I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before. I’ve seen an angel before.
These moments stalled within the images which are my memory. Time turning their truth into air, and light. Hard to remember yet impossible to forget.
My living space is often filled with the noise and light of the vehicles which rumble by three stories below. I counted, and heard 37 sirens in one day. I find myself embarrassed to invite my friends into my space, for fear of sharing this loud secret of mine. Interrupting our conversations, like a messy room or kitchen which I’ve neglected to clean. Trucks will shake the whole foundation of the building. Loud music, lights which cast shadows on the window frames, and trace the length of the wall through the night. Phone conversations over bluetooth, the words unrecognizable.
They let the fallen back in then they went back-and-forth in time and so far into the future that were in a simulation now and don’t even know it. With the exception of
A man who approaches me at the steps of a church. He is asking for directions to a location which is at least two hours away, and he is on foot. I give him markers to signal he is going in the right direction. He doesn’t record any of our conversation. I blink, and he completely vanishes.
I have been thinking lately, about how easily the order of things can be disrupted.
A hill that I always pass on the way to my childhood home. Everyone calls it mine because I’ve been hypothesizing climbing it since anyone can remember. Now, it seems the thought of doing so is more important than the act itself, and I can never quite get myself to stop the car and peek beyond its horizon.
We are driving (me and dog). It begins to pour, and the windshield wiper seems as if it’s going to fly off the car. It lets up, and we are suddenly ushered through a never ending corridor of rainbows.
Rainbow after rainbow after rainbow after rainbow. I finally stop on the shoulder, as everyone else has done, and we crane our heads towards the sky, like they do in the movies during the apocalypse.
The universe is expanding, growing further and further into itself. Soon, it will begin contracting, shedding particles of matter until there is only one final moment in time, and time itself becoming only a memory to god knows what.
A week or so later, you text me an image of a rainbow you have taken. You're always sending me pictures of the things I like to photograph. Yet this time, I had never mentioned anything to you about the rainbows.
with empty archives
buckets full up of history
digging, an archeology
of the moment when they rose from the kitchen
table snatched everything out of the cupboards
hightailed it down to the river to sink in salt
water by the frantic armful or slow and steady
one by one like a round of horseshoes
who the fuck throws a teapot into the
ocean? then again, why wouldn’t the ocean
have a teapot it had jordan, kid of
right o! the back of a lobster boat
and yet lifetimes of teapots
gathered here on the riverbank
iii. david suzuki literally said it will hammer the hell out of us
my island of soft stone
once overrun with weeds
forget-me-nots and seaside cottages
PVC passageways blooming from the cli!s
sunbaked and crumbling,
once the cool underground
when the tide comes,
our bodies sheltered
on islands of debris
will rise to the sun like gods
enya playing in the background and
loneliness following in the wake
v. falling into the pisquid river
a beach event
taken the day john prine died, among others
took a razor clam from the sand,
ate it jelly"sh soup
tourist season is cancelled forever
cheap—$ows like water over
in the inaugural memory
of falling into the pisquid river
and drowning in perfect joy
Toronto is always becoming
a different beast from itself
in the summertime. Diffuse
in daylight, thick with intention
and leafy tendrils, even It, with
Its red teeth and claws, can unfurl
at your feet cloyingly. Like
a hungry dog, a carpet, a sunset.
Crablike, I dream of drawn curtain,
sun-dappled, afternoon ribs to kiss.
And long is a word that means every-
thing when you’re friendless. You can
say hello to never, drag your feet for a
Dog Days companion with some thumb
ring, tan-lined hands to hold and sickle-
shaped, sparkling mineral eyes to swim in,
but treading is just another euphemism for
expiration. I have become one of those tropes
about stuck people. A hung up wooden picture
frame that’s always crooked. A mustard stain
on a faded band T-shirt. Sour milk in the bad-
lands at the back of the fridge. A mountain of
dirty laundry, neglected on a bedroom chair.
Saccadic Release Cycle
If I returned late my father refused to greet me when I came home even at our ages, 47, 85, so Inside was dark. Moonlit seraphim poised on bedsheets in chlorinated hotel room where Memories of spring if you were born in spring, memories of summer if you were born in summer
Nevertheless they were inclined, however, towards a qualification of earlier redactions
on the April night that felt like February I was surprised when he silently rose to hug me beside each well-made bed, a lamp that did not work. Europeans, I decided, are better at memories of winter, and on in the carousel of seasonal emotional investments. Hapless in thorough though they were in inspection, oversights are bound given the circumstances to be
shocked when the lights were turned on to see tears in his eyes. I had never seen him cry disguising the squalid as historical. Tired from the flight I exhumed myself to the bathroom our relation to the orbital conditions of birth it is a familiar sadness that I reconsider each year made. In this case, giving occasion for an inestimable capital gain within the approaching
until this moment yet felt incapable of asking why. There has been no opportunity since. only to grow more weary seeing the violently clean reflection of myself which quite obviously as the distance from natal detachment, nostalgia for each and every former moment of fiscal year. We, the undersigned, recognize and respect the testamentary intentions of
What was in his heart: pride, fear, love? It is a question better left, along with others, underscored the mistake I'd made coming. It seemed impossible to take the next step glorifying dishonesty. No I had not become the person I'd expected but nevertheless the deceased though appeal its full execution pursuant to alterations made several
open though, yes, in part that is the opinion of someone upon whom that openness has been. We had not spoken the better part of seven years. The decisive bravado had remained on that am becoming someone: blood tests were fine, less in taxes than accountant predicted, months in advance as the deceased was assisted in so doing by Claimant One, son,
forced. There were fond moments shared between us though just now none come to mind. side of the Atlantic but here on the recriminating cobblestone what could I do but wander. developed a mild aversion to nightshades last year; now I order sweet potatoes when I can. aged 47, residing in the deceased's house alongside the deceased at the time of their death.
As much as I am usually early, have a regard for timeliness bordering fear of it,
inability to use it, nevertheless the having-to-wait shows I am myself
massively late for something outside time
because scanning from past to future, because of my expectation for the present to
autofill. Because the future is always underfoot, even while I'm fleeing
the past because I was in the habit of flattering this disposition with the image of a pendulum where one pole is the past, one the future-past, but I never know, what part are we: the space
in which motion happens, the post from where the arm swings because this was before I learned of family systems and the double-hinged pendulums of unpredictable
deterministic loops that others have flattered with the image of a butterfly.
Because there is a word for everything I don't want to know
something asthmatic about thoughts before sleep
bedraggled by dumb mysteries of the contemporary: what
the fuck is an e-mail, actually, and why do I have 7000?
Because it rained the streetcar was late, they phased out the old ones have you seen the way they look now?
I'm staring at the lower lake from the upper one, standing on a picnic table in attempt to emulate
shutter speed--the same place we passed our way that time you'll recall. The postcard
survived the end of the epistolary tradition indecently, still
they call this a mountain and we won't argue.
The land is not mine to covet but I still do, not to own
but to own up. You see the placards around here marshal the wrong thoughts.
We know (Lake Ontario and Lake Titicaca: the only two lakes in the world that...)
the corridors of information are all so tempting but what is the custom recuperation of summons
whose event, to calculate the basin volume of Lake Victoria extemporaneously before a panel of
distant friends, holds water in mind to product, excuse me, produce trivia?
Drowning an analogy between closed and open lakes, reduction and flow, but it is simpler than all that.
You saw the news. Love is a matter of asking the right questions in rapid succession:
would you rather it sweet or savoury, saline or fresh water birth, do you remember the first lake
you owned, are you better described as dissolved solid or an accumulation?
You know Ian's sister told me and we went ahead
arranged a few words so not to get lost in
condolences, it happened for us not long ago but just to mention you are never prepared.
In keeping with, and sorry, but for your loss and in our thoughts, not religious hardly spiritual,
of course it is just the sine qua non of unpleasantness.
Beautiful, the ceremony was so irrespective any time even whatever we can.
Sandwiches, tea, simple
things no imposition, no need to respond, basic humanity.
We hope you remember it is okay
to feel, or not to, okay to be wrong
not really gone but lives somewhere near the tricuspid valve.
Lost memory like double negatives in a
Better place and we heard worsening health and for the best but still
so young and long while
since the last of us went
all together outside anywhere
but last wishes are guaranteed. Later years passionately sat
in front of television cooking shows with beloved grandchildren spent
for their career thirty proud
years later adopted their second
prefix De-. She admired the final metamorphic phase, how
the term for discarded exoskeleton,
exuviae, itself looks like the husk of a more forceful word that we honour today.
What craftsmanship, did she choose oak herself
yes pine is cheaper since it is after all just
to be buried inside. A minor
cost in the irascible scheme as mother,
sister and to her nieces and nephew a
noble interior we overheard lecturing
after four minutes to let the sauce
reduce until it deteriorates the spoon.
What of the things variously called lasting impressions,
collective memory, data, testament or less trimmed as that
which is when you are not,
spring through winter a clarinetist on the block practices
rich harmonics diffusing origin even close at range.
It's all the buildings or are they homes, a cunning
dissimilarity when it comes to anywhere.
The words that came apart come together
forming the basis of larger congregations.
The charge cable fell to the floor wrapped in perfect ampersand
around the coffee table leg.
Your father charged in,
Shouted What is the meaning?
Pointed to a charge cable, &, coffee table.
You tried to explain lasting impressions and their variations
like weather but it
is not various, isn't regional, is simultaneous
and stochastic. We don't blame him, but
we get that the cable is about
the conjunctive, combinatory power retention,
one source of energy to the next. The table? To support a
lineage of sounds whose meaning was never structural,
crystal ball origami dreams predict under conscious meridian.
Words that each journey several centuries not to make sense.
Lasting impressions of a time we were lost resulting
from a failure of memory not to be repeated
your eyes, you said, scanning the surroundings like they were tripping,
to another filling interstice with last
the direction of sentiment narrowing things down that prefer widening out.
Though you are just feeling it now the emotion is not new
but comparable, in that slightly implausible way, to ones left in my childhood. It is the distance
of time that curries distrust in the things I want, you said
You were talking about desire and I couldn't help but see your point. The lawn, just like our lawn
but in a different part of the yard under a different sky,
the body of knowledge,
the wires of different colours weaving through walls and a small rubber plate in which your
polished knife found its greatest purpose: it is all so desirable + impossible to have.
acquisition nor is the horizon ever met, etc, the history you read didn't change the present as much as crack it over the future.
The thought didn't end with the sentence evenly
after punctuation curtsied
there, there and there. Alone
it was the day that remembered how we came
humiliated by our birth and its violence.
The rare autoimmune birds, succour and
rehydrated mushrooms, exasperated by
further resemblance to its one inexplicable surface
flight lay in rest. There were cleaning supplies, separate novelties
and renewed divisions, fresh basil from the porch, but it wasn't the basil
nor the porch nor the variegated leaves we saw late that evening near Leaside
across economies, theosophy, dice-rolls
material conditions notwithstanding, corrugated steel, mainly.
Again with the window, the light it frames,
the numbers, unchanging, 10 x 12", the thinking remits
tadpoles, tetrahedron, Corbusier, laminated chip-board, taffeta table cover.
Further go the ungovernable, unforeseeable moods like weather are too
large and total to be counted on or fully undressed.
Because the novelty of the being here before in
and of itself insufficient to dispel the thought of
the sense of the cold wind rippling through polyester and though quite warm, the sun can only
as mentioned does not change
except as a matter of
of indecision of lowlands of letter and rather than make a point it turns
out to be about as profitable to make a noise: 120 x 144,
residue of an ongoing imminent collectivity to which belonging, we
wish to be reminded of our changing indivisibility. Although
the strata, such as the convertibility of metrics, is only girdled by
the effervescent jutting of oils conducting
about 10,000 miles X 1.609, the european cars,
perhaps a matter of synthetic oils,
fortunately, the aperture by which the light escapes
Of the bake shop whose location is now historical and its polite ligament of
patrons muted by time returning instead the nicely wrapped, Italian chocolate given by the baker to me as a child once or multiples or once multiplied by the quiet
this continuously unresolved moment of returning
exchanges of recalling again the windows, the light it frames.
Of the things you could entertain, such as discomfort expressed lengthily in lecture on the notion of memory as porousness between individuals suggesting insofar as shared memory is defined as voids, that accuracy of memory be construed as our psychic cohabitation somewhere outside or nowhere inside the empty space from where the thought falls from the sentence in reverse of dendritic crystal formation of
snow back to its utopia
the transubstantiate sphere,
weather. Someone is yelling from the elevator shaft If you can not get there you are there.That tactical misunderstanding yields knowledge though you are just feeling it now
the emotion is not new.
Of the actions could be taken, walking to banks, mutual aid, of the fibrous, energetic matter inlaying bone, and its need for synthesis of sugars, polypeptides, cholesterol but running
against intramural limits to biometric secession, is it
at all desirable to move of our own accord, to, say, pick up the phone?
You know Ian's sister told me and we went ahead
Repatriated tomato sauce tupperware and
you have to think so hard to get back to the
moment that tempered the thought in the
bronze-medal-type frustration of the
epiphenomena laid down by your visiting media consultant
father, whose form of free speech moribundity has, of course, refinanced your future
by the minute of minutes, the second
of so many firsts and what of the
things variously called lasting impressions?
My future waking
from a restful night unshorn by acrobatic nervousness
in the weblike
treetops with certain app. extensions shuddering from Minneapolis, through Hamilton, Guelph, Toronto, Port Hope (Minneapolis, Hamilton, Guelph, Toronto, Port Hope, Providence, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans), Providence, New York, Atlanta, New Orleans completing
togetherness for that tropospheric miscommunication is at all given pasts pointing ahead? Never mind the doubt, suppose it true about the subreality of places inside the rooms inside your mind. Pretend, for the moment, just to acknowledge that you can
that of the many,
I'm staring at the lower lake from the upper
concept and for the moment, hold only the idea that makes you want to speak
of twice as much in half the time. If not fifteen minutes ahead already late thus forgetting to sign in is refusing to log out. The same things are nonnegotiable, that's right, like the present, the thriving headaches, the end of
as much as I am usually early for it,
the ex you have to hit while holding sea to end
starting again when you dilate memory
holding its ledge like to the sink's
if I returned late my father, to greet, me, ages,
4, 5, 7,
The Bread of God is Not Meant to Be Photographed
flashed the torn itinerant cardboard sign
along with Parkside drive in October
on its way towards this past tense.
The body initiates flightpath wherein flight and path are
then into refrigerating trucks (bats or pangolins)
The Bread of God is Not Meant to Be Photographed but more to the point
a de-existant camera
it sees what we
The End is A Process of Unfolding/Some Art I liked
The following text is mostly me thinking through some art/practices that have been running through my mind for a few months. Maybe this is a ramble? A blog post after the blog era? A research paper with no rigor? A dead end? I don't know, Commo allows for flux, right?
Continuing with this feeling of being non-committal, it feels like humanity is a series of unfolding disasters with no end or nexus of origination. Our collective narrative as a species is one that is inherently dualistic- how often is triumph framed completely separately from pain? In Buddhism, dukha, one of the three marks of existence, states that mundane life is inherently characterized by suffering, stress and a feeling of non-satisfaction. In turn nirvana becomesthat desired cessation of phenomenological sensation, suffering, and by extension, pleasure. That is to say nirvana is a goal to strive for in which the rollercoaster of "feeling" finally ends. Granted, I'm not a theologian and nirvana (in its complex set of iterations and re-iterations) is a metaphysical concept not a real space, but I hold firm. Does the ideal of nirvana still hold in an era where sensorial overload has created a pervasive, unending sense of numbness? I'm curious how artistic production can engage with the process of slippage, the unfolding processes of environmental, social, ethical and economic collapse. How objects can take inventory of individual events, side stepping the numbing sensationalism that can often define engagements with history,in our era of disaster capitalism. No indifference, no neutrality, no numbness. I want an endless parade of elation and suffering.
2020 WAS NO GOOD BUT IT'S ONLY A LINK IN A CHAIN
It's probably unnecessary for me to reiterate the first half of the above statement. Wonderbread-ass news anchors to your favorite writer have probably elucidated this statement far better than I could. The continued infringements on Indigenous sovereign rights, eco collapse, the stripping of workers rights globally, police brutality, the brutalizing of BIPOC, the opression of queer and non-binary people are but a few of the crises that have arisen/continued to burn all during the midst of a global pandemic. Here, we have seen failures in both the handling of these crises and their representation. In the former, the nation-state and its executive branches have failed to adequately address these moments of upheaval. The discoveries of deceased children in Canadian residential schools, among other traumas, has not resulted in the return of sovereign rights to Indigenous people over their land nor a vastly needed improvement to the infrastructure on indigenous land. Massive grassroots organization around the need for police abolishment has resulted in little meaningful changes to our carceral systems despite populist mobilization. These crises, and all those not mentioned in these lines, are subject to complex dynamics deserving of their own, expanded analysis but the focus for me here, is the crisis of representation.
Working off of Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media, I would extend the definition of "cool media" into the realm of social media. "Cool Media" within the context of McLuhan refers to any media that demands increased user participation in order to determine meaning (e.g mainstream news, who's mode of editing and splicing information leaves huge gaps for analysis) versus a film, for example (a medium which is sensorially focused and offers little space for immediate interjection, the information is conveyed through a linear/straightforward structure). Penned in the 1960s, McLuhan's text is naturally due for a re-consideration- not only in the sense that media like TV and film have changed greatly in scope, making the "hot-cool media" dichotomy very blurry, but also in face of new(ish) forms of media. The infographic, the soundbite, the Tik-Tok length mini exposé would all constitute forms of cool media - existing in between the sensorial realms of sound and graphic, all mediated by the screen. This isn't to say that these forms of media do not function as tools of political mobilization, nor are they incapable of inducing empathy and engagement with the user but there must be something to say about numbness. Political awareness is arguably through the roof. Political discourse is omnipresent but it feels like merely representing the "thing" is the closed end. Despite this, there is a sense of spectacle- one catastrophe after the other, each allotted a limited time slot for engagement, mirroring the social media mode. Institutional oppression- let's say the police and their role in enforcing private property- is propped up by massively powerful systems that actively resists popular opinion. These sorts of mass, systemic issues require consistent, long term resistance, especially on a material front. This isn't to diminish the prolonged struggles of organizers everywhere, but this is more a remark on the dichotomy of being both aware and disengaged. In response, I'm curious how artistic production, in response, can slow time, invite long term engagement and coax a general re-engagement with catastrophe.
There are two shows that have been running through my mind for the last few months or so- Gabi Dao's work in Soothsayer at Unit 17 and Garrett Lockhart's Wrought Bundle at Afternoon Projects, both in Vancouver BC that have informed my thoughts laid out above.
Dao's work in Soothsayer takes the form of a number of installation pieces. Among them, a tapioca-vegetable glycerin work coat layed on the floor and set with dandelions and other organic ephemera. The work coat, cast in Dao's size and installed into a bed of ash and replete with a mask is titled Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), acting as a double for the artist during an era of "funemployment". Two larger wood works, in the shape of an I and a C -"I see"- make for a subtle nod towards the show's prophetic titling. Depending on the angle of view, the I and C forms disappear, prompting a re-reading. Working off of conversations regarding the burning of Notre Dame in 2019 (symbolically present in the shougi ban burnt wood finish in the I and C forms), Soothsayer probes into the idea of our collective future, but one that is inherently destabilized. This brings me to her work, An alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths and eyelashes unapologetically, the "I" form work. Decorated with the dizzying array of objects and materials that characterize the other works in the room -among them nail polish, fake eyelashes, cast fruits and vegetables, plastic eyes- the work's "I" serif hangs two bat wings, like meat in a butcher shop. The wings, a bioplastic replica of the real deal, points towards the early COVID-19 myth that the virus originated in Chinese wet markets. The works here do refer to a lineage of disaster but through the lens of an intensely destabilized narrative. Bits of history float to the surface, but are inundated by aesthetic noise. This dizzying representation of historical unfolding compounded by the fact that the disasters referenced are obfuscated by "fake news" e.g Covid-19 is called up through the bat myth. If we barely have our bearings in regards to the past and present, then what of the future?
Gabi Dao, Laying starched dandelion day job (I quit!!!), 2020, tapioca starch, vegetable glycerin, water, vinegar, dandelions, aluminum, ashes, sand, graphite powder, bentonite clay, turmeric, cumin, coriander, dimensions variable photo cr: Cemrenaz Uyguner, courtesy of Unit 17
Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: just food flesh wound, 2020, torched wood, flocking, gelatin, ashes, micas, clays, vegetable glycerin, already burnt incense (holy basil), fruit fly traps (safe for humans and for pets), dimensions variable photo cr. Cemrenaz Uyguner, courtesy of Unit 17
Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020, torched wood, flocking, gelatin, micas, clays, tapioca starch, vegetable glycerin, water, vinegar, ashes, smoked paprika, annatto powder, pearls, amazonite, aluminum, plaster, falsies, nail polish, necklace, bracelet, dimensions variable photo cr. Cemrenaz Uyguner, courtesy of Unit 17
Gabi Dao, an alphabet burn scene: debunked bat myths & more/eyelashes unapologetically, 2020 (detail) photo cr. Cemrenaz Uyguner, courtesy of Unit 17
Wrought Bundle works in this similar vein- a simultaneous meditation on disaster strung through a warped sense of time. The exhibition is largely centered around multimedia works composed of found objects. Imagined as sort of "survival packs", Lockhart's works are objects that belong to an imagined future apocalyptic scenario. These survival packs account for everything in Lockhart's envisioned future, from the mundane to the sentimental. Desk With a View, fashioned out of an overturned plastic bin and writing utensils suggests the future of intellectual labor, post-calamity. Line Dry, a pair of mended wool socks caked in clay hanging from clotheslines portray what our future domestic life might look like. Wrought Bundle is working off the "Big One" scenario, which is a predicted massive earthquake that is to occur on British Columbia's coast at some undetermined point in the future. This foretold tectonic event is always grounded in a sense of futurity- never arriving but ever looming. The sense of being "overdue" shapes life here- buildings are constructed to resist seismic shocks and children are taught how to survive an earthquake. In reality, the Juan de Fuca strait is in a constant state of slippage- small earthquakes, miniaturized calamities happen on a frequent basis, but are overlooked by human perception. This does not negate their presence, but instead renders the idea of disaster as an issue of perception. Lockhart's approach to thinking through both time and event is maybe best summed up by The Invisible Committee in their book The Coming Insurrection:
It's useless to wait- for a breakthrough, for the revolution, the nuclear apocalypse or a social movement. To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not coming, it is here. We are already situated within the collapse of civilization.
What struck me about both shows is the simultaneous contention with disaster and what felt like a re-excavation of the minimalist art object, all informed by a sort of a process based abstraction. These concerns of form and medium are important- I felt engaged by the work. The first point, which we arrive at through Robert Morris via Maurice Merlau-Ponty, stipulates that phenomenology and sense perception operate in tandem. Transcendentalism isn't inherent in the object itself nor the human subject but something that is drawn out through interaction with the object. Meaning and thought is formed externally. The works in Wrought Bundle and Soothsayer function within this vein. They occupy space in the gallery and force the viewing subject to navigate them, engage with them, and think through them. Our perception of them is constantly in motion, gestalt in flux. This is pronounced in the "I" and "C" forms of Dao's work. As we walk around the room, the prophetic "I See" disappears and reappears, making one acutely aware of one's body in relation to the works. If we are to read Soothsayer as an allegorical depiction of narrative and time, we may be coaxed into thinking about our own place in relation to the process of historical unfolding. Perception is also mobilized in a compelling way via Lockhart. Bag, which is constructed from a heavily loved 1970s mail bag filled with personal belongings, nests four more bags, themselves untitled works. Although the works in Wrought Bundle evokes a heightened sense of self awareness by navigating the contours of the objects, Bag exhibits an interiority. Assuming the viewer is aware of the works contained within Bag, Lockhart's piece invites an imagined navigation of the work- what's contained? If it were mine, what would I have it contain? What does my apocalypse look like?
Garrett Lockhart, Line Dry, 2021, hand-darned Smartwool socks, sheep’s wool thread,found clothespins, found rope with clay deposits fromthe Maplewood Mudflats, dimensions variable, photo courtesy of Afternoon Projects
Garrett Lockhart, Desk with a View, 2021,found plastic bin, pencil on found paper, found tin mug retrieved from burned-down cabin, rainwater, tent repair kit, All That the Rain Promises, and More (1991,first edition), found pencil, antique notebook, gifted playing cards, found taperecorder, audio recording from the Maplewood Mudflats (32 min.), 16 x 10 x 12 in., photo courtesy of Afternoon Projects
Garrett Lockhart, Bag, 2021, hand-sewn canvas mail bags (c. 1974), waxed thread, cotton constructionapron, deadstock over-all buttons, heavy-duty canvas strap, buckle, steelrings, found carabinerscontents: various pouches, leather sandals (10 years), found fishing smock,hemp pants, trowel, leather multi-tool case (tool missing), wooden tube with handwritten poem by Sue Lockhart, 21 x 18 x 15 in., photo courtesy of Afternoon Projects
As a final note, I think the presence of process based abstraction in both shows lends itself to a feeling of humanness. The cold neutral surfaces of 20th century minimalism is done away with and replaced by a distinct awareness that a person made the work. Lockhart's socks caked in mud, Dao's body represented in decaying vegetable glycerin- the artist is undoubtedly present. The works don't only underscore the viewers presence within history and disaster but that the artist is there too. I don't want to suggest that engaging work only can arise out of three dimensional objects, nor that there is an absence of super socially compelling work in other mediums. I also want to note that the ability to engage with challenging art is a privilege, demanding a certain amount of time and/or resources that not everyone can afford. There is something to be said however about the way in which these works exist, as a sort of counter to the hyper condensed, rapid fire approach to how we understand events and disaster. This is what probably got me the most. When human calamity is often fed through a numbing algorithm that feels like the lovechild of cocaine and journalism, I welcome works that force a close read, a meander and maybe an existential crisis.
Vignettes of PLACE(MEANT)
With the anticipation of changes to our current homebound state thanks to vaccinations, I think back on my visit to PLACE(MEANT) - a one day exhibition held from dawn to dawn on January 25, 2019 in the residence of Gelareh Saadatpajouh. The exhibition followed the Dawn-to-Dawn residency in which Saadatpajouh invited Lauren Runions to spend 24 hours in her home while she wandered the neighbourhood in a parallel residency. Saadatpajouh is a spatial designer and lives in a house in the West Bend neighourhood within Toronto, Ontario. Runions is a dance artist, and choreographer also based in Toronto.
Dawn-to-Dawn explores themes of borders, such as inside/outside, body/home, private/public - lines of inquiry key to Runions and Saadatpajouh respective practices. During the ongoing Covid pandemic, boundaries have become heightened, fixed, and tied to the safety of ourselves and others. Within Toronto, we have experienced long periods of stay-at-home restrictions; not crossing the boundary of one's dwelling unless essential. Speaking with Saadatpajouh earlier this year she reflects on Dawn-to-Dawn "of connecting the outside and with inside. I'm talking about outside of the house with inside of the house, but then also because there's so many barriers all around us, also as a human, there's so many things happening outside of us…And it was an invitation to pause more than anything else for myself and for the invited artist [Runions] and later on for everyone who came through to experience that with us. It was really a moment of ponder."1Confined within my apartment the separation of outside and inside Saadatpajouh refers to feels expansive.
Revisiting PLACE(MEANT) offers notions of place, recollection of moving through space with ease, and experience of an alternative contemporary art platform. The following are eight vignettes from my visit to PLACE(MEANT).
My cheeks are chilled; they are the only skin exposed. It's what I consider a typical late January day in Toronto weather wise: full sun and shiver inducing cold. I venture outside, walking north along the railpath, appropriately outfitted in multiple pieces of wool, my puffiest jacket, and sunglasses. Since I am visiting somewhere I have never been, I alternate between checking each street sign, the map on my phone, and the hand drawn map with the address I tucked into my pocket just in case my phone battery runs out. I reach Gelareh's home, a century old house set back from the street. There is a small typewritten note on the front door that reads 'door is unlocked' so I let myself in. From the entrance I survey this unknown space as I clumsily remove my boots and outer layers, glancing up I spot two photographs on the oak stairs. The one on the riser is of a large blue plexiglas circle lying flat atop a duvet on a bed. In the photograph on the tread of the stairs Lauren sits in something of a boat pose on the window still surrounded by usual house objects: a jade plant, a ceramic vase, a floor lamp and various other small trinkets which I don't recognize but clearly hold some importance in this household. Lauren's green socks on her outstretched feet are darker than the hedge on the other side of the windowpane. I look up and spot the same four pane window and walk towards it.
I perch on the charcoal couch and pick up a small notebook from the side table. It is the size of my hand. I recognize Lauren's handwriting - all caps, evenly spaced lettering. There are time stamps written at the top of some pages. One reads " 2:45pm / see an item / pick it up / practice self care / repeat" with a line drawing of a roller on the facing page. I flip a few more pages quickly as if I'm secretly reading someone's diary. Another page contains the phase "The Body Is A Home".
I glance around the room. To my right, against the wall is a wooden bench with four apples and a potted plant sitting in a line. I wonder who arranged these objects. Is this the result of Gelareh and Lauren preparing for the day and playing together early this morning before the first visitors arrived with the sun?
A video plays on an iPad. In it Lauren is crouched behind a circle of lime green plexiglas outside on the slightly overgrown lawn with the wooden fence and hedge behind. She moves her hands from the centre of the circle out to the edge. When they reach this outer parameter her fingers fold over. Both pairs hooked around the circle begin to move along the edge counter clockwise. Once at twelve o'clock Lauren slides her hands down, palms pressed flat against the transparent plastic. The video frame changes: Lauren is behind a blue plexiglass circle on a bed. She traces the boundary of this circle as well in a similar manner, her hands moving in unison.
We stand around the large rectangle island in the centre of the kitchen plucking pomegranates from their geometric sheath. We being: Gelareh, Lauren, and an acquaintance I used to enjoy seeing at events and art parties but have only sent a handful of messages over the past year. Gelareh talks about the pomegranate how I speak of peaches - that is to say with delight and intimate knowledge; when ripe ones are available, pleasure in finding quality pomegranates in her market, the best method of eating, and admiring the make of the fruit: the arils ruby gems which bust in one's mouth, the membrane, and the outer hard shell. Someone new arrives, a friend of Gelareh's. She performs introductions.
I stand next to Lauren facing an iPhone on a tripod. The tripod emerges through the mass of elongated ellipse leaves of a miniature palm tree, one whose scale is appropriate to residential architecture. The video playing on the iPhone frames the top branches of this same houseplant, Lauren's right arm and left hand, as well as a glimpse of the ceiling and mobile in the background. Her left hand moves a rubber ink roller along her right arm. Moving thoroughly along her limb the roller reaches her right hand. As one hand clasps the roller handle the other receives, fingers outstretched spokes echoing the leaves. The side of her face moves into the frame as the roller continues upwards. Beside me Lauren plucks the same roller from the shelf and encourages me to use it. I too wheel it along my forearm now in the gentlest exercise instructional video dynamic.
Gelareh not only appeases my wish for a glass but gracefully takes one from the cupboard and holds it under the kitchen faucet, moving with the ease of someone who knows the space and is familiar with how her body fits into it. I watch the video playing on the iPhone propped in the window sill behind the sink - Lauren's hands stack neon squares of plexiglas in this same window sill. It is a video stream from hour five of her residency and her hands move with curiosity once again adding another small square photograph. The pieces balance atop of one another till Lauren's hand enters the frame and carefully rearranges them piece by piece.
Standing in front of another window I find myself peering through layers (from closest to me outward): a rectangle sheet of thin paper hangs vertically, a deep window sill containing an arrangement of dried grass, the window pane, foliage, the neighbouring brick house. Sunlight comes through each layer casting shadows. I focus my eyes on the nearest field and see line drawings of three floorplans. I wonder where I am within the depicted place but there is no indication.
1 Unpublished interview, October 9, 2020
I drive to a car wash near me in little italy. I think the owners are Iranian. None of the garage doors are motorized. They were pulling them open and closed with bare hands on steel chains in the middle of winter.
My engine keeps stalling because of the humidity inside the car wash. Wiring is an issue on my 23-year-old jeep. I should have told them. A kind man tells me it’s 10$ cash. I tell him I don’t have any cash on me. I barely ever do. I ask if he knows if there’s an atm around here. He says to come back later with cash and not to worry. He opens the door with his hands.
I drive with a heavy foot to make sure my jeep doesn’t stall. I drive to petro canada at the intersection of Jean-Talon and St. Laurent. A gas station that used to belong to the public and has since been privatized. Gas is a bit more expensive here compared to others, but I didn’t come here to fill up. I came here because they have rbc atms, and I can’t afford fees from other bank’s atms.
My father didn’t know how to drive. My mother did her best to teach him but he was used to riding horses.
I see a cop car filling up on gas and a man in a hoodie next to it, no jacket just a hoodie.
He asks me for change. I don’t ever have change on me anymore. I usually give it all to the man at the corner of Crémazie and St. Laurent, or the man on Sherbrooke and Papineau, or the woman on St. Urbain and René Lévesque, or the man on Ontario and De Lorimier. I don’t know what their names are.
I don’t have cash on me, I tell him. He wishes me a good day regardless.
I take out 20$. 89$ left in my chequings account. That’s fine. That’s enough until the next crb deposit.
I need to make change.
It’s 11 am, I can start to eat. I’m doing that intermittent fasting thing. I’ve lost weight since starting. Around 20 pounds. Convenient that it’s also easy on the wallet. I decide to treat myself to a sausage mcmuffin at the mcdonald’s right next to petro canada. A gas station that used to belong to the public, now surrounded by ugly private condo developments.
I drive back to the man. I give him change. He thanks me. I don’t know what his name is so I ask. Philippe, he says.
Humans started domesticating horses 6000 years ago and Philippe is a name derived from the greek, philipos, meaning “fond of horses”.
My father used to work at mcdonald’s. He worked the overnight shift so it paid more than minimum wage. He was an immigrant, a nomad, an essayist, a teacher, a poet and a hard worker. He would finish all his tasks quickly and thoroughly and then sleep in the kid’s slide tube.
Philippe lost his job recently. He tells me he was a driver for dicom, a shipping, courier, and expedited transportation company owned by gls. Dicom was founded in 1968, in Montréal, Québec. I look up news on dicom, a gls company.
In mid-September 2016, hundreds of parcel delivery workers took strike action in Italian cities of Bergamo, Brescia, Piacenza, Bologna and Parma against GLS and its subcontractors to protest against poor working conditions.
On the night of 14–15 September 2016, a van broke through a picket line formed by workers in front of the plant operated by a GLS subcontractor in Piacenza.
The van struck and killed Egyptian worker Abd Elsalam Ahmed Eldanf. It was reported that eyewitnesses heard the plant's Chief of Staff ordering the driver to break through the picket line.
In September 2018, Dicom was sold to GLS, a British-owned logistics company based in Amsterdam, Netherlands for $360000000.
A month later. November 2018, Fifteen Dicom workers in Drummondville, Quebec form a union. The first in Dicom’s 50-year history.
“The drivers weren’t satisfied with their working conditions and that’s why they joined our union,” said Gerry Boutin, president of Local Union 931
In 2019, Dicom workers in Drummondville reported that the company has reduced their salary to what it was fifteen years ago.
In 2020, Martin Seidenberg becomes the new CEO of GLS Group.
He lives in oude meer, north-holland, netherlands. Maybe you could find him and talk to him.
In front of me, Philippe says I won’t see him again in a month. He says he’ll be back on his feet by then. He needs some change. A phone, some gloves, a winter jacket. He tells me his license is still valid, so he is hopeful he can get a job as a driver. I wonder to myself if he knows his name, I wonder if he is fond of horses.
I have a sticker in my pocket. I wanted to go to the car wash so the funny 5$ sticker I bought would stick to my 1600$ jeep. Cylinder 2 is losing compression so the engine misfires. This causes the cabin to vibrate. I ask facebook jeep groups about it. They help me out as so many of them know their machines inside and out. We lovingly refer to our jeeps as shitboxes. The 4.0L engine is known to last a long time so I’m not too worried. In 1998 it made 190 horsepower, but that number is surely lower now after 220000 miles and 23 years.
He asks if I climb mountains in my jeep. I tell him more or less and chuckle.
Some things are funny because they are true and some things are funny because they are far from the truth.
I ask him where he thinks the funny sticker should go. He looks over the back of my jeep. He points to a spot above the badge that shows the engine displacement, which is above a piece of license plate my friend’s cousins used to fix a rust hole. It’s cheap but it gives it character.
I recall when a cop car pulled up next to me to tell me nothing new. That I had a license plate on my hatch. I said my jeep was 23 years old and that it was to cover a rust hole. The man inside the cop car told me I had to remove it then drove away. It gives my jeep character.
A rolls royce cullinan pulls up to one of the pumps. It’s monstrous. Like other luxury car manufacturers, rolls royce now offers an suv in their lineup. It has a 6.8L engine that makes 571 horsepower. It starts at 408177$.
Philippe doesn’t make a comment on what’s written on the sticker. I don’t think he speaks english. He’s a real queb. He says. “Ouais, juste là. C’est aligné.”
My jeep is worth 5$ more now.
As I drive away Philippe gives me the sign of the horns, asking me to rock on. It’s the middle of winter. Quickly, he puts his bare hands back into the pockets of his hoodie. He just needs a phone, some gloves, a winter jacket, some more change.
I own 3 winter jackets. A navy peacoat my mother bought for me from Simon’s. It cost 150$. A red billionaire boys club oxford down jacket I thrifted from the salvation army. It was 50$. And then the one I was wearing. A big green B-9 military sherpa jacket. It used to be Apala’s, before it was his it belonged to my mother’s coworker.
The sleeves of the jacket are longer than my arms. It’s warm. I kept it to remind myself of my father, how it fit even larger on his thin frame in the last winter of his fight with stomach cancer. How it kept him warm. I can’t remember if my arms are longer than my father’s arms.
In the hot summer of 2015 my father, my brother and I went to visit my family in Amdo. Going to Tibet is expensive and my mother was always the breadwinner so she had to stay behind to work. My father had been experiencing gastrointestinal issues in the months preceding the trip. The day before the trip I went with him to the CLSC near us. A publicly run free clinic. I do my best to translate my father’s symptoms to the doctor as french is my father’s 4th language. The doctor tells us we should go get a scan as soon as we can. I tell him we’re about to leave for a 2 month trip to Tibet, my father’s parents are aging and he can’t afford not to see them before they pass. The doctor tells us to book an appointment as soon as we get back. We leave the clinic without a receipt because it is publicly owned.
That trip would be the last time my father got to see his parents.
Over the 2 year battle with stomach cancer my father lost his appetite but his belly grew distended with bile. My mother stopped working to take care of him and took on a debt she is still paying for. He had difficulty staying warm so he was always under blankets or warm jackets.
I am always complimented on this warm green jacket I got for free. I would style outfits with it and post them to reddit.
Online, /u/pumaturtle, comments God daaaaaaamn that coat is straight fuego. In-person, friends would tell me similar things in their own words.
“It’s really warm too” I would always add.
I walk back with my late father’s coat over my arm. A coat I kept, to remind myself of him. I call myself a nomad like he was, I write poetry like he did. I write essays like he did.
I have 2 other coats anyways. This one is the warmest.
Philippe thanks me. He says “t’es donc ben fin merci!” I’m reminded that I always mistake the word fin for faim. I think of hunger when he speaks of kindness.
French is my 3rd language so I listen more than I talk. But I want to talk more.
I ask if he votes. He says he does. He says he tries to be informed. He says people can be judgemental. He says he used to have his own company and had his own routes and contracts all over Québec.
He talks about how he’d like to punch justin trudeau and we laugh.
Politics is touchy, he says.
To describe who I am I would have to describe to you the 100,000 people that have preceded me.
I am the firstborn son of Pema Yangchen Khangsar Bhungdong Nupe. A warrior of a woman who has boundless love for her family. She was born in the autumn of the year of the fire goat in northern India.
I am the firstborn son to the late drokpa essayist and poet Gonpo Tsering Dhatsenpa (1963 - 2013). He was born during the summer in the year of the water rabbit, in the grasslands of Amdo, northeastern Tibet
I was born during the winter in the year of the wood dog at Delek Hospital in Dharamsala, India.
With my writings and my activism. I want to reverse this land's values. Away from capitalism and towards compassion
སྐལ་ལྡན་རང་གྲོལ་མདའ་ཚན་པ། / Kalden Rangdrol Dhatsenpa
Tibetan artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montréal
Anti-oppression coordinator for Courage Coalition
Editor and columnist for Canadian Dimension
Again the mind
Splits without notifying the body,
Marooned and alert, hearing
Echoes of its litany. Residue of
Madness, that long education.
Free of resentment it lets her rave,
knowing No thought should be rejected nor
Deposed. If so, they will return. One
lesson Of many: there is always room at
Think of him first. Desire to be expected.
Safe is the benign option, to glean details
like Souvenirs; a process that can stretch
years. Craving should mostly be
condemned: an Old belief reached in error,
taught from Without, accepted in fear.
Smart to sully what’s engrained. Say:
I can sprint like desire too, have
Battle acumen, and turn corners when
I sense I may be felled. I
Must challenge me. If not
I move forward so slow I seem to linger.
Besides: why should responsibility detain
me? I may not soar if the ground gives out
Beneath my feet, but now I won’t descend.
Then it comes into focus:
Outside the bedroom window
The smoke tree has finally bloomed
Its plumes of gossamer. Meaning:
The summer is nearing its close.
Each day the heat thins. It’s
Time that does this, the weathering.
Adjacent birds speak as I greet the tree,
Then my supine form.
Hello, body. I
Stretch you like a cat.
Light fractured by lowered blinds
Peppers the sheets.
I am not sure what I was thinking
When I inscribed to you in the index
Of Barthes A Lover’s Discourse, me
Crawling through the muck of language
Months later, at a poet’s theatre workshop,
A cerebral West Coast poet went on unprovoked
How the Barthes book should never be purchased, it
Always must come to you in some numinous way, I
took this to mean gifted, like a deck of Tarot cards,
Which I did to you and which we did many times To
one another over the course of our relationship, This
erotic exchange of knowledge.
When I described to you my genuflection, crawling across
The earth toward you, it made me think of
The paintings on a friend’s studio walls. Almost every pose
Is that of a body reaching toward the earth,
An act of prayer.
Or the wounded mind of a person who wants to be close
To the earth, without pleasure.
In Berlin I spent a month
In an apartment with peeling white walls.
Somewhere there is a Saint who would sleep
On the floor even when there was a bed.
The sun shone through the brown lattice into
The mental poverty of my room. Sleep had fallen over the house
And I dealt in its economies.
The Saint’s sublimation is the moment
A cockroach crawls over her toe and she does not care. I say
nothing following your decision, then a dirge of words
As if they had been held back for centuries
Like an ancient pain that came roaring through me.
During the construction
Of a parking lot
Underneath the monastery
Workers began to smell
What could be described as
Sticking your head in the sarcophagus of history
The latrine contained
Like a syntagmatic film scene
The objects coming into view, one after
The other: a wooden hairpin, hazelnut shells
Spindle, cherry pits, a small broom
Perfectly preserved without air
A catalogue of days
Sweeping out the cold room
Taking stock of possessions
The furniture lifted
From the second floor
To the ground I drew lines
Numbered, sorted, labeled
The logic of collectability has little sentiment And no
room for grief that has a geometry like a circle
Depending on where you stood
Like the flowers placed around your head, marigolds
I too wore a wreath of atmosphere
Your body a column of air
Which shot through everything
That sickening gap
The hole wrought
My brother riding a bike over black ice
That morning they burned
How I had wanted to preserve you, life
Of its objects
SURELY THE SKY
So the story goes
Icarus fell from the sky.
Wings made by his father
of honey and feather
burned by the sun.
For weeks I return
to the painting, Bruegel’s
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.
In the beginning
I don’t know why
the return to this site.
Others have stood
and found themselves
“at the bottom of an ocean
the social field of the painting
inversed as it was.
The painting marks Bruegel’s departure
into a sort of
polis. His paintings become crowded
with dispersed subjects
spread evenly across the composition.
This is why
an interpretation of Bruegel’s Fall
is one where the social conditions
are made more important
than the myth
which makes barely a splash
in the corner of your eye.
As Sebald described the writing
of Thomas Browne, as if
“one were looking through
a reversed opera glass
and through a microscope
at the same time.”
as one of the first painters
of social protest
is a measure of optics
his concern for these
the flattening of perspective
you can see
Daedalus had built a labyrinth
he could not himself
find a way out of it.
My father, a pilot
obsessed with things
that rise and fall
whose logic only instilled in me
Before his death he stood
in the doorway
eyes dark and wide
like a frightened bird.
The news that evening
my face like a screen.
“6,000 cattle lost at sea.
One survivor,” they said.
I imagined a bell-mouth spillway
and everything I knew falling into it.
Big black waves like a mouth
filling, then an emptying
then suddenly nothing
or lights skimming above the surface
of the ocean
like the sun above the birch trees
of some treelined childhood
imagined, of course,
but that is the place of liberation
Like death, in Bruegel’s Fall the
quotidian continues around it.
This shipwreck of the singular
which extends out
of the idea
that “the end of one’s own life
is by no means equivalent
to the end of the world.”
He wrote this
after eight years of political exile
and an absence from poetry
which lasted just as long.
Humanity is a horizon
and we cannot escape our singularity,
In the painting
the sun is about to dip down
into the horizon.
Here, the sun could not
Icarus’ wings, but rather
his fall was something else
What dead reckoning
All navigational techniques
to determine where one is
and to circumvent this logic
can prove fatal.
What if, I thought,
Icarus didn’t really die
fell to the surface level of the world
and then further down.
And what if
it had been my father
who continued elsewhere
toward some horizon.
In Giovanni’s Room
Baldwin writes of
A sea change.
It comes from Shakespeare’s
“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those parts that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.”
Baldwin uses this
as an analogy for queerness.
The drift net of history
that place of no-history
from which we begin
As if on purpose
shortly after my father dies
from the same thing
that killed Susan Sontag.
From all that flying
When I stick the needle into
the fatty part of my stomach
the room spins out
I feel nothing
then a tripling of sensation.
My body begins to change
to fashion itself in my image.
The Ship of Theseus
The fall was more like
descending into another atmosphere
and in this way
he found a new language
his hieroglyphics of the sea.
Icarus would never see
his father again
but would sometimes look up
from the ocean floor
to see something fly across the surface.
In this, death is more an afterimage
a caustic bending of light
like when we went fishing
waist deep in the Rogue River
and the light made a pattern like netting on our feet.
Daedalus, cupping the water with his hands
turned to me and said
“you have never really lived”
which I knew was more of a command
as if a spell had been cast on me
and with that Icarus felt his lungs fill up with water
and found himself at the bottom of the ocean.
I am a first year PhD student at the University of California, San Diego researching infrastructures of visual production with a current focus on submarine communications cables. I am an MFA graduate in Critical Studies & Integrated Media at CalArts. My work has been published online by Lemon Hound, Wonder, and in print with The Capilano Review. In 2019 I was invited to Performa as part of a week-long pedagogical workshop for Unlimited Bodies.
Four-Away Weekend, August 2020 — August 8, 2020
lingering, close, guarded
the wind washed everything clean
the first of the lupins
(their whiteness: divided highways
their purple: beaded belts.)
the first of the sweet clover
(your pain and my pain and your desire for my pain.)
sweet S and sweet M
brief and bright
dark and rotting at the bloom
Cher issuing a threat
Tracey Chapman, a relief after all that noise on the radio about infidelity.
I am enough.
quiet outside, but outside of what?
finds love in the moon
opening scene of love in the woods
the first of the fireweed
the jugglingness of youth
(I linger in places I have felt love, long after that love has passed
I linger in places I have felt joy, long after that joy has passed.)
the first of the goldenrod
(Summer still and damp on the skin. Autumn hanging out, listless
somewhere on the other side of the breeze.
Together, these put some urgency in the pedals
of anyone still trying to make it to the lake.)
the first of the blueberries
the last of the raspberries.
It was a night like this when I first crossed the street at midnight at 33A. Up the steps from the basement room. Through the door to the concrete step. Down the concrete step to the asphalt driveway. Down the asphalt driveway to the wall under the tree. Down the wall under the tree to the curb beside the street. Over the curb beside the street to the glow of the streetlight. Out of the glow of the streetlight to the tree on the other side. Under the tree on the other side to skirt the
field by the playground. Skirt the field by the playground to reach the tree line. Now through and over, down into the woods.
An unreasonable dark, with a light patch opposite that could only be moonlight on a gravel path. Noisy, noisy.
What would I have done? Bolted? I’d have known those woods better than any hired man. I grew up with the roots. Knew where my toes would grip and where they’d snag. Knew that in the dark, the best place to hide is in plain sight. Knew that the darkest shadow is front and centre of where they are trying to light the most. Disappearing is easy. It’s wondering when to come out that taps a little heavier on the heart.
trip to the lake
I’m a little meat sack in the back seat jiggling
along the highway, thigh to thigh, thigh to thigh with
my lezzies. two is a household & seven is
a Dodge Grand Caravan barreling on, eating
asphalt under open sky as Venus travels
backwards...in our past lives we laughed in dining rooms,
read the Berenstein Bears cuddled up together
on the top bunk—better than money, that wild wild
honey…hair down windows down now we’re white-knuckling
summer, soaked in amber light like god took the piss
& we just threw our heads back. this timeline’s stained with
misremembering, crooked landscape waving in
the rearview. I’m all right/left in memory—time’s
a slippery thing slithering by & sometimes
curling up to nap. fever dream of a sunless
winter, all awash with slog. fever dream of a
friend pressed up against me & the wall & I’m like
haha stop. bone-dark road, honey drip, tick tick of
the clicker signalling no one as big brother
turns right on red & the radio on, wheels bounce
off the curb—sharp swerve through gutter slush into the
empty Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot I said stop.
not now mommy’s driving says Keira, juuling out
the window, one hand on the wheel. White Claw jumping
around the jumbo cup holder like it’s riding
a dick & spitting itself out. exhaust coils through
the sighing pines, as Lis rolls her beach towel up
for my head: hey, you won’t believe the things you said.
curling up to nap. fever dream of a sunless
future: smear of days across the window—feel my
body in the bed, lead like letter, legless in
essence & tender like a grounded calf. I have
just realized that the stakes are myself. wake up!
I always do—the sure thing across all these dreams.
slow peel of self off the floor of my brain, hear my
name like the telephone ringing me back: not
bed but backseat, never reaching the future but
reaching. for you, too, I wake (you, another stake)
& our rare platter of friends, the many pleasures
of this life (like a warming morning, a name in
the mouth: my name, your mouth). I pitch for gas with my
stimmy, disappear, put my life down for the day.
I still show up in photos like yes, I was there.
& I am not always I, sometimes I is sum-
mer or I is you & your long slim hands, sometimes
I is a white night too or the shining armour
of a line that takes me to the threshold, where Death
has come knocking with my latest online purchase:
Juicy tracksuit, eucalyptus candle, twelve pairs
of plain white socks, snail hydrogel eye mask...double
dopamine hit of pleasure paid for, the promise
of contact. brush of hands when I reach for Death’s clip-
board—hers are long & slim too—I come to in a
friend’s lap, I am always coming to with a jolt
& shudder, the doorbell ringing in my skull—ding
dong! the doorbell—the clock—midnight! noon! I’m coming!
For miles, corn
you propagate the scene
for minimum wage
corn field is a playboy
corn field is a platform like love
the mark-up of
I kiss the tassles, I kiss
the lover, whole body
for its holes
There’s something so erotic
and we, in delirious critique
know well that a body
towards losing itself
Feeling for content
& contact’s disorganization
the dent’s interference
mommy, daddy, all
field of adolescence,
& what we call corn,
it is a contraction
and the earth
I sought a simple rhythm for my breath,
to dress beyond in dainty syllable,
to tease pulpit from sky, and dream with death,
by death to mend the purpose of my call.
By dream to purpose pose, and mend to path
closer come, or near enough now to quell
the light of shameful pond, and silvered math
falling, to seed with tooth the unbound dell.
Made well with calling, sedge and amaranth
celebrate against that old soured curd, well
of purpose, puzzle, image and pith—
playing disappearance, marking failure.
Obsessed in ending, the marsh-fawn, practiced
and pure, in burning lamp of chaos limped.
the truth was that I no longer wrote with any purpose except pleasure— and that insight by accident is the most fearful of things, being, as it is, the source of many an infamy disguised as clarity (and thus began to think away (the bull-drops, froglet blue with needing, mudshovel and plaster (the most contrived literary canonization of all time)) and thus began(plaster?)(if it were anything, to mend motion to reason (mend? (delivered only in final, written in reverse across the stupid, pathetic) to dream)) clear, across the room I balanced on her gaze (I balanced on his gaze (I balanced on their gaze (I balanced, and caught myself in gloried landing while stillshook the taut)))) thus ended (for ultimately it was not the levity of his phrase which appealed to the audience, but a certain critical acumen that revealed itself in the carefully chosen, yet simple, words addressed to the very page itself. The work, composed in the period following the author's emigration to North America from Poland, is not intended for the litera
i am a creature of little importance. i trouble words with myself at cryptid editions.
There is a new feature on the updated Mac operating system. It is called Night Shift. If you click on the button, the color of the screen fades into a warm orange. The white Word document in front of my eyes that I force myself to fill with words suddenly has color. It is supposed to be better for my eyes, for my sleep cycle, for my health, they say. I turn it off so I can see the screen’s strange transformation again. What previously appeared to me as white is revealed as actually having a color, and the color is blue. The document in front of my eyes is created by blue light.
They say the digital is not real. They say it is lacking something, an element that authenticates it, making it more valuable, a physical presence that can never be replicated in the numerical domain. “Oh, you met your boyfriend on Tinder?”, says the woman in a bar in Berlin to me, “I was always wondering how that must be. I thought Tinder was only for hookups.” And then she starts telling me the story of how she met her boyfriend and how beautiful, how real their first encounter was, how much her family likes him; without caring about the fact that I do not have the slightest interest in listening to another romantic love plot of some straight rando. “Why are you using these dating apps?”, my best friend says to me. “I have never used one because I think they are just so superficial. It is only about the picture and you swipe left or right. Why don’t you go into a bar and talk to people?” When people ask me, “Where did you get to know this guy?”, they want me to say something exciting, something cute, and it is their eyes that reveal what exciting cute romance actually means for them.
I always wondered if the people who passed by our house late at night could see my room flooded with blue, like I see the blue living room of our neighbors, the massive-flat-screen-watching-family. Late at night, the streets in this suburban German neighborhood are so deserted that I doubt anybody would have ever really noticed the flickering blue light behind the curtains on the first floor of the white-brown, dull-looking house. In the weeks and months after I had bought my first desktop computer in my late teenage years, I discovered the possibilities of encounters that the internet had to offer. Night after night, after my parents and my brother had finally gone to bed, I would spend hours after hours in the dark room, my eyes on the screen, seeing not only my eyes, but also my skin reflect tones of blue in the mirroring frame.
It must be more than half a decade since I last read this Facebook conversation. “Have I said something wrong?”, I wrote at 4.22 pm on June 19th, 2012, after not having received a response on my last message for days. At 4.16 am on June 23rd, he texts me: “Hey, no you haven’t, I’m so sorry, the thing is that I was pretty excited to know you, and it kind of scared me. We should be realistic, we’re not going to be able to see each other, I just thought we should probably calm things down a little bit..” It excited and scared me too, but I did not know what it meant to calm things down. My response surprised me given what I felt when I read his response. “Yeah, I completely understand it. It’s impossible to meet each other, especially before you go to costa rica.. But I enjoyed to talk to you and just share some experiences. And you really helped me, I talked to a friend about the thing with my sexuality and it gave me such a confidence! Would you like to stay in contact?”, I finally ask, already knowing the answer. My first digital heartbreak. It unfolded in an IKEA parking lot, when I was supposed to be caring for children, a happy Swedish midsummer. I remember how hard it was to smile and cheer up the kids while I was slowly realizing that there wouldn’t be a reply or someone to cheer me up. How can you fall in love with someone you have never touched, never smelled? Is it an imaginary? Perhaps, yet it felt way too real.
The cock is blue when it pulsates to release a stream of white, blue, gray cum.
How can we simultaneously fuse and stay different? Red sparkles of dawn reflected on the oily blue water of the Hudson River, sometime in the 1960s. Exhausted yet satisfied from a night of collective sex, science-fiction writer Samuel Delany looked at the water. “Running across the stretch of dawn river just below us, two nets, one of shadow, one of light, on the wrinkling and raveling blue interlaced, interpenetrated, pulled endlessly one out of the other”, he writes in The Motion of Light in Water. “It seemed for a moment that both would become one, or would reveal themselves to be two aspects, differently lighted, of a complex singularity...” It is this incomplete glimpse at fusing entities that fascinates me, the wave’s movements that produce a flickering of red and blue on the water’s surface.
The boys. A fleeting joke, a commentary. Chatroulette. I was confused and asked “What’s that?” A smile. “You don’t know it? Always so innocent.” I persisted as if I already knew what this digital platform would give me at some point in the future. “What is it?” An annoyed exhale, “Just try it out”. I did try it out. However, differently than the boys might have expected. A face appeared on my screen that filled my room with blue light. I could not move. He looked me in the eyes, or rather, his eyes tried to find me in the black screen. I had not enabled my webcam. I was shocked to see the red face and upper body, naked and bare. His eyes searched to fixate on another pair of eyes. “Hi” appeared in white letters on a black ground. “Can I see you?” I was terrified. Impulsively, I managed to click on the red button in the upper left corner. His face disappeared. I was shaking. His face engrained itself into my vision, stayed with me, rested in my consciousness.
The following weeks, I rushed to my room as often as I could to illuminate my screen, to go online. In my room, I felt safe. It became addictive. Click, black screen, face, click, black screen. Unable to stop the clicking, I slept less and less. One face after the other, one bare breast after the other, pictures of cocks, buttholes, all types of bodies. Too afraid that the stranger would not be a stranger, I remained in invisibility. Growing more confident over time, I departed the terrified, anxious, yet curious state that defined my first encounter. I enabled the webcam, showed my upper body, but not my face. If I saw someone who I figured would not turn out to be a creep, I waited, briefly, determining whether I wanted to interact. Then, I moved my webcam so that the stranger would see my face, hoping that the screen would not turn black from a click from the other side. We chatted, anxiously, hesitantly, slowly. I interacted, tried it out. I became part of an anonymous community hiding in the shadows, in the safety of homes that are not safe, the digital protecting us as a shield. We were the sad ones, the melancholics, mourning past and present for its lack, yet brave enough to imagine a different future.
Imagination was the texture of our desire. We imagined and enacted positions of our bodies, in relation to one another, virtual choreographies that connected the single blue and red frames. We re-positioned ourselves in front of the webcams, moved our bodies to allow for a different gaze, leaned forward to share what we desired in the chat. Over time, the currents of pleasure began to flow more smoothly, the movements became less anxious and the gestures less awkward, and the imagination expanded and became more concrete at the same time. We realized that what we do is sex, and that sex can be far beyond what they told us it would be.
This fear that the black screen would suddenly interrupt the encounter, is it mine or ours? An anxiety that is emerging in, or entangled with the collective choreography of this digital space? Click “next”, the screen blacks out and the site searches randomly for a new partner. When you like what you see in the frame, you wait. You hope for the encounter to unfold. “Hi”, you write in the chat, “What’s up?”. The screen either blacks out or you read something like “Nothing much, wbu?”. While this ephemerality and elusiveness created by the “Next” always gave me a sense of safety, one click away from withdrawing consent, from vanishing into nowhere, it made me anxious. What if I said something wrong and the screen blacked out, forever eradicating the possibility of a relation. This feeling of shock in my body, the realization that it’s over, that I would never see this person again. I clicked faster and faster, hoped the random algorithm would miraculously pair us up again, against all odds. The feeling of missed and failed encounters consumed me; the question of why pushed me into a sea of desperation. The mourning for the loss of possibility drove me into the melancholia of the could have been.
I am walking towards the shopping mall in the heart of Nuremberg, grey and ugly as most German cities. My hands are sweaty, my face is red and my heart is beating so fast and hard that I can hear it in my ears. A part of me wants to turn around and return to where I came from, but the other part, the brave one, wants to transform the virtual encounter into bodily presence, just to see what it would feel like. We have been in contact for months, on and off, in chats and on cam. The coincidence of me being in Nuremberg, accompanying my mom on a business trip, opened the possibility to meet. He told me he works in a clothing store and will soon be on break. I am walking faster, as if the speed of my steps can wash away my doubts and my fear. “See you in a sec”, I texted a couple of minutes ago. No answer yet. My nervousness peaking, I stand on the steps of the escalator and exhale deeply. I notice the faces around me that seem even more hostile and grumpy than the ones I had gotten used to from home. “I hate this place”, I am thinking. I’m pulling up his digital face in my memory, preparing to recognize him, for this is the floor he is supposed to work on. Walking through the aisles, I search, and search, and search. He is not here. When I leave the store, I feel relieved. No sadness, just relief.
We plug chatroulette.com into the search bar, but what we see is not the familiar design that we are searching for. “No way”, they say. “When I was on here three months ago, nothing had changed”. We scroll through the text, red letters on white background, in shock over the gentrified makeover of the interface. The platform that had been launched by 17-year-old Andrey Ternovskiy from his bedroom in 2009, has become a venture. The grey, minimalist design, the interface that created an affective infrastructure for us, that helped us navigate through the topography of queer desire, is gone. chatroulette.com is now a promising social media company based in Zug, Switzerland. One of the main obstacles for the startup, Ternovskiy writes on the fresh website, is to get rid of “inappropriate” content, reacting to criticism in public discourse that had branded the website as a “predator’s paradise”, an alienating, dark and dangerous web-platform that jeopardized children’s safety. Ternovskiy and his team plan to solve it by introducing an internal currency, a reputational system that helps him to “identify and get rid of the worst users, and identify and reward the best”. I wonder what it means to be a good user.
No one likes going up on the ladder
Installing a one way door
Behind playground's compulsive
Absurdity sounds of
Violas banging together like a
Handshake lapping up
Chain link I am young
Inside myself big bellied w
Exhaustion life whirring by me
Like a nuclear plume I
Survived my childhood
To drill a trap door
By an awning for Jane
Who is currently in dispute with the condo association
Over labour costs instead
Of playing baseball might I be sparkling
Sweat drips in my mask the sun
Stained this floral mattress
Longing for anything occludes me
Rob said today
The virus eclipses death
I love so many people
I loved driving home with Rob at the end of the day
Gestured to his heart when I asked what music means
So he let me play OVO XO off ramping
Let me play Ramriddlz on the QEW
To the caravan’s poor bass
I am literally constantly forgetting something
On the job
from SHAPES LIKE TREES
|telling||A foggy hill falling away off the side of the|
|tales sleeking away||road. Brown side of the road at the bottom|
|tails telling||of what we see, then ghostly sticking up|
|of bigger things||pencils through the misty fog. It must be|
|tailing of me, you||morning. There is a faint suggestion of a hill|
|smell of sun||behind this fog, even far away maybe in a|
|needle sun of pine||place where there isn’t even any fog. It pans|
|like running into nostrils up||left to more fog, more side of the road, and|
|and among eyes||more shapes like thin poles without wires.|
A foggy hill falling away off the side of the road. Brown side of the road at the bottom of what we see, then ghostly sticking up pencils through the misty fog. It must be morning. There is a faint suggestion of a hill behind this fog, even far away maybe in a place where there isn't even any fog. It pans left to more fog, more side of the road, and more shapes like thin poles without wires.
|TREES I PLANTED|
|We're up in the air and everything is smaller||april 30th 860 fir at 19cents|
|or no, we're just further away. But||1 1 0 0 fir|
|everything is also angled so that we see||1st of may 1200 at 16|
|differently, different shapes. Everything is||may 2 1750 pine|
|green, grey, brown. Sharp points on the tops||1660 @ 15 fir pine larch|
|of trees and a winding clear clear-cut where||5th of may 2K at 15cents|
|things are grey, dead, and dying and then||22-30 at 15|
|green, coming back to life dabbed on top.||24-80 at 17, ratios :|
|Left-behind trees are lying down like rulers.||320 at 15, spruce|
|A brown road snakes through instead. We||640 fir|
|are also moving and we pass from grey to||12hundred pine|
|green and back again. There is, occasionally,||320 larch|
|a flash of blue on the top—still the top||10 may 2100|
|where the sky is then. Some of the dry grey||2015 at 17|
|verges on white in the sun and shoots out of||12th may 1 thousand 7 hundred & fifty at 13|
|the ground where the forest meets the cut.||2200|
|Here too is where a bear runs from the||2400 at 12|
|chopchopchop. Some of the arms of the||2525 at 14|
|trees reach down, trying to coax their old||may 17 3135 pine, all of it|
|selves into standing back up again.||2750|
|A nice vertically-long rectangle framed||a man's voice in the hallways of 300 rooms|
|diagonally. It is a window and, outside it, a||a manager|
|swath of grass; half a wall of 100% beige in||speaking another language behind the desk|
|the sun; half a wall of 50% beige, 50%||now|
|yellow; a short flat roof; a sky that starts out||a barely hi-vis vest comes in, steel toes &|
|white. A top half of a car might drive by||waves|
|soon but it’s too fast for us to be sure that||pretends that another language, heels & goes|
|someone is really driving it. Then the long,||still waving|
|vertical edges of our rectangle start to move||tagalog in another mouth, barely|
|like striped curtains. We tilt upwards, seeing||hi-vis, steel toed jokes|
|the inside of the room, the top of the||knock knock who's there|
|window, and the ceiling.||I'm home|
|LULLABY FOR NORTHWESTERN ALBERTA|
|stillair||Snow, surprisingly, floats towards us, the|
|air still thickdreaming with white dust or||camera. It is, at first, difficult to see|
|spores or particles||anything else. Snow is also on the ground,|
|someone sleeping somewhere monitors||and decorating the coniferous trees, and|
|coming through the branches of the bare|
|'I take a video'||deciduous trees in the background. On the|
|right, from midground to foreground, a|
|purple hydrangea, somewhere, like Croatia||small river or a large stream comes, is|
|climbs over, like milk spills||coming. Its ripples are moving but not like|
|a woman, somewhere, gets out of a Corolla||they might be, and the snow is too consistent|
|climbs over, like running shoes||and constant. Each flake is the same and that|
|can’t be right. This forest is snowy and|
|and into a backdoor.||computer-generated. But the clouds are|
|shapes like forms like trees||moving, and the snow is still going|
|inside a morning self||somewhere. The trees stand there, evenly|
|spaced, and convinced they are breathing.|
|don't cry—bugs are being born outside||The water trickles on, winding its way|
|& tarpaulin rain||around soft corners. But no ice breaks off its|
|& stormy beginnings||banks and falls into it with a splash. Now|
|that would’ve been good.|
Remaining horizontal is a communal task.
It requires family, friends, caregivers, medical professionals, an ambient NTS mix, Internet strangers, beds, sofas, sofas masquerading as beds, birds singing outside the window, house plants reminding one that stillness is not death, books written by kindred horizontal spines, a gentle memory-foam horizon, Effexor, a warm blanket, nudes, Mike dropping off overpriced soup from Latina, capacious tear ducts, more nudes, flowers who are also grandmothers, CERB, doubling the dose of Effexor, podcasts, defunding the police, re-orienting, allowing yourself to be loved,
allowing your selves to be loved,
allowing our selves to be loved,
allowing our selves to be love,
allowing our selves to belove,
allowing our selves to be.
Remaining horizontal is being.
I spent most of Winter 2021 horizontally. I was sick, tired, and reading Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth for the first time. With each page I read I felt a layered deepening, as stratigraphic depositions of emotion and thought I could not vehicle up to (k)now being resurfaced only to become the bedrock for the next layer: something of a decolonizing mille feuille oozing sad angry custard. I wondered if Nicolas Steno, the Danish anatomist and geologist of the 17th century, would have made a good patissier. The so-called discoverer of stratigraphy, the science of geological deep time which would go on to directly inspire psychoanalysis' depth psychology, re-spatialized time as depth through his study of geological strata. Can stratigraphy teach us to think bodies immobile and horizontal as not frozen in time, but calmly accumulating depth, time depositing itself ever so gently on them, becoming them – as layers of new flesh, layers of fresh custard, layers which layer and deepen with care? Can thinking bodies horizontal, vertical, and in-between as glaciated time, as bodies which are not frozen in time but time which is frozen in bodies, democratize time for those of us too tired, afford time to those of us too rich in vertical poverty to move against the Earth's spin and buttress gravity's weight? Horizontal bodies sink: in beds, in the earth, in the arms of loved ones – inearthed, while their vertical counterparts herniate deeper within themselves. Horizontal bodies are also fearless, no longer afraid of the Fall (Lady Gaga may be far from the shallow but she is all too preoccupied with fantasies of orthogonal collision to consider the greatest dive as being the one effectuated by time within us when we lay).
In other words, the body is somaticized memory.
In less othering words, all space
and body is nothing
Let the wound
Remaining horizontal is to sink, sync, and sing.
I spent most of Winter 2021 horizontally. I was sick, tired, and reading Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth for the second and third times. And while I felt myself becoming a horizon, Noname's Rainforest played on loop through my laptop speakers – it's a sick track, I was still tired. Searching for horizons, feeling lonely, to keep myself company, I scoured (The Wretched of) the Earth in search of a s(h)elf: a sick and tired parallel horizon from which the revolution could raise its sick woman fist (thank you Johanna Hedva for your sick theories). Repeatedly listening to Rainforest while writing this essay (correction: it wrote itself, I was it's horizon), I wondered if Noname was a contraction of"non-name".
non-name (non-noun) :
everything that is not a name ie. all things unnamed ie. all things worth writing/speaking/singing.
This reminded me of the non-reason for my non-being for the past two years: a non-diagnosis which leaves me sick and tired, simultaneously becoming and searching for horizons. I sought comfort in this (thank you all things, thank you Noname). " You know this flesh is only temporary, brittle as bone ". I do, I remember now. I took this freshly reacquired anamnesis along with me: back to this essay, back to Fanon, back on my back on my sofa is my bed. Where is the osseous flesh in The Wretched of the Earth? Where is the Fanonian spine? And most importantly, has anyone laid it down to (horizontal) rest?
"Why don't you empty out your love for me, then chisel the stone?" I start carving out the Fanonian spine from the horizon in an anarchaeological fever, in an unnameable groove.
Mentions of the brain abound in Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. There are lost brains [cerveau perdu], mad brains [cerveau fou], brains which tense and erect [il bandera son cerveau], as well as brains which are hypersensitive and hypervigilant [à fleur de peau]. These brains with their metacognitive and metaperceptive abilities are afforded an important and cryptic role in the struggle for decolonization. The same however cannot be said about their supporting nervous pillars. In the anatomy of (de)colonization drawn up in The Wretched of the Earth, the spine, which extended and expanded neural life well before the advent of cephalization, is missing. I initially pay no mind to this neurological oversight. I imagine the Fanonian brain floating in the skull, untethered by the weight of its missing tail, unburdened by the drag of its spinal past. However, as spring comes around and I begin receiving&giving cut flowers from&to loved ones, I am reminded of the lonely Fanonian brain, this neural blossom cut from its stem, and I grow thirsty for it. I return to the horizon of the text determined to find the missing Fanonian spine (up)risen against it in tall verticality, but all I see is the horizon itself. A horizon which has
lied down been laid down to rest its tired muscles in horizontality :
a Fanonian spinal landscape.
The Fanonian spine is not the upright I of the colonizer; this priapic monument of the European whose shadow sprawls and multiplies over the world and its imagination. It is not the vertical hegemony of the political proper, nor the towering figure of the revolutionary leader. Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to the vertical violence of the colonial spine which constantly demands us to sit straight and pay attention. Caught in the narrow radius of its tether, we have been unable to perceive those spines which twist and turn, bend so as not to snap, crouch in muscular preparedness, and dream horizontal dreams of rest. The kyphotic spines which carefully hide under their vaulted arches the revolutionary struggle, while tending to the children, pets, and gardens of the people. These Fanonian spines are not the monolithic I but the caring c, the c that
cannot, will not, with/stand, the c which lays itself down as the ground from which this seed of a decolonial brain might bloom through clement winters and generous Wynter. This c is also the sea, but not the Oceanic Indifferenz fantasized by the upright subject of history, the one whose longing to regress back into radial immersion is a shallow consumer craving, a privilege of postural differentiation extracted through vertical violence. No, the Fanonian spine is a sea of unfathomable depths, impenetrable to the colonizer's psyche, home of flying fish, mantarays, and mutant gillmen going 0 to 60 in 3.5 down the aquabahn(!) This sea is the night time, it is the espace noir that replenishes the colonized psyche and nurtures its exhaustion, its (dis)ability to survive and organize in the transparent 2D, 3D, AR, VR, and XR of the colonial espace jour. This is the sea that overspills the horizon, and in doing so, becomes it – the one we cannot see but deeply feel.
Fanon wrote The Wretched of the Earth at the dawn of his looming death, a death malignantly dreamed up in the marrowed depths of his spine. However, the tale of spinal betrayal is not Fanon's alone. It is the story of all colonized peoples whose nervous architectures have been vertically mined since the phylogenetic debut of the orthograde spine 6 million years ago. It is this story of spinal betrayal that I set out in Winter 2021 to imagine and trace throughout colonial physiology and history until I lost my train of thought.
Until I grew.
I grew tired.
This essay is tired.
Dreamt horizontally, it is an exercise in surviving fatigue through thinking fatigue spatially, neuroanatomically and decolonially. It inscribes itself within an ongoing-and-forever-in-process work of reflection on the vertical nature of colonial nervous architectonics, at the heart of which beats the question: How do colonial forces mine our nervous and osseous spines through uprightness? As waves of revolt topple statues of colonial settlers all over the world, I allow myself to imagine a gravity within which the upright spine, the original statue, follows suit. I investigate the colonial backbone of this living architecture not solely with the aim of critique, but in order to potentialize the recognition and celebration of already existing decolonial nervous architectonics, as well as their future organizing. A decolonial nervous architectonic recognizes the vertical plane of reference as a colonial construct(ion) – a white monument perpendicularly erected on unceded Indigenous landsdoubling as the 90 degree axis of a protractor according to which spines are measured and made deviant. Simultaneously, a decolonial nervous architectonic topples this monument and the vertical axis it co-substantiates, untethering the postural and locomotive non-verticalities of the colonized from it in order to acknowledge the kyphosis of care work, the opacity of obliqueness, and the hormesis of horizontality as alternate (pr)axis of decoloniality. My ultimate desire is that this diagnostic project spills into the surgical realm and that the architectonics made visible through it become subject to decolonial sites of anarchitecture where pen-becomes-scalpel-becomes-chainsaw, cutting through the discursive, neuroanatomical, and material structures which hold this vertical colonialism up and cast the colonized as its shadow. An uprising, which is neither up nor rising, but always already on the horizon*.
*Ideas are non-sovereign. The ones in this writing were lent to me by : Fred Moten, Katherine McKittrick, Olivia Tapiero, Alia Al-Saji, Thomas Moynihan, Jackie Wang, Eugène Minkowski, Sara Ahmed, Drexciya, Mel Y. Chen, nènè myriam konaté, Achille Mbembe, Erwin Strauss, Jasbir Puar, Carolyn Lazard, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Rihanna, as well as all those whose names already inhabit the text.
DMT dab ring
Time spins like a lobster
In its futile ascent to the top
Of some climactic poaching pot
At thee olde buffet
Where they serve America’s best mythology
People, come hither
“Dust my ugliness in powdered sugar”
“Excuse my behaviour with an orange slice”
“Apply a generous layer of colloidal oatmeal to my misery—
soak until it’s soft again”
To buck form is to enter into a throuple with attempt and peril
To create form is to teach your kin there is rhythm in their bangles
and melody in their rings
Remove that metal pea from your tongue
Give your speech a chance to lie prostrate
And throw itself at the ceiling
Then pour your coffee over ground and plant beans in the river bed
Damiana poultice shrouds my sore right hand
A stye on this experiment
Will help the other one to see things
With renewed certainty
Cut to clowns in hyperspace
And a warm bright unseen love
Known in some circles as
And in others as
“Nothing to worry about”
sheltering from a feeling
I wrap around you like hair on the drain
sensing muscles relaxing
into something like an evening
From here we talk about poetry, music,
and the importance of being perceived
! placebo alert !
my heart slows also
satellites pulsate and the moon wanes
I am calm
ingesting up your calmness
the apologizing of earlier
is trapped in a jar
Across town on the balcony
you’re somewhere close
Spinning out near Brandenburg
light flits its heavy hand
our quiet morning is interrupted
and a dream I wake from, screaming.
It was cold in the water and my heavy wet basketball shorts clung
to my skinny wet legs and every open beer bottle was accounted
for. What’s the deal with heaven if the holy spirit already exists in
all of us? Questions and double-talk and all the uncles holding
their drinks a little tighter. Half buried already in the dark rich soil
below the red weathered balcony. The dark rich soil up from the
beach along the shore in the dark trees. Where I was born. Where
I’ll go again in time. The flowers peered upward in little groups of
sleepy three’s beside my empty hands and the hungry hole in my
heart. The way there was supposed to be another one of us and a
girl. Burning brightly in her mother’s mind like spirits waiting
patiently across the bay with open arms. Maybe i was just the
child too. Alive and well on the shore near the dark trees. Peering
across old water at the little pyres burning bright in the distance
and bright at my feet.
“Hi my little victors,” Victoria said to four thousand of her biggest fans. A white ring of fire burnt her pupils. “I’m going live because I cannot be bothered to upload a video to YouTube.”
That wasn’t true, Victoria was still banned from the platform.
“Today I want to talk about something important… God it’s so bright, what the hell!” she uttered, disgusted.
She reached behind her phone for her Adam Selman Lolita sunglasses. The ring light reflected even brighter on the black UV lenses.
She shuffled in her seat trying to find the best angle, but she realized it was a problem of camera blocking, she got up and dragged her Pierre Jeanneret chair a few inches back, the screeching sounds echoing across her palatial home. She gave her fans a full view of her outfit: a vintage black Chanel skirt safety pinned on her waist and a Vetements t-shirt she stole from Opening Ceremony a few years back but hadn’t worn because she had didn’t want to look like a “hypebeastette” – her words not mine.
“OMG! You look so cute!” replied MacaGirlie98 on the livestream.
“I’m gonna stop you right there…” Victoria leaned closer to properly read, “MacaGirlie98 because I know you are lying. Even the mirror called me a pig this morning.”
She waited for her viewers to reply to her self-hate with compliments, but they didn’t. Annoyed, she started playing with her platinum hair, turned her middle part to one side, then the other, only to end up doing a pouf hairstyle like when she was fifteen. She let it all fall down and played with her frizzy ends, twisted them into delicate curls like her mom did when she was six. She tried several other hair styles but she hated all. She threw her sunglasses on the floor and put her mane over her face.
“Yeah I am in a bad mood,” she laughed. “I got another light attack yesterday,” she continued speaking with one eye peeking through the curtain of hair. “The worst part is that I looked so hot, I had the skinniest day, no, you don’t understand, I literally only had one venti cold brew and some popcorn for dinn–” she stopped in her tracks, the mass of hair sat still for a few seconds.
“No, Stop. Stop! STOP!!” She screamed with the entire power of her diaphragm. “I already know what you’re gonna say ‘Oh Victoria’s anorexic! Oh, she’s such a bad role model! She’s so problematic! She’s a contrarian! She’s a bitch! BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!’”
Her guttural screams woke up her neighbours’ convalescing grandmother.
“Who cares? Get new words you tedious trolls!”
If Victoria’s attitude towards her fans seemed cruel, it’s because it was, but that was part of her charm. Sure, her viewers enjoyed her fashion commentary and handbag reviews, but her videos only went viral because schadenfreude sells. She made fun of everyone she deemed less cool, which was almost everyone, and stopped at nothing to humiliate her enemies’ tastes and sensibilities. Fans didn’t really care about what she said, they watched for the unbridled passion and creative disdain with which she said it.
Victoria let the silence regain some territory. The viewership began to dwindle. Wearily, she pulled her hair behind her right ear and massaged her temples with the tip of her slender fingers, the California sunlight gleamed on her gold bracelets which jingled melodically against each other. She pulled back the skin around her eyes and pouted for her audience, many of whom audibly gasped at the glamorous sight.
Like almost every other video, this livestream was filmed in Victoria’s kitchen, which was her headquarters and magnum opus, the peak of her creative vision. She was not a professional interior designer but she took pride in nothing as fiercely as she did in her purchasing skills, which she gave the name of “taste” or “vibes.” She displayed every detail she handpicked: the sleek cabinetry in Nimbus Cloud and Graphite Grey, which she paired with silver handles, the Bertazzoni oven in black, the light blue Le Creuset pots hanging off the rack, the oversized white marble island which could seat twelve, along with the matching floors and backsplash. Like most of its time, her home was built using an open concept blueprint to save on drywall costs, so the living room would often make an appearance in her videos, especially the white cloud couch, the Armani Casa coffee table and the 70-inch TV where she played the experimental films of John Candles on mute. The whole space was exceedingly bright with massive windows on every wall and a floor-to-ceiling glass door that led to the pool and the beach. Victoria always recorded facing West, towards the Pacific Ocean, so the sunset glow would kiss her skin.
But today, she raised her hand to cover the sun.
“What was I saying…” she scrambled her muddled brain for the train of thought she had prematurely disembarked. “Right, so the point is that, just as I was gonna start a livestream to say hi to you guys yesterday, it happened.” She turned her icy blue eyes straight into the camera.
“I saw the light... the motherfucking light aura… It had been a whole two weeks since I last saw it. I really thought I was moving forward, I thought I was finally healing but I- I-” she stuttered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“I give up.”
She lit a cigarette with her silver Zippo and read some of the replies on her livestream.
“Stop, please stop. I already see people in the comments telling me it’s just a migraine. Stop! STOP!!” She switched back to anger impressively fast. “The Sherlocks and Poirots in the chat have to leave, ok? Like, do you think I’m stupid?? I’ve been dealing with these light attacks for almost a year now and you think you’re the first person to think they might be migraines?? Like, do you hear how fucking stupid you sound? You’re embarrassing yourself. Stop! Stop! STOP! Log out, delete your account, throw your phone in a river, become Amish, just stop!” she said, angry but maniacally laughing.
She lit another cigarette.
“You guys love being so sanctimonious, God!” Victoria continued. “Of course, I’ve talked to dozens of doctors about it. They all swear it’s just migraines, they prescribed me all the Ergomar and Vicodin in the world but those pills don’t even work anymore…” She ashed her cigarette on her skirt.
“No offence to doctors but they are all useless charlatans. No, I mean it, what’s the point of a diagnosis without a cure? I don’t think they’re migraines because I never actually get headaches. It’s something more, like, metaphysical than that.”
She let out a big sigh. She squinted and used her right hand as a visor over her eyes.
“Anyways, I woke up feeling so hungover this morning! I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, two extra-large cheese pizza, a mint milkshake and four Diet Cokes. And for dessert I got a box of twelve donuts…” she listed every item with increasing speed, trying to push the calories out of her body.
Victoria disappeared from the frame for a few minutes and returned bearing a tray with some of the food she had just listed. She sat at her table eating, smoking and told her viewers about her fight with Jenny, a YouTuber who was famous for her elaborate makeup looks and over-the-top challenge videos, like the one where she tried to paint a mural in Downtown LA only using makeup products. The eyeshadows, blushes and other pigmented dusts wouldn’t stick to the wall, so the mural ended up a big beige mess of liquid foundation. Victoria was secretly ecstatic with the result of the challenge, in fact, she would’ve used her own oxygen to blow the makeup off that wall if it meant her friend would be humiliated in public. But, in fairness to Victoria, Jenny had recently slighted her in one of her videos, saying that, even though Victoria was fun to watch, she didn’t really have a talent, to which Victoria responded with a string of tweets, all of which are published in chronological order below:
“.@jennycallahan you are a fat piece of shit. the only reason you know how to contour is cus you were born with an egg for a face”
“I won’t name names but some people in the so-called beauty community are unqualified to be a part of it. They are only obsessed with beauty because they lack it.”
“I guess making teenagers look like 60-year-old divorcees is what passes for talent these days.”
“When you are as ugly as @jennycallahan everything you say comes from a place of ugliness. Every word you utter is stained with the mark of the devil. Ugliness signals an absence of God in one’s soul.”
Unfortunately for her enemies, and the world-at-large, Victoria did have one talent: an uncanny ability to rationalize her bitterness, envy, all-consuming insecurities and general misanthropy into idiosyncratic tirades, which garnered her a sizable audience. Edgelords, gays, communists, bimbos, activists looking for someone to cancel, social conservatives, and the clinically bored gathered to watch her complain once a week. Or at least they used to.
This was before the “light attacks” started, when Victoria’s career was blowing up. A year ago, The New Yorker published a profile that synthesized her rambling speeches and claimed she was performing a commentary on “American consumerism, the attention economies of late capitalism and the limits of the Dionysian.” Victoria was in on the joke, the writer claimed, and in a way, he was right. Victoria might not have actually understood anything the author wrote nor did she ever set out to do “performance art,” but she was certainly laughing all the way to the bank, earning seven figures for being herself. Victoria was just living her life in front of the camera, oblivious to certain codes of conduct of liberal media, which made her unique in a sea of passive sycophants, social climbers and homogenous careerists who repeated the same talking points over and over again. Maybe she wasn’t THE voice of her generation, but she was certainly the loudest voice of her generation – and that was enough. After the article, she went on a whirlwind of collaborations with some of the most famous YouTubers in Calabasas, special appearances in comedy shows, talk shows, podcasts, and even a contract for a reality show about her life. The sun had never shone brighter, but maybe she got a bit too close.
“It’s so fucking bright!” she screamed, before immediately regretting it.
“Ok, fuck I really need to stop screaming,” she whispered, “but you guys piss me off so much.”
She turned her phone around to show her viewers how she tried but failed to pull a velvet curtain. She grabbed a creaky art deco chair that wasn’t meant for sitting, let alone standing, and used it to pull the curtain from the railing. For every tug of the fabric, there was a precarious squeaking of the chair, but eventually Victoria managed to cover almost every corner of the window.
“Hmm” she stood looking at a conspicuously stubborn corner that refuse to be dimmed. “I need to find a way to cover that spot. I’ll be right back… talk amongst yourselves.”
She came back with a box of black garbage bags and scotch tape. She got on the chair and stood on her tiptoes, ripping off scotch tape with her teeth.
Victoria had developed a crippling photophobia that led her to live in the shadows. She rigorously avoided direct sunlight, as she believed it was the cause of her attacks, and she even stopped leaving her house except for emergency errands like filling her prescriptions and getting her Starbucks. Initially, she made an exception for recording videos, but as the attacks multiplied, Victoria ended up replacing the golden hour aesthetic that made her famous with the man-made LED and fluorescent lighting that every beauty guru used.
“So, yeah, I’m stuck at home. Again,” she said to her fans once she finished covering the door, in a tone as somber as the setting.
The room turned a hue of dark grey that looked more like a washed out black, coincidentally one of Victoria’s biggest sartorial pet peeves. It is impossible to quantify Victoria’s influence, in fact, the greatest minds of her generation were working hard to monetize this very question, but it was undeniable that there was a time when she inspired thousands of mini Victorias to wear only the crispest of blacks
She took a sip of her Diet Coke and shook the glass close to the mic so her fans could hear the ice clinking, a sonic trademark of hers.
“I was going through everyone’s stories and people seem to be having so much fun,” she gave the camera a sarcastic smile, the same she used for service workers. “There’s so much joy and love in the air...”
She took a sip of her Diet Coke.
“But honestly, who cares? That kind of performative happiness is corny and undignified, like, if I have to hear another adult scream ‘Yay!’ like a child, I will slap them across the face,” she said, sounding rather unconvinced.
“I’m not being miserable, shut up!” She said immediately after. But no one in the comments was calling her cruel, in fact, everyone egged her on as she fought the phantom of her haters.
“Slay yass mawma!” said patricktheestar.
“Beautiful girl, carry my seed” wrote trad_asuka.
“don’t let the haters get you down <3,” replied ashleybodan.
“Awww thank you guys.” Victoria responded.
She reached for another cigarette and reacted to the compliments with languid gestures and stylish poses. In the juxtaposition between the flame and the gloomy room, her glamorous persona emerged again. She appeared delicate, her movements balletic; not rehearsed but certainly assured, nonchalant. She blew out a wispy cloud of smoke that lingered in the air giving the livestream image a much-needed grainy look, as it was shot on film. She leaned back on her chair and stared into the distance, like she’d seen in fashion editorials. This was the Victoria that charmed the world with meme-able gesticulations and quotable rants. This was the Victoria who “reflected the country’s moral decline and metric-driven mania in the most delicious way,” according to prominent twitter philosopher Daumne.
But that Victoria was dead. She died when she got her first light attack on a beautiful August afternoon. On her way home from filming a fight for her reality show, she cruised victorious down the highway, feeling herself, figuratively and literally, as she masturbated while taking selfies on her phone. But, out of nowhere, a shapeless light appeared in the middle of the highway. She blinked a couple of times trying to make it disappear, but it lingered. She closed her eyes for a few seconds but the bizarre glimmer chased her everywhere, even behind her eyelids, and soon it was now clouding her vision so potently and expansively that she could not see what laid ahead. Petrified and perplexed, she exited the highway by miracle but as she was pulling into her home, the aura morphed into a vibrant snake, with raggedy edges and angular shapes, that slithered about and threatened to bite her in the face. She tried finding her home but the contours of reality escaped her and in the blink of an eye, her G-Wagon ran into a palm tree. Since then, Victoria suffered from these light episodes several times a week. She had tried everything to cure them: modern medicine, acupuncture, essential oils, meditation, temperance, tarot cards, electroshock, hypnosis, bloodletting and even prayer – but nothing worked.
She grabbed a slice of pizza, dipped it in ranch sauce and put it close to the camera for her fans to see the grease dripping off it. She took a sizable bite.
“I don’t know if I told you guys, but I’ve been working with an expert on Asemic writing,” she told her audience in the more esoteric cadence she had been developing recently.
“His name is Bruno and he specializes in art therapy. He tells me to draw the lights whenever I get attacks, but he says I have to just scribble them down as they come, I have to commit them to the page without thinking about what they mean or what they remind me of. Just the shapes.”
She grabbed another slice.
“Bruno says I have to try really hard to not associate the shapes with letters in the alphabet and I have to avoid forming words at all costs!” she said before quickly taking another bite.
“He says I have to stop thinking like a human... He’s very spiritual, but not religious, so I’m not sure what he means. I think he wants me to stop looking for messages in the lights because I told him about that medium who said the lights were being sent by my dad. He thinks she’s a crook,” she said with grease running down her chin.
“So, I have to draw the lights and make a little meaningless system out of them. It’s hard to explain... actually, let me show you.”
She ran to her bedroom and came back with a ream of papers.
“Look at these ones, you guys,” she said as she showed pages of stylish scribbles in black and blue pen. “Isn’t this such a cute vibe? Imagine this on a tracksuit kinda like Gwen Stefani in the early 2000s… so cute right? I was thinking they would go great with the snake earrings I’m designing...”
She showed her fans dozens of pages of sloping and slanting strokes, diaphanous yet precise, like the most exquisite cursive calligraphy you’ve seen but even better because they were unencumbered by the utilitarianism of the English language.
“So, these sketches are going to save my life,” she laughed. “Well, I don’t know… but it is kinda nice to draw these, it allows me to stop thinking, you know?” she said as she devoured her fries.
Victoria was not a mukbanger, she rarely even consumed solid foods on camera, so her most hardcore fans began to suspect something was amiss. But the attention of casual viewers started fading as her affect flattened, and a mass exodus took place as soon as Jenny started her makeup tutorial livestream.
Victoria took another bite of her pizza, pulling at the pizza without exhibiting much pleasure, love or even desire to eat.
“Bruno says the hardest part is quitting human thought. He says you can only really achieve that in death, but that you can definitely try in life, you just have to be disciplined in your asemic craft and open your heart.”
“so when are you gonna open your heart?” someone called fingersoup commented right away. It caught her eye.
“Excuse me?!” she exploded “Are you fucking kidding me? When am I going to open up? Bitch, I opened my home and my life to you motherfuckers. Is that not enough?”
Some viewers who were on their way out were momentarily retained.
“So, I guess the answer is never,” fingersoup wrote.
“you are so toxic and you won’t rest until everyone is as miserable as you. i have been a fan of you since day one but you’ve changed so much, you lost your charm. unfollowed,” wrote ashleybodan.
“You wouldn’t know charm if it fucked you in the mouth!!!!!!” Victoria yelled back.
She stood up and walked out of the room. The viewer count spiked momentarily as rumours spread online that Victoria was going on a rant against her fans, the only target left for her. But everyone was disappointed to see her come back wearing a white pillow case over her head and walking with her arms stretched forward, like a zombie.
“Look! I’m nobody! Are you happy now?” she asked. “No thoughts, no opinions, no desires. You guys can project whatever you want onto me!”
At first her viewers reacted with laughing emojis and some even called her an icon for coming out dressed like Casper, but after six minutes the joke had gotten old enough for everyone to realize it was never a joke.
“Go ahead! Say whatever you want about me!” Victoria screamed without a hint of sarcasm. An undeniably distraught tone had taken over her voice.
But nobody said anything about her because nobody cared. She sat in place for a few minutes waiting for a reply that never arrived, watching the viewer count plummet from behind the porous cotton fabric.
A profound silence filled the room, three more people left the livestream. She crawled through her memories trying find something provocative to say but much to her own surprise she was out of opinions.
“Ok, so I’m just gonna be honest for a second, don’t cancel me for it, but don’t you guys think it’s incredibly retarded that Jenny paints her eyebrows like a chola? And don’t get me started on that corny flat brim black hat of hers, she thinks she looks so edgy…”
In one sentence she had uttered a forbidden word, made racially insensitive remarks and insulted the fashion sense of every other woman in middle America: she was desperate for attention. But the hordes of cancellers that would’ve come with pitchforks a few months ago were busy doxing an influencer who tweeted that “young Musolini was kinda hot.”
She sat in silence with the remaining twenty-five viewers for almost ten minutes.
“Do you guys know when you’re falling asleep and you start seeing weird images? When you’re, like’, still awake and you start seeing rough sketches of the images you’ll see in your dreams?”
“What is she on?” lilacs4ever commented.
“You know, like, when you’re in bed trying to fall asleep there’s always a point in which you have to make a choice: you either hold onto the last shred of consciousness or you let go fully into the dreamscape in front of you,” she expounded quite seriously, one state of being she had not explored much in her YouTube career.
“She’s officially lost it,” said CarolineRamsey.
“Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that… I think I need to stop fighting the light attacks and instead follow them,” she said.
“Victoria, have you ever considered that maybe being on your cell phone all day is what’s triggering your attacks?” fingersoup replied after an awkward silence.
Trying to ignore the last comment, Victoria’s eyes turned to her lighter. She played with it between her fingers hoping the cold metal would erase her fingerprints. She opened it and stared at its flame, which burned vigorously and shone forcefully, unlike the ambient glow of her electronics, so diffuse and meek against a fire that threatened to harm her if she gave it a chance. These thoughts slowly formed in her mind, unasked, and instead of being able to dispel them, they lingered, in the foreground of her consciousness, in stranger and fuzzier array, as a realization brewed deep inside of her that impressed her but also calmed her: her life would never be the same. She would never be the Leo sun, Carrie Moon, Samantha Rising that shone brighter than every other girl in every room. In the flame, she saw that which she would never be again. Memories of warmer times unfurled in her brain, her palpitations thickened like military drums as she reminisced on the last time she felt on fire: it was at an award show for content creators where the women were willowy and the men were smarmy – the mark of a successful Hollywood soiree. Victoria sauntered on this cloud of recollections, looking back on old friends and a bypast life, trying to hold onto it one last time, but as her fingers caressed the open seams of the past, a light brought her back to the present.
A spine-breaking pang moved through her body. She shook her head in denial of what was to come and she reached over to light another cigarette. She kept staring at the flame trying to forget what was coming but eventually the effulgence of the glowing demon overtook her zeal. She looked sideways and saw the negative impression of the flame peacefully dissipating into the penumbra while that demonic glimmer she knew too well grew in size and intensity. She looked at her phone and desperately tried to read people’s replies but there was a blind spot in her sight. Her stomach dropped.
“It’s just the photo-bleaching of staring at the flame, it’s nothing,” she whispered very quietly.
But slowly, a swirling, pullulating kaleidoscope of light slowly formed in the corner of her eye. It danced in circles as if hypnotizing her and it worked because suddenly the world whirled in front of her. Viciously potent, the luminous figure dithered in her vision, spiralling into a mythical snake that vibrated with every beat of her heart.
She stood up and crossed her arms. The persistent ray of her ring light shone in the cavernous kitchen so that her fans could still see her silhouette. Silent, she paced back and forth, disappearing and appearing from frame. Her pace quickened, her body stiffened.
“I can’t believe this…” she whispered. Her words sounded surprisingly empty, their only attribute was their existence. She was resigned to the fact that she had to utter them.
The aura expanded and developed a violet streak on its edges. Victoria’s vision was so impaired at this point that she could no longer read her phone: words were missing letters and sentences were missing words, the zigzagging aura speared through entire chunks of meaning and it took her a double take to recognize the world. Her mouth tasted like acid and the right side of her face grew numb.
Out of nowhere, a volcano erupted in her skull. Never before had she felt hammers and chisels chipping away at the crevasses of her brain in such a vicious way. She became entirely motivated by an insatiable longing for something that cannot be described or denominated without resorting to the most fatal terms. She wanted to, in precise terms, put a power drill into her right temple and take out the entire neural network that was throbbing in her head. She craved nothing more than to rip her eyes out of their sockets with her silver Noritake teaspoons.
She threw her food on the floor and screamed. The neighbours screamed back at her. She pulled her hair and wiped the little makeup she had on with her bare hands. She ran around the house breaking vases, of which she had many, pouring dead flowers and dirty water that streamed all over her marble floors. She came back from her bedroom with two bottles of medicine which she emptied in her mouth so inconspicuously that none of her fans noticed it at the time.
The five viewers left sent her heart emojis. They couldn’t see it but their idol Victoria was currently witnessing the fabric of reality unravelling and revealing its primordial scaffolding; it looked like a vast black sky filled with incandescent fireworks. A ring light reproduced by meiosis and multiplied into a thousand circles in a profound black sea. Victoria floated in its waters, trying to connect the dots and see if they spelled out her name, but she stopped herself from clawing at meaning and instead continued swimming directly into the light. She dispelled her thoughts as she focused on the luminosity itself, in its most pure essence, meandering like a freshwater creek and asking Victoria to drown herself in it. She was so consumed by the light that it was no longer a discrete figure, it enveloped every inch of vision, of her consciousness and of her self, until they fused into one.
A notification popped on her phone. Her brain tickled her out of her dreams.
“Low Battery,” her phone said.
She levitated above herself and through the light blotches saw her pathetic figure: the shadow of someone who was once someone but who is now no one at all, scavenging for dopamine in the same mines that gave her black lung.
“Goodbye my little victors,” she said.
Victoria grabbed her phone and turned it around so it was facing the pool area. She cautiously opened the glass door, prepared for the enemy to burst forth, only to find that, at last, the sun was setting. No longer the bilious power that made her sick, it was a mellow companion, reassuring her with a velvety touch. The sky was tinted in cozy shades of purples and pinks, as if buckets of watercolours had spilled over the ether. She walked indolently into the swimming pool and waded in the water for a few minutes. She relaxed her body. The three viewers left commented on how easily she floated, as if she was just another drop of water in water.
A few minutes later the livestream went black. Her battery died.
Orillia in Yemen Part 1
The ordeal began as an uneventful conversation between mother, Orillia and her daughter Juni. Orillia requested that Juni organize a video chat between Juni and her two sisters so they could talk about an important opportunity. Orillia wouldn't spoil the surprise by saying anything more but she alluded to its importance with the gravitas of a priest.
Orillia was a type A personality: a doctor, motivated by an internal need to be of service, yet if she was praised for said service, she would recoil. To say that she was driven is an understatement; rather she was propelled by an elusive inner force. Although many of her patients were grateful for her care, Orillia's mysterious propulsion would manifest unsatiated. She told her friends it was boredom and as she watched her confidants accept this claim, she too found herself believing it. Had she stopped to wonder, perhaps she would have discovered that the true source of her restlessness was a profound discontent with herself.
Orillia juggled many hats. She attended to a roster of patients at a clinic that she shared with eight other doctors. She also worked in obstetrics, which meant that she specialized in caring for pregnant mothers and delivering their babies. She taught classes at the hospital, sat on the board of multiple health organizations and had founded two large-scale international health projects in developing countries. Originally she spearheaded the international projects herself, but now supervised from abroad as the local governments hired their own health care workers.
Juni was the youngest of Orillia's daughters. Of the three, Juni was the most devoted to their mother. In her early teens, Juni declared her aspirations to be a doctor to her mother's friends. Juni would add how she wouldn't deliver babies because she disliked the thought of waking up at odd hours. The friends would laugh and say she was more pragmatic, like her father, but had the ambition of her mother. Juni liked the comparison. She was the new-and-improved hybrid of her favourite people.
Juni was accustomed to being left behind by her sisters, and ignored by her mother. If Juni protested her mother's lack of attention, Orillia would complain that Juni's demeanor was both "unfavourable and unmemorable". Growing up, she was often dismissed as angry, annoying or needy. Eventually she was assigned the title of "sensitive one", an accusation specially reserved for moments of crisis or passion. Later in life, each unpleasant emotion Juni felt would crumble into anxiety. She learned the art of emotional repression, and as a young adult, she appeared ruthlessly realistic and unsentimental.
One night early in their relationship, while she and her boyfriend folded into each other in preparation for sleep, Juni's boyfriend commented on the swiftness of her heartbeat. She tried to chuckle and brush it off as a charming joke but instead she choked and her words came out awkward and stilted. In truth, she felt a sharp, horrifying shame that stole her breath. She intuited his comment as a delegation of their ranks in personhood: hers being substandard due to her functional, low profile anxiety.
It was hard work for Juni to keep her family—and later her friends—at a protective distance in order to divert attention away from her bewildering interior life. She was petrified of the probability that she lived in an alternate dimension for bad people (degenerates, psychotics, repulsives, etc.) and that the rest of her family and friends belonged elsewhere. This developmental fear had settled in her subconscious as a founding law. It kept her removed, on an island even though she was aware that people seemed eager to talk to her. Overtime, she intuited the meaning of her outward appearance through the attention and the behaviours she encountered. Juni's lack of self esteem and thorough misunderstanding of the attention directed towards her, exuded aloofness and distaste. Despite the anxiety and conflicting confusion that arose in the distance between how she felt and how she imagined that she appeared to others, eventually, secretly, she would learn to recognize her striking beauty for herself. Pleased, she felt this to be an accomplishment but she knew not to share it with anyone, lest she encounter someone with a disdain for narcissism who might cloud her pleasure.
Juni was living in New York City having finished a degree in communications. She was working as a freelancer for a startup company that used 3D printing technology to create cookie cutting tools out of pictures of their clients' pets. Juni was in charge of the social media accounts, which worked perfectly for her, since she spent upwards of five hours per day on social media anyway. Ever since her boyfriend had downloaded an app to track the time she spent on her phone, she received notifications detailing how long she spent scrolling social media. Her boyfriend had hoped the alerts would motivate her to spend less time glued to her screen. "It relaxes me," she told him when he tried to convince her that social media would turn her into an apoplectic normie.
Her boyfriend, Jason, was working for a homeless shelter. He worked as an unpaid intern and his current assignment consisted of sending and responding to emails. He was required to ask the donors for more money as well as respond to their questions and concerns. The donors were asking about the rumours that the shelter had employed an expensive union busting company (previously hired by Amazon) to squash the union efforts among shelter employees. The emails were very confusing as many of the philanthropists didn't understand why the union busters were so expensive and why they had to be hired in the first place. There was some confusion as to whether they were legally allowed to make a union. Jason had to carefully explain that, yes they were allowed to start a union and no, they were not interested in hiring a whole new team of workers.
Jason and Juni were eating breakfast on Sunday morning when the phone rang. Orillia was calling from her small room in Yemen. The time difference was 7 hours, Orillia was wrapping up her day just as Juni was beginning hers. After what felt like three minutes of choppy signals and discombobulated voices, they were finally able to communicate properly. Orillia implored:
"But how are you doing, dahling?"
Later Juni would feel ashamed of enjoying this moment and for indulging in her mothers clerical interest.
"Well, I'm here with Jason. We've had a bit of a crazy morning. The milk I bought a few days ago just curdled in our coffees and it's pretty grotesque," she joked.
"I've just made us some chocolate chip pancakes. And we're watching a scene from my acting class yesterday. Remember the class I told you about? It was really great mum, we did this exercise where four people are onstage and each actor has to secretly label the other actors as stinky, sexy and funny but no one knows which label they've been given by everyone else. Then we start improvising a party scene where the first actor begins on stage and the rest of the actors slowly arrive at the party. You have to be nice to everyone even though you are trying to get away from stinky, get closer to sexy and stay amicable but slightly distant from funny. It's such a fun exercise, there was this great moment when I was hosting the party and my stinky arrived at the door…"
"Just one sec dahling"
Orillia was talking to someone nearby.
"Honey I have to go, I have a meeting every day at 6 that I forgot about. Can I call you back in an hour?"
Jason watched as Juni's face froze and changed microscopically into cynicism incarnate.
"Sure, no problem, mom"
Juni hung up the phone and turned to Jason who, having witnessed her private devastation, looked away embarrassed. Juni was stoic and calcified until she saw Jason with sadness in his eyes. She then felt small and pitiful.
"She forgot she had a meeting."
Jason nodded but didn't say anything as Juni went back to the kitchen to finish cooking the pancakes. When Orillia called back a few hours later, Juni sounded annoyed but Orillia decided not to apologize for her earlier mistake. In her discomfort, Orillia asked Juni a question that she knew would upset her. Orillia wasn't sure why she did this but perhaps some part of her wanted to fossilize her aching guilt.
"So have you found any new jobs recently? Have you been looking?"
This only aggravated Juni more and she was grateful for the opportunity to let her humiliation at being abandoned earlier seep through in her rage.
"I have a perfectly good job! Why would I be looking for another one?" She seethed.
"Don't you want something in your field? And as your father pointed out, we are still sending you those monthly installments… We didn't pay for your four years of University...Oh no five years now wasn't it dahling. We didn't pay for your five years of University education for you to be working at a cookie factory. Just keep looking. I'm sure you'll find something. You're very skilled…" Orillia ruminated.
"What am I skilled at, mom? Name one thing." Juni was aware that she sounded petulant but she couldn't stop herself from unravelling.
"Don't be stupid darling, you have plenty of skills. It's not my responsibility to tell you, you've got to figure it out on your own. You know what your father always says: you can't teach a fish… Whatever, I can't remember what the saying is but you've got to take responsibility for your life, Juni. You can't keep wasting your time, it's impractical. Future employers won't even consider the work you're doing now. They'll think it's as useless as I do. Trust me."
Juni hated the saying her mother was referring to. Her father who could only express himself in other people's clichés. Juni's father was a stay at home dad while Orillia was the breadwinner. It suited him fairly well, although sometimes he would throw gendered tantrums. For example, he insisted on being served dinner by Orillia or his daughters while he sat at the head of the table. He tended to position his opinions conveniently opposite to Orillias on minute issues perhaps so that he could have a stance to fight and feel some resistance.
Despite this irksome behaviour, he was very supportive of Orillia's work and taxied her anywhere she needed to be, day or night.
"I think I'd rather just quit my job and live off the inheritance money from grandpa's estate."Juni replied coolly. She knew how this idea horrified and infuriated her mother.
"Well, fine. Do what you want. But don't ask me for help when you want to start investing in a house or a car. These things cost money, Juni. I think you're being irrational about this whole thing and I really hope you'll reconsider, but no one ever listens to me these days. Sometimes I feel like you all think I'm delusional but I have lived a whole life you know! Anyways, I really don't want to argue so let's stop talking about your bad life decisions, mmmmkay?"
"The cat is throwing up, I have to go mom," Lied Juni.
Jason smiled at this; he loved when she invented funny, outlandish lies to distract her mother. It was one of his favourite qualities about her. Neither of them owned a cat so the idea of a cat throwing up had an air of cartoonish silliness.
"What's that quote, Jason? The one my dad loves, the fish one."
"Oh let me think. It's something like: Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime."
"Right, that's the one. God I hate those things."
When Orillia told the family that she was applying to work with Doctors Without Border, Médecins sans frontière, she presented it to them as if the application was the main objective. Juni knew her mother had a talent for curating the ultimate sales pitch. Orillia took great care in presenting her application as if there wasn't a significant possibility that she would be accepted. She sought to undermine those who might want to refute her desire to go. She dismissed criticism and family weariness by presenting their anxieties as unreasonable: 'I haven't been accepted yet!,' she would cry. 'Let's save these conversations for if it actually happens.' They knew she would likely do as she wanted despite their concerns. Orillia's oldest daughter felt especially anxious. She feared for her safety as she researched the organization's mandate to focus their efforts in particularly war-torn conflicts.
When Orillia was accepted into the program, she was offered many positions in succession, each with its unique set of challenges. Sometimes her placement was rejected because the national government where the placement was based required a doctor with a different set of skills. Other times, Orilia herself felt unqualified for the position and feared her expertise and passions would not shine through. She asked her daughters to refrain from discussing her placements with the extended family until the details were finalized in order to disperse their anxieties and concerns for her safety.
On an insignificant morning in late February, Juni awoke to the smell of her boyfriend making coffee and to a serious text from her mother proposing a family skype meeting to discuss her possible placement in Yemen. Later her mother called and casually mentioned Juni's father's discomfort with Orillia working in Yemen. She wished to hear her daughters' perspectives. Juni had never before been offered an opportunity to contribute to this type of conversation. She called her sisters to discuss the matter and together they wondered whether Orillia planned to use the daughters as leverage to win the conflict with their father. Juni felt grown-up and mature being included in the call; it filled her with pride. She found that she couldn't fully indulge in her pride, bound by a threatening aura of guilt.
The daughters functioned as a buffer between Orillia and her husband. Juni's father struggled to stand up to Orillia, fleeing at the threat of confrontation. A simple disagreement was highly charged for him. A few years after Juni was born, he started using the daughters as fodder to support his arguments with Orillia. Although Juni loved her father, she adopted her mothers resentment for his meek yet persistent resistance. Although Juni's suspicion hadn't been confirmed, she felt disdain in her suspicion of Orillia intentions; a nefarious act of manipulation. She anticipated betrayal in her father's eyes as the daughters would inevitably agree their mother should lead her life in the way she preferred.
Juni was familiar with her mother's intensely sporadic energy. She prided herself on how little her mother permeated her life these days. Although, if she were to examine herself closely, she would be disappointed to discover that this was a defensive façade -and a weak one- against the enormous love she felt for her mother.
Juni refused to relax her meticulous, protective guard and yet, she was vaguely aware that her mother seemed distracted. Typically if Orillia was anxious or upset about something, she would telephone her daughters and stampede into an animated monologue. It was rare that her concerns were contained long enough to be the subject of an official meeting. Juni sensed the importance of the discussion for her mother and, as it drew nearer, she prepared her strongest professional, emotionally-withdrawn, attitude. She wanted her tone to convey a superior apathy that was feigning emotional investment but was clearly struggling to do so. She had in mind the tone of her therapist.
The night of the video call, Juni's parents were seated beside each other on their living room couch. Juni and her two sisters were miles apart in their respective one-bedroom apartments. Juni lay in bed as her sisters sat at a desk and the other at a kitchen table. Her oldest sister was sitting with her boyfriend in their kitchen. Mildly, Juni reflected on the memories of her mother complaining about her irritation with this particular boyfriend. This was one of the many boyfriends her oldest sister had dated; a wet blanket -as Orillia put it- in a never ending stream of boys ever since she was fifteen.
Her mother began the conversation. She told them about the conflict in Yemen, of which they all had no idea. It had been going on for ten something years. Juni had heard of people starving in Yemen from a social media advertisement seeking donations. The advertisement had made it seem like an immediate crisis. Juni wondered how a crisis could be so time-sensitive despite it being over ten years old, but she scolded herself for her ignorance and insensitivity. Orillia's tangent was interrupted by her husband who began to explain the backstory of the conflict and emphasize its volatility. He explained how the organization did not let Americans work in Yemen because the U.S. sold weapons to the Saudi side of the conflict. "Canada does as well, but people in Yemen are less aware of our involvement," he said. "Just last week, a U.N. plane was bombed in the airport." Orillia quelled their concerns with a knowing and slightly condescending tone as she explained that MSF—she abbreviated—would never organize a flight on the same day as local government leaders were arriving by air.
Juni was used to her mother leaving home for long periods of time. When she was eight years old, her mother had started a doctorate degree. It was a large-scale initiative focusing on migrants who left their villages to seek employment in large cities in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The migrants, all women, worked in factories making clothes for cheap brand names that belonged to mainly European and American companies. Working in the factories provided very little money. In order to support their families back home, most of the women also worked as beer workers, a euphemism for sex worker. Orillia was researching how to increase their access to condoms as well as other tools to prevent infection and unwanted pregnancies.
Juni hadn't wanted her mother to leave for three months. It was hard enough that Orillia was always on call, which meant that she might have to leave at any moment to deliver a baby. As a child, Juni was incredibly disappointed when her mother had to leave. She remembered the rushing commotion, how Orillia's urgency to get to the hospital often sucked the energy out of whatever family life was occuring. Orillia would disappear before Juni's surprise could morph into hurt that would repackage itself as a passive aggressive mood. Often, Orillia wasn't around to notice or, if she was, conveniently avoided being alone with Juni until Juni gave up her ill temper .
Orillia was a spirited woman who lived a philosophy of swiftness and efficiency. If her husband or one of her children adopted a grumpy, bratty mood, she dismissed them with the same resolve that she dismissed her own feelings of dread. It's not that she didn't care, rather she was helplessly overwhelmed by her need to help others, but her family was insatiable. She knew she might never live up to their high expectations, so she decided they were too immature to experience true, authentic anger. These subtle acts of resignation would stay with her children, providing them with a fury that they wouldn't be able to source until later on in their lives.
Orillia was the type of mother that countered misery and anger with sarcastic glee. It was a mother's revolt, the assertion that a bad mood was humorous, or ridiculous. Her family's dependence irritated her and their ineptitude was unacceptable. She needed to annihilate it, and sarcasm proved an effective tool with which to save face. Beneath all this deflection was a tender vulnerability that would take Orillia a decade and a half before she would learn how to articulate. At the time, she couldn't fathom the possibility of separating her motherly guilt from a profound self-loathing that she had been quietly nursing and protecting since her early teens.
One day she came home horrified, telling Juni about a patient who had found a review written about her on a website called Rate my MD. The review complained that Orillia typed too much and didn't look at her patients enough. Her patient—recounting the review—then pronounced the review to be correct. Orillia would retell this story to any listening ear for the rest of the week.
To not only be here in the chance of it, but appreciate it
reading books about climate change in the subtlety of their context, reading articles about climate change in the structure of research of millennia of how incredible it is that we are here, at all, able to live and love as we do, able to make sandwiches for breakfast and stovetop espresso and make decisions and get dressed in clothes that shield our fragile skins from the sun and wind and crawling ticks which arachnid-like clamour into the wefts of the hair around my ears and the strange blank spaces of my inner thigh near my knee, the back of the calf, how strange and miraculous that we are here at all and can wake up and read a book about what's going on and read the updates and understand from a series of letters and symbols that i can't see my friends anymore, for now, to understand that i will move like an amoeba in a swim of warm weather and birds that sing no matter the developments of this spill-over virus, that creeps into our spirits as much as it has so many lungs so many lungs so many lungs, and as i learn about ramadan, the author of the article is also an activist for awareness and providing surgery for fistulas and i mourn in my chest and i rise and i burn and i simmer in goals i've set and seem to be pulling myself towards, in fits of brilliance and magic and throbbing gory tragedy, such is childbirth and such is life, and it is such a random act of bizarre miracle that we are here to take it in and think and feel something about it all, to have an opinion and a path and a capacity to not only be here in the chance of it, but appreciate it.
(reading weather by jenny offill, this atlantic article, this coast piece [www.thecoast.ca/halifax/8-ways-to-support-muslims-in-halifax-this-ramadan] and john o'donohue's eternal echoes)
so much and not too much at once
all the white night fragrant nicotiana, the full moon
and june bugs rising, cooking crackers
the swarm of bees and pink bluebells, prûche,
bruleau, swimming and singing so long at full patsy volume
looking out for hellebores & bleeding hearts, talking shit
about cut worms and creeping phlox, staying the extra night after
to check through the clouds for the moon's
flashing, booming, pulsing
“Are you a kid or a poem?” - Lynnie Wonfor circa 2000
Sophie has a BFA from Concordia via NSCAD, she writes songs, pomes, tends gardens and pulls legs. She is a white irish-anglo-scot canadian settler, born in Treaty 7 territory and living in Mi’kma’ki. Her first career aspiration was to be a flower picker and tbh, she’s pretty close.