If we were starfish (who can regenerate limbs), what would trauma be? A limb lost. And still we
would be two of us, would become many from the breaking off of one. Here’s the central disc: have
you known yourself to split in
silence, to be the risking of the body in the slipping sand, to
feel the floatandweightof saline inside you and above, to wonder then
of lifting even as descent? You are having a dream about sheep, their
limbs earthbound, and in the greenness of their wool, the insects who
decide what bounty is. You were just now having a dream about a
past you do not have. You were remembering another’s body. What
is bounty, then? Even from afar, I can see the sheep run when they
are told to, yet they are more rebellious than that. I belong in the
group or I do not belong. Perhaps I do not fit in such a book at all.
After all, and. I am not made of words. Perhaps I am completely out
of bounds, have been since another day. We spoke, of. This universe
I am supposedly inside. This body my cosmos, my only entry.
Supposed body, entry. Is it apposite here to use the word friend? You
are not or if you are—entry—how to speak of what (me) owes
existence to a door that does not open, exist or. What does not
depend on openings to open? Who does not depend on sutures to
give birth? To a proximity of self, toward it, again: the central disc.
What star between us flips and is not over? What star of us needs
only proximity to death to know its living worth and without dying,
bleed, without abbreviating self, the name of the interior, bleed out
again and grow in cell count, held in bounds like this—still drawn—
yet in bounds, freed.
Some shadows creep melodiously. Where is the shadow in this man? Some men creep sharply, others alight first on desire with a crafted thought. I am a whisper in my body. This erlkönig knows nothing of his business; so persistent his delusions, wires he retwists, reinventions of his form—not transformations. Confidence games—binds us to him while he roams. Collecting us, calling us raccoons, potting us like flowers, calling us birds. After we are tallied, bountied, numbered, carried out, stacked in dirt, forgotten, unnumbered, made a mass of singularities, we rot like little delicacies in wooden carriers, wooden in the woods. We have wings, supposedly; were magnificent creaturely items and smelled wild beyond beliefs, or were women. Our variety of manes supposed (to be, we suppose): ones you see in odd unified piles at tree’s base. Deer nose us, alarmed by the smell of encirclement. Food? Certainly not. A tapestry or shroud? One voiceless sameness thing made of all that thing-ish’s womanly bird-hair. The trees confer: Truth is the sight of power’s form, even power taken. Our hair is a deformed Samson. We cannot speak but hear—(if we could confer, we would define this state: terror—[ ])—for to keep us comprised, erl entails our ears to authenticate his song, we the ones to capture us in desires tamed by his thoughts. Is he right? The trees debate. How could he notcontain us? Either because each of us is a true flame (admiration, proximity-necessity) or because we are common (hideous!, we must be hidden). The trees debate our hair. How could he contain himself? Either because our hair is so much so [revolting], or because he had to have it. Someone’s eyes roll, or a head, but there is no body. We liken to pity in his absent songless song. He is away; we loathe to miss him; we are remade without our chords; we horrify ourselves; we hate such and such; but who is who?; he intends; desires snag; he hunts seamlessly; any könig is a hunter, but this he is unknown to himself—a special danger—
Then one of the trees screams. The trees stop conferring. They see the violence now, and yell elapsed choruses. We alert to other voices in the woods—not his—? Tendrilic threads of sound spin in air-particulate. We trace the vibrating near-nothingness to others’, barely: tympanic, ossicles, throat connection, sound localization, labyrinth, arrival times, intensities, trapezoid bodies, yes, etc. Some ears do hear ours, thus (we believe): We are not rotters! We know a tactic. We simply starve. To slip out of your cages, ghastly thin, become the demon that craved/misnamed you. We gather to each other, our strange deformed cagely-maladjusted bodies, voices pull to center, fatten on each other’s songs. Do we revenge? We might say what revenge is; we might define freedom as it alerts our absence from its harbor. Some vanities creep melodiously. Some melodies are meticulous yet lost. Our voices go to him, scouring sands. Erl is out looking for the uses of others, bodies to use, more us’es to—in the night—make his. Kill? No. He is not a womanhater; he just likes one-way harems. But trees dismember silence; where könig deliberates harem, a coven made. Time, when it is coarse, can always be gone back to. Our hair screams, of course; it is in the woods. We listen speech back to its point: our heads. Time screams too: to exist, truth requires nothing, not his belief in it. Our songs are wordless, creep. Or we are creeping wordlessly. We had not expected this of us. We do it to gag him; we do a thing we’ve never done. Call it unearthing, if you have to have a verb. Call us no longer of that place. This erlkönig does not know his business. Where he puts his shadow? (The truth makes us feel weird.) Here is the shadow of this man. Now he wakes in adjacent voices, ours. He begs us, leave him his wool! He begs us thinly: stay; suck his eyeballs down his throat. But I’m Transformational! he says. Everybody says! We rip. We eat wool, hungry we are, hungry we have been. We say goodbye to trees. We song our cages bound to make a frame, then send it on the wind to him: a mirror. Perhaps it exhausts him. Perhaps he sleeps a long time.
My revenge is pure. I will describe it to you.
We say: “a woman stole everything we had”—she looks
like me. She sleeps beside me. She likes to move the bed at night. Sometimes between
the walls. Sometimes to a new room. What color is the new room?
What do the new walls say? Where have we been
sleeping? I have not been sleeping. She kicks me. The new room says: Touch
the outer contour, the panel of the sky. I touched what
night time glittered, but did not go into it, did not stand
upon myself. I wanted to stay with her. She who is
you who cannot or will not touch the outer shape of what might be (or is) earthly and
not earthly and go into it.—The outer contour, the shape of the outer ceiling or
what we call
for lack of knowing,
sky. I touched
it, then came again to earth then to the bed again the bed again the bed again
the bed then below
whatever is below the bed inside the earth then to the core the fire after
fire to the sky. This is inevitable
motion. This is circling. But who makes such decisions?
Why did I? I will call it flying
or I will fly. I will return to you or. What if we pretend
each streetlight has a bellows, requires one? It does. What if we pretend
I called you here to free me? I did do that. What if you free me by
tethering me? What if you pretend to do that, maybe you do
do that. But who makes such decisions? Why did I? I give birth
or I give birth. I am in the ground or I am in the sky. I am winged or
I am winged. It’s the same
thing. It’s not a metaphor. No one here is a bird. The body that stands before you is, as all bodies are, not exactly from here. Yes, we traveled, I think, while I was sleeping, a world ended, and the woman who looks like me, who sleeps beside me, who stole everything we had, who changed beside me into another mind, who moved the bed—and then a world ended. What if we were there when it ended? What if we were there after? What if it was over but it could not end because somehow, even after everything, we were still alive?
What if even now we are alive?
Then probably, we would require revenge.
Then there would be no one left to enact upon.
Then my revenge would be pure. My revenge is pure. I will describe it to you!
I get revenge by touching myself. I bolted the bed,
I killed the culpable, who was not a woman
after all, but a word, a sentence, a paragraph, then a book. I killed the whole book.
After I had killed the book, I slept soundly, knowing no one
was coming for me.
I woke with the feeling that a world had ended, and it did. Maybe it was Brexit. Maybe it was
the planet Scotland. Maybe it was here, in the node; under our feet, the node is whatever part
of the earth examines the moon visually, currently existing in its experience of night; as we
sleep or do not, the node moves with or for the bed. But the node is also whatever we mean
when we say: North America. We live on a planet. Or we call the place we live a planet. Maybe
it was the essences or the thoughts that came like aliens and then called themselves my brain.
Maybe it was because I had begun to ingest the fringed violet and the black tourmaline. But
it was done. And I didn’t even know what we had said goodbye to.
This is The Listening: a horror flick/
radio station/planetary offering/a pornography/a bootleg music video from 95/
your FBI file, which tells you about a conversation you had in a movie theater in 03 with a bedroom
anarchist who did not turn out to be your boyfriend, even then. You both said some things about blowing up bulldozers because it sounded difficult/sexy. Also about the possibility of trainhopping and in a general way, with causality, about speed. The drug but also velocity. You were not grown, which is to say you were both over and undersexed, which is to say: you sounded more dangerous than you were and you were far more dangerous than you knew, which is to say you could not stop looking at each other’s faces/pants. You never even missed him. Nothing happened, but the FBI knows. Maybe you should call them. I know of one religion/love-life: money isand state is money. Money speaks, I mean, literally, in my bed. I come from anywhere, return to myself from nowhere, and it bleeds the pockets, sheets, my stupid jeans. Money is as it has always been: my metal dream, love, perfection. Money is immortal, has no memory. Money is:
a) a mysterious crime;
b) a beautiful fiction;
c) if you have money, marry me.
d) You’ve never read a novel your whole life unless you make a lot of money. You never pay
for money unless you bleed a brutal story. I live in the threads
of another land. I eat out of the hands of another. I don’t know how to sew so I wear the vital losses of the citizens in other countries. I’m not trivializing; I just don’t know what I’ve done, or how to undo it, or how to—I’m trying to unravel this, but first I’m culpable. If any of us anywhere are citizens. Anyway, I am always guilty if the laws that govern us are laws. I tell a friend I’ve learned to do illegal things so that I can maintain eating. Nothing is illegal, says my friend. You better listen to your weaponry. Ink is first: an arrow, bullet; a representative of time—but I’ve been known to change my sights or move the clock for money. If we have any form of wealth, we dream—
I don’t talk about it loudly, but I still follow The Rulings:
a horror flick/radio station/planetary offering/a pornography/a video from 95/
your FBI file, which catalogs the research you abandoned in 07 about the Easter Rising, which occurred in Ireland in 16, which History names ill-fated, but who has got fate handled? (Only white “history”/its descendants.) Tell me but I know. We exist or we are money.
Tell me his name again—that guy we used to fall in love with once a year who wrote the tome of History?:
I lost that book years ago, but there’s a legend in it of a woman who lives on both sides of
the Wailing Wall, and if you can find her—(which you can’t, she’s not living)—she
remembers and she’ll tell you if you answer ten riddles what the world looked like before the
birth of England. That’s why I still watch The Rulings! They’re still making new seasons, but
you have to dial in through bloodlines. Can you hear the thing I’m saying? While the English
were fighting the Germans, the Irish were fighting the English.
While the Churchill fought the Hitler, the people of Bengal knew Churchill to be Hitler. The
precedent for this case
happened years later, in Hollywood, when Rick Blaine wanted/felt entitled to
Ilsa who believed in Victor Laszlo and had a sense of loyalty. And what did Laszlo
want? I like to think he wanted freedom but different armies have different fetishes:
kneecaps, necks, or melting skin.
My heart is three-hearted. If you manage to hold it, you will find yourself growing three pairs of legs: you will see what I see. The FBI knows. They have so many hearts. They are so good at loving. Or collecting. But how about, for once, necessity? Let’s stand at one of those intersections where we either withhold information or admit to nothing/embrace our melting. I was saying let’s get on with it. I was asking to unfold, I wanted to know if you would let yourself destroy me—
Be destroyed by me. I have a three-hearted heart. That is everything that’s coming. I can regenerate my body. I mean, I could be you while you invent the latest brand of freedom. And your brand could have a brand. And that brand could have a brand. I have a three-hearted body. I can regenerate storms. The FBI will tell you—
I left behind my research because I lost so many limbs, had worn out so much history, but first I took on The Rising to impress a clone of Beckett who warned me that I was not special, that the Rising never ended, was never only in Ireland, was something more severe and timeless than a single country, that someone beautiful and hideous with many heads was watching. All my boyfriends then had only one head each. It was a simple time. I was making out in movie theaters and not touching anyone and touching everybody and practicing a body that had less to do with money and more to do with being really innocent and dirty. Ask the FBI. They know me best in the past—how I wore my hair then, the way I disrobed for my allies. I was losing my head, later that night, too busy making money, but then—my darlings/agents kept my diary.
This is not The Rulings. This is not an etching.
This is Easter Island, another story never ending.
We have no wood to carve, no hearts to carve, no paper lives on which to send a message.
Other orbits? We would like to say hello. Other tailspins? We’re thinking of you.
This is The Listening.:
If you falter, ever, remember: money is always what you were dreaming about when you didn’t get your dreams. When you couldn’t understand/remember. Every time you ever called her in—
a girlfriend/a massage therapist/counselor/past-life regression reader/when you logged in to whatever, and whoever came to your rescue, they said it all wrong. They said something: it was your father or your mother or the injury, about departure, or the time you were alive but really dead, like the corset on a drunken Victorian, but I promise you, whatever happened, you were dreaming about money.
It is holy. I’ve got none but I love swimming pools, chlorinate me. I was stupid for a long time and then I started going to the movies. I learned: some people don’t get caught, but no one gets away with murder. I learned: when anyone says everything will be alright, they aren’t talking about money. I learned: even in my sober minutes, I am riddled with something. The only truth is money. I learned: my hair is longer than the time I’ve been allotted. I learned: I learned: I learned: I dream about my worth, while my body is elsewhere, cradling something.
My specialist/therapist/past life regression reader says: “If you had no _______ of ________, what would you ________?” But all I think about is money. This is a transcription of a wordless memo I received. This is an internal memo. Money help us if there is a leak.
This is The Listening:
a horror flick/radio station/planetary offering/a Holocaust/a pornography/a
music video no one ever made in 95, but thought of often, plenty/my first, most
crucial suicide/the file of my stupidity/a cosmos of entreating, which tells you not
how, but why
I wiped out—in 95, 03, 07, and 1916.
Even Mars can be benevolent. Even love is a planet of war. Even war can be defeated when Venus takes up arms; even Venus has been defeated. We are either wrecking or blessing the era. Even a rooftop is the floor. Even a locked gate is a doorway. Even a pin light in the distance is a window. None of these are metaphors. Even inhospitable fathers transform. Were you ever in a fixed state? Were you ever proven right? What made you forget yourself so easily? Seven thousand hearts come in from another room. They sit down for a coffee. You have barely been born. The planet is laughing at your youth. You have barely been young. You have been alive thousands of years. Even humans have religion. Even planets are reborn. I have little else to say. Even a living place is a dying place. Even delight will be reformed. Even martyrdom has another name. Speak it aloud, no one hears you when you whisper. Even deafness has an answer. Even the eye of me is not within the storm of me. I have been visited by a nearness so near, it had to come from far. Yes, we cannot always see each other like this, staring into the suddenness of some horror. Even benevolence can come from nothing. Even nothing has been somewhere. I was born once, in a way. I was something else before. I did not always exist. However many years it’s been, there will always be a little less to be made of me. And always a little more. And always less. And always more. For the bricks I am built from are (un)usual things. Even time involves discrepancies. Even memories belong to no one when they’re traveling. Even time belongs to no one. Even I belong to time. Even when I’ve slipped from time. Even when I have no memories. Even streetlamps were invented. Even bricks that crumble were created. Even buildings first were dust. Dust will always be dust. Even dust can crumble farther. Even crumble will be reshaped to dust and dust to bricks and bricks to housing that will gore the top of sky. Even the top of the sky can be rained on. Even rain can break a building. Death will come even to the unexpecting. Even ghosts can locate their bodies. There is another way of thinking about it: Even Mars can be benevolent. Even benevolence can come from nothing. Even nothing matters. Even Venus has set us all on fire; even Mars once watered us, wanted us—even poverty first was wealth. Even wealth will come to nothing.
What does genre mean to you and how does it build/unbuild your work?
I understand genre as a mutable constraint that is sometimes useful and sometimes inconvenient. I allow it to influence me greatly and in other moments, I cast it off. Often, I oscillate between these choices many times within one piece—sometimes even within the space of one paragraph or sentence. The notion of genre has to do with rules, and rules are all about limits; breaking rules is about expansion. Both acts—following order and breaking the law—are valuable to me. This going back and forth between living in the house of genre and standing outside of it is not about wavering, but about making a rigorous and devotional choice to move freely, in a way that is not always possible in the world—and then, only after I have really cut loose will I interrogate the page as a site of my choice and my ability, my privilege and even my need, to be free. The pain of not belonging in the house or in the family or in the country—as it is to walk in the world and to be someone’s other—gives a superpower, in the form of a fairly unmitigated access to a gorgeous transitional threshold. It’s the touching of that threshold that I’m after, which genre both hinders and enables.
MAURA PELLETTIERI is a poet, storyteller, and art writer. Her writing appears (or will) in the Denver Quarterly, Newfound, Vinyl, Fairy Tale Review, Guernica, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. Shereceived her MFA in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. Since 2013, she has investigated political-somatic forces in collaboration with visual artists across conceptual and social practice boundaries. She grew on the banks of the Hudson River, known first as the Mahicantuck River, or the “river that flows two ways.”