♣ Exquisite Corpse

Among Clouds of Dust, Only Mountains—a Garden

Among mountains, a memory. A memory located near a blue horizon, just visible to her from within the painting where she sits in her black dress, hands folded in her lap, in the train compartment full of green light where she turns her head away from the window. A window, a line of cut peach sky, a shade half pulled down, an unlit lamp. She is in the gallery where he gave her a home but he did not dream of giving her a life, not here in a room full of murmurs and the bodies that create them shifting between rectangles of imaginary light, here where angels are drawn in precise lines, here opposite an acrylic white canvas of faraway love. turning away from the window she can still feel the dark pink magnolias somewhere far off in the edges of herself, in the edges of her shut eyes, somewhere where there are black butterflies the size of birds and blood oranges and a house painted yellow and a soft shape in her hands, moving and golden, wet like an animal heart.

When my girlfriend turned 30, we went out for hearts. Twelve courses with wine matches. Deep fried hearts. Heart sushi. Pureed hearts. Artichoke hearts. Heart sausage.

We sat at a long table with 12 other couples. During one of the courses the wait-staff were gracious enough to stick a candle in a heart. Everyone at the table sang Happy Birthday. Lindsay was embarrassed, but I could tell she liked the attention.

The meal took all night and other people told us about their Wellington on a Plate experiences. The burger competition. A dinner cooked by prison inmates. A chef from Japan with
a Michelin star. I told a man in a paisley shirt, that Japan has more Michelin star restaurants than France. He didn’t believe me and I started to not believe it too. Then we talked about Panko bread crumbs. They’re more like flakes, he said.

At the end of the night the owner of the restaurant brought out the chefs and introduced them one by one. Like a theatre troupe, they put their arms around each other and took a bow. The diners clapped and the man in the paisley shirt let out a little whoop while cupping his hands around his mouth. In that small room, I couldn’t tell if he wanted to amplify the sound or conceal where it came from.

He declared that “cruelty is compassion,” and “to look out for yourself is to look out for the whole.” Yes, that was in 180 characters or less. It occurred to me that these days are all the days. In response to displacement, we contemplated the harmony of differences. A splash of red paint can really “pull the room together,” as they say.

In Episode One, it was explained that patterns of language are the same in all human and non-human languages. And/Or as the first and the last. If language began with sound, what had we learned from those periodic drills? I assure you, the question was more eloquent than that.

A second version showed the young man (or do we say “boy?”) alone in his bedroom (or was it his dorm room?), his face lit up by the comforting blue glow of a bright LED screen. Perhaps he was developing a navigation app that could save the world. (Please note that “navigation” is being used broadly here.) It was as all-purpose as the night.

Coming soon on that corner, so-called tear-down architecture will be replaced with a “vibrant lifestyle, shopping, dining, and entertainment district.” Don’t be surprised if you’re feeling nostalgic for the future.

Remember, as early as the thirties, the Health Organisation categorised the feeling as ‘highly infectious’. For a reason: rub your eye, the wrong place and time, and you’ve got the bug. There are no symptoms, except a kind of blindness. My friend nearly crashed her car coming over Arthur’s Pass, from nostalgia. Not being one to fuck around, I never thought to find myself mooning, and after such an ancient destination. After all, there’s a tincture for that. Yet the dry eye begets the scratch. And I saw the future in a photo from last week’s Met Gala, diffidently postured in satin pyjamas printed with bananas and jackfruit. Not at all a sartorial dressing down: it’s her house. Her carpet the same red as her bathroom runner. This is the future’s kingdom, even if all the rooms are let, our appetite for conference centres continuing at a clip more voracious than casinos alone can sate. Picture the board members sat under the great tapestries of scuttled states, dribbling cappuccinos (back in fashion) on their ties wide as bibs and scratching their sporks against the table. You can’t feel nostalgic for the ineluctably forever: then, and now, and then, we’ll recognise these moneyed cognoscenti as an embarrassment of bachelors. Bless. The future, at least, lives in the present, where jackfruit is a staple food and even briefly overtakes young men as the primary export of Hawai’i, before the pentagon blows its top, and reinstates the draft. Don’t be surprised to find yourself kissing brass through a mouthful of jackfruit, or mouthing the matching new euphemism, quickly adopted and adapted into product by a pop and pop sex shop based in Newton but pushed out to Henderson in the time it takes the future to pull finger from her jackfruit. For reasons of best practice, Henderson by then will have changed its name to something more nostalgic, but for the life of me I don’t remember what, so let’s not go splitting the jackfruit from the oranges.

We ought to avoid any apples to apples comparisons. It’s true this season isn’t good for metaphors. Everyone everywhere tries to flatten everything. Guns are cars. Go pound sand. Life is a bowl of cherries and the bowl and the cherries are the only two genders. But a world of cartoon hearts drawing men and women pierced by arrows is real. A world of rusting metal suns is real. A world of pizza slices as pets is real. It’s a forgettable summer day in the final stages of late capitalism and all we have to show for it is a love poem. Maybe we didn’t come to boil an ocean but that’s pretty much what happened here. Pessimism is based on evidence. Optimism is lies and imagination. We’re executing success stories on an unremarkable platform. Outside birds are dying like unknown soldiers. There’s nothing we can do now. Grief and shame overwhelm our expressions with an opacity that’s symptomatic of the farce. The thicket burns like a nervous breakdown. The love poem is its gasoline. The love poem contradicts itself in an irreducible sorrow for cruelty. The love poem begins with the sky is the colour of tetanus.

The first line rings and echoes in my head in the backseat of a Chevy Malibu driven by a middle-aged man who just moved here from Lisbon and says in English that he speaks only Portuguese but knows all the lyrics to the Britney Spears song playing on the CD player. The sky is the colour of my soul is the colour of these cracked and wicked faces of so many love poems written in this style, cheap and graduating fragments trudging into even more curdled territory as lovers ashy faces fade into background noises from corporate conference calls and my only memories of you feel soft and laborious like draining oatmeal from the tub a chickenpoxed body has bathed in. And now all I can I think as I sit in a carpool next to a woman also on her way home from a party, not the party I am on my way home from but a different party, is how I can literally just keep plugging on despite what’s being held against me, despite how useless it all seems, despite how many times the same practices have been tried on me without any resistance or learning from it.

I think of something disgusting because it feels like I can sense the woman sitting next to me in this rideshare reading my thoughts, and I trust myself in this moment, hairy balls of phlegm dangling from a precipice where ogling harpies with conservative supreme Court justice faces beat their grody wings, then something grosser still like expecting unconditional love from another human. I look out the window embarrassed at the thought. “Weird,” she says out loud clearly responding to the air like a clearing like a clatter a tear in the eyedrop in the ravenous gloom in the titan of dust smote in the memory of a dingo burying itself alive to feed the earth a story


the stars are all out of their comfort zones here sweaters cover a wetness of intent a specific cast lasered into the stone wear around broken bones and broke ass wallets key chains hanging from flayed minds

it’s our time to be houseless and       terrified of cops       how many boots does one need to kiss before the state becomes a rainbow bridge of queer       mutha fuckers
                    trick question       is a tired       coda
or a code to crack before the chemical            hit
it takes to the sky on the polish of       promise
like leading a bull on a leash made of tissue paper     to     the very centre of the circle where there / any place could be.

Exquisite Corpse issue featuring Evangeline Riddiford Graham, Lee Posna, Alexandra Naughton, Ya-Wen Ho, Mattias Svalina, Bill Nelson, Rebecca Hawkes, Joan Fleming, Klare Lanson, Michelle Dove, Nina Powles, Hana Pera Aoake, Pam Brown, Jackson Nieuwland, Steph Burt, Samantha Stiers, Airini Beautrais, Kate Ingold, Essa Ranapiri, Samuel Carey, Lisa Samuels, Anna Jackson, Amy Brown, Quintan Wikswo, Dan Nash, Sarah Jane Barnett, and Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor.

< ♦ Exquisite Corpse

By Exquisite Corpse

issue featuring Evangeline Riddiford Graham, Lee Posna, Alexandra Naughton, Ya-Wen Ho, Mattias Svalina, Bill Nelson, Rebecca Hawkes, Joan Fleming, Klare Lanson, Michelle Dove, Nina Powles, Hana Pera Aoake, Pam Brown, Jackson Nieuwland, Steph Burt, Samantha Stiers, Airini Beautrais, Kate Ingold, Essa Ranapiri, Samuel Carey, Lisa Samuels, Anna Jackson, Amy Brown, Quintan Wikswo, Dan Nash, Sarah Jane Barnett, and Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor.