/ Ella Clark
Gilded Dirt Issue #2: Supermarket Verse Contributors: Jon Anātman, Clare Archibald, Stephen Barnaby, Anjana Basu, Heath Brougher, Carly Brown, Ella Clark, Scott Coubrough, Linda M. Crate, Anna Eckslager, Rona Fitzgerald, Steven Harvie, dj Misty, Mohair, Eva Reppe-Roverselli, Maria Sledmere, Sarah Spence, Joanna Vandenbring, Sara Wengström Cover Design: Douglas Pattison Art, Design & Chief Editrix: Maria Sledmere
What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon. In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? / Allen Ginsberg, ‘A Supermarket in California’
Dance of the Discounted Playground: A Manifesto for Supermarkets Is it possible to recall one’s first time within these bold and hallowed walls? When did the temple first loom on the senses, a phantasmagoria of packaging more beautiful perhaps than any toyshop, pet store or even television? To a child, the space of the supermarket must surely represent a certain glut of consumption, the possibilities of endless fulfilment. A child more vividly appreciates the satisfactions of food, unaware that her overindulgence may spill into pain. No consciousness of the imminent bloat. The supermarket: that labyrinthine array of chains, products, signs. If, in our post-postmodern age (O how clunky the store name, plastic neon cracked across sculpted letters), the sign has replaced the signifier in that Baudrillardian sense of the overlap, the triumph of the virtual over the physical, then the supermarket is the final vestige of tactility in the desert of material scarcity. While online environments are clotted with simultaneity—the ephemeral ads that pop up or blink for 30 seconds—the supermarket is rich with physical billboards, posters, labels and signs, boxes, packages, stacks and displays. You can drift on by, but you can’t minimise. If consumption involves the structuring of our social structure, then the supermarket is a site of such praxis; the supermarket shapes our reality. The canny consumer will uncover a wealth of hidden relations in the supermarket. Lift up that lush bunch of vine tomatoes. Think of the chain of command that brought them to this tray, its trim felt soft as a golf course green. The migrant worker stinging his thumbs in the hot bright sunshine, the flight passage with all its delays and risk of employee detournement,
the delicate management of temperatures that brought these ripe fruits to perfection. I have studied the semiotics of labels. I have studied the colours, the exact Feng Shui of visual merchandising, that ornate art of seduction. Oh I have lingered in the chocolate aisle, hesitant in that prefigured inhalation of excess calories. I have fantasised late-night binges, cramming my basket in sleep only to wake up empty-stomached to a book-filled room. I have wept among the vegetables, spotted rogue insects, spent summer afternoons wandering the freezer aisles with the cool plastic soothing the skin of my fingers. Like many rural teenagers, I have flirted with shoplifting. With finding ways to cheat the system, as if exposing those glitches was suďŹƒcient to uncover the portals of a secret network, the subterranean universe which buttresses the surface luxury. O what jewels, those blueberries! A man at midnight is stacking shelves, blaring his heart out to David Bowie, whose aged voice crackles like static through the crap speakers. One eventide in July my flatmate and I found ourselves trekking to the mecca of Maryhill Tesco at four in the morning, seeking oven pizza and distraction from our separate anxieties. The soundtrack from Frozen sizzled through the PA system, always jumping, always in constant delayâ€”as if someone had already made a 30minute vapourwave remix for this very purpose. As if from somewhere above, icebergs were crackling in the cardboard rafters, this grand reenactment of the Anthropocene in action, ready for performance while we shop. At the entrance, as you pass through the security gates, you surrender a certain self-consciousness to the sequence of the visual, the tactile itself. Like Disneyland, the supermarket is in a sense a microcosm of the culture at large. Nowhere else on the high-street, on the outskirts of suburban retail parks, will you find quite the same smorgasbord of blatant PR, corny adverts,
unsubtly placed packages of meat. The objectified skin of our impoverished reality. O god how the meat aisle always fascinated and frightened me. When I see those hunks of flesh, when I see the glittering fridges of cheese! Pornography of the packaged-up, the slick and plastic. Capitalism red in tooth, claw and sticky label! A farmer once dragged a cow through the local supermarket in protest of milk prices. I saw a child literally kick cans of soup until they all fell down, almost on his head. I dropped a bottle of wine and it shattered like a prized ruby. Someone did a somersault; I used to glide with the trolley instead of pushing it. When homesick, the act of doing a food shop oﬀers a sense of homecoming. Return. You are bringing in the goods; a primitive element activates in the brain and like a good huntergatherer, the serotonin kick at the checkouts is the true reward for serving yourself and others. Buy food for your family, your flatmates. I have these cookies; I bought several. One for me, one for you. If you do not take a cookie, three fairies will perish on the next full moon. Do you want that on your conscience, do you? We once had a game. You had to collect the most expensive receipt. Bin-raiding was like freeganism except we had no interest in the goods, just the textual evidence of said goods’ purchase. It was an intervention in the one-way exchange. We wanted a token, artefact; to vicariously experience another person’s momentary indulgence. Such narratives to be constructed from a receipt! Eggs, discount razors, organic plums (O how very William Carlos Williams!), wholewheat seeded loaf, fake butter, spring onions, pink lipstick, assorted tampons, Weetabix, headache capsules, poppy seeds, oven chips, drain cleaner, cat food; a true Latourian litany. The levelling of
assemblages into discrete, disjointed, mysterious objects. So I imagine this woman who wanders round a plush apartment on the eleventh floor of a downtown building. She paces quite serenely until the migraines kick in and she’s razoring fruit in the amberous light of the evening kitchen; she’s munching bread straight from the bin and everything smells of cleaning chemicals. Industrial varnish of the lonely soul. This perhaps is the cause of the headache. The cat has nibbled her toes in the morning every day for a decade now. She slicks on lipstick, goes out to meet him with seeds in her teeth and a regretful smile that belies a recent diet. Somewhere she lives on in my head, ghost conjuring of temporary inventory. How many hours have we spent in a lifetime lingering at selfservice checkouts! When the Tesco ones wish me a Merry Christmas, I feel the true imposition of the nonhuman actant in my (to use an extravagant Uexküllian term) umwelt, that self-specific milieu of subjective reality, the micro environment of my senses that structures my encounter with objects, with others. I feel blessed, I feel uncannily soothed by the machine’s programmed joy. What curious magic is this! I watch others throw their arms in the air with frustration, unexpected item ——— ! ! ! (!) and yet I find myself assuaged with serenity of patience. Let the thing do its thing. It follows a system; it is not just glitching for the sake of glitching. When the human comes to swipe their key, the loops return to their familiar security. O how I love when it gurgles my change! The oﬀered placation of a bright screen gives me a satisfied sense of complicity; have I achieved so well that enmeshment with the technical system of purchase? Alienated millennials spill out of libraries, drunk on the tiredness of 12 hour shifts in hospitality; they throw in their SAAS, their hard-earned tips (for even the youth have to eat, it seems). Liquidity of drink must slosh up against solids eventually.
In the supermarket, I am complicit in global capitalism. I am complicit in various systems of economic exploitation. I float like a ghost half-starved in the aisles. Somebody dwells by the biscuits, smelling strongly of skunk, their mannerisms slow and seductive. I watch with interest as they fill the basket. A foetal position on the parquet floor is preferable sometimes to being pushed in a trolley in a field miles away, destined for the reservoir death of that treacherous, filthy river. At my grandmother’s the suburbs are clotted with white goods and trolleys, every green space bears the trace of the supermarket’s gargantuan status in the local economy. The brand surrounds, the brand penetrates. Pound coins spill on the concrete (O Ezra with his plethora of images!); old people pucker their lips as they reluctantly pull out contactless cards, afraid of some clandestine sorcery at work, ready to drag from the shadows their worldly funds, their secret pensions. A place of such fear, the sublimity of terror! Children play hide and seek near the alcohol. Security guards scroll on smartphones, bearing their extrasensory eye to subtle changes in the environment. They can sniﬀ out the outcast who cannot aﬀord the bottle. Grey Goose for sale, that silvery promise of a better life! We hide by the boxes of Twinings, favouring Green Tea from the East and talking of liars, lost toys or boyfriends. Our favourite Express has a penchant for playing late-night Queen. Honestly, when the man at the checkout says have a good day it’s like planets are aligning again, like I see the whole system of global connection —a hundred countries with shops like these—flash before my eyes. Heaven or Hell; white goods and bin bags. God, as we haunt these aisles, we are truly irrelevant. Won’t you bring me a bouquet of kale, hand-picked from the shelves? It seems a shame to just get a delivery. / Maria Sledmere
On the aesthetics of shelf stacking She is petite, slight, hardly reaching the third shelf her method precise, even, a river of bottles laying claim to space.
I might have suggested she put lemon beside Lucozade, for symmetry balancing rainbow lines of light.
But Iâ€™m in a hurry, muzak making my mind long for quite spaces.
Ah, still water is on the top shelf at the back - where even by long arms cannot stretch, my back protests.
Should I call a lad?
Female solidarity forbids. I approach the sylph, she searches for a ladder, hauls across a set,
firm as the Hillary step on Everest.
Leaps up, lithe, cheery, bringing down bottles, smooth as a bucket in an oasis.
Sheâ€™s now on jams, preserves placing them one at a time, pacing her day in honey jars.
employee feedback form:
/ Rona Fitzgerald.
O Holy Groceries For the icing had not lain quite still on the laminate floor, refrigerators hummed with dull and succulent promise. The pram caught in the gap between two generations, whose interest lay cleanly and mutually distinct between the butter and soy, the refried beans whose labels bore secret tickets to Mexico. For a service announcement, the parochial accent cut shrill through the muzak, whose eternal tones the shoppers had long yearned for in unremembered slumbers, eyes loosening in the slot machine spin of numbers. They call the barcodes back to the aisles, drifting like characters in aerial versions of early Mario, phalanxed then undone by sprite formations. The boy who serves is a microcosmic landscape of the cool emporium, its static coagulation of hours beading his pores with the poisonous clot of spores forming a variant terrain of volcanic ruptures. Loose-leaf tea in metallic packets, gum of radiant neon, a rash of herbicide reddens the glistening cabbages, beside the phallic banana sweat. Old ladies fondle grapes as though nostalgic. We pass the sunlit ether where the gates bleep in rhythms of thievery, where men in obsidian suits cast back our reflections. There is a pause in the wall, a tiny iota of carpark light that is toxic and lustfully orange. Supposing the warm air is synthetic, the vans will come soon to collect the excess of this palace; there's an electric scan that crispens my skin. Won't you help me peel oďŹ€ the label, O holy sample of Braeburn apple? I fear the trundle of trolleys, the knowingly eternal shift that starts again. Your strip-lights shatter me like a clock and all the people are uniform.
/ Maria Sledmere
/ Eva Reppe-Roverselli
ruptures 2k17 it’s in my hands and it’s a global economy: the reassurance of consent with a hint of taboo, this tired, tied-down libido give me product-rating warriors hybrid fissures of myth/logos fizz-mint and pixel-worn give me classic coke with splash of tic-tac give me pretence towards beauty, small pockets of makeshift, catfish culture; show me pictures of your trees click-bait and dick-pic; static cats and ghosts of GIFdom grant me entry to your image— let me know you for a second before I refresh the mark of a different wanderer, for there is “none now living to whom I dare clearly speak of my innermost thoughts” let me imagine simple intimacy, market me my night-time ruptures and my cul-de-sac desires flaming on, shapeshifting constructing false portraits from my shopping history; frozen pies bags of pasta; pretended maps of each purported territory give me Netflix browsing cues before i drift to sleep & dream of the ancient, unconscious work of Giants, & of nature reawakening
/ Jon Anātman
/ Sarah Spence GREAT 50 WORD THOUGHTS IN THE SUPERMARKET Humanity will con.nue to study philosophy, as long as the great ques.ons remain unanswered: Why are we here? Is there a God? How can we know everything we see isn't a ﬁgment of our imagina.on? and What exactly is the deﬁni.on of 'Authen.c' in the context of 'Authen.c Haggis Pizza’? / Stephen Barnaby
variations on a lost shopping trolley Wolverton, â€¨ Milton Keynes. August 2017.
Running into your ex by the cereal aisle in Tesco Tesco Hellos are always the best. I see you and I’m wondering how fascinating the caloric count of Strawberry Crisp can become in thirty seconds. Let’s give in a try. 250 Kilojoules, it says. Why, that’s probably a lot. But why aren’t you looking at me? You are like three cereals over. It looks like you are reading Aristotle. It’s not a philosophical quandary just pick a cereal already! So you can notice me and see how happy I am with my life and my cereal choices. “Hey!” I say. (That was loud.) Also why did I make today Baggy Jumper Day? It’s okay. I’ll just stand here grinning like I’m on morphine watching big trucks filled with words we could be saying drive through the silence then crash into the Frosted Flakes.
Clean up on aisle two! “Hey, Carly. I see you’ve got Strawberry Crisp.” “That’s right. I do.” “Cool. Well, see you.” Then you walk away. Which is fine because we’re friends and you’ve said all you needed to say. Friends always make abrupt food related comments then walk away. I hope we can continue on in this way. Then tomorrow, if I see you in the street, I can say, “Hey you. That shirt - is blue.” Until we’ve accumulated a whole list of interactions centered around uncomfortable statements of factual truth. I see you have Strawberry Crisp. Really? Good to know. And for these golden interactions I’d like to say: Thanks, Tesco.
/ Carly Brown
Overheard in Waitrose. Come on Annabelle, it’s rough as tits in here now like they just shouldn’t let in any old riﬀ raﬀ for free coﬀee, I mean all it takes is the purchase of a pack of gum and you’re allowing these scum to sit on our seats; you see I just don’t trust the food in ASDA, my facial is booked for 2pm and as such I’ll survive the school run Oh Poppy just put two in the basket, I don’t want the lovely Mums to think that we’re greedy These are the frankly gorgeous Earl Grey thins we found in Selfridges, Oh Tommy do tell the man we need them in stock No, no I’m not a snob but these people disgust me, we won’t compromise on the quality of our balsamic vinegar, just as I never told you the sight of that haircut is just agony I mean could you not just take a comb to it I mean how long have I been waiting for complimentary hot chocolate This isn’t the Open dear employee how hard can it be? My daughter’s use of greens is one of her saving graces, she has the expressionist’s knack for shadow though I prefer her rendition of the national anthem, yesterday’s French horn recital got me thinking about voting Tory again O you see we must support tax cuts yes I’m hanging up now, treating us like the devil those bloody commies, where’s the gin exactly//no, no, I want Plymouth honestly get that impoverished Gordons away from me, yes darling on you go slip the charity token but not for anything supporting the local comprehensive, god knows it's not like they need a bigger crack fund yes
of course you can have extra quinoa for lunch and goodness young sir where are your organic courgettes? what a sin it’s like living in East Berlin; how many times have I said Horatio! put down the papaya we will douse our bottoms in cashmere alone, no that is not the right Merlot honestly have I not taught you I mean how basic of you to pick up the basic hummus quite frankly at the very least choose caramelised onion, my goodness the man from the golf club is staring at us can you make sure there’s milk for the yacht as well? We’ll be leaving soon yes go warm up the camembert but first I need to pick up a sirloin for the dog he must be very hungry unlike you Lucas you mustn’t choose olives AND falafel my golly those focaccias, it’s vital the Maserati doesn’t smell like a fishmongers it might spoil my meditation yes let’s meet for brunch, it would be so delicious, those fresh Mexican avocados, scarlet tomatoes before yoga, can you hand me that platinum knife? / Maria Sledmere
The supermarket is still open; it won’t close till midnight. It is brilliantly bright. Its brightness offers sanctuary from loneliness and the dark. You could spend hours of your life here, in a state of suspended insecurity, meditating on the multiplicity of things to eat. Oh dear, there is so much! So many brands in shiny boxes, all of them promising you good appetite. Every article on the shelves cries out to you, take me, take me; and the mere competition of their appeals can make you imagine yourself wanted, even loved. But beware – when you get back to your empty room, you’ll find that the false flattering elf of the advertisement has eluded you; what remains is only cardboard, cellophane and food. And you have lost the heart to be hungry. […] We’re getting maudlin, he says, trying to make his will choose between halibut, sea bass, chopped sirloin, steaks. He feels a nausea of distaste for them all; then sudden rage. Damn all food. Damn all life. He would like to abandon his shoppingcart, although it’s already full of provisions. But that would make extra work for the clerks, and one of them is cute. / Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man.
supermarket aesthetics what to buy when she gets admitted to the psych ward: there’s a sense of exhilaration going through the aisles on the way to the hospital state of emergency everything allowed, the more money spent the better - what’s the perfect packed lunch? relentless love expressed through 1 bag of lemon non-gelatine wine gums / 1 oat-based chocolate milk / sandwich (?) / 1 tub of toothpaste
supermarket aesthetics what would adorno say about the relation between the ketchup bottle’s new design & the administrated world aesthetic autonomy of reified tomato sauce what would i say about you always buying avocados before going back to mine never wine
they don’t sell alcohol in swedish supermarkets, there’s no last minute bottle of organic white at the lidl checkout. i always get social anxiety bringing wine to things lidl made it worse the labels so fucking ugly. is south african especially good or especially indiﬀerent?
you can’t bring alcohol into the psych ward ah and yes no plastic bags i buy a plastic bag i will leave it somewhere ultimate climate waste i wonder if she can still taste chocolate bar silver wrapping our grandma taught us to smooth it out with our nails but grandma nails can be dangerous when going over skin
i recognise these fluorescent lights
/ Sara Wengström
in Tom McCarthy’s shopping basket like [top picks 4 the sweep] oil spills, Francis Ponge, MacBooks, manifestos, Finnegans Wake, Events (especially seismic literary ones), secrecy, Soviet bureaucracy, Tintin, life modelling, Prague, working in bars, Beckett, listening to radio static, casually name-dropping Deleuze, Continental semiotics, coﬀee shop loyalty cards, cryptology, meeting Derrida, making grids from my fave novels (shout out to RobbeGrillet), the myth of Orpheus, critiquing my own work, oozing and gelatinous matter, remixing Blanchot and Derrida, code, pan-Asian cuisine, reading Conrad while standing on the Greenwich Prime Meridian, making enthusiastic modernist diagrams of Moby Dick, propaganda, pinstripe blazers worn with trainers, very awkward sex scenes, delayed transmissions— did I mention Derrida?—maps and aerial photography, arthouse presses, secret indulgence in craft beer, that time I met Derrida while wearing a witty Walter Benjamin t-shirt, the big boys of Futurism, pyramids, spontaneous puns, Trojan horses, spending Sundays with a nouveau roman, bananas, haircuts, the letter C, surﬁng (online & IRL), repetition, geometry, hanging around the ICA, ﬁring subordinates, the philosophical possibilities of death, recessional temporality, KaVa, Burroughs, airplanes, inﬁnity, Ballard, the number 8, David Lynch ﬁlms, wretched heroism, loops, ruptures. dislike [intermittent venom/indiﬀerence] contemporary middle-brow ﬁction (ugh), lazy literary criticism, cats, sentimental realism, tired debates on postmodernism, humanist interpretations of Joyce, journalists who use the ‘experimental’ tag, plays being performed, Jeremy Kyle, when comedy isn’t tragic, pianists who play ﬂawlessly, biographical criticism, ‘likeable’ characters, tidiness, perfection, Romantic
with all these intermittent lines the desire flows in linear trajectories until the subject’s capacity for filling baskets falls in excess of itself at which point the overlap triggers electric propensities for theft and reterritorialised object-relations; the whole symphony a delicious recalibration of matter and sound that lifts each tannoy announcement to pure oblivion
dj m i s t y ✨ ✨ ✨
Product ????: A Quartet of Perspectives Brand consultants / Market analysts / Corporate anthropologists: Mohair & dj Misty, © 2014. 1. 2. 3. 4.
THE TOMATO AD CASE FILES
Postmodernism: Or, the End of the Tomato Ecocriticism: The “Truth” Behind the Fruit Feminism: Phallocentrism in a Can (and Out of One) Selling Sex in a Can: The (Recreated) Famous Executives
N.B. redacted for legal reasons] subjected to rigorous fact-check] in a post-truth era] a storehouse archive, last used circa 2014] [Inside every fruit, every vegetable is a delicate conspiracy. This is just one case study in what has become a globalised practice of corporate racketeering] [Brand name has been [Analysis has not yet been [We are living [Documents were uncovered from
1) Postmodernism: Or, the End of the Tomato ‘True’. What is truth? A stream of statistics? A historical date? A throwaway quote or reference to history? With its implication of grand narratives, with its suggestion of the authentic, the pure, the real, ‘true’ invokes a whole swathe of taste sensations. Yet a tomato can never be a grand narrative; each tomato is a fragment, an individual fruit with its own micro-history. The travel of nutrient-rich water up the xylem, each plant’s isolated well of desires, represents the local narratives of human experience. Nothing is the mass market product that its makers claim it to be. A mass market product is a simulacrum: no single tomato bears the same history as its sister or brother. Even that which is natural is absorbed into the machine of commodification: from ‘seed to table’, ???? claims. Our idea of the tomato’s taste is fully shaped by the dream sold so cheaply by the vibrant primary reds and blues of this ad, with its flourish of elegant font that slips into italics to add to the sense of style, of flair. Each tomato in the audience is glamorised for consumption, every flaw removed with the sheen of Photoshop’s flattering brush. Juicy, red and swelling; literally begging the eyes for consumption. How delicious we are, they scream! Eat me, bite me, suck me! The white aura of saturated light that surrounds the glorified tin embodies this hyperreality of flavour, the succulent allure of standardised fetish, of sweet-sour juiciness. ????, the tomato-tang child of 1856, you are an illusion, and your vibrant colour conceals the absence of originary vegetation the real fruit of the field. You cover your customers’ tongues with the fantasy of Vitamin C and Italy; but really, you are simply a genetically modified dream. A dream propagated just like the network of desires Facebook itself contains. The Facebook you invoke at the end of your dream.
2) Ecocriticism: The “Truth” Behind the Fruit - Tinned tomatoes contain 37% more pesticides than loosely packed tomatoes. - Advertisement mis-sells the Italian countryside by 85%: in reality, the majority of commercial chopped tomatoes are grown in greenhouses in a factory outlet near Birmingham. - Since 2007, fifty acres of Italian countryside has been over-farmed and made fallow, to the extent that all land has become infertile. - 15,000 tonnes of ???? packaging has ended up in toxic landfill sites in India. - An estimated 99,000 gallons of fuel has been used in the transportation of ???? products in the last five years. - A human being and certain species of hummingbird are more likely to suffer a fatal allergic reaction to a tomato than being impaled by a pineapple. - There has been a 13% upswell in child trafficking in Birmingham since ???? opened up its factory outlets nearby in 2007. - ???? senior executives have received approximately £2.7million in government grants to fund research into new methods of genetic grafting. - There has been a significant decrease in median worm population in the local area since the introduction of ????’s own branded pesticide, ????X™. 3) Feminism: Phallocentrism in a Can (and Out of One) She, Priestess of Tomatoes, Writes in Red Ink Only one figure dominates this catwalk: the ultimate incarnation of tomato objectification. All eyes must gaze on this goddess of the field-fruit, with all the sassy and metallic glamour of a ????branded Cara Delevigne. But how deep does this advert go? We see into the dark heart of female exploitation when we see into the contents of this can, the menses-resembling mush so blithely exposed on the label. It is a truth universally acknowledged that sex sells, but perhaps not so obvious that tomato juice sells sex. Seductively poised on the fork, the mashed pulp of the fruit echoes a conglomeration of commercial tropes that aim to sell their product often some fluid substance such as yoghurt or ice cream - and in doing so buys into the tradition of voyeurism that so effectively lures its consumers into aroused purchase. With that familiar 1950s whiff of housewifery that breathes through the association between Women and Food, ???? succeeds in selling to its target market: mothers, career women, young men with aspiration to health and the kitchens that their Mama once filled with warmth and love. Here we see the duality of sexualised nudity and the performative packaging of Woman as Commodity. And who are these Barbie tomatoes that surround the catwalk with their wonder and awe?
It is another widely recognised truth that consumerism is selfperpetuating, that it subsists on the consumer power of its markets, who unwittingly add their fuel to the fire of capitalist desire. These tomatoes stare up at the can as if it is an idol, a symbol of femininity perfected. And as the bulb of redness gleams in holy glow, the seal of chastity glows on the label with its devout demands. Women must negotiate the line between sexual provocation (the naked inner organs of the tomato) and the purity of virginity embodied by the seal. And into this we see, we see the gleams of patriarchy. When we purchase this tin of tomatoes, stir the bloody contents into a saucepan and bring the spoonful to our lips, this ad promises the sundrenched fields of Italy, with the sweet breath of the south and the dream of a hundred summers. 4) Selling Sex in a Can: The (Recreated) Famous Pitch to ???? Executives The conference room is positively tropical, with beads of sweat dripping off the executives’ faces like sap from a palm. All is nervousness and the promising aroma of money. Another London summer; another office; another pitch to a colour-hungry client. We want new, we want bright, they said. We want sexy. Nothing unusual, of course. Now all has been prepared, and ????’s director of communications, fresh with her Italian genetics, her olive skin, sits watching the flustered ad-man as he stands to make his speech. She coolly stubs out a thin cigarette, smoke swirling about her eyes. Such opulent eyes, he thinks as he peels back the cover of his flip-board. “A tomato is not just a tomato,” he announces, filling the room with what he hopes is a confident resonance. “No,” he continues, “a tomato is a Woman. A tomato is Desirable. A tomato is luscious, tender, the pick of the bunch; the cherry, the sun-blush, the plum, the beef, the Truss. Yet despite her humble variety, the tomato has a uniform brilliance, a glamour that separates it - separates her - from its neighbours.” He points to the picture his creative team have sketched up for him: the assembly of tomatoes, their stalks pointing like gelled hair, their bodies swollen as if with pregnancy. The can in the centre with its inimitable brand, a whisper of Italy: ????. He repeats the word, relishing its pirouette on his tongue. “Here we have your standard product. The chopped tomato.” He gestures to an etching of vermillion pulp. “But not just a chopped tomato. Not just the staple of pasta sauce. No,” he lifts the page again to reveal a drawing of said pulp seductively clinging to the end of a fork, “such perfect tomatoes are something unique in themselves. Each taste, each smell of vine-ripened fields, of love affairs strewn along endless summers.” “Is she a fruit, or is she a vegetable? She lingers in the liminal space between sweet and savoury, juicy and crisp; she is a kiss, a flower or whiff of Italy. The French were convinced of the tomato’s aphrodisiac quality; yet this is not just about sex. It is about the allure of a country: the dream of azure sky, of gleaming olive bodies.” His eyes travel inadvertently over the figure of ????’s director.
“The promise of such bulging taste, such a sensual blend of musk and ripeness, of balanced brilliance.” He unveils the final page, with its gleaming completeness, its assemblage of text and photo-printed brightness. All those luscious tomatoes, gazing up at their idol, their perfected figure - the humble tin with its mystical label… “I give you Italy. I give you a delicate soupçon of sex, of the promise of bodies and blue skies giving over to brilliance. I give you, ????: taste the difference.” The only woman in the room, ????’s director, coyly lights another cigarette. Then she looks up at this young man with his frenzied expression. “Yes, it is good,” she says huskily, offering a soft olive hand to seal the deal.
'For I was a shopper in a dark / aisleâ€™ ~ Ben Lerner, A Mean Free Path The supermarket shelves have been rearranged. It happened one day without warning. There is agitation and panic in the aisles, dismay in the faces of older shoppers. They walk in a fragmented trance, stop and go, clusters of well-dressed figures frozen in the aisles, trying to figure out the pattern, discern the underlying logic, trying to remember where they'd seen the Cream of Wheat. They see no reason for it, find no sense in it. The scouring pads are with the hand soap now, the condiments are scattered. The older the man or woman, the more carefully dressed and groomed. Men in Sansabelt slacks and bright knit shirts. Women with a powdered and fussy look, a self-conscious air, prepared for some anxious event. They turn into the wrong aisle, peer along the shelves, sometimes stop abruptly, causing other carts to run into them. Only the generic food is where it was, white packages plainly labeled. The men consult lists, the women do not. There is a sense of wandering now, an aimless and haunted mood, sweet-tempered people taken to the edge. They scrutinise the small print on packages, wary of a second level of betrayal. The men scan for stamped dates, the women for ingredients. Many have trouble making out the words. Smeared print, ghost images. In the altered shelves, the ambient roar, in the plain and heartless fact of their decline, they try to work their way through confusion. But in the end it doesn't matter what they see or think they see. The terminals are equipped with holographic scanners, which decode the binary secret of every item, infallibly. This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of age, our carts stocked with brightly coloured goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks. The tales of the supernatural and the extraterrestrial. The miracle vitamins, the cures for cancer, the remedies for obesity. The cults of the famous and the dead. / Don DeLillo, White Noise
Tweets from Tesco I’m so very sorry your strawberries are mouldy Try rubbing garlic for extra ﬂavour I’d like to log your interest in cat litter internally I’m sorry you found plastic In your pastrami, it looks like You’ve got a particularly clumsy almond there. It’s possible that a space is being made I’m sorry to see that you’re missing a rose I’m sorry to hear disappointing errors occurred I’m sorry there wasn’t much pineapple On your pizza, can you clarify Which creamed coconut you’re after? Was there an accident? Sounds delicious, we must Refuse the sale; there is no formula For price reduction, what meal Are you treating yourself to? There’s still time to ﬁnd the perfect bouquet, Don’t panic with a comforting British bake An extra helping of greens makes it romantic— Is this a regular occurrence? your blueberries Have gone bad get in touch This is very concerning to see a Seasonal spin, combat the cold Indulge your sweet tooth packed With a dash of chilli, fun and thrifty If you love plump aubergines Get in touch we can be of help. / Maria Sledmere
SMALL SPAM MOMENT We're going in together and I don't know how the stuff affects you. Low and calm, the voice went on within his thought, demanding an answer Time passing busy day beginning. But have I gained anything? Old slanting posture, warped out of shape by peddlers sack years. When carrying weights securely fastened at the centre. Leverage allowed to extend outwards / Anjana Basu
BIOCHEMICAL GROCERY LIFE HACKS FOR MILLENNIALS & BEYOND
The ventilators are whirring softly. They send out gusts of stale, icy air down on the heads of anonymous shoppers. You can see them shiver, from the base of their necks, down spines covered by thin shirts, and further to bare calves and toes. They dressed for spring, summer even, and enter winter in the guise of freshness. Broad shelves line the walls. They are as white as the floor and the walls, lined in creamy plastic and sparkling chrome. Dew covers them in tiny droplets, shimmering softly in the cool white neon light. Everything is transparent, translucent, blinking and glimmering in a steady light that mocks the sun on the pole caps. In the corners, tiny puddles of condensed water collect on the snow-coloured tiles, fed by a constant drip from the shelves above. They would flood the place, if not for the holes in the back. Tiny, almost imperceptible shower drains drinking up the excess water. The only true colour in this place is confined in foil. In plastic boxes, under tight cellophane wrappings, it sits waiting for customers, gleaming dully in the surgery light. Pieces of soft pink tissue lies on see-through sheets of foil. The dark rose tint of the taught skin is harmonious as a spraytan, soft and muted with a polished sheen. Creamy, white fissures disfigure it like cracks cutting through clay. They crisscross each other in bolted, swirling patterns of marble. The moist surface like nail polish and glass. Oh, how neat, each small container, drifting on its sheets in the very centre of the box. Each slab the same, perfectly shaped size, muted pink, waxen apple sheen. So different from the warmer regions of the market with their bags of crisps and sweets stacked carelessly on top of each other, until the whole thing comes tumbling down. As a bag lies shattered on the floor, its lid torn open and spilling orange dust, people walk right through the vomit, oblivious to the crunching sounds they carry with them. Imagine those people digging their heels into the pink ovals. Squashing them underfoot and flattening their soft forms. Breaking through the gleaming plastic.
Take a box. Take it home. Tear open the wrappings and set the pan to work. Hear the butter sizzle as it slides along the sides and melts away into tiny bubbles. Hear it roar when the pink slabs hit the pan. Molecules explode in clouds of smell to be fired into air and hair and fabric. Watch the butter turn a rich golden brown. But something happens as the frying commences. The soft pink wanes. The heat pushes the colour out, leaving behind a pale cracked grey like sickening skin. Cracks run along its surface. Wrinkles appear as liquid oozes out of the skin into the butter that has turned burnt black. Watch it shrink and crumble. Too much water. Bolstered up again, shot it with liquid to tighten the skin. And now it’s gone. Maybe a stale taste of disappointment forms in your mouth. By the time you lift the pan, what you call ‘food’ has shrunk and crumpled. The gray dead skin is dotted with brown, where the corners have fried and the butter has invaded the cells. Black where the fibres burned to ashes. Black dominates brown because your sister called while you were working. Cover it up with sauce, the red will cloak the black, sugar the taste of acid. Knife and fork. This shit is tasteless. Grease and ashes, really. The ketchup cannot cover the crunch of the burnt crisps. These bits do not melt away. You pulverise them with each chew, spreading the dust in your mouth and on your teeth and on your tongue. You pour yourself a glass of coke to wash it down. Now, that’s better. In the end, the remains on your plate. Cut off bits of tissue, the chewy parts you could not swallow. Scattered on the white plate, coated in splashes of bright red, they’re the amputated limps of the feast. You find an edible piece and mop up the ketchup. The rest you throw in the bin, scraping everything off scrupulously until all that’s left are the red smears on the china. You do not want those pieces in your dishwasher later. It would only clog up the drains. This is not food. Just shrivelled plastic. / Anna
I remember when the Hypermart opened in Topeka, a 235,000-square-foot big-box store with vast and towering aisles of brightly lit, brightly packaged goods, remember the cereal aisle in particular, “family sized” boxes of Cap’n Crunch repeating as far as the eye could see. And roller-skating—I’m not kidding—among these sugary infinities were young uniformed workers, uniformed both in the sense of wearing the costume of their franchise but also in the sense of uniformly following the conventions of teenage “beauty”—which was not beauty, but a sublimity of perfect exchangeability, the roller skates themselves a gesture, albeit dated, toward capital’s lubricity. Every flake or piece of puffed corn belonging to me as good as belonged to you—Warhol is the Whitman of the actual: “A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good.” The same goodness, the good sameness: The energy that coursed through me, undid me, at Hypermart—a store that was to the snot-nosed me what Mont Blanc was to Shelley—I consider that energy integral to poetry. “Poetry is a kind of money,” Wallace Stevens said; like money, it mediates between the individual and the collective, dissolves the former into the latter, or lets the former reform out of the latter only to dissolve again. Do you remember that sense (or have it now) of being a tentative node in a limitless network of goods and flows? Because that’s also poetry, albeit in a perverted form, wherein relations between people must appear as things. The affect of abstract exchange, the feeling that everything is fungible—what is its song? The actual song of my early youth might be eighties synthpop, but the impulse that gives rise to it, I maintain, is Poetry. / Ben Lerner, The Hatred of Poetry
a supermarket scandal / maria sledmere
The Bar Code
A glitched zebra crossing. Abandon all hope ye who scan here.
The Self-Service Checkout
Replacing labour with machines to cut costs and improve eďŹƒciency; and yet, in most Tesco Metros, the queues are ironically far longer for self-checkouts than they are for the classic human service. No more awkward silences, or (even worse) awkward non-silences, while they scan your soon-to-be personal property. This is really about removing the human.
Bakery Aisle Massacre
I used to walk through the bakery aisle and break the heads oďŹ€ from gingerbread men, leaving rows of decapitated sugar corpses. They have since stopped producing them.
Making Markets Super
When Tesco’s liVle trick on investors was exposed—oversta.ng its proﬁts and manipula.ng the market—we were suddenly reminded that these places are not just convenient buildings from which we get our food and other essen.als; they are, above all, corpora.ons (with several subsidiaries) answerable to shareholders and the disease of the proﬁt mo.ve. But forget that, I’d much rather see them as the innocent bazaars I visit for chocolate and eye drops.
A tag leY on the ground, its companion long gone. The bar code staring up, daring you with its (empty) commerciality.
That vague acquaintance, or worse, someone you don’t like, passes you in the supermarket: obligatory exchange of nods-alrightsheys=hiyas, move on; another aisle, another mee.ng, another contract reluctantly obeyed; another shelf, another self, an(other) again; oh fuck this, avoid them at all costs. MEANWHILE, IN THE SUPERMARKET CAFE…
/ Steven Harvie
Natural Healthy body, healthy mind: admire the beau.ful fruit and aspira.onal vegetables. Full-breasted strawberries; slim toned celery; big boVomed pears with skinny waists. Famous shapes, safe as nature. Then a lemon-sharp shock - the bargain bin deformi.es: tumorous cucumbers - unnatural apples conjoined to an evil twin - a hernia orange - the repulsive disrup.on of its skin. Like disﬁgured beggars, reduced to almost nothing, they ask only for pennies but refuse to stay buried, staring back with mul.plying eyes like potatoes. You’re forced to look away ﬁrst, down at your own knoVed knuckles, sprou.ng moles, skin thin as a tomato’s, threatening to burst. Holding the pulp together, just. / Sarah Spence
Alan Warner, Morvern Callar
being honest blasting music in the convenience store dancing as if the whole world doesn't exist, and maybe some would commend this as courage; but forgive my waspiness i am only the sub girl that cannot hear your order whose patience thins with every passing moment as i try to discern what exactly it is you're looking forâ€” always you're a thorn in the side so maybe i should expect it by now at least you're nice, but that's probably the only thing you have going for you; just last night you were trying to tell me that pickles were the cousins of cucumbers and i was trying so hard not to roll my eyes although i was internallyâ€” i was happy to see you go even if that's wrong to admit, it's true; and you can't fault me for being honest. accusing eyes i remember once at the supermarket with my mother i embarrassed her by the loudness of my hiccup which echoed around the walls, making everyone stare at us as if we were some strange alien life-force; i remember her being angry at me telling me that i should've been quieter it wasn't really something i could helpâ€” usually the hiccups aren't quite so loud anymore, but loud enough to elicit looks or raised eyebrows which only makes me wish that i had the ability to make myself a liquid instead of a solid and escape out the door before anyone could notice before becoming a solid and running away never to be seen by any of those accusing eyes again.
every want a weapon once i wanted ice cream so we went to the supermarket, and i only wanted one; but you insisted we bring back something for everyone because you weren't leaving the house for one ice creamâ€” yet i never asked you, too, and we could have bought a tub of ice cream to share with everyone; but you got those drumsticks and i didn't complain i did like them, after all, but i was really craving cherry ice cream or chocolate fudge and caramel that i could have put in a bowlâ€” now, of course, after everything that happened of how many miles apart we are in everything in our lives it doesn't matter but i remember how you made me feel guilty for every feeling and thought i felt or went through my head as if simply existing were some crime let alone loving you. / Linda M. Crate
empty // melt
In the Aisles You’re no s.cking me in a home, I says to her. I’ll no just wither away to nothing if I can help it. It’s no a home ma, the lassie’s saying but ach, I’m no listening. I’m no as daY as this one thinks. Her. What’shername. Standing there with a face on her. Then she’s sighing and tu^ng and making a scene. I’ll have to run back for the sprouts, she goes. Telling me stay here with the trolley, all that, so she’s no giving up her space in the line, she says. So that’s me standing around like a spare part. Might as well have dumped me by the side of the road. The machine’s bleeping away and there’s a gree.ng-faced bairn no keeping quiet and some nonsense about two for one blaring out the ceiling. A boy comes raVling past pushing a right big funny looking thing. A right big cage on wheels. Funny looking trolley, I’m thinking, but then they’ve all got motors for car.ng it about now. Good, that, ge^ng all your .ns and potatoes in one go and no having to come back in the week. Oh, I says, I’m away in a dream. I must have meant to get the messages. Folk say to write it down, what you’re aYer, but it’s no reinven.ng the wheel. S.ll, though, a wee browse will jog my memory. And there’s a nice bit brightness about the place, fair cheering me up. You’re no wan.ng to be raVling about, si^ng in the dark like a funeral home, like some folk I’ll no men.on, her next door. So I’m quite happy having a wee nosey about. See here, all the cereal boxes in one place. I don’t know what that lassie back at the house does with it all half the .me. Like a game of hide and seek. I’m no aYer cereal though. Does funny things with your teeth. Next thing you know I’m staring toilet duck in the coupon. I’m all turned around, like I’ve got my head on backwards. Seeing nothing but bleach and scouring pads, all lined up like that, it does something peculiar to me, and right enough, is it no like a magical forest, every turn a wrong turn, eyes looking out from the nooks and crannies. Giving me the willies. So I goes back the way I came, or I try to. God knows how folk get about this place. What I’m needing, I says to myself, is a trail of breadcrumbs. Like who’s it now. They pair. Hansel and Gretel. I’ll leave a wee trail behind me. That saw them right. Son, I says, and a boy there takes me to the bread. They’ve got my crumpets that I like. What it’s aYer is a wee bit buVer but it does the trick, right enough. I’m dropping one bit on the ﬂoor, one bit in my gub. They pair just used bread but ach, you’ve got to be good to yourself.
So that’s me back on my travels, seeing the sights, all that, knowing I’ll get back in one piece. The next aisle over, it’s all muﬃns and ﬂapjacks. Magic, I’m thinking, like ﬁnding a gingerbread house in the middle of the forest. I tuck my crumpet up my sleeve. Truth be told, my eyes aren’t what they were so they big trays of donuts are just the .cket. Spot them a mile oﬀ, doVed about the ﬂoor. My ﬁngers are ge^ng all s.cky from that thick icing they put on them now. Hansel and Gretel, though. That takes me back. I’m making a fair few crumbs down my front and aw. No like me to tuck away the cakes like this. Helps you think, though, to have something to chew on. And there’s a witch in that one, is there no? And does she no give them a seeing to? Here, I’m aYer the juice aisle to wash it all down. All that sugar’s no si^ng right with me. So oﬀ I go, but here is there only more cakes all along the back! Big creamy ones, cheese cakes, eclairs, enough to make you boke just seeing it si^ng there in one place ge^ng warm. Maybe I’m wan.ng back to the bleach and scourers aYer all. I could do with heading home, I’m thinking. I’ve got my bus pass, and my crumpet, aYer all, so, I think, that’s me oﬀ. But imagine coming home and ﬁnding some wee bairns had eaten your house, right in the middle of a forest too. You’d be raging. Ach, no. I’ve lost my crumbs. I start breaking up my crumpet fast as I can but most of it gets caught s.ll up my sleeve. Right, I think. I take the aisle in front of my nose. Just keep going forward, one foot in front of the other. But Christ almighty. It’s chocolate, more chocolate, bars and bars. Pink and yellow and purple wrapping, like it’s no all brown underneath. Walls of chocolate. And things locked inside chocolate. Peanuts. Raisins. And that’s Gretel, chained to wall. And that’s Hansel caged for the faVening. And that’s the pot boiling. And this is the gingerbread house. And me with my belly ﬁzzing, guilty as larry. But I snap to it. She’ll no eat me. She’ll no get the meat oﬀ my bones. I’ll no be faVened. And I’m grabbing at the bags and sending all the wee skelfs skiteing and ﬂying, all they wee bits that get stuck in your teeth. I get into the pic‘n’mix with my knuckles and ﬁsts. The hard swee.es are oﬀ like marbles. And I can hear her cackling, that old witch, or wailing, howling, and the noise ge^ng louder, her voice is right in my ear, right in my head, and there’s a hand, a hand, on my arm. / Sarah Spence
There’s a trick to shoplifting in supermarkets. It takes a certain amount of skill, but mostly a kind of careless daring that comes from not giving a fuck about much at all. Ruby was especially good at it. She had learned all the techniques from Sally - who else? One Friday afternoon they had met after school and Sally had dragged her along to Morrisons. “Pretend you’re looking at batteries,” Sally had whispered, “like, really looking at them. Like you wanna steal some.” This was a very strange proposition, but Ruby soon realised that it was a distraction tactic; the battery shelves were at the end of the alcohol aisle. Clutching a bumper bag of crisps in one hand, Sally had blithely sauntered up the aisle, looking ahead of like she wasn’t paying a wisp of attention to the stacks of bottles surrounding her. She knew exactly where everything was. Ruby watched, eyes widening, as Sally took a bottle of Jack Daniels off the shelf, sat her bag down on a basket full of discounted CDs, unzipped it and stuffed the bottle away amidst her jotters and school jumper. She zipped it back up without a care, picked up a random CD, marched to the checkout and paid for the crisps and the CD without breaking her smile once. Ruby’s heart was racing as she watched her friend walk through the security barriers. Nothing went off. It was only when Sally was safely out into the carpark that she felt the relief come in floods, tingling all up her body. Then she realised that the security guard had an eye on her for hovering, so she picked up a packet of batteries, pretending she had finally found the right ones. She browsed around the bakery aisle and surreptitiously slipped a random tub of sugar sprinkles under her sleeve. She went to the checkouts, paid for the batteries and joined Sally outside. It was always such a good feeling; she almost wanted to shriek. Together they walked down to the beach front, crunching the sugar sprinkles between their teeth in-between shots of Jack. “Usually, the tags don’t work,” Sally explained, snapping off the ugly grey plastic attached to the bottle, “they’re just for show.” The more time Ruby spent around Sally, the more she realised pretty much everything was just for show. There were some people, she thought, who spread their personalities round like peanut butter; they did it so much that they managed to just about coat over all the other phoney stuff that covered the world. Sally and her trouble made everything sparkle, bounce. “What CD was it you picked up?” Ruby asked, as they made themselves comfy on the harbour wall. “Aw I dunno actually.” Sally pulled the CD out the bag and they shared a look of disdain: West Life, Greatest Hits. She prised it out the plastic casing and flung the disc out across the bay, like a frisbee. It glittered briefly in the sunlight but didn’t quite hit the water, just landed on the edge of the sand for some dog walker to tread on. / M.S. extract from West Coast Forever (2015).
Magic Circles Reprehensibly, faint-hearted, I take my leave. Sorceress, thirty quid for a touchstone card Mix at random, shift the ground, thrust aside Sephira, pentacles, yin, yang, paschal lamb the Fool is the New Sun God, speeding from hazard Then spellstopt by the curse of Scotland: nine of diamonds Base metal transformed into purest gold Except with a fixed line (through its origins) The radius vector defines the co-ordinates Odd, singular, quaint, counterfeit, slightly mad The feigned abode of persons in debt or other Gratuitous verbal or physical vengeance A bringing under of the passions lead to Jesus Spellbinder, my treacherous light, would you dance with me? Nightshade is a plant of the evening-primrose family. Mandrake the eternal subject of strange fancies. ‘Incantare’ is Latin for ‘singing magic’ now leave that black book and the traitorous phone, Sweep all forthcoming affairs into your stardust, Abandon the temples of wedded spendacity, you bring me to that revealing darkness; find a space, and I shall secretly shine. Secretly. Weirdest sis, unbending repentance is carried within.
Pompeii His doctor’s mind shivered at the sight of the silent forms Dying so still side by side The sleeping ranks of frozen bodies Cracked and shrouded, faces partly uncovered The lethargy of fatigue eventually settling in, Far too slowly for the lining of their lungs. Who’s the fairest of them all, the good, the bad, the beautiful? Save yourself, you fool. Fate rarely looks at the faces of its dead, but these ones won’t turn their gaze away. Undaunted, ignorant Roman Neapolitans Fossilized copper skin and trailing veils. Their words a distant murmur in a foreign tongue Thoughts floating toward the surface of consciousness Until the shivering slowly stopped Gay lovers, straight lovers, matrons and whores, brown, white and black, Christian, Zoroastrian and heathen. Organs of all varieties still preserved. Intact unborn. Even the dogs and mill donkeys, the centurion’s steed and the tame dolphin. Tripadvisor pinged that he was on a roll. One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six years of choking on your own inflammable lungs. Burning from the inside. For twenty centuries. Great reductions for students and OAPs to watch their faces as it continues to happen. The eternal flames spreading slowly. Yet, the spell of night and lost dreams is still upon them, he thought in surprise as he hurried past the sleeping ranks, into the white-hot light. / Joanna Vadenbring
NEW SEQUENCE !!!
Ruptures Jon Anātman
A month of torrential rain, storms laid in wait threatening further cataclysm, still i come to its shores, chalk wilted bones; sinews of muscle weathered down tired, tied to the dry lands, dirt winnowed slowly starving. Still I come, overfilled with sorrow & vigour, I fear its endless swallowing motion, what would become of me [should I surrender]? What flooding plague fills my belly as it lays calm in restless motion? As lightning sparks the air it comes in sheets and waves—its drama underplayed. This is not fear, it is a rapture. Just the necessary motion of elements tumbling; & while the earth keeps spinning, we sit in wonder & watch the ocean, waiting. *** There were days when I felt that I’d become overwhelmed by my silhouette | | woke up one morning having passed by a timid reflection | | my bed slipped from its moorings | | stress in my meridian lines caught in rapid eddies of clutter on the floor | | these dreams held no object to take hold of | | each dusty surface blurred into the outlines of another shadow | | black oceans barely moving | | cold bombs detonating overhead planes flying in the distance | | lampshine obscured by sunlight through the window
*** Trance --While listening to Prince of Denmark - 8 [Forum V], 1:37am, roughly 5hrs before work-What matters: when worlds seem ready to crack? Remember to brush your teeth: fuzz/fussy You’ll never be perfect, you are physically defective. Sometimes: dream/sleep well within the confines of repetitive/mechanical music These songs are endless halls/I echo around their confines for hours/like some visuomatic screensaver left on an idle television screen/banal eye-candy for an unknown sleepless watcher Onscreen, beneath this facade lies discontinued the story of the court of Denmark, its cast of ghosts, treacherous royals and anti-heroes half-living, draped in static shadow, waiting for some external cue, turned stone by the ghosts of ‘what if?’ or ‘what if not?’ Ophelia is an unprivileged reflection of Hamlet. Unlike Denmark’s Prince, she lacks the insight of those prophecies, bellowed from beyond the grave. Her father was no king, and her uncle not seduced by power—the farcical nature of the court’s contingent structure is thus obscured to her. Although the shadows that follow her are considered peculiar, her madness is not considered crisis. In such a way her true pain goes unnoticed. She is unresolvable & it seems no ad-hoc motion from beyond the grave can fill in the gaps that consume her. I often find I resonate most with Ophelia. And while I lack her secret knowledge, I can feel her shallow breath.
// Breath is integral to the trance state. The way it shifts dramatically between sitting idle in front of a television screen, closing one’s eyes to induce meditation (or dream), or being locked tight struggling in mutual pleasure with another’s body, the breath acts as base reality. The stories we tell ourselves about how our shells are incomplete, are incommensurate with the archetype of perfectly formed godsbodies. Their foundations are built on a specific type of breathing, and the embodied motion that breath encompasses. The best thought can do is to give itself to the free flow of breath, or else be (in the end, always) overcome by some unseen emotion. Such revelations do not always help when we lie awake at night hoping to get to sleep before work. Lose oneself in the repetition (of sound, of breath) until it doesn’t need to make sense.
*** The Character (too meta?) The philosopher the sage (more humble though? Or, at least, not as pretentious) The fool?
Hydraesque. The chameleon, the stranger. The sinner – as enigma, she who disbelieves in (and disavows) ‘sin’ to the point where she lives her life defined by it. The amoralist / the atheist. The jobseeker / the parasite The gender deviant / the antagonist. Shapeshifter The Character (too meta?) The philosopher the sage (more humble though? Or, at least, not as pretentious) The idealist / the hipster / the romantic The fool?
Hydraesque. The chameleon, the stranger. The sinner – as enigma, she who disbelieves in (and disavows) ‘sin’ to the point where she lives her life defined by it. The amoralist / the atheist. The jobseeker / the parasite The gender deviant / the antagonist.
Flight of the lotus-eater Her shadow sunk into night’s reflection. Soils wept, days of sleep, a winding tree breathing spring from silent caress; I watched her void sinking slowly, this calming breeze, this soft eye a rose-quartzed query of light refraction, titular formations of anti-shadow in ekphrasis, whispers crept through lamentational tears pattering: until it’s over – all will live again. Living greens blur into sea on her horizon floating on solid space, as if existence waned ever thin – entropy revealed – some free-flowing impossible dream embracing, eddying onward, the motion of remembering and being remembered.
Timothy Morton, Ecology Without Nature
Haunted Supermarket Playlist
Scott Coubrough long live Soundcloudâ€¦ <3
â€˜The Disneyland supermarket imaginary is neither true nor false: it is a deterrence machine set up in order to rejuvenate in reverse the fiction of the real. Whence the debility, the infantile degeneration of this imaginary. It ~s meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere, in the "real" world, and to conceal the fact that real childishness is everywhere, particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness. Â Moreover, Disneyland is not the only one. Enchanted Village, Magic Mountain, Marine World: Los Angeles your local motorway retail outlet is encircled by these "imaginary stations" which feed reality, reality-energy, to a town whose mystery is precisely that it is nothing more than a network of endless, unreal circulation: a town of fabulous proportions, but without space or dimensions. As much as electrical and nuclear power stations, as much as film studios, this town, which is nothing more than an immense script and a perpetual motion picture, needs this old imaginary made up of childhood signals and faked phantasms for its sympathetic nervous system.â€™ Jean Baudrillard sans erasure / discounted textuality
A DiscombobulaPon of Maslowâ€™s Hierarchy of Needs Clare Archibald
/ Ella Clark
POETRY REVIEW Maria Sledmere Strange Appetites: the Seductive Contemplation of Supermarket Poetics in Max Parnell’s And no more being outdoors, And no more rain. In Don DeLillo’s White Noise (1985), Jack Gladney meets his friend Murray at the supermarket and takes note of the items in his basket. Murray describes the unbranded, plain-packaged items with typically extravagant grandeur as ‘the last avant-garde. Bold new forms. The power to shock’ (1985: 15). There’s a sparsity to Max Parnell’s pamphlet, And no more being outdoors, And no more rain (2017) that echoes this call of bold new forms. The plainness of language as language; as both material semiotics and evocative form. There’s everyday discourse stripped to its purer roots; a tone of childlike, sweeping sincerity (‘She loved the Western World’), contrasting with the ‘inscrutable meagreness’ of its subject: the meal deal. If material culture is a term we want to use, then Parnell practices it quite literally. He bought a selection of favourite meal deal items from a local Tesco Express, opened the packaging and slipped fragments of his poetry inside among the foodstuﬀ, little white strips of text resting like sleepy insects upon a pasta salad or slices of apple. By some clever feat, he sealed the packaging up again and surreptitiously replaced the products on the shelves of the same supermarket, garnering undoubtedly a few bemused looks for so directly flaunting the rules of consumption in restocking the shelves from his bag. The result is a beautiful pamphlet,
each spread a sparse balance of image and text, a gallery of raw, unedited photographs accompanied almost whimsically by a poem on the opposite page. The whimsy, however, does not undercut the compelling freshness of the language, its deceptive simplicity resonant with hidden depths of meaning, an implicit critique and celebration of contemporary supermarket consumption. The new sincerity and austerity often go hand-in-hand in the poems of writers whose work might be described as metamodern. Sam Riviere’s 81 Austerities (2012) reworks the casual quotidian of a New York poet to engage with the aﬀective facets of contemporary Britain: a world overloaded with information, pornography, abandoned picnics, knitwear and unlit cigarettes. A world of welfare cuts, jump-cuts and startling contrasts. The semiotics of consumer capitalism are somehow melted as each Riviere poem makes surreal juxtapositions of images, tricks of irony or incongruous reference, leading us somewhere unexpectedly profound: ‘this will probably sound cheesy and weird / but maybe we’re a couple of cartoons’ (‘What Do You Think About That’). Perhaps there is something about a childlike paucity of text that feels more sincere than an epic screed. Nevertheless, the self-reflexivity of such poetics grounds them in a certain wary irony, the ubiquitous awareness of selfpresentation instilled in anyone raised on the internet. We might think of the supermarket meal deal (even as its supposed cheapness deceives us of value), as the poor man’s lunch (recalling that nostalgic phrase, the Po’ Boy’s Lunch, which is making its round of the hipster bars right now, harking back to the labourer’s working day of yore, or baby yuppies navigating through a pre-Starbucks universe). It’s perhaps the most everyday of supermarket purchases for some, representing the relinquishment of creative choice for a narrow decision between coronation chicken, egg cress or ham and cheese. The rule of the meal deal, of course, is that you get to pick three items: a sandwich/salad,
a snack and a drink. Like a slot machine, you hope for the perfect combination. Many people stick to what works and eat the same thing everyday, bearing their triplet of joy to the same self-service checkout. Perhaps only some play the meta-game, listening to some hypnagogic James Ferraro number in their head as suitable soundtrack. When something is missing, out of stock already, one is forced to confront the meal deal as thing. Weigh up the relative value of diﬀerent products. Parnell’s pamphlet takes this a step further, deconstructing the semiotics of product even as his poems supplement the food stuﬀ with the trace of an art object. Food and paper, mixed together. You can peel the label oﬀ an apple and eat it okay, but would you do the same with a strip of poem? Does Parnell’s sly, perhaps Situationist intervention in everyday commodity culture make the meal deal products inedible? Like Heidegger’s broken hammer, it is the object, the system’s failure, that reminds us that consumer goods are things in themselves. We confront them, suddenly, as present-at-hand. Imagine someone opening that pack of McCoys and finding their crisps coated in white paint with words stuck to them. You are forced to theorise their presence in a manner beyond the normal. Foodstuﬀs no longer coexist as simple fuel, the ordinary objects that mark the time of day, the regulation of appetite. Their mode of being flashes before us and demands to be repaired, to be re-transformed back into the seamless product we expected. The point about meal deals is they are supposed to be identical on a daily basis; you know what you are getting when you peel away the plastic on your pasta salad. Forcing our attention back on the products as objects in themselves is one thing, but what to do next? Parnell’s poetry teases out the aﬀective experiences of daily life in the encountering of things. Sometimes he addresses the supermarket itself, as if in the temple of some deity: ‘You say that everything is very interesting / “New improved flavour” / Yet it
makes me feel very simple / (I hate all that crap) / But I am terribly hungry!’. This is a gesture that refutes the ideological hailing performed daily by advertising and branding, the kind that fits us into certain camps (the organically concerned, the cool kids, the Healthy). It admits the seduction of the object, the brand, even as it places its slogans under cool, sardonic erasure. We allow our bodily desires, ultimately, to purchase the product which temporarily will sate the appetite. But of course, being ‘terribly hungry’ is the perpetual state of consumer capitalism, from its constant arousal of insatiable desire to the literal starvation caused by global inequalities, or more localised austerity measures. It’s not all negative, however. The beauty of this pamphlet is a metamodern attentiveness to the joyful, aﬀective experience of consumerism at the same time as ironically expressing the shallowness of such common exchanges of capital, the short lifespan of pleasure oﬀered by such goods. Parnell’s poems defamiliarise everyday conventions and ritualistic practices, admitting a certain mystical quality to the products with which we structure our day—or, more specifically, our lunchtimes. There is an emphasis on the things themselves, from the checkout machines to the packet of sushi; Parnell’s poetics practice a very much objected-orientated ontology. These are poems without titles, poems to drift through; their mode of enframing is the image rather than the contrived and anthropocentric literary artifice of a title. The tone is sometimes exuberant, often urgent: ‘Quick! / I have in my hands / Only pennies… / And it were as if / The machines / Heaved a sigh.’ The supermarket experience is suddenly re-orientated from the perspective of the machines themselves, rather than the shoppers. I cannot help but think of Bruno Latour’s actor-network theory here, as every item becomes its own actant in a complex system of relations. Yet often the relations taper away and the things themselves rise, shining, from darkness. Images deliberately obscure the thing itself: ‘I stare / Into the
cauldron of hideousness’. Profundity mixes with certain emotional or bodily urges: ‘I wanna stay drunk’, ‘my tired red eyes’. These words aren’t just disembodied, clinical flarf collected from the dust of the empty shelves at the end of the day; they are lyric poems, whose vibrancy arises as much from the speaker’s voice as it does from the matter surrounding him. With subtle devastation, everyday encounters with objects become part of a broader emotional framework. ‘Secretly, I shall / go to drink / instant coﬀee / “Full Rich Taste!” / It’s drawing me in. / Is it the sole heat on earth? / I may freeze to death / Without her.’ Allured by the object, we are not sure if the ‘her’ refers to the coﬀee itself, or an actual woman, another lost ‘object’ in the speaker’s minimal stratosphere. The slippage from ‘it’ to ‘she’ casually equates love with the cheap physical comfort of an instant coﬀee, while allowing this equation to stand stark with the sadness of any impoverished supplement. Moreover, as Daniel Miller reminds us, shopping itself is a kind of ‘making love’. Selecting the ingredients for something and choosing one’s food products involves negotiating various value-based implications: from the global resonance of ethical, organic and local to the more ambiguous questions of morality and sensibility; a ‘cosmology’ of daily actions in the public sphere (Miller 2002: 343). The ‘she’ of Parnell’s poems--who kookily thinks of ‘adding a little tomato paste’, whose presence is only a projection--is a ghostly thing, the rippling silhouette of desire that eludes the speaker. He is often standing alone, observing: ‘Everyone’s out eating’. We are reminded of our own individualised role as consumers, placed in the position of voyeur who gleans vague scraps of joy from the habits of
others. Occasional bursts of frustrated statement, ‘It’s so meaningless to eat!’ bring a generalised nihilism to the picture, one reaction to the sheer excess of signifiers on display when you start teasing apart the semiotics of meal deals. Strongly influenced by Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems (1964), these poems bear the semblance of fleeting thoughts, the kind of fragmentary, stream-of-consciousness dialogue you might have with yourself while lingering over the meal deal counter on a daily basis. Like O’Hara, Parnell’s speaker is a casual observer whose lines are strewn with bursts of acute insight into the complex, aﬀective relations that structure our everyday experience with material things. There’s an emphasis on time, on the compressed space of a lunch hour (if you are lucky enough to even get an hour; lunch breaks today aren’t quite the boozy extravagance they were in the sixties). The pamphlet ends with ‘One eats as one walks. / Back to work, I guess.’ The ‘I guess’ is not just the hipster idiom of conversational filler, but a genuine hesitation that leaves us pondering on the threshold of recreational and work time. Has the subject left work at all? Is our daily jaunt to the supermarket merely an oﬀshoot of the work of daily capitalism, the implicit labour of consumer existence? Is the ‘I guess’ in fact a mournful hesitation, a longing for that brief jouissance of excessive choice that unfurled in the space of a moment? Parnell allows for both. Many of these items are reduced, discounted in price, thus implying the collection documents several moments of meal deal purchase across diﬀerent times in the day. That sense of deferral: ‘And the stores stayed open awful late…’. Sometimes reading And no more being outdoors, And no more rain feels a bit like looking over a series of old tweets made in the heat of a certain moment, so they don’t make much sense anymore, but when you read them back in a sequence an emotional narrative unfolds. What does it mean to be ‘never […] mentally sober’? If the state we live in is one of
constant arousal, wired to our screens and bleeps, flushed with sugarfuelled brain fog, the supermarket perhaps oﬀers the comforting stasis of quotidian repetition that the rhizomatically endless territory of the internet displaces. Often Parnell’s poetics feel meditative, even haikulike; they are a deliberate, focused lingering on the object, the moment, the profound possibilities of relational connection both physical and symbolic in the exchange of capital. They restore a certain peace to our day, even as they retain an unsettled sense of longing, of curiously surreal or impenetrable imagery, of desire misplaced in the webs of perception. Reality shifts. There is something of the Eliotic, confused flaneur in some of the poems; especially the first, with its anaphoric loop, ‘And no more rain’ drawing us endlessly to the supermarket as sheltering temple, the speaker’s ‘perilous steps’ uncannily erased even before we have settled inside. I’m reminded of Eliot’s ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’ (1915), where the street lamps address the speaker with strange nostalgic poetry. Parnell’s speaker treads the laminate floors of the Tesco Express, held in a strip-lit version of Eliot’s ‘lunar synthesis’ as he leaves his identity at the door, ready and open to the world of signs. These are poems with a shelf-life, products destined for the trash at the whim of a consumer, or the directive of an employee or use-by date. Like snowflakes, they’ll melt into the generalised excreta of capitalism’s cold waste pile. There is a deliberate beauty here, a rift prised open between subject and object, consciousness and product. Ephemerality, the sense of drifting; disappearing in the condensed rhythms of desire’s abyss, its stunting concatenations of excess, the ‘And / And / And’. Parnell’s artefacts aren’t so much grandly apostrophised as they are collected, pondered over and recirculated into the feedback loops of capitalist relations. They’re found objects, certainly, but not appropriated into art objects. The poems are supplements which draw out the gaps, the secrets of the things in themselves, the strangeness. Here’s Ben Lerner’s narrator
from 10:04 (2014), speaking of the minimalist art of Donald Judd’s 100 aluminium boxes: I believed in the things [ Judd] wanted to get rid of—the internal compositional relations of a painting, nuances of form. His interest in modularity and industrial fabrication and his desire to overcome the distinction between art and life, an insistence on literal objects in real space—I felt I could get all those things by walking through a Costco (Lerner 2014: 178). The hypermarket, Costco, does all the aﬀective job of an art installation. It’s all about how we perceive things. Lerner’s narrator is able to position himself as this flaneur, open to the impressions objects and their spaces make upon him. Parnell does this too, though in a more condensed and fleeting manner. He subtly unfurls the nuances of form through close-up photographs and fragmentary, sensual details: the ‘glistening peanuts’ and ‘old and dirty’ angels. I can’t help but think of memes when I read these poems: like a meme they are deliberately recirculated into the public sphere, in a very material way. Like many memes there is a reappropriation of advertising discourse which unpicks the shallow veneer of its message, while exposing the often surprising or even tragic ideological fault-lines within. These poems are compressed, easily digested; written in the tone of pondering over explaining. There are gaps to be filled. To use a Barthesian term, the Mythemes of contemporary culture are to be found in the supermarket aisle. A whole mythology of capitalism, identity and weird ontology is to be found if you peel back the packaging and wait for the magic. Happily, Parnell’s pamphlet does that for you, although its surreal array of intransitive words and objects deserves its own space: a metamodern exhibit of a bewildered contemporary whose
structure of feeling is as strangely spiritual and sincere as it is ironic or blasé—an art object whose aura flickers with the persistent light of those late-night Tescos. In White Noise, Murray declares that he likes being in the supermarket, because ‘It’s all much clearer here. I can think and see’ (1985: 22); in the aisles, with the cool tones of the refrigerators and the bright lighting, the ideologies underpinning the structures of daily life are ripe for the picking. Bibliography DeLillo, Don, 1985. White Noise (London: Penguin). Eliot, T. S., 1998. 'Rhapsody on a Windy Night', Representative Poetry Online [online]. Available at: https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/html/ 1807/4350/poem787.html [Accessed 15.5.17]. Lerner, Ben, 2014. 10:04 (London: Granta). Miller, Daniel, 2002. ‘Making Love in Supermarkets’, The Everyday Life Reader, ed. by Ben Highmore, (New York: Routledge), pp. 339-345. Parnell, Max, 2017. And no more being outdoors, And no more rain (Glasgow: SPAMinc. Press). Riviere, Sam, 2012. 81 Austerities (London: Faber and Faber).
Acknowledgements (in no particular order): Ben Lerner, Timothy Morton, Tom McCarthy (<3), Allen Ginsberg, Alan Warner, supermarket workers of the world united, Max Parnell, the flourishing support networks of supermarket Reddits, The Majora’s Mask, the Kyle Centre (Ayr) for its inspirational environs, malfunctioning self-service machines, Actor-Network Theory, Christopher Isherwood, that lost roller disco plaza of Milton Keynes’ A G O R A, Glasgow Uni StudentVoice and its strange domestic bizarre, Maryhill Tesco with its blurry stereo blasting the Frozen soundtrack at 4am, twitter confessions from Cameron Linden & Nicola McFadyen, Farmfoods letterbox brochures, Italian tomato manufacturers, Don DeLillo, everyone participating in Singles Hour at ur local Express, paid twitter banterers, the emoji artistes, 24hr shelf stackers, curious tannoy announcements, Situationist coﬀee-drinking tactics at bourgeois grocery stores, charity baggers, the looping allure of conveyer belts, banal Facebook chat about bargain hauls, every ex you’ve ever encountered at the checkouts, the simple reassurance of a Meal Deal, mr Jean Baudrillard & everything in its right place, truly.
What will you find among the aisles? Hyperreality in the grocery store never tasted so good: prose, poetry, pictures + various aesthetic exc...
Published on Aug 10, 2017
What will you find among the aisles? Hyperreality in the grocery store never tasted so good: prose, poetry, pictures + various aesthetic exc...