand holding an alpenhorn. A massive patter and there are imprints of dead bodies in the pavement.
Arriving, Not All at Once After the ulcer, my aura was the color of marmalade. There was an arrow I imagined and an apple on the head of an idiot, but it was probably my own head playing tricks on me. Like the growing light. Do you prefer less reference to war? When I tell the story nobody pays attention, so I make most of it up. I add a whale, a girl with an oven and a head full of cotton. I make it a creation myth. And this decision is not a cupcake, not even a keystroke that forces a word, only my two brains preferring the knife, that unusual k, and the way it sends you back to the mushroom where I carved my initials in the cap. I continue to re-experience numbing arousal. The day is not complete without a missile of uncertain origin. Even the rabbits are wondering what romance means.
Is This What the Thaw Sounds Like? I have to carry the cupped shaped flowers because there's a problem of synonyms and there are fifty three days before I can go fishing. I grow fat waiting for people to reveal themselves. I finish a book first, give myself a bruise, and put all of my possessions in a lavender-lined hatbox. There's some disappointment when the girl puts her fingers inside herself and doesn't think Hallelujahs or any extremely vivid dreams interrupted by the neighbor's dog. This one dream where my body was pulled together with another body—that was not unlike my own, but different enough that I thought it was beautiful—and both bodies were breathing the same breath. It was a gasp ing kind of breath. It was monstourlisly loud. I thought, “How can this breath be my breath anymore?” and I started dying. In the dream, if you die it's bad luck. Not an omen exactly but something like a fawn in the belly that kicks at your intestines until there's no more room for anything to live inside of you. I get to talking about dresses because I have a damaged spiritual life. I didn't mean to do this, but I suddenly lost all my shyness when the boy asked, “Who wants to play tag?” and everyone's head exploded so that what was left of them fit in my hands. I still didn't know anybody. I pulled my ears, which made me feel cramped and lonely even though it felt like Spring outside. “Put some teeth in it,” like Danielle said. And I didn't know what she meant so I decided to grow a second body. Right now, I've this obsession with the idea of a virus that can turn your irises into triangles, a virus that will make you rhyme. None of this
gets me closer to knowing anybody. I imagined things quite differently: Neon hibiscuses bloom in live time and it's kind of private how I feel so alone at the parties. How I suggest splitting one's self in half without feeling apologetic.
The Notion of Discourse the bridge collapsed next to the bed where you donated your white blood cells and grew more and more theoretical in the petri dish. there must be something more to it, you gave your white blood cells, later someone decided to give them to somebody else. in particular, a woman who is frying bacon thinks, for the first time, that her husband is cheating on her. between two pines you might see her in the window as if she was a miniature. sexual fantasies continueâ€”
Tiny Mirror Three dimes, the world is going bad, very bad. I have innumerable darts in my bodyâ€” extra eyes, ears, head, and even vulva. Hold your water. Your nose out the window, not unlike a chimney. A tiny mirror between my thumb and finger throws back a boy with a gold ring in his mouth. Bring blame. Bring something shaped like the letter D for the daughters of Danaus. Does this suggest a genetic explanation? The serpentine reference in my reply makes you uncomfortable in the belly. I cannot unhinge anything other than my mouth, but we try to say likey likey as if it matters. I'm still saying no to the ring in his mouth. I'm still repeating my own name and birthday over and over in case that blue egg really did knock the sense out of me.
And Then the Sky was Full Sleeping face down, we wool night a kind of a hive. Your body gestures the alphabet with your big toes. I pretend I don't understand why the boy is wearing a bunny costume, why the girl wants to take her clothes off. At birthday parties, both of us are tempted to stab someone with the cake knife. This late at night this will all change, but look at the orange peels in the bowl.
The Trajectory is from Bed to Bed It’s because of my relation to the phallus that the priests asked if I was responsible for the plague. Nobody actually lost their heads, or submitted to the feminine disorder of having a little pot of butter. Everyone thought they didn’t exist and wondered if there was a place for them, at least a position in bed where they could sleep without waking up with a charlie horse. It’s precisely because it is forbidden that everyone wanted to talk about sex. I threw my body at them and said, “It’s my birthday. I’m having a good time.” In truth, there could have been more cake. Even cake made out of roots. E.g.: a tea-, plum-, wedding- cake, etc. If there was more cake people might have shown an interest in the shape of the lemon. I know, I know, it is because of my roundness that you think I cannot be a linear path. But the lemon is integral to a room full of mirrors. The lemon is a nice time that is directly related to a roller coaster ride that you take after your cat dies. After the ride you are less shrunken, you are more able to see that it is actually super funny that the body doesn’t recognize itself, that you don’t even dream of your own body. There is a footpath of hair between my button and my sexual difference. I’ll show the point I’m making as close as possible: A voice came last year to collect all my terrors, which had the weight of an enormous tooth, so my stomach is flattened. It’s not what I expected. It was a punishment for my endless chatter,
mouthsound. Someone put a lemon in my mouth—it was almost like a young girl--and I was sure it would burn me alive, make me only able to echo, or push me to the point of choking. But it became something intimate, something that reproduced over and over; it became the nearest thing to “my dear.” I saw that my body had the answer, but only if I went to meet it in the dark with a theory of catastrophes. “What do you want me to want?” My body can see from both sides: From the birds and the fish, but the scales fell from my eyes and every detail was lost so that you could not tell if I was a man or if I was a woman. This bears some relation to that question I had once, but the more I tried to ask it the more the women fell around me laughing instead of becoming soldiers, which is complete silence. What I am not telling you could fill a cattle cart. Everything must return to the narrative: The plague basically passes through the mouth in the shape of a lemon and reaches the most intimate point, the foreign parts where I feel a bit of oval yellowishness, a sunny expanse in the thinking forest.
The Moon Seems to Puddle I've been spending time with a major organ, a thing I love so hard. Studies suggest it was carved from a reindeer antler. Built into it is the potential for twin heads. Both faces resemble a fish or a phallus, depending on who is looking at it and how much sex they are having on a weekly basis. The organ tells time in different versions, an earful. Sometimes time is a few minutes walk from the river, other times it is the number of salmon. Somehow, day completes a whole cycle in a pretty room. One can imagine a Freudian interpretation to the organ's resemblance to a snake biting its own tail. The tendency to see things as symbols makes the story harder to tell. But this was earlier noted by the zoomorphized star who swallowed me alive and then gave birth to me out of its other mouth.
Halloweeny like a big pink fish, sometimes I think I might be a silk knot. Similar sentiments suggest I may be carrying eggs. My point is, few even have the rattles of a rattlesnake and the two-headed cow was a conceptual mistake. I might slowly offer a hypothesis for the snowshoe I keep, but I'm so afraid of being transparent, pigeon-toed, or sickle-celled. I can't tell you anything unless I'm naked, using less full stops, caterpillars that become commas. Excuse me, I'm trying to say something thin enough to swallow. You see, this is air from the Air Museum and it might make you feel elated to bend a spoon and tell me you don't know what I mean.
Pecked Nightly I can't stop making snow angels or adding emphasis. Tuesday, I kept your eyelids down with nickels. You couldn't see my multiplicity unless I held a knife to your groin. You see, you are someone I nickname fish; you are a conjecture I eat raw. The burning shame is my undone dress. The wallpaper is always a distraction. There seems to be a kind of failure among the pines and I become unimportant. Like the presumption that I would give birth underwater and, by extension, become a handbook where third person sometimes occurs. It is kind of wonderful, how you emphasize vulgarity and mispronounce my name; especially with a pillowcase over your head.
(the need to share things with others: I know you are working with a collective moment) impossible now . the small bruise on Matt's arm . and please pay attention . i am happy, such beginnings, i am happy . this is how my head behaves: a reddish, purplish . Matt in the bathtub cannot rhyme . a little girl says if I am not careful there won't be anymore birthday parties . i grew up contained in little girl. it hurt to see the same stare . my father's eyes are the kind of blue you need time to become familiar with . it's a hieroglyphic about men with artillery . grandpa had a gun we never knew about until he died . surprising, like having a foot mailed to you . Matt reminds me about something about the war . I say, I think we are cotton . trying to return to something Matt said earlier . we are out of cotton balls again . I can't give up my New York state licensee . Matt's moving down the street and I might walk in front of a bus . I might knit a scarf to hold myself together . there are whole days I think backwards .
Dry Skeletons in the Book I take up the theme of equilibrium: I tie a bell inside the shell and am, consequently, mooned over by Mollies. A bird falls our of the book and takes the beak of a trout. Both of us eat the trout for dinner and hope to birth clear reference to May or June. There is no need to explain this in detail, but I walked a considerable distance to put my hand around your waist. The everyday world is decorated with silver bands, feather plumes, bells, and suchlike. I should pause here as a result of over-breathing. I made a pact with the bees in the box: if you push me, I'll push back. This book is a little fragile. I've seen it write drafts of a suicide note. I've seen it swing from hooks.
Another Paper Moment The earth folded and folded in a bloom of algae. I finally remembered that Billy Ocean song “Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and the dream I was trying to tell you yesterday: There was a woman with a yellow umbrella, a man with none and nobody. A few men in balloons kept memories of our surprise in the shape of a lightbulb where before there was whale oil, some time to catch wind—relatively. An umbrella with a red stripe was put in procession so that everything was ungathered in our hesitations, which took the shape of questions;
like a whistle distorted into a scream.
Keeping my Hands Over my Mouth I may walk on my toes, have episodes of intense staring, but I am not your flashlight. Not even the bed for your vestibular system. There is a burst of output from my brain, a new kind of selfhood: the deautomitized, drunken, or even ecstatic self, and this self is put on a trampoline so that perception is humiliated, begins ripping wallpaper off walls. My eye is a like a dialect for this second body, which eats many apples and cannot be paired with any heart but the heart of a toad kept captive under a teacup.
Then, A Hen is Killed My origin is lost in my intestine. I possess small, poorly functioning ovaries. This points to the need to play with dolls and eat babies. Can these thoughts go on without a body? I need to see you again in skull capacity. I need a thought experiment to explain why I couldn't live with you, why I couldn't stand the thought of you drinking juice from the juice carton. Do I need a manifesto to explain my frantic push? The frayed threads of my dress should be enough. Also, each sentence is an eventâ€”
Cut Open the Wrist The bluejay is simply injected into the space that materializes between veins, the space where a boy's narrative thinking tethers me to an oak. This is not surprising, the wedding becomes the very reason I hallucinate. After consuming the stimulus, my brain is left in noiseless, silicon persistence as a tangled loop, as a limit to the opening between two times. There is no reason to wake up today. At four in the morning, a phone call,
why aren't you asleep? And I dovetail something to resemble a story about the time all the windows were opened and someone fell backwards because someone else loved them and couldn't help but think about pushing them.
(I went rational at the bird cliff) When I put my foot in your hysterical appendix, said “I am,” the incompleteness was intentional: The bruise is the same size as a doorknob; the body opens. More explicitly, the body surprises me and utters a syllable. Someone said “maybe” and people jumped from the body, but nobody screamed. Listen I can't keep my hands off your vowels: Bells are kept in the left corner of the window, but we never know where our house keys are. Under the mouth there's some story about an eager fool cutting his own wind chords. I'm not surprised to hear another myth where someone like you becomes a horse. The cow sniffs her calf at birth. I kissed you at the navel. I don't know any myths where someone sneezes into someone else's mouth and that person is twice born. All the people jumped from the building, not the body. Traditionally speaking, men are not killed, but sacrificed. I removed the lungs and blew into them. Everywhere there were holes in the body: All the people who jumped had holes in their hands.
New Accounts of Selfhood When I find you, you are me. Again, a ditty between us: the lime I squeezed, the song I woke up with that song in my head, that one about Vermont. And I wasn't aware of your mouth when I closed the window. You asked how it feels when wind blows in my skirt. I wrote in my diaryâ€” so much to be afraid of: my letter writing friend is dead. So what do we sing? The doorbell, doorknock, I need you now.
Epilogue when the child asks about the beginning and the end, you turn a new tale: show how your hands clasps and unclasps, how a hand can close within a hand. then hold still until you both turn into fish.
Kristen Orser is making a sound, but forgetting to open her mouth. She is the author of E AT I (Wyrd Tree Press), Fall Awake (Taiga Press), Winter, Another Wall (blossombones), and Squint (Dancing Girl Press). She is not the author of anything written by Proust or Virginia Woolf, but wishes she was. You can put a finger on her in Chicago.