Rhiannon McGavin


Hate Mail_final-1Hate Mail_final-2Hate Mail_final-3

 
 
 
**
 
 
 

rhiannon5rhiannon6rhiannon7

 
 
 
 
 
**


RHIANNON McGAVIN has failed the driver’s license test three times so far. Her work has been published by Tia Chucha Press, The Believer, and Teen Vogue. She is the former Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, as well as the 2019 recipient of the Fred and Edith Herman Memorial Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her first book Branches is available from Not a Cult.

Justin Allen

Out of the city

For Br’er Bar and the ruins of suburbia

We meet at Br’er Bar
among old books

pens tied
to the tabletops

notations tangle
in the page margins

We cheers
the unusually temperate night

windows open

the breeze brushes
the dark, plush furniture

We clink and chug

scribble
on the walls

THEY CUT
OUR CHEX
SHORT

We don’t trust or agree with everyone among us

Wine
eases tension
among the numerous
Blacknesses

We accept gradience and argue
about how
things went down

Why should we trust the government?
How often have they actually helped us?

We’ve gotten this far
why not believe in possibility?

Possibility wreaks of the American Dream

Plates of veggies steam

a round of shots

another

as we kiss lovers
and ex-lovers
from across
the line

We have yet to outgrow politics that tell us who to fuck

Many of us
at least

Others refuse categories
eschew
national myths

We question gradience
disagree
on how things
went down

Why should the suburbs have been reforested?

We should have never lived that way

The cities aren’t for the planet
They want us all
in one place

We take our last swigs

It’s 21:20

shuffle in the light air
shut the books
grab our stuff

The streets bustle and
we nod at passersby

a gesture extending
across continents
through generations
to those that mirror us

We disagree
on the demonym
Stateser

on its intention

Are we chasing
another
sanguine
myth

or

are we
after centuries
of violence
becoming
each other?

We don’t trust AfroStaters
Who do they mean when they say “we”?

We don’t all call ourselves AfroStatesers
Revs call us that

Don’t call us Revolutionaries or Statesers
Call us Black

We interrogate gradience
among
our Blacknesses

Those of us
conflicting
sit on opposite ends of the bus

We exit the city grid into a verdant expanse

The road winds
through pine trees

headlights slice
through darkness

We pass
edibles
down
the aisle

Almost there?

We’ve never been to a mall
but older family members have

We exit the bus
and enter the ruins

Trees
bust through
the roof
forest floor
replaces
tile

We’re headed to the end
from where music blares

Birds fly overhead
startled by our footsteps

Drugs mix
inside us

perception fuzzy
like a scrim

Music vibrates
amplifies
the deeper

we go

We’re almost there

Just ahead of us

Just ahead

 
 
 
 
**
 
 
 
 

140 BPM

For Bossa Nova Civic Club

When
The
Work
Load
Got
Us
Down
The
Bump
Of
Bass
Is
All
We
Have
We
Walk down Myrtle
Below the train
Elevated and rattling
Pass bars, bodegas
Check for a line
And check the time
Cuz
There
Is
No
Charge
Be
Fore
E
Le
Ven
And
We don’t get paid
Until next Friday and
Our rent is due
Tomorrow
And our friends and
Our enemies
Are securing residencies
Solo exhibitions
Being published
Promoted and
Our families
Are calling and
Our families
Aren’t calling
And our lovers
Are calling and
Our lovers
Aren’t calling and
Our fuck buddies
Aren’t answering and
Our application results
Are pending and
We
Need
To
For
Get
For
A
Few
Ow
Werz
Why
We
Pay
Rent
This
High
And
Why
We
Have
Three
Room
Mates
So
We
Have
Come
To
Thicken the atmosphere
To throw our bones
Against
The air
To sweat out
Well drinks
And beer and
Drink well drinks
And beer and
Ask
The
Bar
Ten
Der
For
A
Yer
Ba
Ma
Te
With
Our
Choice
Of
Lick
Or
And
The
Bar
Ten
Der
Pass
Iz
Us
The
Bot
Tull
And
We
Gulp
A
Third
Or
May
Be
Half
And
Pass
It
Back
And
They
Fill
The
Rest
And
We
Pass
Them
Cash
And
Head
Back
To
The
Dance
Floor
Where
We
Mesh
Into the darkness
The proliferation
Outward
Inward and outward
Bending and
Elongating
Stretching and
Dampening
Cotton and nylon
And rayon and
Viscose and wearing
In our sneakers and
Wearing in
Our boots
And throwing
And throwing
And throwing
Undone
Our laces
And throwing undone
Our posture
And hunching and
Arching
And hunching and
Twisting and
Sinking in
To
The body-swamp
The breath-cloud
The muck
Fall
Ing
N
2
Ryth
Um
And
Ben
Ding
2
The
Rih
Thum
And
Suck
Hum
Ing
Tooth
Uh
Rih
Thump
B
Cuz
The
Werk
Lode
Gaught
Us
Down
An
Cuz
Wii
Gaught
2
Fig
Yer
Ow
2
Wii
R
Deep
Down
Deep
Down

 
 
 
 
**
 
 
 
 

Grammar

For the island nation of Hatnaha, its infinite metropolis Bat, and my Hatnahans teacher
that could never get me to study

Three people chain their bikes along
A narrow street that teams with foot traffic
Bluish, two-story, cylindrical buildings line
The street infinitely, to the horizon

From the train entrance passersby
Emerge from underground, spill
Into the street that teams with foot traffic
And bustle off in either direction

A calm, pale sun indicates the hour
While no one checks their watches
And one more person parks their bike
Along the narrow street against an inens1

īnens2 line the takukse3 all the way to the horizon
That cradles the calm, pale sun, and a wind
Blows briskly through the narrow street
Where passersby pause to check for rain

follow īnetne4 street-along horizon-to
cradles sun pale horizon topical and blows
street-through narrow bustling wind brisk
Pause check nituksu5-for passersby

Bustle direction-toward either passersby
Stops parks bike person topical another
Street-along narrow bustling inens-against
And governs suddenly street-upon rain heavy

And don’t-have rain-in umbrella I so
Ask passersby I thus find umbrella
Location-in topical thus ask I
Don’t-have snapnanhat6 rain-in I

Search find cover entrance-in train I
Then retrieve bike person topical another
Then retrieve bike person topical another
And speed horizon-to rain-through bikes-on

Scurries street-across cat stray gray wet
Retrieves quickly bike person topical another
Speeds horizon-to rain-through bike-on
Change quickly raincoats-into passersby

Don’t-have nituksu-snīk7 umbrella I
Don’t-have nituksu-snīk snapnanhat I
Don’t-have nituksu-snīk snapnanhat ki8
hamana9 xuk10 is-not smooth Hatnahans my

Regret that is-not smooth Hatnahans my
hamana that dazi11 smooth Hatnahans my
hamana xuk dazi smooth Hatnahans my
hamana xuk dazi skika12 hatnahans kena13

Retrieve bike person topical fourth and speed
Rain-through heavy horizon-to bike-on
Find location-in umbrella thus ask I
Regret that is-not smooth Hatnahans kena

Speed entrance-out-in train passersby
Push speed me-around rough passersby
Announce I that need help I because
Don’t-have nituksu-snīk snapnanhat ki

Stop help me-for passerby one thus
Say passerby-to topical I that
hamana xuk dazi skika hatnahans kena
Speak-could English you thus ask I

Squint they and ask about thus speaking my
Repeat that speak-could English thus ask
Repeat that speak-could English thus ask
Speak-could eknisansi14 nans15 thus ask

Ask thus speak-could Hatnahans you
Repeat thus speak-could Hatnahans you
Speed takukse-tāk16 cat stray gray wet
Say buy umbrella place-at thus ask

Nods understandably and points takuksu-17sēk18
And speeds takukse-tāk and doesn’t say with bye
Look takuksu-sēk I and see snapnanhetne19
Speed entrance-from train and stops suddenly rain

Emerges smoothly clouds-out sun pale calm
Scurries street-across cat stray gray wet
Pause I thus am bewildered humidity-in
And stare down the narrow street leading to the horizon

 
 


 
 
 

 
1 Two or three-story cylindrical stone structure (nominative and vocative case>
2 Plural of inens (nominative and vocative case)
3 street (accusative case)
4 Plural of inens (accusative case)
5 heavy rain (dative and benefactive case)
6 umbrella (accusative case)
7 under
8 I/me
9 I/we regret
10 because/that
11 she/he/it/they is/are not
12 smooth, graceful
13 my/our
14 English (instrumental and comitative case)
15 you (formal)
16 across
17 street (dative and benefactive case)
18 along
19 umbrella shop (accusative case)

 
**
 


JUSTIN ALLEN experiments with performance, writing, linguistics, and the still and moving image to understand our relationships to time, social context, and place. He has performed at Movement Research at the Judson Church, JACK, and ISSUE Project Room, among other venues. He has read his poetry, fiction, and nonfiction at venues such as The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Kampnagel (Hamburg, Germany), and Artists Space. His work has received support from Franklin Furnace, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and The Shed.

ELÆ

 
View fullscreen

download ELÆ_disruptormechanisms_TAGVVERK_042020

 
Download pdf

 
 

**
 
 


ELÆ [LYNNE DESILVA-JOHNSON] is a multimodal creator, scholar and amateur mycologist, addressing intersections between bodies, language, technology, and system change. Recent and forthcoming features include Big Echo, Vestiges, Matters of Feminist Practice, Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, &Now, Ars Electronica / STWST, Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival, Performing Knowledge at the Segal Center Theater and The Exponential Festival. They teach at Pratt Institute, and are Founder/Creative Director of The Operating System.

A door via IG @thetroublewithbartleby, or web: http://onlywhatican.net

TR Brady

 
 

TR Brady Capsized Orchid

 
 
 
 
 

TR Brady Iris

 
 
 
 
**


TR BRADY is a writer, fiber artist, and educator. Originally from the Arkansas Delta, she currently lives in Iowa City, Iowa. TR’s writing has recently appeared in Tin House Online, Sixth Finch, Quarterly West, Denver Quarterly, Diagram, Passages North, The Adroit Journal, Pleiades, The Arkansas International, and elsewhere. ​TR holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she was a Maytag Fellow and Teaching/Writing Fellow. TR currently teaches at the University of Iowa. With Maggie Nipps she is co-founder and co-editor of Afternoon Visitor, a new quarterly publication of poetry, hybrid text, visual poetry, and visual art.

Bianca Abdi-Boragi

 
 


 
 

**


BIANCA ABDI-BORAGI is a sculptor, video artist, performer and curator. She received her MFA from Yale school of Art in May 2017 and obtained her BFA from the National Superior School of Arts of Paris- Cergy, France. Her art works and films have been screened at independent cinemas such as Anthology Film Archive, UnionDocs, Video Revival, NY, the Whitney Humanity Center and Loria Center, New Haven, CT. She has exhibited her art works at NURTUREart Gallery, Chashama Gallery, Field Project Gallery, Galerie Protégé, The Border Space Project, The Clemente Soto Velez Center NY, throughout the United States and internationally in France, Germany, India, Italy, Scotland, and was recently awarded the recipient of the JUNCTURE Fellowship in Art and International Human Rights. She will be an artist in residence at NARS Foundation in Spring 2019 and was previously in residency at MASS MoCA museum’s studios, the Centquatre, Paris, France, Pact Zullverein, Essen, Germany, Cal’Arts, Los Angeles, USA.

Temp Editions 02: What got left in the future

For the month of April, we are pleased to present our second Temp Edition: What got left in the future, a multimedia collection of works curated by Robert Balun. A brief statement from Robert about the edition:

 
 
 

When I began asking folks if they wanted to contribute to an online edition, the original call for this project read: This folio will seek to unfold an aesthetics of disruption. The 21st century United States (with its networked, neoliberal, and globalized implications) is a dangerous, precarious, and strange place. In the face of social strife and ecological collapse driven and obscured by capitalism and its hyperreal media environment, how can literature and art adequately disrupt this environment so as to render it sufficiently opaque, able to be grasped and dismantled without reproducing the violence that that cultural work might be seeking to respond to? In what ways are artists and thinkers helping to define new aesthetic theories that are up to these challenges?

 
 

The work I received took on a shape of its own and projected itself into the future, and now, with the question of the future so suddenly uncertain and vital. The work I received is:

 
 

Of this time yet beyond it, a future seen from a geologic perspective

 
 

Of the roar of civilization and the possible quiet connection of the human and the non-human, together, and making a little joke

 
 

Of our heavy yet fragile bodies, yet something new, yet something composed of multiple, inadequately describable category

 
 

Of futural instructions for 3 disruptor mechanisms towards establishing the linguistic/somatic attempt at symbiotic navigation of the rhizomatic biosphere

 
 

Of now but never or not yet or inevitably

 
 

Of possibly, something else entirely.

 
 

What gets left in the future is, ultimately, a choice, whether it is demanded, built, or imposed, a question of how that future will arrive, what work is required, and by whom that choice will be made.

 
 

In this strange and uncertain moment, as one crisis reveals and amplifies another, the question of context, disruption, and what the future will be takes on new resonance and urgency.

 
 

The need to demand change and build a just and inclusive alternative is ever more vital. We cannot ‘go back to normal’ when normal is so utterly unresilient, and frankly, catastrophic for so many, even before.

 
 

I hope you’ll find these pieces engaging and resonant, posing the question of how one moves through now, and what kind of future one would envision.

 
 

Many thanks to Barrett for keeping a place for this folio on Tagvverk’s pages, to each contributor for their time and work, and to you for reading.

 
 
 
 

**
 
 
 


ROBERT BALUN is an adjunct at The City College of New York, where he teaches creative writing and literature. His first collection of poems, Acid Western, will be published by The Operating System in 2020. His chapbook, Traces, is forthcoming from Ursus Americanus. His poems have appeared in Reality Beach, Powder Keg, TAGVVERK, Tammy, Prelude, Barrow Street, Apogee, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others. This fall, he will begin his PhD in English at Stony Brook University.

 
 
 

**
 
 
 
 
TE02:What got left in the future

Curated by Robert Balun

with

Bianca Abdi-Boragi
c.franco
TR Brady
ELÆ [Lynne DeSilva-Johnson]

 
 
 
Contributions will be published throughout the month of April. Stay tuned!

 
 
 

J. Gordon Faylor


From Want

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Stand Beside You

You’re the only one I want; no one
has lessened that which I devote
to your exacting quiet, fearfully
dripped, concentrating on the care
you’ve shown in our darkest hours.

Until I can repay you, I’ll love you
wholly and without trepidation.
There is no better prayer than hearing
you on the line, holding me close,
and no clambering of mine will
ever reach you, though I try.

When you’ve seen my face brighten,
I like to hardly pass a day’s turpitude
like stone in spite of fire, if you’ll
please find me again; I’ll find you.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Kind

Kind soul with repairs undone
guilt’s riddle taunts made unseen
held onto for pablum and ire
inconceivable without touch
the dealt appearance lunk off
tumult of human suffering
hear my prayer. A lance
lucks across my skull.

Life isn’t right, writ of
incompatible half-angles and
knowledges with, styles that
peck at cards’ fragments to lie
only with you I feel kind finally
let my revulsions kiss clothing,
which means I’m getting better,
which means I’m yours alone.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Mouth

Febrile ruin my living conditions
the unkempt property you sell hollow
so long as it’s worth you leaving town
for days away in hellish submission
to a mouth at full tilt, floating below
your pointed eyes, which agreed to
what was said between us. I’d hold
on to one final racket to give that
evil house its chance, obtain copies
of other mouths, let them know
these resounding promises we made.

I left myself in this state humbling, so
I promise to change. For you, there’s
the division I plant in the future,
because you can’t take back violence,
moreso the memory of said violence.

Promise me sweep of voices’ brackets, each political
will tell you to stay. I’ve already gone far regulated
and no longer piece together money for the blight
starting from the tip of the tongue, and only retracting.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Struggle Against

Enemy nightmares pray for them
can’t help that I’m working your control
over in my head. That’s an algebra
for cowards. Fuck my heart;
I’ll go down swinging.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Devotee

It’s so simple any day you try
to hang on for a sharing luck
seems awoken fine then hard
I push myself to you nothing
about what except accompli
they should see to return us
to the dross of makeup ours
proven by a script that took
us to have seen another again
the train’s off the track, scare
me I’m belonging with style
all yours, flagrancy increases
one’s feeling disparate, throw
me out and another amounts
to a devoted partner, until
that lasts or doesn’t. It’s a good
show; sadly I identify as luck
reproacher and that’s my lot.
This has been an exacting life.
Goodbye.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Interred

The moon rolls its tail in your
singular livelihood. Thanks due
in the curling grass lifts to sharpen
your transparent face, make it
from a piece of paper.

In turns there happens a clutch
sense that I daydream to scale
for stilling my birthday fragmentary
to the self deluded for a sketch
an edge of your adopted nest
occludes peace and tremor,
that which I never thought to ask
as confronting spies’ houses
for a good morning habitable
seeking you out with trivia until
we’re interred with peace passing,
an affection not yet talked about.

I had a life like your face held
on a quiet afternoon, trust choked-up,
let accomplished no trust beheld
to snare the room tallies health
for once attempting a promise
love endures for you, so long
with no choice affection tickets,
sprinkled flower. Obdurate bliss,
I have nothing left to give
except these notes on my hands.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Your Voice

Grounds per night light rain
what once expects rediscovered
landing bud, petal, attach
wire underneath this fortune
world at war foil with metaphor
you shared it made us cry,
I know you have a complex
care streaming the sound
without chain spear and bead
of it drops dual pendant
rose of automated voice,
my cries go horned in chains
to buy the dare you offer
me over the phone tonight.

I borrow a single thoughtful
summer afternoon from the purse
you pay me with for drops. Conduct
staid and with the glimpse of talk
when you hold me to you
help in hearing goes lifeless
and all we can do is caress it.

Sap is in a costume, an artifact of
your body so many of us wanted
to seek in art your countenance
offers; many fewer of us caved
for no time and write a secret
I changed by turn of phrase
so you sought to change me,
just tell me. Tonight is open.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I Don’t Want

To hold disdain for you
accord frayed and evilly
encountered dog and flock
mine forever and if not,
sheer spite without hope.

Hate picks up if penury
of imagination goes off-kilter
in church, school falls apart
for the bickering student,
life tends to the promise
you decay upon too. I’m
here to wish you the worst
and to not want to destroy
that hand which once put
itself to my forehead, and
told me this would be okay.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Redundancy

Spirit of primeval disposition
endure in me your promise
so my strength carries her
through worsening times,
most of which lie ahead.

Had to nudge and nudge
until again you gave me
storage. Had to play in
hoary airs’ mistake clop
so cold very ungiven
the loss of this single ship
pretends to gripe levy loss
warms over but another
captures eventually an enemy
with their own arable periods,
the precondition to estrange
that which persists forgery.

Wrong host, Gordon. Please kill
that fun of strangeness
so that you can handle
that which must be stopped.

Only to settle and know you
through the horror ensuing
like a fax and success for
that which you look back
upon one day, only to realize
you’re the same worries, all the same.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

This Volatility

Would a world in a power
that you felt reliant on I
give myself its tambour
loud unto grounds’ torment
fuck that world unrequited
the meds you gave pressed
the only one currently wasted?

How do you prepare customs for
that, saying graceful entry
abstains a quiet shine scared stiff
of money good?

Or has my love succumbed
merely to findom?

Sweet stabilizing violence,
sweet nourishing violence,
diamond drain.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I Can’t Wait

Submersion is eternal caffeine for
a razorlike burning morning in the dark.
Heartbreak has laid me out again. Still I pray
you surface without terror in your tears.
When I wake up, I’ll send you a star.

I would’ve waited; I will still
with this handy cloister of topics
and a small studio. Currents here
belong to the wefting of light as you
catch it, the sunlight on your face lasts
one more prosaic day, turning over anger
for homebound crushes, fixations endured
though in myself I’ll have a place to furrow.

Hardened, we’d never get into your pain
at this point with real affections,
with said affection though difference
gets lost between us. I can’t sleep again, though
waiting to wait’s a vanity of the unknown,
I assure myself. I should forsake
reviewing this for you. Timeless anyways.
Today I’ll send you a star and then another.

Without you to hold voice, foot
I can’t like how small this fortitude is, really.

All I wish for you, I don’t know,
you can only await what you love.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Coupling

Through my driest complaints
I turned to your saintly till,
acceptance, ratiocinations
plain as sky, sleeping lightly
and seeing too much. Hesitation
depreciates kisses, their root causes
connive new means to suit lacquer
so blue to only enrich bluer prints,
then vanity’s specter so pledges
us good circuitry. I’ll
endear plainly to your scarring.

No privilege speaks to mercy
like those waters made to lure life,
the receptive hand of a measure
surrounding trust, immovably captive,
spurning its sleeplessness for company.

Wake on me, turn over, curl up.
Do what you will; I’ll find you
there serenely still.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

In Sad Reconnaissance

That which made you
what you were, familiar,
you outlined the things I
could compile for a time,
limited tender compensation
for disagreement’s pitiful scrub,
someone unworthy of a kiss. To be held,
instead, however, cables management to stay
who seemed to work until they medicate
yet can’t “tender into” their cabalistic check.

Would it stifle your attention so slow
to give me a response, meet me waiting
for the night to rescind our mediated transport
just once so I could see and hold you, if again
for a walk in the world you gave me once, and
so briefly. Just because this seems nice enough
and weird to happen, I append a final gift,
one final gift to you, and it’s whispered:

When you sleep tonight, know we know
one another until time ends, now and forever.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

**

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Always You

It was always you
who stole me from the start
ankles
I replay this sincerity and
it refreshes a plenitude incanted
a test I shouldn’t have to say it
and force myself to for you
because you seem to love
to hear this sternness and
make fun of myself I hate
candor and can’t help that.

Law of laws intent no appearance
death always happens between its
deaths forgot so you let go, I don’t
through us really not until the next
time we get to talk serenity
and cross-examination. When first
did you know you loved me?
Was it only that time talking?
Pour until each finish, I want
you a rote lamp to read by,
foment of the replays I love
to see you through each night.

When I observe myself childlike
that helps sort my ending, send
me the reflection I had to take on
you gave me that to abet my own,
please don’t stop talking ever I—
minutes apart feel hard, now worlds
encounter you and still you mine
the appreciation you’re deserving of.

Thinking doesn’t stop difficult times
until plenitude happens to them, liars
and visibility sees us undo ourselves.

Diminished senses, I want
to give you over and again
until one necklace plans dying.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


**

J. GORDON FAYLOR is the author of People Skulk (Smiling Mind Documents, 2019), Plummet (TROLL THREAD, 2018), Registration Caspar (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2016), and five volumes of Christmas poetry in collaboration with Brandon Brown, among other works. He is the editor of Gauss PDF and the managing editor of SFMOMA’s Open Space, and lives in Oakland.

Madison McCartha

 

FW.tagvverk.v3.2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
FW.tagvverk.v3.2
 
 
 
 
FW.tagvverk.v3.2
 
 
 
 
FW.tagvverk.v3.2
 
 
 
 
FW.tagvverk.v3.2
 
 

 
 
 
* Sara Jane Stoner, from Experience in the Medium of Destruction 

 
 
 
 

**

MADISON McCARTHA is a black poet and multimedia artist whose work appears (or is forthcoming) in Black Warrior Review, Denver Quarterly, DREGINALD, The Fanzine, jubilat, Tarpaulin Sky, Yalobusha Review and elsewhere. His debut book of poetry, FREAKOPHONE WORLD, is forthcoming from Inside the Castle in 2021. Madison holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz.

J.J. Mull

  

SAFE CONDUCT

  

we had three tasks:
start, keep starting,
never end

the plan was to stop
speaking altogether
— this was the law
we labored under

X grows restless
in their chair —
the room leans on us,
adjusts its weight
as if subjected to
a set of rules
never made explicit

like a string, the room tugs

one leg rubs against the other,
everything tingles
— your face flush
with a specific sadness
of something you don’t know

someone makes use of my resistance;
it shows them their content

none of this was pleasant

we had been advised
to stay present,
although what this means
remains contestable

we envied a capacity for anger
witnessed in others
(our own passions often
prematurely coil
into quiet resentment,
waiting for an opportune
time to make itself known)

one of us wanted only to repeat certain words:
fuck you becomes fuck this becomes fuck me
becomes we’re fucking in dreams

when asked to be specific,
i could only clench my jaw

in any case, there’s more
to rooms than words

bruce,

against my better judgment
i want to be held by you,
curled up in the curved hull of a boat
here enters the superb puberty of the group

///

little j cites a strong desire
to burrow inside bruce’s chest —
make a home in his hollow,
take shelter in his ribs

bruce, unsurprisingly,
doesn’t know how to
take this proposition

the image recurs in dreams for weeks,
gradually becoming more erotic in nature

the imagined interior of bruce’s chest
oscillates between feeling cozy, domestic,
claustrophobic, and eventually blatantly sexualized

bruce opens his mouth,
i find a pearl —
no tooth … no pearl,
nestled under the tongue …
I reach in, take it from
his mouth, put it in mine
and swallow

i flip my hair,
pretending to be casual

try to picture the conversation
that never began
but was always particular

just doing my job,
an expert at
crying on vacation

bruce used to dream
this much we know

/ the morning of bruce

coffee warm, bread crumbs
just below the lower lip,
caught in the stubble

daddy’s had a hard night’s sleep
his head is killing him

this is incorrect
because it sounds like a story
but isn’t

i can’t tell you what it’s like
to be in rooms with bruce

whatever we said about him
we said about ourselves —
we love groups because they
pose impossible questions:

how can you be what i need?

how can this not be so awkward?

how can i of all people
take control of this situation?

the object isn’t fixed
we are nervous and bored

///

stucco, glass, cement, dust,
fluorescent bulb,
wilting bougainvillea

under the chair, more chair

under the room, more room

our research is horizontal
— we scan bruce for clues,
yet he performs nothing
but rage and boredom

the apparent antagonism of our speech,
lacking an object of attachment,
enters the room as chair, as wall, as floor,
and so on until it again reaches bruce
and self combusts

we pool our
gestures together —
idle communication
just beyond reach

here’s what we already know:

bruce has been elected
“all that which we hate
most in this world”

a poster hangs in my room that reads:

“you are (freed from) myself”

this is literal

///

something about
the erotic promise
of spatial discomfort

something about
the inevitability
of failure

suppose i use my
attraction as a kind
of telescope?

suppose our grammars
of restraint become
shapeless?

a means to bury the claim
of uselessness under
its own impossibility

dreamt rather than seen,
mis-seen due to
pressures producing
the dream

go home bruce

leave me alone,
i don’t want to
play games anymore

we want to be
fully received

to establish no rules
of procedure

to arrive with carefully
prepared statements

to speak only
when spoken to

to start with
a personal difficulty

to unravel affliction

to keep the goodness
of the group isolated
from its badness

to attend to what
hasn’t happened

what won’t ever
not happen

when i say i could
use some lunch
i mean i want to
abolish this room
and all rooms like it

when i say i want
to move this chair
i mean i want to
destroy the powerful

or at least that which
makes the powerful
possible

///

here i am
in a room
in los angeles

waffling
in the shadow
of my own devices

sunset boulevard
keeps going

it’s still going

some kind of art thing
some kind of art experience

bruce,
i’m having an
art experience

all hail the high priestess
of professional repression,
the room explains itself

call it a hunch
call it mother
call it the loss
of what we
came here for

bruce,
have your hands
ever spoken to you?

let me ask you this:
have you ever had the thought
that your precious sweater
won’t protect you here?

i can feel the last
drops of good will
draining from my
boy scout pouch,
my timidity pooling
at your ankles

bruce,
if i learned anything
from proust it’s that
life is a series of rooms
occupied with others

maladaptive sleuth in the cracks

late bloomer in the crevices

i thought i could
stop stuttering but
i stopped starting

i can’t go on
i can’t go on
and on and on

i don’t mean
to sound bitter
because i’m not
bitter

i just feel bruce
deeply

///

our consultant claims
the head is only
stuck to the
mouth

i watch the proceedings
from within my own chest,
peering out between
horizontal bars of rib

the transition from intra-chest
to extra-chest experience
becomes prototype for all chronology

it was an addition problem

we could grasp that
one joins another when
both are the same,

but how are they added
up when different?

partial inhibitions
of this faculty produced
interest in geography,
orientation

one starts to smile,
but finds they are
smiling at a stranger…

embarrassing …
to be legible to a room
not in it

as in let’s
send an ambassador

as in stop
thinking my thoughts

group-as-mother
group-as-bottom
group-as-enemy
group-as-dom
group-as-key-witness
group-as-the-new

group assumes nothing
and desires everything

bruce,
i want to think
you in reverse

i can’t tell you what it’s like
to be in rooms with groups

 
 

**

J.J. MULL is a poet currently studying clinical social work in western Massachusetts. Previous work has been published in New Life Quarterly and his first chapbook, Safe Conduct (2019), is available from Dogpark Collective.