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[ Cell ]

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Foreword

Arne De Boever

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Lianna Kissinger-Virizlay

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Jessica Felleman

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Ingrid Lee

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Heatherlie Allison

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Threnody

Patricia Cram

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HEAD VI

Patrick Benjamin

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Broodnest

What is Deserved

Queer Language

Of Silence and Kindling

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Who Comes After the Human?

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Foreword

California Institute of the Arts School of Critical Studies presents [ Cell ], a collection of written works from selected participants of the Fall 2011 Body Cluster project. This publication seeks to investigate the premise of the body/mind as a highly faceted organism, one whose fate it is to navigate the corridors of its own inevitable trappings: [language]. Curated by CalArts faculty, Arne De Boever, Maggie Nelson, Claire Phillips, Matias Viegener, and Gail Swanlund, the Body Cluster project examined the languages of embodiment and subjectivity, and ways in which these languages are constructed, suppressed, and expressed. Topics included translation, master/slave dialectics, incarceration, torture, sex, birth, death, and the transcendence of such bodily states. [ Cell ] was brought to fruition by the editing efforts of Heatherlie Allison, Jessica Felleman, and Danae Moore, who also served as designer and illustrator of the book, and by the generous support of Claire Phillips and Gail Swanlund.

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Who Comes After the Human?

Arne De Boever

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The history of thought—philosophical, scientific, religious, political, and so on—is full of enigmatic stories that aim to explain the world (including, amongst other things, natural phenomena, human existence, community). One of those stories is the German philosopher G.W.F Hegel’s “master/slave dialectic,” which refers to a short section titled “Lordship and Bondage” in Hegel’s dense book The Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel’s story explains how each of us attains what he calls “self-consciousness:” consciousness of the fact that we exist, as selves. His answer is revealed in the opening lines of the story: self-consciousness exists, he explains, “in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or ‘recognized.’” The rest of the story continues Hegel’s explanation of how this dynamic social process of mutual recognition operates (answer: dialectically, through a historical game of oppositions, where one confronts another, and the tension of this confrontation is overcome— i.e. partly resolved—into a new tense confrontation—and so on; that is how history moves forward, from one partly resolved conflict to another). It probably won’t surprise you, given this conflictual logic, that the process of coming-to-self-consciousness is not exactly pretty: Hegel characterizes it as a life-anddeath struggle between a master and a slave, in which the slave gradually rises to the top as the victorious figure. It’s thus the consciousness of the bondsman, Hegel writes, that is “the truth of independent

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consciousness” because in confronting “the fear of death, the sovereign master,” “[i]t has been … melted to its inmost soul, has trembled throughout its every fibre, and all that was fixed and steadfast has quaked within it.” This poetry, which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are possibly echoing when they describe the effects of the bourgeois revolution in The Communist Manifesto— “[a]ll that is solid melts into air”—always reminds me of Pixar’s Wall-E, shaken to his very core (rattling every single one of his nuts and bolts), when he meets the beautiful but destructive Eve, with whom he falls in love at first sight. In his story, Hegel focuses mostly on “work” as a site where the master/slave dialectic is played out—and Wall-E, a machine designed to clean up the mess that humans left on earth, can certainly be understood in this context, as a figure of labor. But love should also be considered a site where we struggle for acknowledgment and recognition, and where self-consciousness is born, through our difficult relation to another. The fact that Hegel focuses on work in this otherwise highly abstract story reveals something that Susan Buck-Morss has backed up with evidence, namely that Hegel likely found the inspiration for his story about the lord and the bondsman in the Haitian Revolution. Famous because it was the only one of the 18th century revolutions in which the slaves themselves revolted (under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture) to abolish slavery (something that neither the French nor the American

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Revolutions accomplished, in spite of their emancipatory ideals), the Haitian Revolution was the single most accomplished example of Enlightenment politics. No wonder Hegel was inspired by it! In Buck-Morss’ article, titled “Hegel and Haiti,” the fact that so many scholars have ignored this influence becomes emblematic of a larger contradiction that characterizes the Enlightenment, namely that although “slavery had become the root metaphor of Western political philosophy, connoting everything that was evil about power relations … this metaphor began to take root at precisely the time that the economic practice of slavery—the systematic, highly sophisticated capitalist enslavement of non-Europeans as a labor force in the colonies—was increasing quantitatively and intensifying qualitatively to the point that by the mid-eighteenth century it came to underwrite the entire economic system of the West, paradoxically facilitating the global spread of the very Enlightenment ideals that were in such fundamental contradiction to it.” Somehow, the philosophers—and many art historians as well—were able to ignore this contradiction, and the abstract language of Hegel’s story risks to have the same effect. Buck-Morss helpfully recovers these facts, inviting us to see the history of philosophy after Hegel (the many re-writings of the master/slave dialectic that post-Hegelian thought has offered) as an unacknowledged engagement with the Haitian Revolution and its political stakes. From Emmanuel Levinas’ philosophy of ethics to Judith Butler’s work on gender, philosophy has been rewriting the story of the Haitian Revolution. Buck-Morss’ article makes it impossible to keep one’s eye only on Europe or the United States—or worse even, only on “theory”—when reading these authors. Such a view instead becomes radically de-centered, forced to take into account Haiti and the

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history of its revolution, forced to think other figures of ethics and politics such as animals, women, and machines through their historical alliance with the agents of the Haitian Revolution. What about this alliance—this cluster—between raced, animalized/humanized, sexed/gendered, and natural/technological bodies today?

The fact that Buck-Morss pays a lot of attention in her article to art history demonstrates that the question is also aesthetic, a question that is situated at the heart of what philosopher Jacques Rancière calls “the distribution of the sensible.” The struggle for visibility, or the ethical and political tension between the visible and the invisible (who is visible or invisible? who counts and who doesn’t?), is indeed an aesthetic struggle, if the aesthetic is partly defined as the realm where the difference between the visible and the invisible is being decided. It is no coincidence, then, that the question of the animal, for example, has been absolutely central to contemporary art. Some projects may strike us as more interesting than others: my students tend to love Jordan Baseman’s “Be Your Dog,” a work from 1997 which is, in Steve Baker’s summary, “essentially a headdress made from a scalped pair of Alsatian’s ears” (in his work, Baseman often uses “the skins of domestic animals discovered as roadkill outside his studio in east London”).1 Why do gallery visitors feel the need “to [align]

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themselves with the piece, their backs to the wall, in order to have themselves photographed appearing to ‘wear’ the ears?” Baker suggests it has something to do with a “becoming animal” that he associates in the opening lines of his article with the work of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze. But the specificity of Baseman’s piece should not be ignored: the animal, in this particular instance, is decidedly dead, the victim of roadkill, of its life-and-death struggle with the machines of the contemporary world. If we humans align ourselves with these particular animals, we should begin to reflect as well on our own hypertechnologized existence, and the roadkill to which it might lead. And we shouldn’t only be thinking in this context about our relation to heavy machinery such as cars— surely, our relation to light machinery, or high tech, is equally or perhaps even more worthy of reflection. Such “high” technologies operate not solely on the body, but also on the mind. Their effects are not only physical but also psychic—not only biopolitical but also psycho-political (from the Greek word “psyche,” often translated as “soul”) or noo-political (from the Greek word “nous,” “mind”). (They operate, to recall Hegel’s term that brings all of these other terms together, on the “spirit,”on “Geist”—they are in this sense what we could call “spiritual technologies”). Of course, even heavy machinery such as cars has a noo-political effect. Indeed, Adam Smith already noted in his classic treatise The Wealth of Nations

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My students appreciate this work

partly in contrast to other projects

that try—impossibly, to their

minds—to turn the animal into an

“equal partner” in the artistic

endeavor, for example by painting

a canvas with an animal. Why subject

the animal to such human standards

of expression? How could this ever

be an art of equality? 13

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how pernicious the effects of factory work can be on the minds of the workers. But if both Smith and Marx in their discussions of labor and (in Marx’ case) labor-power were mostly focused on the body, we need to update that language into the contemporary high-tech era and foreground the mind in our investigations. Labor, today, is no longer predominantly material; philosophers have written about immaterial labor, affective labor, and cognitive capitalism. We are no longer simply laboring with our bodies but also with our minds. This means that proletarianization happens not only at the level of the body but also at the level of the mind. Such a vision leads to some interesting consequences, for example, the fact that at the level of the mind the worker can be just as proletarianized as the capitalist. In this sense, Patrick Bateman, the main character in Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho, is a figure of proletarianization. Indeed, how else to characterize bankers like Ben Bernanke or Alan Greenspan, who readily admit that they themselves no longer understand how the system works? If the mind used to still provide a recourse from the proletarianization of the body—my body may be caught up in the capitalist system, but at least in my mind, I remain free!—today, such recourse no longer exists. Even in our leisure time, when we surf the internet, we are part of a crowd whose “free movement” is being sourced by capitalist agents.

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The territories outside of labor have been shrinking and it appears that today, with the rise of high tech, there are barely any such spaces left. * Such an aesthetic situation calls for a different kind of politics, one that would participate in a redistribution of the sensible. Art is particularly attuned to do so, but there remains the question of its political effect; whereas politics, on the other hand, may be effective in ways that art is not, there remains the question of its attunement to the aesthetic. My own take on this is that art and politics should continue doing what they do best. But we could likely benefit from their mutual acknowledgement and recognition, from placing them in a kind of master/slave relation where both of them become emancipated through their conflictual relation with each other.

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The issue is partly therapeutic, given the psycho-pathologies that characterize our time: not only the already mentioned psychosis (the destruction of desire), but also more banal afflictions such as attention deficit disorder. What kind of politics, and what kind of aesthetics, are needed to confront these conditions? How can we begin to take care of ourselves in a hypertechnologized, hyperconsumerist world that produces these kinds of afflictions? Michel Foucault’s late work on “the care of the self” developed precisely out of an obsession with biopolitics—with a politics that operates on the biological life of the people understood as population. How to reorient this work today, in the era of psycho- and noo-politics? What new therapeutic practices of attention may be required? Can art and arts education—aesthetic education— play a role in our answer to this question? I am inclined to say yes, but not without insisting that to answer in the affirmative will also mean to transform our idea of education. It is important to note that in the work of both Rancière and of the philosopher Bernard Stiegler (who has dealt with the issues I raised above in detail in his many books), education is a central concern: as a model of emancipation, in Rancière’s work, and as a site where new spiritual technologies are created, with Stiegler. Art schools have traditionally welcomed educational experiments, and my feeling is that today they should once again

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be the vanguard for this kind of reflection. While public education is under pressure, and the relation between economy and education is scrutinized world-wide, it is of the utmost importance to promote sites where the educational model itself is reinvented, so as to stay true to its motto of emancipation, in other words: to criticality, at a transgressive distance from the various forces that produce us. Isn’t this what Foucault theorizes as well in his short essay on the Enlightenment, when he asks, among other things, how “the growth of capabilities [can] be disconnected from the intensification of power relations?” Isn’t that what he is interested in when he insists, earlier in the same essay, on “the possibility of no longer being, doing, or thinking what we are, do, or think?” He still characterizes this as work—but the work of freedom, “the patient labor giving form to our impatience for liberty.” With the language of territories—and specifically of existential territories—that was introduced above, we are also entering into questions of ecology and ecological politics or political ecology (in contrast to political economy). Thinking about the alliance into which raced, animalized/humanized, sexed/gendered, and natural/technological bodies enter, it would be disingenuous not to think this alliance itself, the world or environment it creates—indeed, all of these bodies are part of an eco-system, subject to an eco-logy, and part of what we are investigating when we consider the system’s distribution of the sensible—its logos—is its aesthetics and politics. For all of these bodies are not just interconnected as figures of

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oppression—as slaves whom, in Hegel’s narrative, ultimately rise to the victorious position. Their interconnectedness is itself a figure of oppression, a slave that, in the master discourse of our time, is yet to be thought. Discourses of globalization, which developed in tandem with the development of the World Wide Web and the network society, have of course been instrumental in bringing a consciousness of interconnectedness about. But we are once again at an aesthetic and political crossroads when it comes to the depths of its effects. Walter Benjamin’s warning, spelled out at the end of his essay on “The Work of Art in the Era of Mechanical Reproducibility,” about fascism’s aestheticization of politics, remains one of the most important warnings of our time. Again, we need to update Benjamin’s work into the high-tech era: where will the consciousness of interconnectedness produced by the Internet lead? It could remain an experiential thing that affects us merely at the surface, in which case we would experience our lives as interconnected without necessarily drawing further consequences from this situation. Things would take a different turn were we to consider what interconnectedness means, for example for the planet: for causal chains such as the ones evoked by critics of globalization, who ask about the relations between flushing a toilet in the United States and the death of a child in China. They would take a different turn were we to consider—and luckily, several of us are doing so—what interconnectedness means in terms of political organizing: Manuel Castell’s book Communication Power provides a few illuminating case-studies demonstrating the political power of interconnectedness. And the acceptance of, and struggle against, global warming—with the planet as the Über-slave of our time—could be informed as well by a consciousness of interconnectedness that is not merely aesthetic, but also ethical and political. It is a contemporary version of utopian thought: what would be the optimal way for all of us—humans, animals, machines, the planet—to live together under the conditions of contemporary capitalism in which we appear to have landed?

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Some reading suggestions: G.W.F. Hegel.  Phenomenology of Mind, “Lordship and Bondage.” New York: Harper and Row, 1967. 229-240.

The project will inevitably have something of the dystopian to it. We will inevitably define our position, as Frédéric Neyrat urges us to, from the perspective of the catastrophist who, in the spirit of a peculiar kind of optimism, always imagines that things could get worse—and therefore acts differently in the present, after having passed through the “worse” that s/he projects into the future. It is these practices of speculation—which could not be more different from the practices of economic speculation that lead to the collapse of the market—, these peculiar instances of optimism that have passed through catastrophe and are made all the wiser by it, that we are in need of today and that the dense network of alliances—the “mesh” (Timothy Morton) that can be called life—demands. For the future not only of bodies, but also of body clusters.

Emmanuel Levinas,  Totality and Infinity, “Ethics and the Face.” Pittsburgh: Dusquesne UP, 1969. 197-201. Judith Butler.  Precarious Life, “Precarious Life.” New York: Verso, 2004. 131-135. Cary Wolfe,  What is Posthumanism?, “From Dead Meat to Glow-In-The-Dark Bunnies,” Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2010. 146-158. Steve Barker.  “Sloughing the Human,” in Cary Wolfe, ed.  Zoontologies, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2003. 146-164. Gilles Deleuze.  Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, “Body, Meat, and Spirit: Becoming-Animal,” Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2002. 19-24. Michel Foucault.  The History of Sexuality. Vol. I: An Introduction, “The Right of Death and Power over Life.” Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1990. 135-159. Michel Foucault.  The Care of the Self. The History of Sexuality, Volume 3, “Part Two: The Cultivation of the Self.” Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1988. 37-68. Félix Guattari.  The Three Ecologies, “The Three Ecologies.” Trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton. New York: Continuum, 2008. 19-45. Timothy Morton.  The Ecological Thought, “Thinking Big.” Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2010. 20-58. Jacques Rancière.  The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, “An Intellectual Adventure.” Trans. Kirsten Ross. 1-18.

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Broodnest

Lianna Kissinger-Virizlay

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“Sure you don’t want this for your tea?” Cecelia asked. “Nah, we all get enough from the bees without even trying,” said Julie. “You have it. Plus, you know I take my tea unsweetened.” Julie leaned in and pinched Cecelia’s small nipple lightly over her white cotton oxford, just briefly enough so that no one else in the caf—busily eating before heading back to whatever task was at hand—noticed. “Well, you know,” said Cecelia, placating Julie’s hand with her own. “I take my life sweetened.” Cecelia stuck the end of the packet into her mouth, letting the last, sweet drops of honey melt on her tongue. She lingered for just a moment with her eyes closed to the harsh underground tube lighting before pulling the packet out of her mouth, pulling her hand out of Julie’s, and swinging her legs out from under the table. “See you later, sugar.” That’s when it happened. The initial shock of it swept her feet sideways and her chin landed with a crack on the metal table, like a sledgehammer to the brain. ***

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When Cecelia woke, it was in a room she’d never seen before. It was an oblong cell, like an egg, and she seemed to be suspended in the middle of it. When her weight returned—along with a killer pain at her temples—she recognized she was lying on one of the standard issue beds of Broodnest. “Orientation,” Cecelia said to the cell. If this room were anything like the rest of Broodnest, sensors in the ducting would register the keyword and triangulate her location using landmarks she knew. She would then be given cardinal directions to these points through an implant just below her right earlobe. She hadn’t used the sensor for navigation since her first few years. Once the infants she helped care for turned toddler, they led her around the complex with such authority and accuracy she could hardly believe it. Amazingly, the orphans brought to Broodnest never needed the sensor—theirs was an innate navigation, as well as an innate sense of duty. From age two to three, depending, they could recognize a need and fill it, whether it be ejecting waste, recognizing danger (as in the case of Hive 252’s chamber being left open, which a two and two month old Tara immediately made to close), or rationing food. The call to eat was always most accurate coming from a Broodnest orphan. No response from the implant. Instead— “You are in E-36 of the insemination ward,” came a soft voice. Female, of course, as there were no men in Broodnest. The words pulsed from…the walls—where? There were no speakers, no intercom, and they were, Cecelia now saw, plastered in Propo-. Propo-, that sticky sweet glue harvested by the beekeepers and enhanced by the scientists to prevent against intrusion and infection by foreign agents. She had scrubbed every inch of the myriad hallways and ducts of Broodnest that helped insulate and ventilate its occupants, and then gone over every inch again with Propo-. She had done this every year, twice a year since her arrival twenty-seven years prior, and so had everyone else since they arrived, because signing up meant cleaning up. It was while doing this that she and Julie first spoke, four years before. And it was her dexterity at smoothing out the thick paste that gave Cecelia her first exposure to the experimental ward. She was invited to enter on strict terms of confidentiality to help the scientists with the application of Propo- to embalm the few older workers who had passed on since joining. Death was not to be unexpected—the dozen or so women she had embalmed had been older—but for obvious reasons the deaths were kept quiet. Theirs was the business of life-preservation. Unfortunately, 20

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there was no means to discard waste materials as large as a human body from within the complex, and burning was out of the question. The disintegration channels—which used highly pressurized air to break up and expel smaller waste products—would explode if ever exposed to flame. Condensing the bodies into small enough pieces to fit through these channels seemed disrespectful of the dead so it was decided they should be preserved. Cecelia hadn’t known any of the women. They must have been beekeepers, the only workers released from the common duties assigned to all others. Beekeepers were so secluded, that Cecelia did not know their names, nor their faces to any degree of detail. She did not even know where they slept, or if they slept at all. Did they clean their own cells and eat their own honey, direct from the hive? What Cecelia could tell no one was that their corpses were all stuck side-by-side against the walls of an enormous storage closet in the experimental ward, mummified in Propo-. To be buried properly at the end of Broodnest’s experiments, the scientists explained. When anyone who knew of their existence will be long gone themselves, thought Cecelia, but kept quiet and nodded her approval. Coming into herself, Cecelia tried to get up. Lifting her head in spite of extraordinary pain, she found that not just the walls of this alien cell, but she herself had been encased in Propo- and lay heavy and immobilized on the bed. She screamed— “Please don’t be afraid,” ebbed the wall. Cecelia, though aware of the futility in struggling against Propo-, struggled nonetheless, hearing only a few words the voice said over her screams. “You will not—” “…explosion…” “Bury—” “…conflict…” “Me—” “…surface…” “Alive—” “…unsafe…” “You—” “…habitation…” “Bitch—” 21

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Exhausted, Cecelia relented to the Propo-’s embrace and processed what words she had heard. “What?” “You are safe, as is the rest of Broodnest,” reassured the voice, “though you did scare us, falling like that. I’m glad you’re awake. How is your head?” “It’s fine,” she said, though she could split in two from the pain. “What did you say about an explosion?” “I’m sure you could use some relief before I repeat myself. Please don’t be frightened; you’re being fed intravenously, and you’ll feel the warmth of the jelly in a moment.” True to the word, Cecelia felt a soothing warmth begin to come over her, originating in her lower back. It spread quickly down her legs and up to her chest, arms, and head. Her eyes relaxed, temples soothed. She felt almost sleepy, but for an awareness that there was something beside the headache bothering her. What came before the headache, Cecelia? “The explosion,” she remembered. “Yes,” came the wall. “There was an explosion due to a conflict on the surface, which is now unfit for habitation. Everyone in Broodnest is safe, however, including you.” “Julie?” asked Cecelia. “She is safe,” said the wall, after a pause. “So it happened.” “Yes.” Cecelia, without missing a beat, silently said goodbye to those she had left on Earth’s surface when she descended into the complex twenty-seven years prior. Her mother, father, two older brothers—they were the only ones she could now remember to miss. Soon they too would fade. The warmth had spread to her eyelids and was convincing them to shut. “Which ward did you say I’m in?” she said, closing her eyes. “I’m unfamiliar with it.” “That is because this ward is reserved for only a few workers, of which you are one, Cecelia.” “One what?” she asked, barely audible and barely listening. She was euphoric, drunk on the properties of the rarely tasted royal jelly. The only taste she and anyone else she knew had ever had was a drop from the bottles the infants are given upon arriving in Broodnest. 22

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“You have been with us from the first year of this project, Cecelia. The explosion led to a panic in Broodnest, especially among the younger recruits, who are concerned about the longevity of this program now that what we all knew would happen has occurred. With the discontinuation of procreative life on Earth…” Cecelia dreamed / little Tara leading her by the hand through the complex. Her hands are sticky and it feels for some moments that she and Cecelia are the same being, maneuvering the labyrinthine halls harmonically, passing others doing other things in single-minded pursuit of / “…lack of male workers.” / mommy. Tara points through the plexi doors to the hives, beekeepers busily cataloguing their movements, or whatever they do in there. Harvesting. Charting. Tracking. Adjusting. Never a moment of rest. It is only ever autumn or summer in the hives, to promote in the bees their natural inclination to keep foraging for winter. The chill in the air comes at harvest time and lasts for just a month. Then it’s back to heat. They are in the heat. No, Tara, you have no Mommy in there. We are all your Mommies. Which is true in a sense. Every worker takes part in the care of at least one orphan. They come once every year or so / “…help to promote a sense of well being among your fellow workers by demonstrating the efficacy of the technologies this facility has developed…” / she leads Tara away from the hives and hands her a small piece of beebread she has in her pocket. Thank the beekeepers for harvesting this sustenance for us to eat, she tells Tara. In a way, she supposes the beekeepers are mother to them all. “…your diet particularly well-suited…” / the child again leading her through the hive halls hall hives have honor horror hyper honey, around and through the curved edges, all the way around. All the way around. Around the back backside of the complex, the experimental ward. No peeking, Tara, no. I know mommy, she says. I know. Mommy. She points. Points to the experimental ward. Points through the Propo- protected doors right directly to the room where the women are buried. As if she knows, as if she knew— Cecelia’s eyes shot open. “…biological miracle of mid-life pregnancy.” 23

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Royal Jelly. Why would she be given royal jelly for a headache? “For such a loyal and committed worker, you will no doubt consider it an honor to be incorporated into these trials at the very moment they are most imperative to our survival. You will be inseminated in a few days—” “What?” Cecelia no longer felt the stupor of a jelly-induced dream, but felt sure she was delirious. “—in a few days with genetically superior sperm collected and frozen before the cap was placed on Broodnest.” “Me? Inseminated? I’m 45 years old!” Cecelia screamed, knowing full well the likelihood of miscarriage, complications, and death that could attend a pregnancy at her age. “Why not one of the younger workers?” “Don’t worry, Cecelia. You won’t be inseminated until we’re sure the jelly has succeeded in nourishing your remaining eggs and reproductive system so that they can carry a pregnancy to term. Additionally, the Propocasing, which you’ve noticed, will support and protect your changing body. The casing will be shed periodically to make room for the growing child, of course. And then, Cecelia, in nine months, you will be the site of Broodnest’s first post-nuclear native birth, the success of an experiment turned last recourse.” “I see,” said Cecelia. She thought of the corpses, of Tara, of the appearance of new daughters and the embalming of old women. She thought of her Propo- casket, closed already but for the lid not shut over her mouth. “And then I will die.” The wall did not respond. “I want to see Julie.” The wall did not respond. Cecelia thought for a moment. “You did not answer my question,” she said. She peered around her, straining her neck to see the wall from which the voice seemed to exude. Walls of Propo-, what she could see, and nothing else. The wall did not respond. “Why not one of the younger workers?” A shock of jelly stormed her stomach, body, brain, and she was out. *** 24

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When she woke, she screamed. For Julie, for Tara, for help. She screamed for hours it seemed. She screamed until her throat was paper-dry, until she could not even speak, until tears were the only things she could produce, and her body shook within its casing, which would not break with the force of her lungs. “You are doing a great service, Cecelia,” the wall said softly. The air caught in Cecelia’s throat. She whimpered. “I did not sign up to die.” “You signed up to sacrifice. To lend your body, youth, and energy to the pursuit of knowledge, for the security and future of your fellow citizens. You have been an exemplary recruit. Are you not now willing to sacrifice for this future not just in theory, but in actuality?” Tears streaked down Cecelia’s cheeks. Snot clogged her airways. She clenched her teeth and tried to breath deeply through them, wishing she could bring her hands to her face to wipe away the tears. “We all knew this day would come. You knew it when you left your family. You knew you would never see them again,” said the wall. “I want to see Julie again,” said Cecelia. “I want to see Julie.” Then, the jelly plunging her into a dream of Julie, Tara, and herself having dinner in the home she thought she’d forgotten above ground, before Broodnest. ***

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Cecelia began to keep her eyes closed long after the effects of the jelly had worn off in order to think. Often it was an exasperated sigh that gave her away, but sometimes it was a groan, a shout, a cry, though she had given up on the idea that someone would hear. Every moment in her cell was controlled by the Wall…or by the jelly. She’d already shed the Propo- twice, so by her calculations she’d probably been within it three or four months. She’d never seen a pregnant belly develop though, as the youngest of her siblings, so she couldn’t really know. Every time she shed she awoke to an incredible sensation of space that roused her before she could think, believing that she was free. That feeling was the only indication that anything had happened while sleeping; the walls remained the same. The Propo- retained the same golden gloss across her torso, only it was slightly higher. She breathed the rumbling, regular breaths of deep sleep and enjoyed the belief that she could move if she wanted, stretch—which she ached to do—if she wanted, all the while attempting to maintain a steady cycle of inhalation and exhalation. She didn’t want to ruin it. When the Wall had filled her with the jelly last night it was a great relief of the pressure on her belly. Before slipping under Cecelia knew she would be encased anew overnight—if it was night when she slept. She spent so much time between half-dreams and sleep that it was becoming more and more frequent for the only lucid moment she had to be before the Wall knew she was awake and could feed her more jelly; she didn’t know if this was on cycles of day and night, hour to hour, minute to minute. But come to think of it, how was Broodnest to know the difference at all between day and night? It had been twenty-seven years and three or four months since Cecelia had seen the sun or moon. 26

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Cecelia brought herself back to her body, her prison, her task. Every particle in her tingled with the illusion of freedom, but she wasn’t going to waste it. She slowly worked her right arm inwards so that her fingers brushed her thigh. She rested there before slipping them underneath her leg. Rest. Between her legs. Rest. It was a long, uncomfortable time of insignificant movements and prolonged breaks before she managed to connect her index finger with the tube inserted in her spine. “If you take it out, there will just be pain. No release,” said the Wall. “Better leave it.” Cecelia began to cry, her fingers wrapped around the tube, too afraid to pull it out. “Please,” she said softly, her shoulders gently striking the Proposhell with each sob. The jelly flowed. *** No more toes, twos, two and two, top tight trick. Belly smooth and golden, every morning waking to a sunrise. The thing inside her growing. Broodnest baby, baby baby baby. Each day coming out of herself. Tara, this is baby, this is my baby. Your mommy. Your mommy and me and our baby and you. Them, all of them. At the home she thought she’d forgotten; and mommy, and daddy. And Mommy. Gone gone home. ***

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Today was different. Today the weight was heavy in her feet instead of her back. Her eyes were heavy, her belly heavy. She blinked and a horrible shock ran through her, a bright light shooting to her retinas, so different from her cell’s warm golden glow. She cringed and shook her head. She moaned and wished again she could bring her arms to her face. Reflexively they twitched. They lifted, slowly and weakly, but unmistakably. Cecelia pulled them to her face and pressed her palms against her cheeks, pressed her fingers into her eyeballs cooling and warming and releasing the ache of nine months in captivity. “Ohhh,” she said. “Oh.” “I’m here, Cecelia,” said a voice, not the Wall. A voice familiar. From her dreams. Julie. Cecelia’s eyes opened to the light and, tears streaming, began to focus on Julie’s face, Julie’s face alight. Julie’s face found from frown followed swallow smile. “I’m here to help you, sweetheart,” Julie said. Julie. Said. “Julie,” said Cecelia. “I don’t want to die. I want to live.” She struggled to focus her eyes on her lover’s, so beautiful. “I want to live with you. Out of here. Let’s go out of here. However we go out of here.” She trailed off, frown followed swallow smile. “We’ll take the honey. I’ll… make us clothes from the Propo-.” Propo- proper. Promise problem calm, cry child. “We’ll have my daughter. Our daughter.” A tear tore down her cheek. “Our daughter, Julie.” Julie, tender touches take hands, hold them tightly to her breast. Eyes tired, eyes sad, eyes staring. Saying nothing. “Julie, let’s go.” Saying nothing. After a time, at a whisper, Julie said, “You will live with me.” Cecelia smiled. Her eyes closed, hands clutching Julie’s. Jelly coursed through her body, followed quickly by a barbiturate and paralytic cocktail. Julie watched Cecelia’s neck relax, her head pitch forward. She kissed her forehead, and brought her mouth to Cecelia’s ear. “And so will our daughter,” she said. 28

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She placed Cecelia’s arms by her side where they dangled dead next to her belly. All that remained of the Propo- at this stage of the experiment was that surrounding the belly to support it, the rest having been dissolved in the subject’s final sleeping hours. Julie took up the solution and began to rub, gently, at Cecelia’s stomach. “Before the child dies,” said the Wall. “Alright,” said Julie, as the cloth reached skin. She slipped her hands, coated in dissolvent, between shell and stomach, and steadily the hole in the Propo- widened until a large section of Cecelia’s swell showed. This Julie deftly sliced through with a blade; she peeled away layers of muscle and slit the uterus, from which she drew out the fifteenth baby girl born to Broodnest, who—shot through with jelly—slept peacefully. “Well done, Julie,” said the Wall. The door to the surgery opened, through which a beekeeper entered, proffering her arms. Julie gave her the child who was whisked, just as quickly as the others, to the hives for conditioning. Julie took the applicator from the vat of Propo- and closed Cecelia. She stuffed her tissues into the gaping empty womb and sealed it with a swipe. She filled the rest of the hole she had just made, and smoothed the new layer into the old. She re-cased Cecelia’s arms, her legs, her feet and toes. She stood and covered her breasts, her shoulders, and her neck. She smoothed a strand of hair from Cecelia’s face, first with her hands and then with Propo-. The rest of her features followed. When finished, Julie surveyed her work. A golden chassis. Julie suctioned the blood from the floor, washed and returned the implements to their places, then turned to the Wall. “She’s ready,” she said.

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What is Deserved

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The dizzying bits of light filtered by the thick forest canopy first and the rough fabric of the sac over his head second, deeply upset Niran’s stomach. Distracted, he stumbles over a root and trips. The world expands wildly as he falls, unable to catch himself, or even see where he is aimed. Something hard impacts his stomach, knocking the breath from his lungs. He struggles to gasp in, then again struggles to keep from losing his lunch. Hands grab him up, shaking him to walk again, accompanied by the angry voices of his guards. He tries not to pick them out, the individual voices, but it is hard not to recognize the voices he has spent his entire life with. Niran stiffens his back and forces the images of their faces from his mind – the butcher, his elderly neighbor’s son – he had never known them, they were not from the same small village in the mountains – he can convince himself of this – make them strangers. Then, he would not beg of them, he would not fight them. Maybe they would change their minds. Maybe they would leave him hints, food, water. Maybe he would be forgiven. There is a halt. He is forced to sit, and takes the rest gratefully. One hand remains on his shoulder to let him know he is not to move, the others release and wander off with the feet connected to them. There is a disagreement about which way to go, where exactly to leave him. “I don’t want to go in too far. Why not just leave him here?” “Are you afraid of the old myths? What a –” “No, of course not. But, it’s getting late, and –” “We haven’t taken him far enough. He must not be able to get back to the village – it’s part of his sentence. We should go on.” “Why do we still do this? This punishment seems –”

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“It is what we’ve always done, before the new days came. And now, we do it to remind the children –” “There is no return from such a crime.” “Quieter. His ears are still attached under there.” Their voices drop off, but Niran has not picked up anything that could help him. So still, he is lost, and lost forever. How appropriate. At the inquisitive age of five Niran sits at the feet of his mother as she washes rice. She hums an old tune, and flicks her son with water on the chorus notes. “Maè?” “Yes, Niran.” “Tell me again the story of my name.” “The story of your name, Niran, is a story of forever, and forever is something we don’t speak of here, so there ends the story.” Little Niran with his dark hair shaking and dark eyes laughing rolls back onto the ground. His mother reaches the chorus – water rains down on him.

Someone pushes something into his hands and

tells him to drink. The sac is loosened from his neck but pulled tight across his eyes so he will not be able to see as he tilts back his head. The water is warm and tastes of the metal container, but still he almost weeps with the relief it brings his tongue. “Enough. Take it back. Tie that on again and get him up. We’re moving.” The voice, unmistakable as that of his mother’s long-time friend and neighbor, is wary. Niran wonders, then hopes – if they are running out of daylight, they will not be able to leave him far enough away from home. Time passes in flashes of sound and moving ground beneath his feet. The pace is almost peaceful. His guards interrupt this feeling by reaching out and touching him softly. They stop

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in silence. The hands press down on him as a group, like an embrace, and he remembers the last hug his mother gave him only this morning as she wept goodbye. The canteen is dropped at his feet. All the hands but one release him. The last hand rests upon his head, its weight more than even a midday hurricane. It taps him three times on the top of his head and Niran’s chest strains with horror. The man withdraws from somewhere to Niran’s right. Niran listens to the sound of those feet retreating through the wind. Something in him cracks with pain. The panic and sadness spill from his stomach, flooding his mouth with pleas. “Wait. Please. Don’t go, don’t leave me.” Silence, the snap of twigs, a bird. “Please. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean – I didn’t want – I wish – … I’m sorry, please?” Silence. Niran unties the rope keeping the sac around his head with shaking fingers. The afternoon light of the jungle assaults his eyes. He blinks and blinks, to clear the air, not to stem any tears. There will be no tears – he is afraid of them, now that he is alone. He turns to review the place he has been left and discovers why there had been no call to stop. Behind him, swinging from a low branch is the body of another young man, someone maybe he once knew – but had forgotten. Flesh slipped off in places, mouth open, full of flies, and screaming at him all the curses for a second time. Niran chokes, turns, and runs. He should have remembered better. Twigs drag like nails across his face, and the mosquitoes stream after him. He runs over browns and greens, not looking anywhere but at the place where his feet meet the ground. Ignoring what the dead boy is saying as it rings in his mind, ignoring the calls to loop the rope about his neck and climb a tree and join him.

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When he stops, it is only because he is tired and gasping for water. But the canteen is not with him – only the sac and the rope remain clutched in his hands. He looks at both, weighing them, and then throws the rope as far from himself as he can. He turns, about to make his way back to where he had been left, but stops and decides to retrieve the rope. He stuffs it inside the sac and tucks the sac into the back of his pants before heading off. He does not get far. He tries a few directions but none of them take him back to the small clearing. Niran sighs as the sky cracks with the first of the afternoon rainfall. Back at home his mother will be sitting down in her chair just outside the door, to eat while watching the village at her favorite time of day. The smaller kids, still barefoot like the old people, will splash in puddles running down the streets. His friends will huddle in the back of the market by the TV and the arcade, ignoring the rest of their small transitional world, talking about the different ways they will eventually leave – college, work abroad. They will have forgotten him already, and it is better that way. He straightens his back and looks around for shelter. Before getting wet, he finds a good tree with large roots and wedges himself into the dry covered space. With another crack the sky splits and drops the storm down upon the trees. Niran wads the sac up and rests his head against it, falling asleep to the tapping of raindrops on thick leaves. Running away, the offender runs away. Niran can see his dirty back retreating. He follows. Filth filth how dare you, how dare you run from me – from me! Niran chases the fleeing figure. As the figure runs he shrinks and drops into the body of a rabbit. Niran as a tiger lunges for the small creature. The rabbit turns and the tiger roars in fear. The rabbit’s face is that of a young boy. A young boy he may know. Loping away the tiger goes. A gunshot follows.

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The call for thirst wakes him when the storm is long over. Very little light remains and Niran worries he will not be able to find a good place to sleep for the night before it comes. He climbs out and stretches. His belly yawns with the expectation of food, he shushes it. The food is here the food is hungry. “But Maè, are you not listening! Did you hear what A small puddle of surprisingly clear water I said? Did you hear what I heard him say?” has pooled just outside of his hiding space. It “It is nothing, Niran.” is still cool to the touch, so Niran kneels to cup “It is everything. I will not let him get away with both hands around the liquid and pour it into this.” his desperate mouth, his body expanding out “He already has, my son. Please forget it. Come, sit towards the molecules of liquid as they descend and watch the stars rise with me.” into him. Though a bit gritty, he fills his belly Niran leaves the house, kicking his sneakered feet with the water, and hopes the ache for a meal In! In! I am in, I am here, through puddles and dirt, anger rising in him to blind I love here I love the food! out all else. He does not see the older boy walking towards him and their shoulders collide. will go away. He looks up at his tree and finds “Move!” it not too hard to climb. He hoists himself “Niran?” upward, looking for a place to spend the night – “Leave me alone.” He shoves the friend away. sleeping on the ground not being a good idea “What is wrong?” what with animals on the forest floor. He does not want to get in the way of a troop of monkeys Regret floods Niran’s mind. It spreads downor a stray tiger. A few branches up he stops, he finds a neatly ward like mucus, crowding in his nose, his throat, his lungs. He sobs, coughs, aches for formed, wide, flat space leading to the trunk. something to eat, but does nothing other than He refolds the sac and puts it beneath his head, lie back and close his eyes to the darkness. lying back and looking through the rest of the Through the stuttering of the leaves in the tree at the darkening sky. Stars filter in and he wind the last birds go to sleep and Niran listens greets them with memories. to the mosquitoes while swatting at them. “Blood thieves go away.” An eighteen-year-old Niran stands vibrating with rage Blood blood is mine not in front of his mother. She looks up at the pearly sky yours. The bugs will leave us, from her chair in the doorway. yes they will. They do not “Hush Niran, the stars are waking up and you will like the taste of me. scare them away with your anger.”

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He crushes one, finds it thick with blood, and is surprised by the rusty smell. “Must be dehydrated.” Get more water. “No, I’ll wait until morning.” Niran shrugs off the waking world and quickly falls into dead sleep, like those in mourning will. The boy’s open mouth is pouring out words. Hateful words, hate words, hate hate hate. They fall on top of Niran like a gushing bathtub spout. He can’t stop the flow. Lift your hands and descend. He can’t sit up, he can’t move. His muscles ache with fire when the words touch him. Lift your arms and descend. His right arm raises and he recognizes the weapon at the end. His fingers grasp cool metal, but this time they do not shake. Lift your arms. The words spilling like teeth from the mouth change, they turn to pleadings, beggings, many just say TEARS. Descend. Niran thinks that if he could turn his body he would walk back to his friend’s house and return the gun to his friend’s father’s drawer, but he can’t turn, he can’t. He is so angry. Lift your arms and descend! He fires. The bullet spins away from him and enters the boy’s forehead with a wet slap.

“Did I climb down while sleeping? How strange. I’m surprised I didn’t break –” He laughs. “Look at me, talking to myself after only one night alone. I will go crazy before I die of hunger or thirst.” Humor will make him feel better. Better if we walked back home. “I can’t walk back home, I’ve lost the way.” We can remember. We can follow the scent of food. We can trace the origin of HUMAN. “There is no food, not here, but you. ” “Who is that?” We are it. You and me and us. Home home home! “Some humanfruit would be delicious.” “Stop that!” Niran curves into his hole and grabs his head. Panic rises with the questions – where, how? He quiets his thoughts, and can sense something there. An invasion in his mind of, of, of – Of me friend. ME. Say union not invasion, don’t spit us out. He gags but there is no saliva and the small pool of water he drank from before is now empty. He kneels down to the damp leaves and shuffles his fingers through them.

Niran wakes with a jolt. He is on the ground, but does not feel like he has fallen there. He is nestled again into the space beneath the roots, tucked into where it is driest. His hands and upper arms feel sore. The face of the murdered boy, the boy he murdered, lingers behind his eyes. He would shake it away if the act wouldn’t cause him more shame.

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Niran begins an odd dance with his body. He is moved forward several loping steps then Oh don’t look there. Nothing turns aggressively and sprints away. His left to see. Scrap. Remnants. foot turns in, tripping himself, and his arms Leftovers. DONE! bend and stretch as he crawls in the direction A greener leaf catches his eye and he picks it designated as towards home. He leaps with treup. The reaching motion is difficult and makes mendous difficulty to his feet and runs further his arm burn, like his body doesn’t want to grasp away. The passing trees begin to shake with the object. Towards the center of the leaf there is laughter, they taunt him as he panics. He goes the front half of a shriveled ant with its mouth still and they stop. He thinks of water and tries locked firmly about the vein. From the top of its to breathe the fire out of his limbs. He wishes head a brown speckled stick about half an inch he still had the rope within his hands. At this long had burst and seemed to have grown and thought his mouth yanks open and spews as it flowered and died. The small end was rounded sloppily speaks. and yet sharp, rough to the touch. “There will be no thought of that. No Just a cousin. Long gone now. thoughts of death premature.” Such a help he was. “Yes, yes, the rope!” Niran’s head lifts of its own accord and tilts “No! Go home!” to the side. He feels the pull, coming from the He crouches to the ground, determined to place the voice creeps out of, like being strung stay still. They argue as the mosquitoes slowly up as a puppet. The tension in his neck and leave him. shoulders trembles and he wants to itch them The sun rises higher into the sky, but the but finds he cannot lift his arm without feeling afternoon rains have not yet come when he feels a grinding pain that reaches to his bones. He the cold of his stillness reach his center. feels his jaw open and move. It is time now, “I think I hear people.” to stand and go home. He forces his head back down, feels the Niran stands. He cannot stop himself. muscles cringe as if disintegrating. Where you call home we can “No, you can’t.” touch other and be united. His body stands again against his will. He He looks down and sees his feet – the bottakes a fighting step backwards as the intruder toms white about the sides and the tops filled attempts to make him walk. with still blood. His hands and legs too are “I will not go back!” swollen and red, but the color yellows and then “We will go back, and feast!” goes the palest white as he looks up his arms and torso.

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His eyes are already open when he comes to. But the fight was not hopeless. He has made it to the edge of the river. It rushes past him and he tries to lift his head off the ground to see it better, but it will not obey. “You disobey us, you do not love us though we love you.” He thinks all the hateful things he can at his own voice – insults, curses, fire, blood or eternal silence, and listens to the sputtering of The body turns about and lumbers slowly. his breath. He feels little except when he tries to move him“Not yet though, not yet my love. We are not self, then the frozen muscles scream in agony. ready.” His tongue is fat and dry within his mouth, he Niran does not want to wait, to give this tries to speak, but nothing comes. thing now in him, now him, any opportunity to That is my tool now, use him. He finds what is left of his control and my dearest. drags the body closer to the river. Ignoring the “Fuck you!” tirade shouted at him he flops into the river’s There is a snap and he fights himself. Fists edge face-up. The sky is beautifully clear and hot meet cheek, leg breaks across a rock. His vision with sun. His head drops backwards more, and whitens. The angry voice continues in his mind he can see the river moving at him – he sees a and he feels a great pounding that he fears will means of escape. split his forehead, but he cannot be sure. He His arms open. He embraces them around gurgles, spits and roars. The body shimmers the oncoming tangle of branches in the low with his mind. He falls. water. The pain is soothed by the cold water painting his shriveled skin. His jaw flaps about Niran stands like a man would stand; if men held guns with his tongue inside, moving, pushing out at boys they knew. The gun is warm now. It has been words like it still knows language. in his grasp a long time. Behind him, his friend is silently encouraging. The boy whimpers, urine runs down his leg. The boy shakes his head, says Niran’s name over and over. “Niran Niran Niran Niran Niran Niran Niran.” There is no room for pity in the barrel of a gun.

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“Not the water, not the river my love. How did we get here? How will we grow here?” He remembers a smile and is happy he can at least do this. Even if they do not know it, he has saved them – all those bright smiles living happy lives at home. If he could laugh! “I am crying love. Why do you wish us to be alone? Not alone. We can make many, we can grow. Dearest? We can make revenge on those who banished you.” He is dragged beneath the deepening water and carried downstream. The sun burns softly through the liquid above him. His tortured jaw closes to keep out the sweet water, but his nose is surprisingly clear and gratefully takes on the task of drowning him. The water burns as it cleanses him from head to lungs. He swallows some, his stomach sour at the taste of it, no longer his. The voice fades, the light fades, and he fades away.

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Niran’s corpse washes up onto the shore of the river. It is found within the hour, the village being so close, and the river used for so many things. First they see his back, stripped of cloth, dried and twisted and red. They pry him from the wood he clings to, then flip him over to see the blood drained face, mouth clamped shut tight. Lastly, his mother is called to identify him. Through her tears and the whispered fears of onlookers, she confirms the body as his. Yes, it is Niran. Niran’s soft brown eyes and Niran’s short hair and Niran’s birthmark. But no, not Niran’s – the odd protuberance at his forehead – the rounded tip pricks the finger when touched. That is new. She lifts her cut finger to her mouth and sucks out the blood. It is gritty and tastes of rust.

Little Niran sits on his mother’s lap, showing grownup Niran how to wash rice. The three of them hum a tune and on the chorus Maè and Litle Niran flick water at the grown one standing in the doorway. The water seeps into his skin before he can lap it all up. Little Niran asks himself questions. “Will I be so tall?” “Yes, we will.” “Will I love my Maè?” “Yes, we will.” “Will I shoot Kiet?” “Yes, we will.” “Will I die in the jungle?” “No. No, we will die somewhere else.” “Why?” “—” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” His mother hugs little Niran in close and kisses him before turning her back to the door. Grown Niran turns and walks away.

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Queer Language

Ingrid Lee

“The violence of language consists in its effort to capture the ineffable and, hence, to destroy it, to seize hold of that which must remain elusive for language to operate as a living thing.” — Judith Butler

“A foreign language cannot be hollowed out in one language without language as a whole in turn being toppled or pushed to a limit, to an outside or reverse side that consists of  Visions and Auditions that no longer belong to any language.” — Gilles Deleuze 41

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addressee out of control.”

its injury, the sense of putting its

speech act is what constitutes

is unanticipated about the injurious

not to know where you are. What

1

suffer a loss of context, that is,

“To be injured by speech is to

We communicate our existence and our identities through words, words that are part of a language belonging to a discourse that constitutes our existence, constructing and permitting our bodies and identities to exist. We are, as Butler says, “beings that require language to be” (2). As such, it is also through language that we come to be subjectified, dehumanized, or erased. This process occurs when one of many languages assumes the status of the dominant language, dismissing and discarding the multitude of languages by which we as individuals are able to self-identify. I am speaking of identities that are either completely dismissed or unacknowledged, identities that are allowed to exist only in a relationship of subordination to a hegemonic identity, and even identities that are forced upon individuals as an attempt to dehumanize them. I am speaking of queer identities. Language becomes violent when it is imposed upon individuals, categorizing, forming, and forcing them to exist within terms and conditions that they themselves do not constitute and are not permitted to negotiate. Butler determines the source of this violence in language as a loss of context and control 1, a process which occurs particularly in speech as a declaration or performance of identity (4). I would like to look at this problem, specifically in what I call “dominant” or “major language,” systems built on a foundation of universalist and dualistic thought. Butler also acknowledges that “speech is always in some ways out of our control” (15). After all, speech itself cannot and does not remain within its original space-time context. It is by nature, already elusive. The problem, as Butler illustrates

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in Excitable Speech, lies in the use of language as an apparatus to capture that which must remain elusive. What is important in resisting, or rather, escaping the violence of language, is “opening up the possibility of agency,” but not through the “replication of conventional notions of mastery” (15). I would like to explore the possibility of a queer mode of living through language, a multiplication of discourse through which the taxonomy of identities in a population does not fully capture or hinder the identities of an individual. I believe that a queer mode of living for language is possible through the creative process of translation. The word and concept of translation is almost inseparable from the word “queer.” “Queer” can refer to “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances, and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning” (Tendencies 8), all of which inevitably occur in translation. Translation is in many ways integral to forging a queer mode of life, which is a negation and a constant departure from the binaries centered around the homo/heterosexual dichotomy that constitute human existence or “personhood” in the heteronormative mode of life. I would like to clarify that I am not referring to “queer” here in terms of an identity revolving around sex or sexuality. Rather, I am using it as an alternative to the dominant discourse that Eve Sedgwick describes as “the potent incoherences of homo/heterosexual definition” that are reified by gender and sexuality-based identity and perforate other aspects of life (2). Such a discourse uses a language that attempts to capture, and therefore destroy “the ineffable” (Butler 9). My use of “queer” does not function as

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other languages, and therefore other identities, can exist and become. I would like to propose translation as a queer strategy in enabling a possibility for language becoming. As Deleuze writes, becoming “opens up a kind of foreign language within language, which is neither another language nor a rediscovered patois, but a becoming-other of language, a minorization of this major language...that escapes the dominant system” (Deleuze 5). This minorization of a major or dominant language is not a conquering or mastery of the major language. Minor or queer language becomes even within dominant language via methods found upon models alternative to the dominant discourse. In Ethics, Foucault talks about resistance and creating new modes of life as not merely a negation, but a creative process (166) 2. Translation is such a process. Interpreting something such as an identity that exists within the parameters of one language and reconstructing it within the limits of another language (new or existing) creates new discursive possibilities for that identity. I view translation not only as recontextualization. Translation can be deviation, departing from an established course or from a standard; profanation, restoring to

negation but a creative process;

saying “to resist is not simply a

2

this viewpoint in a question,

The interviewer summarizes

the perfect antonym of “heterosexual,” but intends to eliminate the necessity of using a language bound to the homo/hetero binary. Creating discourse is integral to the survival of culture and multiplying discourse is central to a queer mode of life. This multiplication is possible when thinking about language in terms of it becoming. For Deleuze, “to become is not to attain a form (identification, imitation, mimesis) but to find the zone of proximity, indiscernability, or indifferentiation,” when one is “singularized out of a population rather than determined in a form” (1). When identities are communicated in language only within the context of a population, the possibility for identities to exist and grow outside of, away from, or even adjacent to the dominant identity is impeded. The dominant language establishes a universalist system of norms validated by use in daily life. It is regulated by social institutions that violently deny individuals the right to self-identification within the system, thus halting the becoming of language. What is necessary to prevent language from “dying” is not a deconstruction of the dominant language or regaining control over it, but a creative production and proliferation of discourse, a forging of modes through which

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the situation.”

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to create and recreate, to change

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common use what has been ritually separated (Agamben 19) 3; and even displacement, what Bourriaud describes as “a way of using the world...of surreptitiously eroding established geographies” (145). By these associations, translation denies the power imposed by an original context, creates new meaning, and allows new interpretations. Translation is a triggering of “the chain of performativity by which [a referent] is never quite captured” (Butler 125), a possibility for queer life in the becoming of language. I would like to look at instances of translation as language becoming in two works: a Youtube video “In My Language” by autism activist Amanda Baggs, in which Baggs makes “a statement about what gets considered thought, intelligence, personhood, language, and communication, and what does not,” and COME ON YOU FUCKERS, by Rowan Smith and myself, a transcription of a guitar being smashed, the translation of a historically rebellious gesture made vapid and ineffective through repetition. I use the former as an example of the possibility of a queer language existing through its interpretation, and the latter to investigate and consider a method of translation that opens up a possibility for revitalized meaning in a gesture. In her statement, Baggs explains how her non-verbal communication is still communication, despite it being achieved through a language foreign to the dominant language. While unable to communicate through verbal speech, Baggs articulates her statements through a translation made possible by technological means. She notes that “failure to learn [the standard/dominant] language is seen as a deficit,

a more perverse connotation. language implies profanation with Translation in the sense of queering not using the word in this sense. death. I am, however, obviously from Earth to Heaven without translation means transportation Interestingly, the biblical use of 45

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but failure to learn my language is seen as so natural.” In stating this, Baggs identifies her non-verbal communication as a language, something which is impossible in thinking through the dominant language. Baggs’ sounds and actions do not coincide with the standard ideas of expression or communication. Through the dominant language, her communication registers as gibberish, a symptom of disability. By translating her language, Baggs is able to demonstrate that by dismissing her modes of thinking and communicating as nonsense, is in fact symptomatic of a more general disability enabled by the establishment of a dominant language. Baggs’ statements would resonate with anyone who has had to “come out.” The necessity for anyone to assert the validity of their language is tantamount to having to come out as a human being. What interests me most in viewing the translative aspect of “In My Language” is the interaction between Baggs and her viewers. The responses to the video (while mostly made with good intention, and made to express admiration and support for Baggs) appear to completely miss the point of Baggs’ statement as they continue to refer to it in terms of the dominant language. This is evident in how some responses mistake the language that Baggs presents as a translation as “the English language,” or refer to language only in terms of its verbal presentability (thereby disregarding the existence of Baggs’ native language), or think of Baggs’ use of “language” only in terms of a metaphor. One viewer came to the conclusion in their response that the video inspired them to “find ways to help people like you.” 4 Insistence on using this phrase reifies the very

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translation in sonic mediums. translation, and especially to This observation applies to them through singular structures.” capturing flows and arranging objects,” “an art of deviation, of

http://www.youtube.com/user/ silentmiaow

Responses taken from 4

Bourriaud refers to mixing in

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art as “a matter of organizing an

Amanda Bagg’s Youtube channel:

encounter between two or more 46

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of translation in no way prevents criticism or even opposition; in any case, it implies presentation. In performing it, one denies neither the unspeakable nor possible opacities of meaning, since every translation is inevitably incomplete” (30). It is exactly the incomplete (queer) nature of translation that correlates with the notion of becoming and allows queer language to flourish, to continue in its elusive nature. Struggling to bridge the gap between Baggs’ intentions and her viewers’ misinterpretations is in a sense a process of un-translating, for the focus in translation as becoming is not on trying to be understood within the terms and conditions of the dominant language by which queer language is forever suppressed and erased. Rather, it is to create multiple other-systems through which language can continue to become queer. Translation takes into account meaning, style, and the limits of a language. It is distinct from an adaptation, arrangement, or appropriation, which are often achieved with violent and exploitative tones, reducing or completely obscuring meaning. Translation, like Bourriaud’s notion of mixing, 5 “is the ‘and’ rather than the ‘is,’ the nonviolent negation of the essence of each element for the sake of a mobile ontology

of a collection of collisions along

or literary work, if not the invention

elaboration of a plastic, musical,

He continues to say “What is the

mode of thinking that Baggs is working away from. It is a demeaning recognition of the other as Other. By saying “people like you,” one defines themselves as the norm that the addressee, the “you,” is not only excluded from, but is considered less than. That is not to say that the ignorance of the viewer signifies Baggs’ translation as failure. Rather, the failure of the responses to capturing Baggs’ native language and identity by means of the dominant language reveals Baggs’ translation to be a language itself. As hermeneutics play a significant role in the process of translation, it is easy to assume that misinterpretation can undermine the creative process. However, because such responses are made in the language that belongs to a discourse based on asymmetrical binaries, I see that it is the misinterpretation and not the translation that has failed. Furthermore, it is through the multiple failed responses that Baggs’ translation reveals itself to be more than a translation. It is another language, hollowed out from the dominant language. Yes, being misunderstood and being put out of context and out of control can be a violent experience, but this is not the focus of queer language that becomes through translation. Bourriaud states: “The gesture

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them to endure?”

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with a mode of capture that enables

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nomadic and circumstantial” (155). It is important to note the nonviolent aspect of resistance through translation. While destruction by itself can be useful as a critique of the dominant language (the capitalist machine), its use of purely violent elements renders it susceptible to being reduced to a vacuous imitation of the dominant language.

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in the 60s, and ends as an empty expression of juvenile rage in the garages of middle class, angst-ridden adolescents. Originally, destroying an electric guitar could be equated to destroying a symbol of capitalism. However, through repeated imitation and appropriation the action has been nullified, trapped in the very language it had once protested against. Transcription as translation is neither reiteration or appropriation. The very idea of translation acknowledges the need to depart from the modes by which language traps itself, and creates new modes through which language can become. What language communicates can therefore continue to grow, and the discourse around it multiply. COME ON YOU FUCKERS is an attempt to create alternatives to a purely destructive mode even while making reference to it and acknowledging its history. The relationship of the transcription to the original is not one of subordination, as in the relationships between “opposing” languages and identities that exist in the binaries encoded in the dominant mode of life. While the transcription is derived from the original, it is not mere mimicry. In fact, it retains “aesthetic autonomy” (Bourriaud 155). It does so by

COME ON YOU FUCKERS makes use of these notions of translation by providing a dialogue beyond destruction in translating the destruction of a guitar into a piano score. The piece is the performance of a score made in a highly controlled system of notation, similar to the style of New Complexity, which seeks to map out as accurately as possible complex gestures and processes. The original material (the guitar smashing) is transcribed for piano, a completely different body with a different (though parallel) history and different parameters in its language. The result of this translation is an extended vocabulary in the critique of a purely destructive form of protest. In the violent gesture of smashing a guitar, one recalls the history of a gesture that allegedly began as a mode of auto-destruction, a symbol of protest, on stage with Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix

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extending the vocabulary of the piano beyond the language that continues to dominate piano literature (with extended techniques such as string muting, scraping, plucking), acknowledging the existence of one of many “other” languages spoken through the instrument, and ultimately allowing the gesture of smashing the guitar to live beyond a destructive mode. The process allows a possibility for creating a vocabulary that extends beyond the language of deconstruction which, without a creative element, can be reduced to mindless destruction or juvenile vandalism in an exhausted mimicry of the violent dominant language. Composition, the creation of a new work, is itself a process of transcription, of ideas from mind to manuscript, and the composer, a translator, an “organizer of sound” as Cage once stated. Following this train of thought, transcription is a creative process, and transcription in COME ON YOU FUCKERS is a nonviolent negation of the dominant discourse. Furthermore, emphasis of COME ON YOU FUCKERS is placed on performance of the score (as opposed to the score itself ), a process of interpretation that further extends the language of protest transcribed. This emphasis is important as it dispels the notion that the score itself is the composition or the idea. In creating a new mode, transcription as a method cannot be imposing. The practice of transcription is a form of translation commonly used as a tool in music pedagogy or a means of making the music performable on a different or new instrument (usually due to the fact that notation or instrumentation of the music is not widely understood in its

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original cultural or historical context). That being said, the intention of transcription in COME ON YOU FUCKERS is not to make a statement about what the translated gesture of rebellion should be. It merely makes use of a language to map out and set guidelines which can then be used by the performer to activate a mode through which that particular language can exist. What is generally thought of as music and is notated in traditional Western notation (developed after music in the Renaissance period) is rhythm, pitch, time signature, articulation, dynamics. But beyond that, music also consists of tone production, timbre, expression, sounds, and social/economic/cultural/historical context. The purpose of transcription is not to erase the context of a composition, but to create a new mode through which the composition can grow and continue to live in multiple languages. Through this mode, an “other” language is able to “escape its own formalization” as constituted by the dominant language.

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Deleuze, Gilles. “Literature and Life.” Essays Critical and Clinical. Trans. Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.

Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge

Bourriaud, Nicolas. “Roots: A Critique of Postmodern Reason.”, “Treatise on Navigation”. The Radicant. New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2009.

Agamben, Giorgio. “What Is an Apparatus?”. What Is an Apparatus? and Other Essays. California: Stanford University Press, 2009.

Works Cited:

Through the process of translation and through interpretations of translation, new discourses are created and multiplied. While interpretation plays an important role in the creative process of translation, this does not mean that misunderstanding or misinterpreting invalidates the creative process of translation. To assume that would mean thinking within a universalist mindset, which means succumbing to the power of the dominant form of expression. Assuming that misinterpretation signifies failure of a translation means subjecting the original language to a set of universal values and standards. Under these standards, language is denied the possibility of becoming. It dies within the grip of a dominant discourse. The main concern of queer language is not to be

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In My Language. Perf. Amanda Baggs. Youtube. 14 Jan, 2007. <http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=JnylM1hI2jc>.

COME ON YOU FUCKERS. Lee, Ingrid. Smith, Rowan. Youtube. 30 Oct, 2011. <http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=42vzGMcSZIM>.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Tendencies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley, CA: University of California, 2008.

Foucault, Michel. “Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth.” Essential Works of Foucault. Trans. Robert Hurley et al. New York: The New Press.

understood under the conditions set by the dominant language. To struggle to be understood in those terms would be to return to “the old heterosexual virility” (Foucault 166). That is where failure lies. What is important is that discourse is created and multiplied. When language is translated, a possibility for its existence through these discourses, these other-systems, is created. Through this, language is able to “escape its formalization,” and identities can become and continue to live.

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Of Silence and Kindling

Heatherlie Allison The following passage is excerpted from The Rape, God Says, a multi-voiced novel forthcoming that examines the complexities underlying aberrations of belief, dissociation of the body/mind in cases of perpetual trauma, and the indelible relationship between mother and child.

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For three weeks following the birth, Valrae remained pure without pain management at a secured suite of Mount Sinai Hospital. It was of a private ward, a ward not known of by the regular staff. To reach it, one would descend from behind the clatter of Emergency, down a wide series of steps, two floors, into a dark basement-belly, to find an unmarked, faded blue door adjacent to the morgue. Once unlocked and opened, the door would reveal a short, but wide-mouthed hallway, illuminated brightly by a steady flicker and hum. There were three closed doors to the right, another at its end. From the clack of steps, and sharp twist of knob, the final door would open forward with a light push. On the hour, The Physician entered to analyze the wound and vitals of the girl, clipboard in hand. The odor of soured exudates and iodine hung heavy in the stark, white-walled room. Despite the healing of an eight-inch vertical incision—one to the flesh, stapled—two to the insides, sewn—she was kept like 53

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a milk-cow on its back, her body interlaced by a maze of cords and tubing: fluids in, fluids out. From between the metal sidebars of a hospital bed, there she lay, each breath and shift ripping at the torn abdomen with deep, fiery licks; it centralized, transfixed her, functioned like a drug, and coursed itself out to the head, heart, and limbs. The Physician would begin with the heart and end with the wound. He preferred to examine in silence, reassuring her between gestures: the unbuttoning and buttoning of her gown, the cold metal bell of the stethoscope making stops across her chest, the occasional scratches of a pen to the page. When finished, he stroked the feet, scalp, and pale face of her, without affect and dimmed about the eyes. “Hush… Hush…” were his words. This act of kindness, as some did say, was necessary to imprint an essence of being cared for: a reason-to-reason with the possible agony of a child torn away. Her body willed to recoil, but failed her. It remained, catatonic and still. Prior to exit, he would conclude his visit with ritual: leaning in, his hands cradled the bones of her shoulders; they slid firm, up and down her arms. He would comb back her light blonde waves, hung, ringing wet with sweat, with his fingers, tucking the strands tight behind her ears. Leaning closer, soon, his breath was hot on the side of her face, filling her, canal to the drum: Be not possessed by possession, my child. Be possessed by the beauty of service. Knowledge, undo… Separate. Release. Forget. 54

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Assured to you in the earthly heavens of night. For your pain and price. A new home. In death. New home. In death. Separate. Release. Forget. Sa-ton. A-mon.

n Belief and loyalty to cause and captor: Not to personalizeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;to birth then leave motherhood behind. These were the desired effects of her programming. But The Circle oversimplified the mechanics of these ideas. Focused on a mind without body. The body: a vessel, and a reaction space of mind. She struggled, however, and was forced to sublimate the maternal desire to cut the cords and tend to the child. Cortisol began to saturate the blood. From the pores, a putrid metallic sweat. n Silence. I see myself from below. Below the body, puffed out and packed tight, below the straps and mattress, below the metal legs of the bed. Here is emptiness, a burning from the outside in. It enters first through the soles of my feet. I feel it happen, down here, and it travels the distance of my legs with speed, setting fire to any inhabitants of knot and crevice that dare to remain. It spreads me out at the hips, stretches the torso up, then pushes down. This is where the numbing begins. Where I have been bent and filled with the fiery gifts of others. Given over. Taken away. Blotted out. Sacrifice. 55

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I cannot separate. My arms hollow out and flop like pulled fish, scaled, and set soon to dry in the sun. Their words, the words of others, all crafted, enter my ears to undo such knowledge of the body, so that I can fracture, silence the mind, and serve. But I have no body… I am told that it is not about me. It is for a greater good. My child. Not me. Not mine. Though I am assured to something. This is what I am told. Yet, it’s all for the sake of you. You… But what about you? Where do you belong, little prisoner? Do you remember our time? My Soul… When you know, I will speak. Knowledge, undo. Separate. Release. Forget.

n Memories of being and impulse tucked themselves into somatic corridors of organ and fascia. …Knowledge, undo… The brain slowed its firings of attachment, and reinforced amnesiac walls, stone by stone. …New home… In death… Her thoughts ran fast, pushed out and away from the infant, surging, despite empty arms and phantom belly, despite the looped recordings of another child’s cries playing in the room. Day and night, they wailed. …Beauty of service... Possessed.

The cries would trigger in the brain, synapse after synapse: from the pituitary gland, a warm flooding of oxytocin. Her freshly mending uterus would begin to contract in anticipation of her own infant’s needs, cleansing itself of afterbirth: clotted rivers of reds and browns, then black. …For your pain and price… Her breasts would swell and weep clear, her nipples bound and stretched by the mechanical tugs of a milking device that whirred away in the night. …Separate… Release… Forget. 56

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The fluid extracted soon turned a milky opaque. It was then transferred to glass bottles and frozen for transport. Within three days, the nipples of Valrae began to crack and bleed. …Sa-ton. A-mon. In death.

n I see an image of myself from the ceiling. As above, so below. Death is what I wish for, lying down there, sitting in, bound to the bed with the echoes of some hungry child. A child not even my own... My own. If there is such a thing. My own—a would-have-been film star. Like the beautiful Rita Hayworth in Gilda, so perfectly gestured. Never was a would-have-been, like me, or a has-been. What would Mama think? Maybe there is still time… I begin to play with that hungry, incessant voice. I imagine that it is you... Playing house in that bed. It is a castle with many rooms and servants. We are in the tower and they will bring food for us soon. Our bodies between the bars wrapped in fabrics, and this is the ultimate role. I rock you and sing to you, like Rita sings, but with my mouth closed, lest they wonder. Together, we plan a life that begins with escape. Defiance: an act of life, disallowed. But it was all an act. From the time I was born. Taking in the minds and mouths of others, characters formulated to reach some mechanical and dramatic end. I was a star, Mama said. She taught and dissociated me first, and I believed her, bound for Hollywood, like so many other bright ones. But she never told me why, cursed by her own role and plot. There I was, as I saw it, a star, lighting my own dark sky, locked out and dimmed by the spindly arms of the stage. Its best you forget, Mama. Into the world, it begins, My Love. It is here that I choke on my baby-song. You… The tower fades, the castle fades, my flesh burns, and the room turns black. Baby. Baby… Where are you? 57

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n The infantâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s habits, after birth, were first erratic and unformed, and he was not yet roused by the commands of the belly. His lungs were unable to deliver oxygen to the blood, gulped on air sporadically. Reliant, they also lay fixed to an apparatus, hindering the release of a cry. His brain and body pressurized. The bone hills of his little chest jerked up and settled down on the diaphragm, trembling beneath the thin layers of sheet and skin. He could not suck or swallow and was fed intravenously. A catheter was forced into his urethra and emptied the contents of his bladder. His blood spurred through the portals of vein and artery, bending to and from the heart, apprehensive and arrhythmic. His tiny hands clenched, feet kicked, face sometimes reddened. Sensitized, he agonized, ringing with every curve of cold and light, every touch, every hypnotic coo and song by his caregiver, The Honorable Mother. By way of such a conception and birth-entrance, according to The Circle, the infant had made its first step towards the manifestation of human perfection. It was imperative that his little brain developed properly, methodically: splinter-by-splinter, if they wanted to succeed. Though they were patient and gracious with process, it was not yet clear if their ritual methods had worked. They would not know until his third birthday. In the interim, the infant would be monitored, programmed, and assessed. The demon: hopefully appeased. Would the child then be deemed a mortal failure, integrated by rejection? Would he be reduced to sexual slavery, like the others? Or, was he already known by birthright? Out of their hands, instruction was passed accordingly, now transferred as the ultimate pledge and purpose of The Honorable Mother. 58

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She called him Alexander. Together, they lived reclusively, inhabited a Greco-Roman revivalist chateau in the residential hills north of Los Feliz. Enshrouded by a high, wooden gate, tipped with wire and padlocked, thick, green foliage tightly circled the house, mazed off into little pathways, and filtered out the sun. A small, graying woman, The Honorable Mother had arrived to The Circle as a young child. Abandoned, she was told, but selected, passed along, and transported, from an orphanage in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. She had cultivated the techniques of trauma-based conditioning over the years through specific methods of reversed psychologies, and would begin first by procuring with the infant, a singular and loving bond. He would come to look at her as his mirror, his symbiotic god, and the source of all things. He would learn the cyclical beauty of pain, dulling it, replacing it, becoming it. But again, the warmth of the womb would end. She would follow this stage at eighteen months by a series of severances and cruelty. Methodical traumatization—systematic fracture: this, she knew how to do. She took pride in her work, performed it correctly, and had done so since her own days as a breeder. “The body and brain of this child will be the cleanest canvas, like clay,” she assured The Circle, “the perfect vehicle for the perfect Soul.” She paid exclusive attention to Alexander’s needs from the end of his month-long hospital stay: Diapers changed on the hour, skin cleansed and powdered. Azulene-infused oils, blended into his pressure and pleasure points, twice daily: temples, ears, underarms, hands, feet, and groin. When fed, she held his face to her breast, bottle in hand, his body tightly woven into the crook of her arms. She would rock him and sing softly, gently in monotones and whisper. “Hush… Hush…” n Separate. Release… Silence! I’ve been told and shown how. Possessed, they say. I was a little girl, then. Mama said quiet, Valrae. Into the world, it begins. So drink your milk Beware of the eyes in trees. They’ll come to get you, those eyes... She pulls back the thick, green curtains and points out the window towards the dark. 59

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I see their outline. Hear their whispers as they move the wind. And I see our reflection in the glass. Mama’s hand soft on my shoulder. Mama’s mouth moving in my ear. Ssspsspss… For me, I see nothing, but the shadow of some small stranger. I want to be alone, but I don’t say it. Dare I want. I go into my room, after the milk. She makes sure it’s gone, though it makes my mouth all numb. I sit in the corner, near my pink, ruffled bed, and hold the edges of my dress tight over my knees as I rock and hum. My eyes feel heavy, but I look up because I hear whispers in the ceiling. Ssspsspss… Corner of ceiling, across. It vibrates there and shimmers there. Opens in sways of color. It drips and drops, whole faces. Their animal eyes are the same as those trees. They talk to each other, teeth grinding. About me. Hungry for me. The carpet becomes warm and wet where I sit, and it burns and scratches at my skin. I’ve done a bad thing. The whispers get louder. I stop humming, nod my head back toward the wall, and it hits with a thud. I remember the silence. I was a little girl, then...

n He was a good baby, The Honorable Mother said, and he learned by the age of six weeks not to cry, gradually phased it out of his system. This is how it happens… A slice of surgical tape is applied to the infant Alexander’s lips. She presses down firm with the tips of her fingers. Her face aligns with his, pulling closer, taking over—hammered in, eye-to-eye. Tension builds in the body of the infant, tightens without release; he begins to hyperventilate, faster, seizing in through the nose. His lids crush together; eyes redden, gloss, and spill. 60

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“Hush… Hush…” she says softly. These are her words. She restrains him, smothers movement, strokes and kisses him as he reddens. “Hush… Hush…” She continues to repeat this phrase in a series, allows him time to settle, time to exhaust. She inhales and exhales slowly, deeply, transfers to him this pattern. Soon his eyes close soft, and soon his body is still. n To the back of the mind in a locked box I go. It is from a pale box, intricately carved, that I descend into spell. Further… Dream darker, I hear. Hush… Bodies reel above me and chills unmask the folds of my flesh with a gentle quiver. These dancing flickers of shape and censer-fire no longer frighten me. Its all kindling with stars. Into the world it begins, Mama to child. You… From descent, My Love. My body, without a body, speaks in shudders in longing for you. Mouth sealed shut by the wintry world and words of others. Such a price, to know and feel you in this way. To the heavens of night… Saton. Amon. In death. 61

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Threnody Patricia Cram

An excerpt from a forthcoming magical realist novel exploring the fate of the female body in areas of tribal conflict.

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I. - She Shatters in the Heartâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Enduring Flood FIRST: UVA URSI The leaves, ingested, will open the senses. Before you burn your sihra mother, there must be three days of uva ursi in your veins. Leave the fire burning; scent every moment with flowers and resin turned to ash. Because you know how to write, record your visions. She is telling you things. The name of that shadow, the taste in her mouth, the dream she had the night before. She pins what she can in the vastness. Do not let in the sun. MEANWHILE: JERUSALEM THORN On each of those three days, bathe her in water that has pulled its scent from the Jerusalem thorn. Dark fabric in your palm, crushed and wet, soft over the bones of her brow, a sweeping warmth over shoulder and tattooed arms. Memorize all that she has written upon her body for you to find. More ink beneath the skin than you ever could have dreamed. While you were asleep, she wrote a story on her belly, thighs, saving the last of her stories for death. Because it cannot be helped, you will bathe her also with tears.

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MORNING: SENNA Ingest, every morning, an infusion of senna, for it will move both your heart and your bowels. What is below will depart the body, and all that will fill it now is love. You will begin each day in remembrance of the woman whose body lies in grace on the other side of the tent. You will not eat for all the pain â&#x20AC;&#x201C; this is your mourning. You have lost something great. IF THERE IS A NEEDLE Burn the wood of her favorite tree. Pour a small amount of water into a bowl, and into this water, rub the blackened end of the wood you gave to the fire. Make the black paste that you will affix to the end of a needle before pushing it into your skin, deep enough to draw a gasp, deep enough to add her stories to yours. NOW THAT YOU ARE CHANGED: PEONY During the funeral rites, you will dream of her; she will climb your spine; there will be a bouquet of shadows sighing, humming and twitching in every outline. Peony will keep your fear in line and your visions clear. She has only these three days to tell you much of the other side. AFTER YOU HAVE WEPT BLOOD You know that the spirit is real. PYRE: ALL THE WOOD YOU CAN FIND Rise before the sun on the fourth day. Keep not a single part of her body. She is not for you now; she returns to the world.

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AT LAST: SILK

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her, the honor of knowing her. Your tears washed down your face, trailing over neck and shoulder, darkening a sapphire circle around both of your heads.

You must watch her burn, and bear witness to her final changes. In this, lose her and free her. What remains is not the body that bursts, skin peeling back, splitting to reveal bone. Smell her burning hair.

I know also what you dreamed, Fas, and yes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; death feels always like a betrayal. But here, in this red tent surrounded by desert and stone, I know what the spirits have done, and my heart must close. Though we gave to them nearly every year of our lives, still they betrayed us to taste your heart undivided. I will give no more.

SHE IS SCATTERED Since your arrival, not a single day was given to anything but preparing you for a life without her. She is written now in your skin, beneath the rhythm of your heart, upon the inside of your skull. She smells like everything you have ever loved to the point of pain, to the point of fear. Sweat in winter, a hidden thing. Cinnamon on the breath as it reaches you. The moon, lonesome, visible only because the sun is driven to shine. Bitter leaves wilted, sharp and sticky. One vulture rare in its glory: it fulfills its fate.

Your sihra mother lives now in the marks you have made in your skin. Touch them and remember. From death, she breathes life into them. From now on, this is all you will have of her voice. Sihra will not haunt dreams. They go beyond the realm of the dead. And in this way, I have lost the last jewel in my world. All life goes mute, blurs before it darkens. I dreamed of your djinn, and I saw them climb inside her. Girl, you have fed them too much of yourself. Have made them wild with you. And I want you to leave, but I will not tell you to go, lest they turn their teeth upon me next. Every day that you remain is a nail in my heart. There is nothing in the world more tragic than a will made barren with fear.

NOW THAT YOU, TOO, ARE ALONE, THERE ARE THINGS I CANNOT SAY There is room enough here for you, and I, and all the spirits of the world. There is, finally, an ocean of silence for her, and its depth is a comfort and a revelation. We would sing her to the most beautiful place in all the world if we could; instead, we hope that she is already there, by a grace that never needed us at all. I saw you rise in the night to lie beside her on the ground. Blue fabrics fanned around her, and she felt heavy and raw in your arms, I know. You curled into her and dug your shuddering breath into every secret part of her, reaching out for a taste of what it was that once moved her with private joys, weighted glances, the gentleness she hid so fiercely. All the subtlety that made the body recognizable as one you loved. You curled into the strongest and the softest parts of 66

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II.

A black and red-fanged woman spilled night into me. I stood and turned in candlelight. Dispel my quiet. Dispel my presence of death. The lines on my palms shift to hold you all.

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She went to the Infra, riding through them, and she saw why they turned, indiscriminately, to bullets. They were losing their children and their wives. There would soon be little to follow them, to descend, to line. Instead of dying themselves, the men stole. They killed. Their tents were interspersed with other tents from outside Obsidia – there were those, even, who would use the suffering of others to ensure their own dominion. Guns now, Abal later. III.

With the syrup of death’s scent rolling endless upon the back of her tongue, Fas turned back. She went to her tent and did not speak for days, black thoughts snarled with dread.

- Snakeroot Years do what they will. They show a girl death before they show her blood. They sharpen their teeth on undersides, on the milky flesh of things forgotten, things hidden away. First, the girl traveled east. She spent two nights alone, after a sudden storm howled across the desert and dried just as quickly, and went east. Dunes slid past her, bronze by day. There, she saw dead bodies piled. More tiny than grown. Children, desiccated, starved. Thin spikes of legs jutting from swollen towers. Women held ghosts in their eyes, swimming gray, losing themselves anywhere but here. Everything stank. There, suddenly, Fas let go of the girl who wept inside her. She let the girl live, let her roam in her body, but no longer did she hold her up to the light. Here, in this desert, misery held reign. Of that there was not a single person deprived. Her sorrow, though no less real, was small. It was singular. The weight of all the blood and rot in Obsidia’s heart could surely sink them all. There had to be at least one among them who could hold everything. To see it; stand witness. To make things move.

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scissors, memory. Her body knows the way, but still she will find much resistance. In the fold of the elbow, a child, fallen upon the ground, will weep and long. At the nape of the neck, under knots of dark hair, a lover will breathe his name into her skin. Behind the knee, with sweat and heat, a woman will crouch, afraid of the pleasure of her own screams.

IV. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a nameless place, but it looks like a desert at the sapphire onset of dusk. In it, shadows writhe beneath the sand and trickle dark words into the ears of snakes. Spirits slide into bodies, young and old, with equal vigor. Possession comes in many forms. Sand and dirt get between the teeth. In beds made of blankets sewn from dresses torn and passed down, sand sleeps beneath calloused heels, hunched spines, gone fetal against the wind. Tents rise and fall with the sun. In every handful of dirt emerge threads from travelers who came before, and left pieces of their lives behind in exchange for a healing, amber tea, or musky balm made from the oils of some dead, now flightless, thing. The moon, an opal, looks down. By firelight, in the ink of roots and skin, lives are recorded, limb by limb, bone by bone. She will bury her hands in the desertâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cooling sand, pulling stories from old skulls. They will teach her how to be unafraid of the dark, how to read the signs of the desert, how to end wars and bury children. They will teach her how to speak where she has carried only the ache and throb of silence. When she starts to dig, she will use whatever she can to break the surface. Fingernails, 69

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Vera worried about her father, who was sitting rigid on her black leather sofa, swatting at hollow air, dreaming with his eyes open. She considered waking him from his murmurs and terrors, but after these last few years of being struck or screamed at after such attempts, she thought it wiser to stand above him and observe. His eyes manically widened and shrank as he traveled baffling planes of waking recollection unknown to his fetching, thirty-five year old daughter. ||| More fit than skinny with peach polyresins frictioned off the chest and rear like it’d sunned wearing clown-circumference pasties plus a square dishrag shielding nearly most of its backside, and its hair a drunk rainbow of sometimes colors besides oily gray, the doll wore a bodysuit of dust and abandoned cobwebs, its home the unseen underside of the boy’s ghostly, levitating bedframe where he’d charge in for sleep and forget about monstrous possibilities and stuck wheels. It wasn’t alone, the doll. Mismanaged debris and long ago lost items of moderate importance had found a permanent resting place below the bed, its frame, and the always askew sheets and blankets, which was another atemporal-type installation vis-à-vis the sundry and lint and doll. Like a messy tree hoping to be uprooted, two itchy blankets, one too short, the other too narrow for use, one flat cotton, the other synthetic yarn-stitch, the brown and maroon-catsup-flecked white duvet, and single jailhouse pillow: a soft slanting linen-pyramid leaning off the bed, supported by an unexploited rolltop. The desk’s mouth always shut with who-knows-what inside. Decaying life? Originating life? Maybe crayons and crate paper, mating and making more and knocking for release in the darkness but dying anyway. A tree-trimmer growls somewhere beyond the boy’s bedroom window, then begins exhorting steadily, and like the crying child in the nursery who sets off a chain of infant screamers, these tranquility killers, these hand-held machines, they scream bandsaw, scream out “weed-wacker,” scream on lawnmower, scream goes the second, louder tree-trimmer. A motorcycle’s engine deafens

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supratumult, lightnings past like a blood-antlered boss shouting loud orders to all the other loud things that, yes, the screaming must continue indefinitely. Yes boss, Yes, the boy heard imagined them acquiesce The boy is certain the miscreational blitz will both never end and certainly will find and kill him where he crouches waiting for his sister to never find him, here beneath the sink, the cabinet doors bending out imperceptibly from the feeble pressure of wiggling toes in his tennis shoes. He can see all. Him, no one can see. A flash of fear floods his chest. What if they forget about me? and I get stuck under the U-ing pipe? and have only these cleansers and sponges to eat? But they have to come down here at some point if they want to do the washing! But, what if the sponge in use stays in use and I die of starvation or, and don’t think about it, don’t consider it: What if a spider, an Orb-Weaver, the fanged brown one from the book, what if it comes through a pipe or from the darkness and— The aberrant smell of unfrosted yellow cupcakes infiltrates the sink’s intestines, punches up the suspense, and he feels ashamed for no reason he can logic. He considered going under the bed, completely ensconced. Nixed the idea when he remembered sighting a taut strand of web stretching from the boxspring to the underside of a pewter wheel. A prostrate investigation had revealed the web, his limbs idly up and about like a skydiver-in-training. Under the bed stirred a pit. In it, a giant Wolf Spider gnashed, thirsty for his bones (his alone). The fears of him being located and chastised, or being bitten or scratched by his infant but ambulatory sister, these were chewed and swallowed by his wonderings of what the monster would do to him if he were caught. So, it was especially startling when the silence of the gas-powered jet-engine-roars of the house-and-yard-maintenancedemon-things began. He took his fingers from his ears and sought the expected whines braincrushingly obnoxious sister. The boy’s head slammed against the U-ed pipe, whose function he didn’t understand, the cabinet doors flew open, and the

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big baffled face of a girl-gronwup he couldn’t recognize loomed and lowered like an outerspaced planet into the shadow oil-spreading from the hiding place. He saw her concern, and she began to look like someone he knew, someone he might have known. Vera left her father on the couch hoping he’d sleep. Hoping that tomorrow would one of his lucid days, which, since she’d taken him in, had grown fewer each month. ||| On the young man was found an interminable ‘Ask-MeNo-Questions-And-I’ll-Tell-You-What-You-Want-To-Hear’ physiognomy and villain-saffron teeth set in a counterfeit rigging-up of his mouth’s corners (not to mention the scarlet [as opposed to multi-organ failure green] Frankenstein head-frame), both built into a paste-face like a shoebox squeezed into a rosebox, or, call it a sunburn (cut up by a knit-cap and black turtle-neck), a sunburn earned the weekend prior after his father had lied saying they’d only be out in the San Diegan sun for twenty minutes “tops, Bud” and mostly shielded by awnings of produce vendors. The boy, the boiled lobsterman, the set-dresser. Vera’s grandfather’s death certificate filed away in the cross-sectioned firetruck-red-faced-man’s gray filing cabinet, years dusty in a three-storied Long Beach walkup, the scene now a choppy memory in the set-dresser’s scrambled-egg head, switching back suddenly to the farmer’s market and Vera’s father reached into nothing to check an avocado for its potential ripeness. The girls, from the sweet-sixteeners to the twerpish-spectacled, had reached consensus and commented, ‘spitting image of Cary Grant,’ but now he was like a skinned potato, and was no longer twenty-nine Cary but seventy-five Yukon Gold, a milestone the boiled lobster setdresser was unable to appreciate considering his perennial certainty that he was twenty-nine and had been, as far as he knew, twenty-nine for five years running. His sister would bring him coffee then abscond

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with the newspaper. His daughter, wearing the same outfit as his sister, would return in her aunt’s place to deliver him a quartered muffin and freshen his cup, black with two sugar plops saying something about last week’s news and him thinking I’m not last week’s news and miraculously different newer newspaper news smudged his hands and when he was done reading and didn’t know the names of any of the movies, and worse, none of their stars, he’d clench and rub and grab and smudge his face black and his sister would scold him, and his daughter, she’d scold him. Somehow his daughter, his Vera, the M.B.A.holding joy of his life, could recall the details of whatever small trouble or story he’d relayed to his sister (who Vera said lived alone in Montana or Idaho or someplace), so it struck him strange that they’d both heard the one about the box of cutlery mistook for the expedition’s ammunition and how him and his buddies had just seen The Deer Hunter and borrowed one of their Pa’s shotgun collections and sat out there pretending to load spoons and forks into the barrels in November, September? One of the cold ones, and they both, Vera and her aunt, would smile and they both would say I know it, I’ve heard it, and he’d say, because he didn’t trust either of them, “Well ... I’m tellin’ it anyway.” He’d outstayed the welcome of his mortality but clung on with bloodied fingernails while some very real monster sucked out decent-sized chunks of his unraveling yarn-ball mind through a wide, firmly lodged straw. Cirrhosis should’ve taken him, but some drug, whose name he couldn’t possibly recall, purloined eleven years– and counting–from an abstracted magic pouch where you obtain things, like seconds, that put your stumbling untied shoes further into the street than the preoccupied motorist, and in there too you can find fingers loosening seaweed, endorsing your resurfacing, or the pusher who gets nabbed, and the pusher’s infrastructure confused by his employees’ inability to keep a reasoned schedule, as they themselves fall prey to nod-outs and straight up permanent knockouts, so your overdose goes narrowly avoided by none of them having their shit together, or your shit available for consumption. So, for now, you live.

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All the things that will kill are cached in the same hat, and it’s the luck of the draw, and you lay the hand your dealt, and an ounce of medicinal prevention is worth 230 lbs. of breathing 75 years-old flesh. But you remember that your whole body regenerates every seven years, and you get to wondering how Morrow and Le and Chen spin off (no pun intended) into nothing just for an homage you need watch once but I’d suggest you stare at a photocopy of a Black Triptych before you bother with a Serling-suck-off. Who Morrow or Le or Chen are, you can’t remember. Serling was okay. No master. Hitchcock. That’s a master. The set-dresser was there when it happened, and was instructed to destroy the evidence. Vera had thoroughly repressed what she’d seen, what the set-dresser watched for the first and last time before he shoved the reels under the burn-victim doll in the filing cabinet. Numbers and letters and colons lined the top and bottom of the footage of the deaths, projected onto a bare wall in the set-dresser’s apartment. Each frame counted down to the helicopter’s crushing of Myca Dinh Le, the decapitations of Vic Murrow and Renee Shin-Yi Chen. Running the film back, to before the mutilation, the set-dresser watched Vera and Myca and Renee chasing each other through the set, each holding a stick of bamboo. Twilight Zone The Movie cost ten mill to make and made six its opening weekend. Without-me-they’d-be-fucked,-always-savingtheir-sorry-asses,-had-to-dig-through-all-of-Paramount-tofind-that-fucking-director’s-chair-so-Dreyfuss-could-“gomethod,”-and-Dreyfuss’s-an-alright-guy,-got-his-Christmascard-...-somewhere-’round-here. But the card had been left behind in his condo, sold cheap in a frenzy of adjustments and considerations. After Vera had given in to his confusion and brought her father home, she chucked the pile of nursing home pamphlets along with a Glad bag of tumescent adult diapers from her (now their) apartment’s balcony, into the open dumpster below. The black bag tore on the dumpster’s

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edge, and she watched as everything spilled into the alley. She whispered an apology and locked herself in the bathroom to wash her hands. ||| This reenacted flick: Something about a fat man (fitting) killing spiders and the twenty-nine years got him spry and he sprayed them dead and his daughter came back from fuck-knows-where and found him stoic arms akimbo, triumphant in her husband’s slim-fit Dockers left from his last, final visit (and you couldn’t blame him), the exterminator’s gut pouring over the trousers squashing imaginary spiders (of course they’re imaginary, s’just a G D movie Axton, we had to keep tellin’ him) and she forced him under the kitchen faucet to get the Windex off his face, his arms. Then dish-soap and that water-is-hot! off his forearms. And you want me to quiet down about Katie Capshaw? Dora, don’t you remember when we Katie and Steve over? No, I think we should talk about it. We need another G D sink allofasudden. They didn’t say that but I could tell. Pop was wrong but maybe not wrong. Go on Steve, Fuck off to Cantor’s and we’ll have a feast for the gentiles, us philistines. Just me and my wife and my daughter. You are either Australian or a German refugee. THIS IS A GENTILE’S HOUSE, YOU BETTER RUN ALONG!!! It’s the middle of the day, Dora. You don’t need pajamas. You’re not making any sense. No, it’s just time to sleep. Wait, to sleep!? Sleep, this thing like Arbor Day. Something you know is real but you’re not looking forward to, and couldn’t care less if it passed you by, but the lights go down outside, or are turned out, and the birdsong switches to cricketchirp, but you know Dreyfuss’s workin’ again! So gimme a line out, gotta get on the horn! But the lights’re out, and she’ll come to bed when she’s done doin’ whatever it is women do in the “powder room.” |||

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“You said we were going to have fun.” “Honey, I love you, but you’re an idiot. I read the mail. I see the bills. You drank away Vera’s college fund at a Ramada.” “He finally shuts up.”

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“Listen, you said ‘Let’s move. We’ll have fun. We’ll get a place with a wine-cellar,’” So, you’re goddamn right I’m an idiot. There’re no winecellars in Anaheim. And you quit.” “You’re really going to complain about a goddamn “Just get out.” wine cellar right now?” “I’m driving.” “No. We’re talking about this. Now. If you don’t stop drinking I’m leaving and “Get out, Dora.” Vera’s coming with me.” “Dora, Get out.” “Tell you the truth we might “Get out of the car.” leave even if you do stop.” “You’re a selfish man. A mean man.” “Get. Out.” “You get out. This’ll be my car when I leave you. Or, maybe you should keep it. We’re about to lose the house anyway, so this car will be your home and you can drink yourself to death in this fucking car you fucking joke. But watch out for spiders, little pansy baby. Is baby ‘fraid of spiders? Is he? Is the widdle baby ‘fraid of the iddy biddy spidey?” “ .” “GET OFF OF ME—”gerg gerg urgle-erk-erk “ . . . . . . . . . . . ………....………..……............…............” |||

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Petting a cat made of wind and a flitting mosquito he went on caressing. His wife’s hair came under his palm, and his fingers went into a net of tangled mess, and were wet and sticky. His bowels had gone loose in his sleep, and the smell of shit and smoke thrust their passionate alloyance against twenty-nine year-old vibrissae, and he pulled his loving hand from his sub-coiffure, not noticing it coated in the stuff that’d assisted in the creation of Vera, who was even now entering, though he didn’t know it, and she stared at him from his California King, not looking at the glazed hand in front of his sooty face. A firetruck-red ashtray smoldered with halfcompleted butts on his marble bedside. The stench of her saddening (but mean [and revulsion-inducing]) father was as obvious as the sight of the habit he’d quit years before. But he smoked at twenty-nine so, well. And where he got them she couldn’t figure, but there were more pressing matters. Into the shower with you and it’ll be fine and my name’s Vera, not Dora, that’s Mom, and I’m sorry, but I’ll tell you again, I’ve never met Sam Neill, and, yes, there, it’s on your hip, the other side, I’ll find out if she’s still working, for the last time Catherine is not, I mean was not, I mean, no one named Catherine is or I mean was your wife! sorry, sorry Dad. You got it, the stuff from, you got it, it doesn’t matter. ||| Dora refused to speak to him. An eternal Thursday night with Vera long lost in a dream, her parents assumed, so they could whisper-bicker about the empty 750 ml. bottles Dora’d found in a white hatbox in the trunk of their car (used in American Graffiti) the lining, a blotchy perse smelling of rotting fruit. “What’s wrong with you? You can’t drink like this! You can’t drink at all! The doctor said, he told you over and over. You can’t do this to us!” Dora staring straight in his eyes and him bafflefaced as the hypocrisy of his wife’s year sober couldn’t

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shake the fond and atrocious memories of them together getting mindbendingly drunk. Fondly remembered nights of Vera asleep before the brandishing of the winekey, he and his wife doddering from kitchen to shed to fight or fuck. Those nights were gone. More recently he’d been drinking alone. A lot. He didn’t hate screen-writers, but Belson and Thomas were awful and omnipresent. No matter what he told him Spielberg wouldn’t ban them from the set. They’d call the house and yell about the flight tower construction and propeller paint, and he’d sit and listen and uncork a bottle and listen, and by the time he’d not agreed but listened enough so they’d give up or find some satiation in telephonically pummeling him with all he’d done wrong—Always would flop if he didn’t get the right venetian blinds—he was left alone in loneliness with a half a bottle of Cab. The informality of the abbreviation: A salve rubbed athwart a yelping dependence. He couldn’t drink it the next day, called it vinegar. He’d finish the whole bottle each night (frequently leading to the decision to have one or two more glasses, but that bottle was open now too, and had to be finished) so each morning he’d sleep through three similar sounding alarm sounds from three separate alarm clocks (strategically placed behind and beneath things so their light wouldn’t keep him [or Dora] up, and so he wouldn’t somnambulate and unplug them and fall back to bed and not remember any of it in the morning) and he’d wake groggy and angry at every sound and movement, and took handfuls of preventive aspirin, and washed them down with half a pot of black coffee, and would try to pass time until it was again a reasonable drinking hour, the hour shifting earlier monthly. The job of a set dresser isn’t to improve unfilmable scripts or play therapist to the talent, so when the Bigs (script-writers, directors, producers, studio-heads) realized their lowly equivalent of a Sci-Fi interior decorator, utterly replaceable in their respectively neurasthenic, megalomaniacal, dice-throwing, acidulous-gooseberry-eating domain, was, in fact, irreplaceable as an unsentient polymath, who never begged for more than a groat and a handshake, they,

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collectively and individually, had their banister painter figuratively and literally put his name on that line, right there, use my pen (no mine!), and his wife sucked sour grapes until he took the light from her eyes, and her face went slack, and the set-dresser’s bowels went loose when Dora reported back through bars that she’d identified her tattooless, moleless, once-perfect (but aged), then life-choked mother’s body, and the joke was on everyone then, as he’d been so reliable they hadn’t bothered with any sort of “‘break-in-case’-ofdementia-inducing-spouse-strangulation-by-seatbelt-clause” and the M.B.A.-holding joy of his life had sucked those sour grapes (turned raisins by now) from her mother’s blue lips, and called in favors, and got a Big Jirus Doctor (who happened to love gooseberries herself) to come in and crush the prosecution with zeal, unwittingly carving the set-dresser’s name into an orally distributed black list, keeping him from any dealings with anyone who’d ever seen (or hoped to see) their names big and white, cascading down a black screen as moviegoers brushed popcorn from their laps and headed toward the exits. ||| The boy woke in a bed so foolishly large for his decade old body he giggled. A familiar and confusing and familiarly angry man came in, shouting and stomping his steps, and pulled the boy from the bed, and took him into the dark of the hallway, and shook the boy with testicle-dropping force, so when the boy’s vision realigned on an index finger, stabbing at the exasperated thick atmosphere just before his nose, the boy reached back with both arms, without thought, so when his arm sockets made his elbows kiss behind his back, it was the fear instinct that had him pull his thumbs into red fists. All of him red. One punch was absorbed by the man’s middleaged man-gut. The boy’s thumbs snapped in his own hands. The second small punch broke skin, made blood. For one delicate, shale and lava moment, the pain was a spire carving into the man’s ass, raising him, bewildered, above ink stormclouds, the fear of God in his features, not knowing if he was being sucked into God’s

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hatchets-and-spears beard, or if he were about to lose his gastrointestinal tract (that gave him so much trouble, the boy remembered the man complaining, at only ten, knowing it as a cliché of how old men start to notice they’re not-so-slowly dying, depending on your take on what is or isn’t slow, and what is or isn’t dying) everything from spired anus to insane mouth was sucked into God’s indescribable, dark-matter, toothless mouth-hole, that’d spoken Hell and It’s Guide. The man’s face, now a thing unrecognizable in mirrors. With the speed of ever-prolix gravity, the man fell through the spheres, howling to understand, and he fell into his middle-aged man body, and the moment changed, and the boy knew he didn’t have time to cry out, and his shirt stayed stuck against the hallway’s dark wall as he was raised through the neck-hole. His face went from red to purple. He felt no bewilderment, and saw no beard but that of the man, who’d resumed shouting swears catawampusly, which were quickly defined by the boy’s decreasing deduction, until the returned wall hanging boy moved into a fuzzy, almost warm place, where felt needles tried hard to get inside his scalp and spine. The doctor warned the boy to be more careful when playing, and to not try to pull the casts off his hands, no matter how much they bothered him, and he shouldn’t worry because he could dictate his assignments to gracious schoolmates, and the casts would be off in no time. It’s in the waiting room that he decides that he won’t be an anti-Semite like his father, though the decision’s made in a child’s place, where you know more than you can say and have to wait to learn the words and terms and filthy sarcasm and muddy cynicism and violent silences. Wisdom’s coming to replace magic, but luckily, the boy doesn’t know. ||| Gene Hackman, completely mustacheless, sledgehammered the walls apart, as carefully as someone can destructively remove walls with a Stanley hickory-handled sixteen pounder. Gypsum and plaster and lath and wood were

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then moved into petite dams that were pulled into the rotting Shop-Vac. When he caught an earwig, in it went, and he smiled blackly with parted lips, showing uncooked corn-kernel teeth. He pulled the permanent ash-on-black uni-nostriled Shop-Vac’s trunk to clear out crevices near the fifth wall, and caught sight of an Orb-Weaver. He gave it a verso police,* then extracted a small finger and wagged his hand, reminding it to hang loose, and he knew it was a dumb joke but felt safe as no one was around to point out small humors or mistakes, especially not Dora, who just loved to pick at him for anything small (the smaller the better, in her eyes) and she’d walk out the room huffing when he’d offer a valuable insight, or lead by allegorical example, or be truly funny, which he frequently was. Holding court with three fingers of bourbon wrapped in a black bandana to keep the condensation from his hand, which was wrapped around the drink, with his other hand wrapped around the throats of his and his wife’s dinner party guests, throttling them with stories about Sasha, lot-kid, and Vera, lot-kid. He told them how Vera got banned from the Schindler set for using the bunker door to attempt an incisor extraction, Sasha’s mouth overflowed with blood, and, he, the set-dresser, in front of their guests, drunkenly yelled at Dora, accusing her of keeping him from having fun, that she’d promised they’d have fun, that he wasn’t having fun. Vera counted the ways she hated her father while sweeping her fragmented wall into a pink dustpan, filling durable Macy’s bags to their brims. *sic

||| We were in the pool, playing games in the pool. Vera was in white and green. I’d given her a bowlcut. It was your father’s birthday, a big one. A big round number. Cristobal had to be home for his big one, 50? 60? I remember spinning you in the pool, leading you up the path, jumping from the ledge, holding you in the water, and us kissing, and you saying “My Husband”

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again and again, and seeming amazed. Cristobal called me Oyoselithios and lauged and slapped his knee while everyone laughed. Hundreds of guests filled the Achilleion. I could see Vera dancing with her aunts. Somehow you looked prettier than usual. The water on your eyelids, water making your hair one long thick lock. Then, you’d remember, there was the cupcake walk, which I never figured out (and you just laughed and then went straight-man and said it was tradition, but broke character [I think] and laughed and I dunno) and I’d still wonder if Cristobal made it up, or it was just something for Vera, or maybe it was just so Cristobal and your brothers could watch me put out candles with the bottoms of my feet, candles stuck in cupcakes. 50 or 60 of them behind the pool, in the shade of the trees, with just the knots left of the rosin bags that got torn off for the party. And you led Vera, crouching and instructing and pointing, and she waddled around the cupcakes. Together you got to the last one and picked it up and walked off to sit under (what I assume in my memory) was a Cypress. And you cooed and hand-fed that perfect four-year-old, and while I was a little jealous (she always ran to you) and exhausted (your goddamn brothers), I was overjoyed. And you should see her now. Dora . . . if you saw her now, Dora. Like twins, the two of you. I never told you. There was no reason. That night, after the party was over, you told me to go have a good time with Mel and Pom and Cris. We went up to play cottavose* at some place in the harbor, and I had Cris fall back with me told him I forgot something in our room. He ran to catch up with his older brothers, your brothers. I went back, creeping like a sneak around behind the Cypresses. You were still there with Vera, both cross-legged, legs touching, facing each other, holding hands. I remember noting that we would have to do something about her posture, but you just stared her in her huge eyes, and she gazed back, and you sat there for an eternity. My legs lost all feeling. Things got even quieter than silent. I didn’t move the arm (also asleep) that was

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stuck between my chest and a Cypress’ trunk, the configuration keeping me standing. *sic

||| Vera found crying to be a major turnoff and saw fitness as a kind of cleanliness. She employed a surgical technique when deconstructing crustaceous exoskeletons on expensive dates. She was an exceptionally good date, who knew the rules, and bent them enough to keep the attention of her suitors. Until they began boring her asking her “did you like that?” and worse “you like it like that, don’t you?” She always responded in the affirmative to whichever chisel-chinned adonisesque prowler she found in her bed. Some took the opportunity to congratulate her from beneath the sheets on a job-well-done. Her knowing full well that she’d given but a shard of herself. Staring at her bedroom door (always her bedroom), after her lovers had left, she’d utilize another shard to hope her father wasn’t face-down-dead in his own wine-sick. She would then seize a smaller, though more brightly gleaming shard, praying he was. ||| DORA!? ||| The hooker doesn’t pretend. I ask her to after some failed attempts. She says she will, then doesn’t. I stop trying to excite her, and she seems relieved that she can take a shower in the sink. I step on a stray catsup packet on my way to my wallet, which is doubly stupid, because the meeting’s arranged by the Ramada, and the exchange is billed to the room. She’d left her purse-thing on the desk next to my haphazard arrangement of keys, wallet, lighter, Chapstick,

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room key. Her voice came through the closed restroom door over the sucking vent you couldn’t turn off unless you were willing to deal with the dark. I couldn’t hear what she was saying. She didn’t have much in her clutch purse-thing. Her driver’s license photograph made me jealous. The girl they sent was pretty, but the one in the photograph wasn’t wearing eyeshadow, and was smiling. Catherine Mary Findlater. Three-named girls. The name was familiar, and that made me realize she looked familiar. Until she burst out of the restroom as I was, luckily, by then, walking away toward the bedside box of tissues to clean catsup off my foot. I saw in her blank features that I’d never seen her before. Just outside the second set of sliding glass doors of the hotel, I stood smoking and regretting having left the room. There’s a deadly heat on. It’s so easy to forget the heat, sitting in controlled air. The windows are sealed. There isn’t even a latch, or a lock, or anything at all. A window that’s never been opened, that can never open, not without breaking it. But that’s not exactly opening it is my way of thinking. It felt strange to go and come back and find new unwrapped things. It felt good. I made sure to remove anything that wasn’t going to be replaced by the cleaning staff. This way, when I went to wash my face, I could pretend it was the day before. Like I hadn’t been there for weeks. Small, unwrapped bars of soap. One next to the sink, one on a shelf in the shower. Took me a lifetime to replace the soap at home. I’d just grab the thinning bar from the soapdish, bring it in the shower, and forget to put it back. I’d have to climb in and grab it just to wash my hands. It’d be so easy to grab two boxed bars from under the sink, but something kept me swapping. Not laziness. More like a dumb challenge disguised as laziness. Before we moved into the bigger place, Dora took care of that sort of stuff, and complained because I never did. Without vocalizing anything, we both thought moving into the bigger house would smooth out the rough patch. It just made us resent each other more, and talk less,

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which meant arguing less. We’d slip by each other, washing dishes, folding laundry. Domestic stuff, without meeting eyes, without talking. There’d be weird, low apologies if we bumped into one another. But they felt fake when I muttered them. Hers were full of loathing. I light a cigarette because I hear Dora’s station wagon pull in the drive. I won’t to be a bellboy: rush out with a smile and lug her treasures in. She knows I’m trying to get out of helping. “You said you were going to quit,” and she slides the screen door behind her. I smoke the thing gone and pretend to think about eating the filter; eating all the filters and cleaning the ashtray with my tongue and running in and spitting in her hair. ||| The insidious, vestigial stench of flushed body-mud bent along the hallway’s molding, sopping up domestic smells, erasing blithe anecdotes and chortle-worthy private jokestories. The boy’s father finding a diamond ring more impressive than the one he gave his wife, it ricocheting around the vacuum’s bag, and the time his mother made cookie batter with four times the butter called for, so the family postponed their bedtimes to make hundreds of quickly nauseating cookies, half plain having run out of chocolate chips halfway through the fully explored mistake. The boy pointed a banana at the dog pretending it was a gun. He didn’t know anything about guns. He decided it was a machine gun. PAbPPAbPPAbPPAbPPAbP PAbPPAbPPAbPPAbPPAbPPAbP PAbP. The dog smiled with a slight pant, observing him, or the banana, or the whole scene, or just watched its reflection in the sliding glass door separating gun-shot-victim from shooter. Grenades exploded the boy’s legs. He clutched his chest, spun slowly on his toes, gasped out “I...can’t... breathe,” fell bruising his knees and the credibility of his one-man one-act-play, rolled on his back, held his shins, whimpered, rocked like a flipped turtle. The dog collapsed its back legs and settled in to watch the show.

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Sharp, thick fingers curved around his shoulder. He smelled a timid softness and turned to be lifted and held against his father’s chest. The boy went limp. The fiery sweet amalgam rocked quietly. Round thubbing bounced the tile as the banana trembled from ass to stem due to its high altitude release. ||| “Ehh, what’s up, Doc?” camped Dora to her father’s doctor. Before he could respond, an RN, whose name the doctor couldn’t remember, swung her purse in front of his face as she sashayed freedom thrust toward the sliding glass doors, toward her weekend. Wanting to be polite, the doctor said “hello… nurse” wincing, trying to recall a name he realized he’d never learned. Dora asked bluntly if her father was dead. This caused the doctor conflict, as he loathed being interrupted. But he hadn’t formed the completion of his greeting for the no-name-nurse, fearful as he was of the judgment of people who were, but shouldn’t have been strangers. He was unaware that the RN knew she worked in a place where the people in the white coats saw only charts, symptoms, tools, and rote cures, while visions of newer more expensive things danced in their heads. Hippocrates would’ve spun like a foosball player if he could smell their bourbon breath. Or watch the Dilaudid disappear from the automated dispensing cabinets. Or get a clear eye through the glossy portholes to espy belly-pained physicians, almost genuflecting with quaking shoulders under creepy lighting humming off radiographs. They laugh-explained the things left inside parts sewn up. A full day before she was delivered the news of her father’s passing by a stupid man in a white coat, she observed them, two White Coats, hunched over with bowed heads, looking like a mirrored image of Dyer in the middle of the center panel of Triptych 1974-1977, enveloped in that darkness you see beyond Dyer in the painting. No beach scene. Only Vera glaring in the porthole on tiptoes as a framed witness.

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Late years of obsession had her too familiar with Bacon’s life and works. She’d had, until the point of her father’s ultra-familiarity (and great and true sadness that he hadn’t discovered the painter sooner [perhaps they could’ve met, he’d go on and on]) enjoyed museums full of paintings and sculptures and things. Her coffee table books included one dedicated to the works (and analyses) of Egon Schiele and one (doing just the same for) Marcel Duchamp. She had secretly read a biography of each, so when she entertained, she could go on and on about them using art-words. Sometimes she’d wax a false and small sadness that she hadn’t met them, wasn’t born near Hauts-de-Seine (which, she should tell you, simply means Siene Heights, and she’ll tell you about Schiele after she grabs the other Chard, just hold on and put on something else if the Fela Kuti is a bit much) nor was she born to be Wally, which in many ways, she’d say, was a positive thing, but maybe, she would say, it would’ve been worth it, to be Wally, but she would’ve stayed, she’d say. ||| The shadow leaping off the unkempt hedge laid thin lizard talons across her legs, slowly pulling away through the muggy afternoon as the August sun reclined westward, looking for rest behind treeless, dun hills. Manzanita bushes strayed easterly, the wind pulling at portions of the shrubline. The sun went out. The shadow transmogrified to darkness. A cool cowl tranquilly negotiated its way from a non-place into her skin, surrounding her head. Vera woke. The walled-in patio was eaten by night. Three silver film canisters supported her perspiring glass of lemonade. A thing that was once a doll fell from her sleepy grasp into an accidental circle of half-smoked cigarettes. A single uncovered 100-watter newspapered her in fake sunlight, violating the darkness.

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Contributors

Heatherlie Allison is a 2012 MFA recipient of CalArts School of Critical Studies. She also holds a degree from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Inspired by the fields of analytical psychology, feminist theory, and mysticism, she writes fiction, essays, and poetry. At current, she is finishing her first novel and investigating the parallel relationship between altered states of consciousness and the creative process. Patrick Benjamin is an MFA candidate in the Creative Writing program at CalArts, an editorial assistant at Black Clock, and lives with his sister and grandmother near Los Angeles. His piece is dedicated to Francis Bacon and his grandfather, Richard. Patricia Cram works in the esoteric and political. She is a writer, designer, event curator, and performance artist. ‹ patriciacram.com › Arne De Boever teaches American Studies in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. He also directs the School’s MA Program in Aesthetics and Politics. He has published numerous articles on literature, film, and critical theory and is editor of Parrhesia: A Journal of Critical Philosophy. His book States of Exception in the Contemporary Novel was published by Continuum.  92

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Jessica Felleman is working toward her MFA in Writing at CalArts. An ex-gymnast, nanny, baker, novice designer and writer originally from Massachusetts, she is currently spending a lot of time writing about pregnancy and other strange occurrences. Ingrid Lee is a composer, improviser, and pianist from Hong Kong. She is currently pursuing a BFA in music composition and piano performance at the California Institute of the Arts. Lianna Kissinger-Virizlay is an essayist in the CalArts Critical Studies MFA Program in Writing. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland she has since traveled far and wide and enjoys writing about this and other things. Since coming to CalArts she spearheaded the renewal of a student newspaper; the first issue of the CalArts Eye was printed in February 2012. She received a BA in Religion from Princeton University, where she focused on the intersection of art and spirituality. Danae Moore is a graphic designer from Seattle, WA who is often found experimenting with ways of integrating dance and the body into her design practice. She is graduating from CalArts this year with an MFA in Graphic Design. ‹ danaemoore.com › 93

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Credits CalArts School of Critical Studies ‹ criticalstudies.calarts.edu › 2011 – 2012

Editors: Heatherlie Allison, Jessica Felleman, Danae Moore Graphic Designer & Illustrator: Danae Moore Cover Design: Danae Moore, Tara Tannenbaum Contributing Writers: Heatherlie Allison, Patrick Benjamin, Patricia Cram, Arne De Boever, Jessica Felleman, Lianna Kissinger-Virizlay, Ingrid Lee Faculty of the Body Cluster: Arne De Boever, Maggie Nelson, Claire Phillips, Gail Swanlund, Matias Viegener

California Institute of the Arts 24700 McBean Parkway Valencia, CA 91355

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[ Cell ]  

California Institute of the Arts School of Critical Studies presents [ Cell ], a collection of written works from selected participants of t...

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