Ben Roylance

from The Horoi Control System

1. At the Plot

A private woodland clearing,
two figures, a
Surveyor and his Client,
some stones and statues,
trees around, dirt and foliage,
just past noon.

Surveyor: professional with tools of trade, dagger, and wounded left eye

Client: a man worried over new laws affecting his property, one robotic hand

Surveyor (ceremonially):

Day’s work like this, I love to
See it right, as light cliffs off
The midday sun above the high
Level, fair to bring it to a level rest,
Tape pulled as taught as firstest vine,
Real left eye wanders cross the right’s line,
Hey, it looks to easy meet the straight
And oldest track to this rightmost virt-
Ue stars elapse thru in siring time’s material,
The work of he who ‘spects the land is
Best performed in talismanic hurt, so say:
I enact again the introduct of Pain’s Pain—


Again? Hard knife feasting in? In-
To gel of sinister eye? The plain violation
Of the holy orb, why? How? To charge a
Slash across someday’s pipe? Or now?


Clearer sight thru punctured ‘ball,
Knife charmed, yclept Pain’s Pain,
Charms the survey, cuts open in-
Ner compass rose, draped on pain,
Like a jacket closet-kept ‘til winter
Makes in dream an appearance, in dre-
Am knowing where it hides, behind
A door hid itself inside a mirror,
This blade injects the primal minist-
Rations for the psyche’s closed peeper,
Second ghostly left eye just an atom’s
Breadth ahead of first, untouched
By all the physics of decay or growth,
Our study but a con without pro-
Visions for the waking up that Survey’s


A knife cuts open 2nd sight, like lance
In royal tales of disc tableau,
Grail or saucer to allay the sick?
The day eclipses all but other side
Of such a sword, your night, ‘pon
Which’s coming comes the law
Of bounds, of total stony rule.

Surveyor (friendlily):

The why of getting’s start, to be-
At a nightfall’s new nature: Control
System superposing rock on life,
Roused past dusk the mind com-
Posed of them inscribed and standing,
To say tis better groping to a sense
While day’s on guard than risk, yes,
The coming of the final structure: Horoi.

Client (suddenly grim):

HCS, sociomagicolithical
Reappraisal of the humble bound-
Ary stone, does on this final day
At end begin. Horoi Control System!
100 lunar years’ plans come to night,
And my plot still not in order…


We’ll with steel tape’s shimmer
Set it right, these dozen and five
Squat standing text-tat’d liths en-
Act their will at dusk’s calculated
Coming, suggesting our seven hours
For filing with the lithauthority a chart—

Client (interrupting):

That new landlord dios which evicts all ten-
Ants at work-colony on his gridded lands,
Not a personage or inarticulable spir-
It, but a System of reactivated so-called
Stones, variously hermae, posts, mono-
Liths, blocks, mortgage stones, fence
Stones, oldenough trees carved, folkrocks,
Termini, absences, stones, quartzes, stony
Gargoylic assemblages, stacks of stones,
Flat iron plate embedded in, a mask,
All coalescing into-as Horoi Control System,
An intelligent noös around the deepthr-
Oaten wild well of wild life on former Earth,
Now soon not so named.


All aware, as all are warned,
In preparation for new land-
Marking, new make of mornings’ mort-
Gage at institution/activation of the horoi
Various, we’ll seek escape from lot
But find stone bars across all egress,
All having been scolded into sub-tracts,
As here we chat in final hours of agency
Measuring with these tools ancient
A stubborn square whose incalc-
Ubility seeps pressure into your life,


Panics approach, as tricks turn
Parcels to crimes, jests of earth,
Some deep-set unearth in earth
There in northeast corner of my
Square, hire uncertified surveyor,
You, whose works I’ve seen in clips,
For sorting this out off the books quick,
And we sharing a sympathy divine
Do to inner faculties plain resort, no
Common perfidy leaks out from ei-
Ther altered state we people: your eye,
My hand, both left both modified
By spirit and by highest artifice…


As the plural in the System name Horoi imp-
Lies law’s centerless mesh we two as poles, hor-
Os and horos, our own mobile bounds,
Herma to herma, flank a center in dia-
Logue, that core a congregation, the mom-
Ent of the fathering of the next, I keep
It understood, it all kept level, my transit nimble
Like of tomorrow’s ocule all-seeing we whis-
Per good, I say, as true dimensions unspool
Like silk and rough cord through theodolite’s
Cold gaze, an eye for an eye all-seeming,
Which at dark’s threshold begins to look!,
My left eye, skewered such by knife Pain’s P-
Ain, and opening its ghost-eye so to see
All much further clearer your plot’s pecu-
Liar problem, a solitary swollen clod
Up yonder where we’ll hurry now.


Consult the plat man, notice lack
Of notice given on anomaly, no
Break in evenly uneven land where
Now a bulging pit doth breathe
With wind or thunder, what hints
At subtle buried voice, I love it not!,
Not on my land, that is, let’s uproot
Mandrake or gnome intact therein
So as to get it far from what for which
I’ll be responsible in just some hours’
Time upon the coming of the HCS!


Calm, client, we’ll dig
And chart again around
This excess or deficiency,
Not too broad a scar up-
On the tract to warrant pan-
Ic, though woods ecology
As here we find can make
A survey less than straight,
And though this odd tossed
Mound might make a fuss
Of our wish for gridding,
The watcher stones yet
Slumber, we’ll sort all out
While deep the so-called
Horoi sleep, defending none.


Here, we come to it:
Down with your theo-
Dolite, delight to as
You promised dig!
Here, my false hand,
False in that tis more than
Real, robotic hand which
Cuts with claw and cup,
A memory of other life
Might overcome the light
That sets the present up,
Ancient horos birthing up
Nymphe temple boundary
One of thousands same,
But under that, just to
The side, what’s there?

Surveyor (digging, effortful):

The horos in tradition does
Delimit Athenian space, like
Post or rock or fence, like
Here it marks what once where
Else was temple ground, now
Space is bit confused, con-
Fining all in cursing town-
Ships, here is where ano-
Maly perverts the plot, I
Feel bad time wafting up, ap-
Otropaia hum down there…


Halt there, it’s there,
That which warps this wood,
Uproot that shape, what?

Surveyor (unearthing the object):

Oh? A head… cut clean from her trunk,
All dead, but hush… No, you hear
It speak? You see lips stretch and tongue
Leak lather’d intellect? No?




Yes, tale slips in through Pain’s
Pain’s slit, aural-ocular input
In bits antique, I’ll interpret:
“Bells, bell rings, conden-
Satiated hallucinated chimes bell, I
Stuck stray between two instances,
Oh my anticipation of second peal
Which comes but never comes,
Here stood, here stood, my prop-
Itiations, nymphe, masseuse of
Earth, bells, kept in shape, kept her
In shape, mark my space, we
Kept the earth in right form,
Remasturbated and aligned all the
Trees, perpetual fertility pill-
Ars, what work this was, and
Here my only skull interred, how
Sad for me, as all the buried shuf-
Fled are, fly from rightful crypt
To any suburbia, what blo-
Omed from your iteration of
The same thing we worshipped,
Social?, so finally social, had to bat-
Ten it down, was said, nine fingers
On to eight, to seven, left the boun-
Dary stones and not much else o-
Ver aft’r, this head won’t rot, but ch-
Ange, lopped off of me, angel- nymph,
Sexless and so encompassing all
Sex, young as having not
Been born except as eternity
Births presents in a tracking flow,
Ancient and so maiden-crone,
The sanctity of brothel-math era-
Sing songs of sorrow, songs of joy,
Ghosts do so sing, hush and enter ecto-
Parlor boys, here, enter…” ack,
She’s left, the head is mute…

Client (with concern):

Around thine dagger’d eye,
Blood where once was cleanest
Entry, does Pain’s Pain cause same,
Pain? I thought as you spake out
I heard a tonal shiver, so feminine,
But pitched high and higher, cut
Out, then blood bled out, dizzy?
Come, we’ll set down here at
Fallen pine, we’ve worked the
Problem into sense, let rest
That grisly head— oh, it?


Tricky! It’s nymph no longer, but
A species of silver skull? What’s this all?
As bald and mineral as trench it
Exited, silent ore, ah, it’s out now
At last and least, I’ll steady again
And work my tools to straighten
This tract con horas to spare ‘fore
Horoi crack their flinty ojos at us…
Here, hold this, the land now will chart.

Client (dazed, skull in hand):

Do you hear it not? Unna-
Tural voice rings in my hand,
Echoes up the arm to ear,
It sparks, it speaks, pron-
Ouncements of a great mac-
Hine, what clipped the fruit
From future’s final first tree: help!
It speaks through me to me and
You, survey-lancer: “Oh TDH 51-17
Mechanical hand attached to hum-
An arm! How sunny a channel
You open for me, the coming man,
First dead, concomitantly buri-
Ed with a nymph, now share
A skull, can catch confusion’s dou-
Bling shimmer down in here in 2-
As-1, but TDH 51-17, and who-
Mever man you serve, hello,
Long ahead when I can see you
Again, crushing the cosmic egg
Between bludgeon-fingers miles
Thick, I see you now at horos-edge,
Seder-sorting out the well-hole we
Slack’d in, grave of was and will,
Pair of discorps in dissonance, what
Makes for harmony anyway, what
Comes to be, Design!, design,
As microboundaries mutate
The scope and angle of man, just h-
Ours now, all property, all seen,
Mechanical hand, usurp your
Canvas, theodolite and tape,
Witch’d knife, overthrow your
Man, comes soon the strict net! – “

Surveyor (snatching the skull):

I hate its music! Mete your mea-
Surer, head, and back in a ditch with
You! My dagger-sheathing eye sees
A planted oracle when it sees, a trick
Of pending HCS, we’ll waste not an-
Other minute—”


Hold off, there’s nothing
Left, the cranium is vapor,
Is this serious? Or a hoax?
Landmeater, what in your
Art might wipe this foggy
Mirr’r clean? Nymphe, to
Metal-electrical skull, how
Cougheth up a plot this object
So indeterminate? Absent here.


Absent now. I’ll…
I’ll adjust the plat, gem it
Well for high geolicarchon, slick it
With the thickest gel of craft, we’ll…
We’ve got the property enume-
Rated, no computer’d think
Once or twice of its veracities,
No horos or herma’d que-
Stion the placement of a single
Stem, post, stalk, or fertility
Glyph on your land. Fill
The hole and I’ll seal the map.

Client (aside, filling excavation pit):

All land is scene. Long bones
Cross the fields and wait for Horoi
Night when bounds comb a-
Cross what wields a standing man,
A horos is a nickéd tree just o-
Ver property line, a heap, a
Mound, classically an inscri-
Ption-bearing hunk of ston, yes,
But HCS generalizes, spans all
Borders, wars, and private places
Now, control encompassing, no
Private spaces when the nodes
Of antique boundary grow eyes
For careful integration of duration
And extent, all rather roughly done,
Sudden etched into the social man-
Dala, data and force, and care and
Justice, not blind but all seeing as
Chiseled into rock unblinking,
Amoral Hermae and Termini den-
Oting lines unseen now invisibly
Imagino-electrified for souls’ con-
Course, and I here in my hum-
Blest family tract of woods procr-
Astinated on by a mystery’s head,
I flex my artifice, crack its joints…


Behind you, friend, behind,
I’ll not start you out of self-
Conferring, but note: I’ve
Living yet codified your plot,
And in time for a brief lunch,
Pain’s Pain at last unsheathed
From eye, survey now conc-
Luded, that nymph-cum-skull
A vapor now, may be had been
But telluric prank in total –

Client (interrupting):

No geo-jester’s puckish

Play was that oddity, sur-
Veyor, a veil of tempo-space
For we each was torn aside,
Whatever contact came
Came in same reality as HCS
And our business here, I
In my submental mech-
Hand unmind feel a lonely shift,
A melty mirror over day,
A slate marked up with all
To emanate from yet,
Ah, geodet, can’t chart this?
Can’t survey my thought?


I have fastened a bolt.
And see: humble effigy I’ve
Shaped from oak with Pain’s Pain’s
Sharper edge, now set above the
Pit whence that shifty visage
Spewed, subsumed soon,
I know, into the net of nod-
Ules, but this homunc will
Disobey, follow old cadastral
Code, a kind of old magician’s
Law, not a double but a single
Agent, apotropaic gnome, a trick
Of my own against the ‘merging
Control System on your behalf…


And why? to tempt the forces?
Knower of the bounds is bound
To test them? Fine, we’ll soon
Final parcel off this land for do-
Nation and a tax-incentive under
‘Morrow’s governor, a cursed
Tablet-figure left as spoof is but
A drop of water in not-water’s sea.


You heard and spoke
An android skull’s forecast, I
The forlorn and olden wis-
Dom of a sacred nymph,
Both out of time and place,
Both speaking of the boiling pot-
Ency of a horos stone. Nerv-
Ous laughs echo round the
Global village as approaches
Limit of a former way, a route
Surveyed and deflected through cent-
Ral-dispersed pseudintelligence,
Who knew it who waited for …
Hey, here, a brutalized dummy
To deceive and keep away archon,
My hobby a superstitious techne,
But come, let’s retire, land in or-
Der, counterprank pulled, angels app-
Eased, I’ll hope, and see you grin,
Neck grows stiff from labor now,
I’ll accept my pay’s latter installm-
Ent over finest coffee, ….
We went (?).

Client (slowly):

We did go, left my land,
But some now of us stayed.

Surveyor (surprised, slowly):

It’s the time all at once.
Mind, my doll has snapped
Apart, sky grown hideous
With this unfriendly advent,
Into which pit did our hours
Siphon? Unearthed again?
A feigning human head!

Client (plainly):

Wake. You’re seeing the thing
From thy puppet’s working,
Exfoliates the earth’s spirits, let’s go,
It’s really not yet time, but a trick
You’ve pulled on you with wild
Magic, here, this way to patch’s exit.


A hijacked trance.
HCS reroutes counter-
Surveillance. Bad om-
En moment.

Client (leading Surveyor uphill through woods path):

Though through illusions’ shrill protest,
The job scratched out is done. The land
Is known as known we’ll get it. He-
Re, the sun lower now, from this vant-
Age, up a modest hill away, my plot
Looks just about as how you’ve mapt,
Bounds crisp, ready for Horoi System’s
Strictest eyes. No memory kept need be
Of that vision shared…Exit with me.

Surveyor arrives with Client at the latter’s home
a short distance from the surveyed land.
Approaching dusk.
Client offers coffee
and steers conversation toward a lecture.

End: 1. At the Plot


BEN ROYLANCE operates Apport Used Books. He is the author of A Talking Skull (the holon project, 2022, audio edition from Peace Isn’t Luck, 2021) and AQ Saga: Neuro-Piratical Self Help in Pocket Universe 17! (forthcoming from Hiding Press).

Kristen Gallagher & Tara Nelson


In early 2020, Kristen Gallagher and Tara Nelson began a collaboration working with the large, underexplored collection of lantern slides at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York, where Nelson is an archive curator. Periodically, Nelson chooses a group of 3-5 slides and shares images of them with Gallagher, who chooses from among the selection, writes a brief response (under 500 words), and records herself reading it. Nelson then makes a short film featuring the slide and Gallagher’s soundtrack. The idea is to keep things moving, process-oriented, anarchic, quick and dirty, against perfectionism. The plan is to continue the series until every slide in the collection has been included—a goal neither artist will live long enough to accomplish. This project was awarded a 2021 NYSCA Artist’s Grant. Videos from the collaboration can also be found at Air/Light and Dīstantia.






KRISTEN GALLAGHER is a writer interested in form, ecology, and the weird. Her books include 85% True/minor ecologies (Skeleton Man 2017), Grand Central (Troll Thread 2016) and We Are Here (Truck Books 2011). Recent work appears in Peach Mag, The Baffler, and Air/Light. A 2021 collaboration with David Diaz (Human Scale), “hs341: 85% True/minor ecologies,” an infinitely generative audio piece using recorded sounds of Florida, is available through the Human Scale app. Her hybrid work “Six Years in Florida” was a finalist for the 2020 Essay Press Creative Nonfiction contest. Selections from 85% True appeared in the Best American Experimental Writing edited by Myung Mi Kim.

TARA MERENDA NELSON is a filmmaker, curator, programmer and lecturer working with film and digital media. Her films, videos and installations have been shown at MoMA, Flaherty NYC, Views from the Avant Garde (NYFF), the Dallas Medianale, VideoEx Film Festival (Switzerland), Anthology Film Archives, MONO NO AWARE, the Warhol Museum, and many galleries and festivals throughout the US, Canada and Europe. She is the Curator and Director of Public Programs at Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY, and Assistant Editor of the Film Art Book imprint of VSW Press.

Steve Orth

Favorite Gray T-Shirt

I'm in my living room, eating some sardines, increasing my omegas.

Got a little bit of oil from the sardine can on my khakis,

and that’s a bummer.

I'm not sure if that'll come out in the wash.

Sometimes stuff like that comes out in the wash and other times it doesn't.

It can ruin your clothes if it doesn't.

It got close to happening once with my favorite gray t-shirt.

A few months ago, I was frying some food, doing some cooking

and I was wearing my favorite gray t-shirt.

It was a perfect storm of me being too laissez-faire with my favorite shirt.

I should've worn an apron or changed into a different shirt,

a shirt I didn’t give a shit about.

Hey, remember when we were kids and we were painting

and they advised you to bring in one of your dad's old shirts,

like a button shirt that you wear backwards.

I could've done that, even though my dad and I are the same size now.

The point I'm trying to make is that I should have done something.

That's what I'm trying to say.

Because, sure as the wind blows, some grease splattered

on to my shirt, as soon as I added these beautiful lean boneless

skinless chicken thighs to the hot pan.

I remember yelling in a rage that I got grease on my favorite gray shirt.

My then-girlfriend Bernice came running out from the bedroom.

I told her what happened, and she told me to take the shirt off

and so I did. And she started putting a bunch of salt on the shirt

and I'm thinking, "why the fuck is she seasoning my shirt?"

But I'm in the middle of cooking these lean boneless

skinless chicken thighs, and I've got to focus.

And hot grease is still splashing out, hitting my stomach,

my bare chest, and my nipples.

I scream out each time the grease splashes me.

I look over at Bernice, wondering why she's not reacting

to my screams of pain, and it's because she's too focused

on my gray t-shirt which, at this point, seemed fruitless.

She should probably just throw it in the garbage,

because it's probably ruined, but Bernice was now dabbing it with club soda.

And I say to her, "what the fuck are you doing?"

And she's like, "what?" and I’m like, "don't use the club soda!"

and she's says, "I'm trying to save your favorite gray t-shirt."

and I in response say very powerfully, "But, I was going to make mojitos!

I need the club soda for mojitos!" And then fucking Bernice,

you know what she said?

She said, "I thought you promised you were going to quit drinking!"

And I was taken aback. Because I didn't think she was serious about that.

So I said, "I am going to quit drinking.

I was planning to cook us a beautiful meal and have mojitos

as a kind of send-off to drinking. Like one final night of celebration.

That's why I was wearing my favorite shirt, because it was a special occasion."

Bernice stopped scrubbing my shirt and looked really serious.

She said, "I can't believe after everything I said to you last night,

after you came home at 4am with dried blood on your face…"

But as she was talking, I realized that the chicken was burning

and I had to turn away from her, so I could focus on the chicken,

because I was trying to salvage our special dinner.

Bernice yelled at me, "You need to listen to me!"

And I was like, "Babe, hold on. The chicken is burning."

And so, I flipped the birds in the pan, and yeah, they were dark,

but I had managed to save them from burning.

I moved them around in the pan a bit and added some pepper

and that's when I heard the door open and shut.

And I guess that was Bernice's way of breaking up with me.

So mature! The stain did come out of the shirt, thank god.

But now I'm in a very similar situation in the present day

with the sardine oil and my khaki pants.

And I'm all out of club soda because last night I made mojitos again.

So, I don't know. I might be shit out of luck with these khakis,

which sucks. They were my favorite pair of pants.


Me and My Horse

Dear Abby,

I feel like my horse is upset with me.

Yesterday, he refused all hay.

And today he won't even look at me.

I'm afraid to ride to be honest.

Our trust seems splintered.

He's never been violent,

but he's never treated me this way before.

I don't know what I did wrong.

I wish he would learn to speak and tell

me if I did something to offend him.

My gut thinks it has something to do 

when recently we were out on a ride

and a swarm of bees circled my head.

I lost my composure and kicked and pulled 

at the same time. And my horse hated that.

Abby, if you were to Google the phrase,

"what not to do when riding a horse,"

kicking and pulling at the same time

is number 3 on the list.

Number 6 is "showing off"

and I never shown off.

I am actually a pretty bashful rider

because I frequently masturbate while riding my horse.

This is just something I like to do.

It all started, a few months ago,

when I was still reeling from a breakup

and feeling awfully lonesome.

And with the rhythm of the gallop between my legs,

I thought "hey, this feels pretty darn good."

But the best time, the greatest time happened just

the other day when we rode out to Hickshaw Ridge

and I saw the most beautiful sunset I've ever laid eyes on.

The clouds were pink and blackberry and the whole sky

was purple and teal.

It was like I felt the power of the universe

for the first time. A swell of nature's majesty

and that's hot as hell!

So, I started going at it & it felt really great.

It got so intense as I was nearing climax,

I was hootin' and hollarin', fully giving myself over to the sunset,

and that's when my horse started neighing, and rearing, 

standing up on its hind legs. This element 

of danger really pushed my orgasm into the stratosphere.

And I was able to fully let go

of any inhibitions, and the fears of dread that have plagued me

through my recent years.

My eyes stayed transfixed towards the hot pink phenomenon

And that disappearing sun was a portal to not just sex ecstasy, 

but, dare I say, the divine. A real thrill ride!

I headed home as the dusk filled the sky,

taking long drags from my Marlboro Red.

And that's when we ran into all those damn bees!


I would love to get my horse feeling good

again, so I can return to the ridge

and get off on that exquisite reminder of grace

and fragility the universe surrounds us with.

Do you know much about horses?

And if so, what should I do?

Guy With A Horse



STEVE ORTH is a poet based out of Oakland, CA. His books include Lust for Life (Travelin’ Lite, 2018), The Life & Times of Steve Orth (Dogpark Collective, 2020), and most recently Inflatable Ball (Bottlecap Press, 2023). His work has appeared in Hot Pink Magazine, SFMOMA blog, Afternoon Visitor, the Bullshit Lit Anthology, and Trilobite.

Zoe Darsee & Elise Houcek


ZOE DARESEE is a poet, translator, publisher and teacher based in Berlin. Together with Nat Marcus, they are the co-founder of TABLOID press, a publishing initiative grounded in the poetics of the local. They are the author of BELL LOGIC (Spiral Editions, 2022) and Anzündkind (Creative Writing Department, 2023). A short story, Efflorescence in Stucco (2023), is recently out from Earthbound Press. Their translations of poet Mara Genschel are forthcoming.

ELISE HOUCEK is a writer, artist, and teacher. She is the author of TRACTATUS (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021) and The Leafs (Creative Writing Department, 2022). Recent writing has appeared in Keith LLC, APARTMENT Poetry, NOMATERIALISM, and DIAGRAM.