Playing ‘Exquisite Corpse’ By Myself by M. Perle

permanent fugue
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Photo by author

    “And it kills me, the word sorry. As if something like music

 

should be forgiven. He nuzzles into the wood like a lover,

  inhales, and at the first slow stroke, the crescendo

     seeps through our skin like warm water, we

 

who have nothing but destinations, who dream of light

   but descend into the mouths of tunnels, searching.”

from Ocean Vuong’s “Song on the Subway”

 

“I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of a greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.”

Susan Sontag, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

 

“Well let’s think for a moment. What type of orange are you?” Our professor asks us.

On a Thursday night we discuss how to teach metaphor in our Poetry and Pedagogy class. We are reading Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions translated by William O’Daly. Dr. Berlin has asked us what it feels like to be an orange.

“I’m a blood orange,” my classmate responded. We all laughed. “I’m red and juicy on the inside.”

“Who gets the most sun and who decides on these matters?” someone wondered.

“I would think the biggest oranges would get the most sun,” another classmate said.

“What if the bigger oranges are bigger because they get the most sun?” I posed.

“This is not a Marxist tree!” the Blood Orange shouts. People laugh, I audibly eye roll.

People began calling out, “Everyone gets equal sun!”

“Where are these oranges growing? Is this a private farm or someone’s garden?”

“Did you hear about the peach tree they cut down on campus and replaced with Dogwood. That’s nice for about one month of the year, but I want peaches!”

“Now,” I start in, “what if everyone thinks I’m an orange but I’m really a grapefruit?”

As people laugh someone says something about me being bitter.

“What if,” I begin, “we are all those genetically modified mini-oranges engineered for children under 5 and we just think we are real oranges? We’re all in a crate together being shipped to the supermarket. We’re derivative oranges,” now I’m being a bit of an ass.

“Are we the types of oranges used in perfumery?” Someone starts looking up what type of oranges those are on their phone.

One classmate says they are a Florida-hating, navel gazing navel orange from Florida.

We discuss zen koans now:

Can a koan change a life?

My professor asks if we all remember the Marx Brothers. She wonders if people growing up today have sufficient exposure to absurdity; she comes from the era of Vaudeville.

I would think it’s clear absurdity is palpable now. Especially politically.

“Do people today have something like ‘The Shirt Song’? It’s just a guy talking about how he wants his shirt,” Dr. Berlin starts singing it.

He wants his shirt!

                                                                       I want my shirt! 

He won’t be happy without his shirt!

 

I think about when I used to do prank calls as a teenager with my friends Danny and Anthony.

An answering machine beeps (Danny, barely disguising voice trailing off laughing): “HELLO DERE! Come on down to Wal’er’s Park this weekend for some hotdooogs and sode-y!” 

Videos exist of Anthony on the couch in a friend’s basement:

“Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of MAURY where today we will be discussing: ‘Help, My Daughter is Having Sex with…Pilot Lights.’”

There’s a clip on that video tape of a high school acquaintance laying sideways and rubbing his body atop a cafeteria table saying “Lemon Curry,” in a sensual way. Quickly: a cut to my friend Danielle in art class sharing her series of “feeling papers”: about 40 papers of possible human feelings. She reads each of them to me in discordant voices, pointing at all of the papers which are decorated with a hodge podge of art supplies, peaking slightly over the top of the papers and giggling after each one.

*Danielle in a shrieky voice* “Hopefulllll:” as in are youuu hopefulllll? I hope you’reee hopefulllll *laughter*

We used to laugh at anything when we were that age. In a high school play we performed, And Then There Was One, there was a line I said in the role of Detective Horatio Miles: “What does anyone do in the pantry?” It was tech rehearsal and someone in the audience yelled “Masturbate!” We laughed so hard and our teacher made us this t-shirt.

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Photo and food(?)/paint(?) stain by author

 

Last week I try to make feeling flashcards:
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They are terrible and not like Danielle’s.

I made “privacy” an emotion, too, so if you want to be technical they are no longer feeling flashcards, now they are just cards with words on them.

“Should I watch the videos again,” I wonder now, “or just remember them?”

 

**********

 

On a Thursday night in 2017 we continue discussing metaphor. My professor says: “What if I say: the universe is the smell of pee?” I got lost somewhere and now we’re here and “the universe is the smell of pee.”

Can a metaphor change a life? A law? An economy?

John Tarrant, in Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life, says asking questions, specifically in the form of koans will encourage doubt and curiosity, lead you to see life as funny rather than tragic, and change the idea of who you are. He thinks at the bottom of people’s motives is love.

I ask myself if this can be true.

To prepare for class we read Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions. Neruda references Nixon, lemons, roses, and Rimbaud. 

In “Night in Hell” Rimbaud says:

But I am still alive! – Suppose damnation is eternal! A man who wants to mutilate himself is certainly damned, isn’t he? I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am.

Shams Tabrizi said this much earlier:

Don’t search for heaven and hell in the future. Both are now present. Whenever we manage to love without expectations, calculations, negotiations, we are indeed in heaven. Whenever we fight, hate, we are in hell.

I try reading Neruda in the style of Jerry Seinfeld:

Ya knowww…

“With the virtues that I forgot

Could I sew a new suit?”

 

I meannnn…

 

“Why did the best rivers

leave to flow to France?”

 

“And why is the sun such a bad companion

To the traveler in the desert?”

 

Can a question change a life?

 

*********

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Photo by author

“Hello, Love!” Katrina, the barista at Java City, says when a customer walks in, sometimes alternated with, “Hello, sweetie!”

As someone who enjoys observational research, I listen to the way Katrina talks to other customers. “Hello, Love!” “Hello, sweetie!” would ring out from the cafe as I did some reading in the nearby library study area. “It’s so good to see you today!”

I feel as a cynical academic I could have just said “she is infantalizing me,” but I think that’s also bullshit, she wasn’t, this can’t be academonized. 

One day Katrina and I talk about the power of being happy. I think about this a lot. 

Katrina treats everyone with the same happiness. I believe she is happy. We talk about smiling. She says she is 53 and decided she didn’t ever want to be unhappy again. I wonder how this works, not in a shitty sarcastic way, I actually wonder.

Emotional labor debates are not because we don’t want to ever do emotional labor–they are so people recognize the labor we perform. No one has to be good to anyone. All emotions are labor. But what would be the point if no one ever did emotional labor? Should we all stop emoting? I don’t want to stop emoting. 

I don’t think that’s the point.

There are “occupational hazard” emotions to some identities.

Calling someone “angry” can be a way to immediately shut down discourse. Telling someone to smile or be happy is intrusive. These can be ways of policing behavior when it’s threatening to power. But in terms of survival and on a more personal level–what does it do to someone’s health when they are angry a good deal of the time?

In Jessi Gan’s “Still at the Back of the Bus” (an essay from Are All the Women Still White?) Gan brings out that anger as a tool  for social equity is an essential yet alienating reality. She mentions the story of Silvia Rivera: marginalization even on the margins.

“I just want to be who I am. I am living in the way Silvia wants to live. I’m not living in the straight world; I’m not living in the gay world; I’m just living in my own world with Julia and my friends.”

Rivera, along with Marsha P. Johnson, founded “Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries.” Even in queer communities, people told Rivera she wasn’t welcome, beating her up, telling her she was an affront to “real” womanhood, making fun of her language abilities, telling her sex workers did not have a place in the movement. “Progressive” queer people ignored Rivera’s plee to financially help homeless queer youth, so she did it herself.

Queer people, especially of color, gender non-conforming and gender nonbinary are consistently barraged with demands on their identity and forced outings:

          “But who are you?”

Silvia was a founding member of Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance and was shit on by her own “group” so she left.

The answer “I’m me” is not good enough and “who are you as it applies to what serves me?” seems to be the real question when people deny identities.

This should be cause for anger. With this anger can come alienation–the angered pick up the tab for this. They are blamed for the symptom, the anger, when the anger had a causal relationship to something else.

Calling out anger can be a form of shutting down discourse, but the anger that is dwelling inside comes at a cost to the angered, not just the receiver of the anger.

Anger can poison your organs. Anger can kill you.

*Someone in the back of the room says “everything kills you someday” and they are being an ass.*

Practitioners of allopathic as well as hollistic medicine believe anger is stored in the liver. People use alcohol and drugs to cope with anger, too, which further impacts the liver. Silvia Rivera died of liver cancer.

What are the ways people kill people?

No Answer Barthes

from Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse

 

 

*********

“Sodom-y and Gonorrhea” and “Minced Oathe” were stories I wrote about breaking faith and questioning the ego when I was 19. I wonder if we are born with more wisdom than we gain and if we lose it over time; I’d write based on dreams I had.

My Grandmother was a Bible school teacher. Everything is apocalyptic revelation.

In “Sodom-y and Gonorrhea” the subject of the dream lays naked in the desert sipping a White Russian reading magazines. Most of the people are naked and imbibing, white metal bunk beds are placed all over in the sand. A natural disaster rips through the place and everyone dies except the subject of the dream.

“You killed some people who didn’t deserve it.”

They look for clothes to cover themself and only find some on a person who has been decapitated. They put the clothes on as a figure on a Hummer*** drives through.

*On a Hummer not in a Hummer because it’s a dream and: dream logic.

*

*It’s a dream, shut up.

 

Though this character is just introduced, and this seems like the beginning of the story, it’s like we know them already. They go off together through a bar where Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” plays. Jesus is the bartender’s name. Jesus knows what you want before you even ask.

The characters talk for a bit and the subject says:

“Whenever I am hating you I am only hating myself.”

 

                                                                                      Jesus swept.

 

 

 

 

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Braving the Days: The Hermit by Jordannah Elizabeth

Braving the Days

jordannah1

Well, Marlana, our editor in chief, sent over some topics to consider writing about last week. It is not that I don’t have a well of thoughts to share at the moment, but I decided to take some time and review Marlana’s thoughts and input before I went off on my own tangent.

The thing about aging while being a fiercely independent person is that I’ve learned to be a bit more collaborative – maybe collaborative is the wrong word. The better term is “creative consideration” and having regard for other’s intellectual needs or guidelines, even when things are free form. When someone extends a large amount of creative freedom or leeway, it takes time over the years to understand that that freedom is coming from a leader and you learn to remember that they exist…at all times, and learn that it is important to keep them in the corner of your awareness so that you don’t go too far out.

Going too far out doesn’t really serve anyone….not even yourself.

One of the topics my fellow colleagues and I were asked to consider was “The Hermit.” Now, I didn’t reply to Marlana and say I was going to write about this topic because I didn’t decide to do it until I wrote my second word, so it may be very possible that another columnist may write about “The Hermit.” This is ok with me. Like I said, sharing creative freedom is important.

The first thing that came to my mind was the higher arcana tarot card, The Hermit. The tarot has been a fascination of mine ever since I was a little girl. I had a natural affinity for the deck and they seemed to like me as well because whenever I gave a reading, even in my pre teen innocence, the understanding and advice I received through my interpretation  of the cards seemed to be very accurate, and there were times during my reading that I was able to bring people who were 20 years older than me to tears. I kind of lost my connection with The Tarot when I became a teenager, and kept my connection with mysticism very private until a few weeks ago when I stumbled into a lecture in a tiny DIY space hosted by the a local tarot club.

The lecture was an overview and history of the tarot. I remember being very tired, while on my way to the event. I walked about 9 blocks in the blistering cold, but I endured the track because I’ve learned that personal education is very important. I like to immerse myself in something outside of my work to keep myself stimulated. The lecture was fascinating and I was glad I had gone. Since then, I allowed the founder of the group to lightly guide me and take me under her wing and read me – teaching me about the meanings of the cards. 

“The Hermit” is not a card I pull very often in my personal readings, but that might be the problem with me at the moment. “The Hermit” represents a time of soul searching and self reflection. It dignifies a time of contemplation. That is exactly what I’ve needed lately: some time to meditate and get in touch with my soul, but my mind has been overcome with worry.

With all this said, the card I have been pulling has been “Temperance” which represents the need for balance, patience and moderation.

I’m not sure which is more appropriate at this very moment: soul searching and self reflection or balance, patience and moderation. I have no problem making the assumption if not the general declaration that I need all of these attributes and actions in my life right now.  My guru says “You’ve got to let your emotions play out. You shouldn’t push them away, they are a part of being human.”  I understand that, but my natural reaction to tough emotions and behaviors like impatience, worry, paranoia, pain and sadness are to push them away. I seem to believe I can meditate anything away – but lately, the more I push emotions away, the more intense they get.

Last month, it was of no consequence…now, I guess I’m feeling a few consequences from attempting to feel “ok.”

The Hermit and Temperance

If I may, I’ll refer to my last entry, It is of No Consequence and express that I was feeling like I wanted to leave the public eye. I’m sure “The Hermit” ties into that desire.  I’m sure it ties into the desire to want to get away, and obtain my privacy, to find a safe quiet place to think and live without the pressure of persona and anything else that has to do with presenting myself to people I do not know. 

Anyway, maybe there is a consequence this month from attempting to believe that there was no consequence last month. With everything there is an equal and opposite reaction. So on some level, there is always a consequence.

 

 

On Being Little by Michelle M. Campbell

Badly Anarchist

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I’m only five foot tall, but most people would tell you they’d never know it. I might be small, but I’m loud. I’ve got a high-pitched Disney princess voice that carries as far and wide and James Earl Jones’ soothing baritone. I’m the friend you have to hush in the library, the next booth over in the restaurant, the one who speaks just a little too loud, a little too much, a little too often. The one who doesn’t need a microphone at a protest or a rally.

But sometimes, when someone uses that voice with me, I shut up. I shut down. I’m out. You know that voice, the one your father, or your mother, or maybe your teacher used with you. The one that mockingly tells you that you’re stupid, that you’ve done something so incredibly offensive that you don’t deserve to be here. You don’t deserve to be you.

I’m an intelligent, educated, radical, loving, and loud woman, and that voice cuts me down every single time. It stops me in my tracks. It makes me feel as small as I am, smaller than I am. Smaller than a human can possibly be.

“We can’t be doing that.”

“I’m glad everyone’s being so quiet right now.”

“Why would you even think that was okay to do?”

“What were you thinking?”

I was not thinking, clearly, as you do. I was not expecting the talons of your hatred to come ripping me apart from this, your aerial position of trust.

I tell myself that that voice comes from a position of smallness itself. In its sarcastic, hateful mockery, it works to bring me down to its level. It is literally a voice of belittling, to make little, because little is not loud, little does not take up space, and little is never in the way of power or authority. Little is accommodating and nice and sugar and spice. Little is there to help, to be told what to do, to live vicariously through and just for you. Little gets shut up, put away, put out in the trash. Little gets left behind.

So, you see, that voice wants you and me to be little because if we’re not little, we’re big. If we’re big, we fill up the space that it can otherwise fill with hate. We’re in the way, we’re defiant and definite. We matter because we are matter, and if we get purposefully madder and madder and madder we can’t be little by being belittled.

Yet, no matter what I tell myself, what I know to be true, I can’t help feel the heat of my shame well up behind my eyeballs that are diverting their gaze to the floor. I can’t help but feel the lump of my self-hatred expand in my throat as it constricts to stop, to prevent, my voice. I can’t help but feel the aftershocks, the hot flashes of embarrassment that show up as rosy pink splotches on my face and neck hours, days after when I’m alone and stumble, accidentally, into my mind working through my most private of my most public of humiliations.

I am the loudest woman I know, but that voice is still too much for me.

 

 

 

Celebrating Marbles: Raison D’etre by Julie Corredato

Celebrating Marbles

You’re probably familiar with the vintage idiom, “losing one’s marbles,” and may have used it on occasion in a playful manner, either to mock oneself, or to chide your friends, family, and colleagues during moments of  forgetfulness, anxiety, or despair. My grandmother, Banny, taught us how to play marbles back in the 1970s, and I craved the weight of the felt bag, holding what I envisioned were little glass eyeballs, before the lucky sibling or cousin was allowed to carefully release the marbles into the circle to begin the competition. The solid clank of glass spheres was a satisfying sound to my sensitive ears, and lining up the perfect shot to knock an opponent’s marble out of boundaries fulfilled my brain’s attraction to both geometry and chaos.

There are scads of theories on the origin of this phrase, and the most compelling I came across involved The Elgin Marbles, a collection of sculptures that were scrupulously removed from Greek ruins and relocated to London. While I’d like to examine the pilfering of ancient artifacts as related to cultural property, I’ll let the audience peruse the debate over the collection of alluring metopes on their own time. There’s little evidence that the idiom in question relates to The Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles. “It’s more likely that marbles was coined as a slang term meaning wits/common sense, as a reference to the marbles that youngsters play with” (Martin, n.d.)  Indeed, my trusted Webster’s dictionary, circa 1983, has a sub-listing for marble as:

marbles. [pl.] brains; good sense; as to lose one’s marbles [slang].

I’ve had a collection of those once trendy word magnets shuffling around my kitchen for several years, and during bouts of writer’s block, I randomly grab a handful of the small rectangles and throw them on the table, hoping that a brilliant idea will arise from the pile. I now realize that I must have been channeling Tristan Tzara’s “To Make a Dadaist Poem” from 1920:

Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are—an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

My children often join in the scrambling, and one morning, my eldest child, who is now a teenager with an aptitude for linguistics, waltzed in the room and said, “Mom, you should always celebrate marbles.” He understood, at the ripe age of seven, that words, in their wildly awkward glory, could be rearranged and synchronized into newfangled nonsense.

Indeed, our lives are often collages formed by absurdity and disarray.  I have ongoing discussion with a friend about the idea of a technological memoir- what if our brains were to produce a digital report of every word we’ve ever muttered? Of every thought that’s traversed our minds, the parade of recurring images that haunt us, or the colors that frequent our dreams? Would there be white space galore, or would it be colorful, chaotic glitch art? Horizontal bands of memories stretched across the screen of our programmed existence?  What if we could edit the cache of our recollections, splicing the frustrating and debilitating episodes of lost marbles with the energizing discoveries of finding ourselves intact after a breakdown?

To lose one’s marbles is a kindhearted euphemism for darker connotations; the history of language centered on mental illness is a wide and misconstrued maze. There’s a tangled thread of nuance associated with being deficient of good sense; we could pick a random strand of words synonymous with crazy, analyzing their etymological roots until our glassy eyes start rolling around on the linoleum floor, escaping the circumference of conventional wisdom.

That’s what celebrating marbles is about. It’s about capturing the moments when our wits are slipping through the crevices. It’s about revising our chronic need to appear strong, and allowing ourselves to move forward even when we aren’t entirely whole. It’s about lauding the imperfections of our brains. It’s about commending our friends, family, and colleagues for embracing vulnerability.

When we’re the most open to being criticized, we have the chance to look at ourselves through the lens of another human.  Perhaps it’s a social microscope, or an emotional intelligence barometer that allows a certain transhumanist telepathy to develop.

You’re very emotional = I am capable of expressing myself in terms I am comfortable with.

You’re so sensitive = I value my empathy as it contributes to a creative consciousness.

You’re too aggressive = I have the right to know what I want and what I don’t want.

That spell of insomnia you had last night- were you ruminating over an unpleasant or hurtful incident that transpired two years ago? I was. I often lose my marbles precisely between 2:47 am and 3:54 am,  while the clicking of the water heater sounds like a phantom typing out morse code. As I piece together the information that was delivered through a lucid dream, distracted by kaleidoscope migraines, I contemplate if I am morphing into a breathing analog, processing bits of reality with snippets of the fleeting transcendence that is most prevalent after my brain has settled down. Once morning arrives, I sit in silence and count my marbles. I rearrange them until I am breathing in, breathing out. I remember that losing one’s marbles is just fine, because when we are able to gather them up, we will remember to be more conscious of their weight on this world.

“Half my life is an act of revision.”

~John Irving

 

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