We do not have to believe the things we say, though we may well. The things we say are objects, and we place them in front of us in order to consider them.

There may be some repetition in this. We may find ourselves making the same sounds over and over, writing the same words. Perhaps this has value.

I am proposing that we think of words as objects and of language as its own special kind of event.

We need to make mistakes.

*

What is language made of?

It is possible that everything is made of language in some very real way.

But before we come to that, I think what I would like to ask is what kind of thing is language, is talking? Or maybe what does talking do?

Talking is descriptive. What do we use talking for? To describe something other than language, something that is not here.

Talking is then a sort of hole. Talking, in a very real way, is not there. It’s about something, but it’s not about here.

Still, when we speak we make something. We make the experience of speaking or of hearing speech.

Talking points to what is absent, which turns out to be everything but talking itself.

Talking is a concrete experience, apart from any concrete experience it might point to or evoke.

The nature of language is that it must be experientially present in order to provide access to the absent.

The trick is duration. Talking has become a kind of experience that has broken off from what it is anticipating or remembering and exists concretely, uniquely, in a perpetual present.

*

By speaking, we order the past.

We make the past tidy. It has been messy, and we clean it out for new uses. We place the past into an order, a sequence we can use for present purposes.

We put the past in order in order to use it. In doing so, we order it up out of the past.

Speech is a kind of recording, a way to conjure up into the present.

What we record most often is ourselves recording the recordings of ourselves. We remember remembering.

*

An empty table. Empty chair. Papers. Water glass full, waiting. A microphone, center.

Suggests testimony. Witness. Interview. Interrogation. Lecture.

Suggests a one-sided conversation, a conversation in which one side has set the terms.

Power cord connects out, across the floor. Connects to something unseen. Remote.

The speaker is coming. We are waiting. He is about to arrive.

The speaker has left, left the means of address – his chair, his notes, his water – behind. In haste. Because he has spent them. The objects no longer hold their ritual power. Their power of invocation has been transferred onto a listener and they are no longer held here.

This is not the site of the event, but the event is here. And we are waiting.

For what?

For our own perfect moment?

For that which will allow us to go?

Where?

To leave or return?

To turn towards something or to turn away?

This is what a table supposes. A conversation. A landscape across which two things meet.

We are ready to be addressed. To be taught. And it turns out that is what this table is. A teaching table.

Learning breeds learning, we are always between ignorance and knowing.

*

How do we build a language within ourselves?

We make something. We repeat it. We connect it to something else. We mount it. It is all relative. All relational, that is. And it begins to amount to a vocabulary that means something.

This new vocabulary means something within its own system, independent of its ability to be understood.

There is a way that meaning, that language can be exclusive. And there are times we desire this. Times when what language provides most is a kind of privacy from understanding. At these times, distinct vocabularies function as a kind of delineation.

But there is a way, too, that discrete meanings can be entered.

Such private meaning can be accessed, it seems, through modeling the process by which the vocabulary was built.

Idiosyncratic language, then, is not impossible to understand, it just needs to contain, like the map to any unknown territory, a key as to how to decipher it.

Once opened, however, such meaning holds even within another context. Still holds, in fact, when a given word acquires additional, even opposite, meanings.

In this way, we build ourselves an excess of meanings to use across the boundaries of discrete individual systems. In this way, the results multiply.

*

More than for any other purpose, we use language in conversation. And when there is something that we want to tell to someone else.

Once thought enters the world, it is vulnerable to being challenged, interrogated, rejected.

*

What we do when we talk to another person is compare models of the world.

Day to day we monitor our experiences by describing them. Our individual modes of description invent the possibilities, and the limits, of what we can know.

What it ends up being is a casting into a conceptual center, a shared public sphere, some version of which we all carry around with us. It is only through this collective agreement that the world, as it were, “holds.”

*

A lecture is a particular mode of telling. It replaces absent knowledge with a formal knowing. An authoritative knowing.

In the lecture, the position of authority has left the body of the speaker and resides in the relationship of speaker to audience.

A lecture is not primarily a first-hand account, a lecture is a vehicle for a kind of telling. Formally, a most impersonal kind of telling. Even the personal can be rendered impersonal by the formal container of the lecture. My own story, a fit topic for a lecture.

The unique human presence delivering a lecture has been pressed bodily into service to the needs of the lecture topic.

This presence in the lecture is emphatic, a kind of human italic which lends the lecture the engagement of human presence and the urgency of time.

*

Speaking as someone else is a singularly lonely experience.

The power to be found there comes in multiplying an idiosyncratic voice into the embodiment of a shared event, one life’s stories become a kind of experiential commons.

*

It might be worth our while to pay attention to the intentions of the speakers toward the object they are speaking for.

Not a bad notion to keep in mind as a kind of gut check in any act of deliberate telling: What do you mean? And why do you mean it?

*

One question to ask of any act of speech is how will it act in the world?

The discovery, perhaps, is that in finding our own voices, we find a multitude. Through the act of placing language into the world, we forge a possibility, we make real the metaphorical and the speculative every time we speak.

*

At some point, the white noise of speech becomes too constant and prevalent to be useful or meaningful and all we long for is silence.

Ira S. Murfin is a writer and theatre maker. His writing has appeared in elimae, Fiction at Work, Lark(!), Mobius, and the book The Mind Garden. Ira is Co-Artistic Director of the Laboratory for Enthusiastic Collaboration and a founding member of the Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials, two devised theatre collectives. His solo and collaborative writing and performance work has been presented at the Peter Jones Gallery by Walkabout Theater, Links Hall, SAIC’s Gallery 2, Version Fest, The Neo-Futurists, Ox-Bow, SSTART Gallery, Prop Thtr, Chicago Calling Festival, and the Red Rover, Powells North, Quickies & Reconstruction Room reading series. He is also the former Head of the Soleri Book Initiative at the urban design project Arcosanti. Ira is a graduate of the Dramatic Writing Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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My Toy Interior: A Video Essay

Requited – Toy Interior from robin morrissey on Vimeo.

Robin Morrissey
MY TOY INTERIOR: A VIDEO ESSAY

There is a curious way in which writing becomes idealized form. A mysterious process through which the lines become transformed into boundaries which beg to be transgressed, reformulated, upon which we make our attempts at their erasure (or to mark ourselves in), that makes them all the more integral to the unspoken fictional nature of language.

First, though, let me begin properly. I actually just wanted to invite you over. I wanted to invite you for cocktails, or coffee, for tea and a frame of reference or knowing, maybe later a game of charades, or an account of a memory that arose in the space between reading, or talking. I say this to explain how earlier, I went looking for a space. A kind of space I’d like to meet you in, and see you in a way I hadn’t seen you before, when before we’d only see each other in the neutral and estranged space of work.

I read something, then decided I’d portrait us, to make us “what is sequestered” (to use Ashbery’s piece about a little man in a tiny mirror) and, therefore, to solidify our friendship. An afternoon that would form as though a scene from a film, a Sherman, a something more, in your mind. But, we’d just be getting together, you know, to share things and names of things in our common, but until now unuttered, language.

Our words will contain knowledge that is felt to be known, like a secret longing for miniature Barbie shoes, a fetish I have always had and have always wanted to tell someone. In there, her tiny, white, high-heeled shoes fit perfectly on a red sofa. And about which you will consider:

[how] the miniature perfects the experience it so carefully reproduces… [an]idealized form of the miniature then articulates as it exemplifies (we are so) a sense of
individual interiority as separate from and superior to the world. (from
Gillian Brown, The Consent of the Governed, Cambridge: Harvard, 2001, 86)

And, yet another fragment, whose own end has been elided:

For the miniature, in its exaggeration of interiority and its relation to the space and time of the individual perceiving subject, threatens the infinity of …(from Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection, Durham: Duke, 1993, 44)

… its meaning? Ours in it? It reminds me of freedom in temporality. In which we met so many possibilities in a perfect room. A place at which you are beguiled, surprised, shocked, exposed, known, understood, complicated, redeemed. An eternal internal of a “virgin snow … [that] shows up the bloody footprints.”[1]

It is the perfect place to meet. A fantastic frame of room. The wide open floor and statues a gallery for the transient pieces in which two people sit gesturing. The furniture is an arrangement of a new feeling. The next idea. I wanted another us, the doubles that say what we mostly can’t or don’t, in the noir space.

In this– miniature – replication of someone else’s home, certain realities are much bigger than what you’ll see here. While we speak with our high heels on the sofa, though, what becomes the referential field for we two?

We cannot agree with Susan Stewart’s idea that “the ways in which the physical world can be miniaturized are not carried over into devices for the linguistic depiction of the miniature” (45). Yet, I wonder what depiction to use for the small work by Gao Chang-Jun and Shen You-Gen, sitting still as royalty in deep mahogany at the far wall.

Those two created in idea and language yet another little toy: an eternal expanding universe driven by quintessence. Their faces, which you cannot see, say nothing, though they are very interested in what you were saying about your new form for poetic narrative: a moebius of the aleatory dialectics of astrology and Tarot. A narrative I Ching of the post-American unconscious, with its system of defeated language and lost connection to meaning, how you told them you wished to plot it as it continues to wade terror- and grief-stricken through a koan-like, self-denying fall.

Yet, quintessence, this beautiful element to another universe, is “the fifth and highest element after air and earth and fire and water [that] was believed to be the substance composing all heavenly bodies” (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/ 12 May 2009). The invisible vibration of white carpet against the green curtains that frame the statues, how on either side of the fireplace a certain sense of wonder is visible, as in the eternal faces of Chang-Jun and You-Gen. We listen attentively with our skirts pulled around our legs, and our high heels on the sofa. An expanding form – as though they were, we were, material there on the sofa sipping tea, all of us there and invisible vibrating frequencies of quintessence, this language of modeling, layering, doubling, multiplying what is and what isn’t seen there.

There we sit and face each like two mirrors, expanding form.

——————————————————————————–

[1] Alfred Hitchcock on why blondes makes the best victims.

Robin Morrissey lives and walks in Chicago, IL. Recent work includes a ten-minute staged adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone at Caffeine Theatre in 2008, and installation actions for the “No Project” and “Park Yourself” events, curated by Chicago artist Jenny Roberts. Morrissey’s previous installations have shown in Antwerp, BELGIUM, Ann Arbor, MI, and Chicago, IL; her poetry has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Chinquapuin, Berkeley Campus Writers Anthology, and phoebe. She is a responsible and active member of the Columbia College Chicago Adjunct community.

The Great Correction



Marva and Jones liked to go swimming in the late afternoon. They would walk down the steps built into the steep hill that delivered the college from the town. Both college and town were compelling in their ways, but they were not meant to be together. Marva remembered the townspeople’s strong, nasal vowels as she looked over their houses. Many favored pale pinks and blues and yellows, the colors fading into the sky, the harbor. When Jones looked over the rooftops, he saw home.

The steps, wooden and split, had once been painted the same alternating pastels. She pulled up a few paint chips with her fingernails and put them in her pocket. When they went home, she would place them at right angles to some of the other things in her collection, small and bright and salvaged.

Jones was breathing hard. They stopped in the dry bowl of grass at the base of the stairs and stood together, her stomach pressed against his back. He turned to nip at her cheek, and they walked to the part of town built for tourists.

The streets were empty, and though the buildings were not tall, the hills rose dramatically around them, turning sidewalks into tunnels. It was very hot, the blue of the sky stretched thin. Marva’s lips were swollen, her arms and thighs wet and embarrassed.

The town was once a colonial port. The oldest houses had pineapples carved over their doorways, symbols of luck and prosperity. The streets were arranged around wide, shallow canals. Once barges ran along them, unloading tall ships. After trading fell off, they were stagnant and murky for decades. Finally dredged and made beautiful with boardwalks and tall, wrought iron lampposts, carts selling lemon ice, some nights they were eerie with gondolas, drifting people leaning out to fill firepits that seemed to float on metal stems with cedar and rosewood, lighting them, sap snapping and sparking out over the water. A crowd would come to watch, people sitting in shadows just off the boardwalk, and it felt safe and ragged, like the town, a brittle cocoon. Marva could just remember these nights, but Jones said he could not. He was glad that the canals had been cleaned, the bottoms paved. They could float and paddle in the faintly flowing water. If he kicked out hard, his feet hit the bottom.

They undressed and dropped gingerly over the edge, the lukewarm water cool enough, dirt streaming from their faces and hair. Jones saw that Marva had freckled. He noticed the little pocks before, but thought they were remnants of the iris paint they had once smeared on their faces and arms to block the fierce sun.

They pulled themselves out, fingers curled over the edge, and she picked up the wires left on the boardwalk, wound them around her shoulders again. She had pulled the wires from the wall, some to wear as necklaces and some to tie back her hair. She loved to shred the plastic casing, the hard line below unexpectedly cold against her skin, as if it could still shock. When she was outside, the wires kept the walls close, memories of the humming radio and television, the heating pad and the coffee maker’s rumble as the last of the water left the chamber.

The wires also filled her with doubt, a panic that rose predictably. “Should I have left them?” she asked Jones. “What if we need them?”

“No, you should have them,” he said. “It’s not going to work again.”

Jones seemed to be losing language, or refusing old words, like electricity and theft. He claimed to know Buddhist sayings. “Being alive is a burning building,” he told her often.

She only felt like she was on fire when she saw the dog. It was walking close again. It had long black hair and one lidless eye, swollen and white. Marva thought the dog used this eye to find them. She wished she wanted to feed it, but did not.

The dog reminded her of before. She had a little black dog, groomed and playful. She took him walking outside every day until the television said that the sun was too bright, that everyone should stay home. Marva did, kept still in her little basement apartment where the walls were still cool to the touch. Her dog could not bear it, and finally she let him go. The television broadcasts stopped, the radio died and the lights went out. Friends knocked on her door, told her to come to the harbor for relief, to board the cargo boats. Marva was afraid to leave, to sail, and her friends stopped coming. Her dog did not return.

When she at last had to come out into the twilight, the town was empty. There were no boats tied to the stumpy piers in the harbor. She met Jones after pushing through the plastic sheeting in the back of a dried up grocery store, finding the cavernous stockroom. He was eating from a can with his fingers.

Jones began to trip over his words when he saw her, to tell her everything. He knew somebody else was there; each time he came back there were fewer cans and he knew he would find her. But she had not been to the store since it worked, food replenished and cash registers on. Later, outside, she saw a raccoon, brilliant and adaptive, slip up a deserted crane with a can in one of its sensitive paws, let it fall and crack on the sidewalk below. She did not tell Jones.

For a few months, they saw mammals everywhere, rats and possums and housecats panting in their fur. Now they only heard birds, singing the reptilian world awake again, and the dog. Marva was afraid that it was hers and she could not remember it. The dog followed them through town but did not mount the stairs behind them. They were safe when they climbed to the top, when they burrowed into Marva’s little room.

Home, Marva arranged the paint chips, pulled Jones to her beneath the cool beams. Jones thought about the day, released the day. Once more, things had not crystallised. In some ways, everything was simpler, but really it was not. They were bound together in the sea, forming neither the current nor the canoe. They gathered their talents close. Night wreathed their unmoored shoulders.




Kathleen Andersen’s fiction has also appeared in CROWD, Eleven Bulls, and Washington Square. She holds degrees from Brown University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Kathleen lives in Chicago.

The Anatomy Lesson: An Explication

CHARACTERS:

DIRECTOR

MAN

WOMAN

(An almost barren stage. The lights come up on the DIRECTOR at his lectern, stage right, getting ready for his lecture. He checks his watch, his microphone, takes a sip from a glass of water, checks his notes, looks at the audience expectantly. Silence. Lights increase in intensity.)

DIRECTOR

Improvisation is key.

(Lights stage left where MAN and WOMAN sit regarding each other. With no warning, WOMAN reaches out and slaps MAN’s face.)

DIRECTOR

Oh, good. Conflict.

MAN

Why did you do that?

WOMAN

You are an obstacle in my path.

DIRECTOR

The actor’s purpose can be reduced to one question: “What do I want?” Often, the objective is simple: to overcome an obstacle.

WOMAN

You are an obstacle in my path.

DIRECTOR

To find a reason for being on the stage.

MAN

But I love you.

DIRECTOR
To find a reason for being.

(MAN and WOMAN regard the DIRECTOR in silence.)

The actor can communicate without words. Dialogue is secondary to movement. The actor’s body, his face, the intensity of his desire often renders language superfluous. This is the ultimate impasse: entirely dependent on words, the language play becomes unnecessary.

MAN

Are you writing this down?

DIRECTOR

Tired.

WOMAN

How would I know it happened if I didn’t?

DIRECTOR

Dead.

(Fade on MAN and WOMAN. Long pause.)

Let me demonstrate. Two characters in a room.

(Lights on MAN and WOMAN regarding each other.)

Standing. No props. What we need is a ground situation. Something elemental. Big. Love, for example. Or hate.

MAN

I met her in a café next to the train station. It was raining. She had forgotten her umbrella, so I offered her mine.

(To WOMAN)

Please, take it. I’ll be ok.

WOMAN

Are you sure? I could just –

MAN

No. You’ll get drenched. Catch a cold. Catch your death.

WOMAN

What a strange thing to say…

DIRECTOR

In the random encounter between a man and a woman, the man’s biggest fear is that he will be ridiculed. The woman’s fear is that she will get killed.

WOMAN

What a strange thing to say.

MAN

I’m sorry.

(Pause)

Would you like a cup of coffee?

(Pause)

She said yes. The rest is history.

WOMAN

The slow death of passion.

MAN

That’s not what I meant.

WOMAN

D of P. It happens.

MAN

What are you doing?

WOMAN

I want out. I have a lover. He’s better than you. FYI.

MAN

I can’t believe this. With no warning…I thought we were happy. I thought we were meant to be.

WOMAN

You were happy. You never asked how I felt.

(Pause)

We met in a café next to the train station. He had been following me, and I ran inside to ask for help. He approached me. Extended his hand. I screamed. I was afraid he was going to kill me.

MAN

How can you lie like that?

(WOMAN laughs.)

Stop laughing.

(WOMAN laughs.)

Stop laughing at me! Stop!

(MAN grabs WOMAN and covers her mouth with his hand. She struggles. He holds his hand tight over her mouth and nose. WOMAN stops struggling.)

Get up.

(Pause)

Stop playing.

(Pause)

You’re not scaring me. I am not scared.

(MAN holds WOMAN in his arms. Rocks her gently. Cries.)

DIRECTOR

And fade.

(Pause)

Good. Now let’s analyze the scene.

(MAN and WOMAN stand regarding each other)

The actor advances towards his purpose.

MAN

Please take my umbrella. It’s brutal outside. You’ll catch your death.

(Pause)

She was so beautiful.

DIRECTOR

He deals with the circumstance, identifies the obstacle and overcomes it.

WOMAN

I’m not in love with you. I want out.

DIRECTOR

The actor achieves a maximum of expression with an active verb.

MAN

But I love you!

(WOMAN laughs.)

DIRECTOR

He connects with the other actor.

MAN

Stop laughing! Stop laughing at me!

(MAN covers WOMAN’s mouth with his hand. She struggles. He holds his hand in place. She stops struggling. He lays her body on the floor, gently.)

DIRECTOR

He adjusts to the relationship.

(MAN sits in the chair, crosses his legs, regards WOMAN’s body.)

He radiates and receives. He concentrates. He finds his Deep Jungle and emotes.

MAN

(Breaks character)

His what?

DIRECTOR

(Patiently)

Every artist is connected to a space buried within his psyche: his Deep Jungle. This is where he runs with tigers. Here, he is Tarzan.

(MAN lets out a Tarzan yell. WOMAN gets up.)

WOMAN

I want a raise.

DIRECTOR

What do you mean?

WOMAN

If I am to make a fool of myself next to Tarzan, here, I want a raise.

MAN

I don’t have to yell. I was connecting to my Deep Jungle. I was freeing my instrument. I was taking leave of my senses.

WOMAN

Well put.

MAN

I didn’t mean that. Why do you make me feel so small?

WOMAN

Because you are small. You are a small man. You think you are powerful and attractive, but in fact you are ridiculous.

MAN

Did you ever love me?

WOMAN

I don’t know. Perhaps. But then one day I saw you. Your colossal insecurity, your ambition, your pettiness. The way you attack those weaker than you. The way you swell inside your clothes.

(Pause)

The way you eat your soup.

MAN

Do you hate me?

WOMAN

No. Contempt, more like. Repulsion. Yes, that’s it. You repel me. You are repellent.

MAN

Like a raincoat. Protective. I am your shelter from the rain.

(Pause)

We met in a café next to the train station. She was late that day. It had been raining.

WOMAN

Have you been waiting long?

MAN

I just got in.

(Pause)

I had been waiting for hours. I would have done anything for her. She was so beautiful.

DIRECTOR

Circumstances are important. They let the actor know what’s at stake: what happens if he loses an argument…moves out…gets what he wants. What motivates him to say a line, perform an action. What price he has to pay. What is at risk.

(Pause. DIRECTOR takes a sip of water.)

He wanders through his Deep Jungle. He thinks: I am scared, or elated, or overwhelmed. He thinks: these are unnecessary emotions. He thinks: I have to act. He rests.

WOMAN

Listen, I have to tell you something.

DIRECTOR
Necessary verbs will make him act. Action is more important than character. Actors do. He needs to do something.

MAN

I am not being used.

WOMAN

You want me to use you?

MAN

That’s not what I mean. Why do you always change my words?

DIRECTOR

Last point: character. When the actor reads a character’s lines on paper, he may not detect any movement. Psychological gestures are lost on him. He must try again. He must look under the surface for the delicate hints. He must look for change.

WOMAN

I’m not in love with you. I made a mistake. I’m sorry.

MAN

What?

WOMAN

I want out. We don’t get along. Working together was a mistake.

MAN

We work together just fine.

WOMAN

How can you be so blind? Listen to me: we’re not fine. I don’t love you. I’m leaving.

MAN

No.

WOMAN

I’m sorry if this hurts you. I never wanted to hurt you, but I can’t stay here.

MAN

Who is he? Do I know him?

WOMAN

Does it matter?

MAN

These scenes are so trivial on the stage. The same dialogue, the same suffering…Why does it hurt so much?

WOMAN

Because this is happening now. It’s happening to you. This is your story.

MAN

Don’t leave me.

WOMAN

Good bye.

MAN

Don’t leave me!

(WOMAN turns to leave. MAN shoots her. She falls.)

DIRECTOR

The actor must take into account the type of play to be performed. Naturally, melodrama offers certain advantages – exaggerated sentiment, large, sweeping gestures – but tragedies are better. The main action happens off stage. Does wonders for the budget.

MAN

I need some help here!

(DIRECTOR and MAN bring in a long table. They pick up the body and lay it on the table. For a moment, they lean in to look at the body and their posture should remind the audience of Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson. Then DIRECTOR resumes his place at the lectern and addresses the audience.)

DIRECTOR

The Anatomy Lesson of Professor Nicolaes Tulp. Rembrandt.

(Looks at MAN who is still contemplating the body.)

We learn so much from the Old Masters. Self-reliance, and greed, perhaps even a certain pride in the idea of well-being. And yet, such an extraordinary contrast between the living and the dead, the stiff silhouette of the cadaver and the anxious movement of the actor watching it. This is a tragic mirror: the body in motion is confronted with the body in death. The spectacular lines of the silhouette are now completely still, the face once full of life is quiet, the mouth shut, the eyes closed.

MAN

She was so beautiful…

DIRECTOR

The play is coming to an end, and when the applause dies out, we hope that the same events will happen with the same intensity on this very stage tomorrow, and the next evening, and the next…There’s comfort in repetition.

MAN

(Takes off his jacket, relaxes. After a while he walks to the table and looks at WOMAN.)

I thought that went well…How about a drink?

(There is no answer or movement. MAN approaches WOMAN and touches her hand.)

She’s so cold. It’s as if…

DIRECTOR

The death scene is the actor’s favorite part. It requires skill and effort, a certain sense of abandonment not easy to achieve.

MAN

Get up! Stop playing. Talk to me…

DIRECTOR

Often, the intensity of the scene brings about certain –

MAN

(Almost inaudibly)

Don’t leave me.

DIRECTOR

…risks.

(Fade on MAN frozen in the Anatomy Lesson pose, leaning over WOMAN’s body. DIRECTOR takes a sip of water, checks his watch, smiles, almost embarrassed. Fade on DIRECTOR.)

THE END




Dayana Stetco teaches Drama at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She is the Director of the interdisciplinary Milena Theatre Group. Her plays have been produced in her native country, Romania, in the US and the UK. Her collection of plays, Seducing Velasquez and Other Plays, is forthcoming from Ahadada Books.

Sundogs East

The sun dogs will root me
out of my burrow to freeze
in a Midwest snow, without
haystack or bookstall to hide
inside and huddle out
the plummeting white.
Delighted, the sun dogs
will dress themselves
in my skin and, until
spring, my mittens.
Then they will wear
my disguise, not writing
poems, and my bones
will melt away.



Sara Wainscott has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Washington. Currently she lives in Chicago and teaches writing. Most recently, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Columbia Poetry Review, the Ohio State Journal, and Poetry Northwest.

The Sundogs

They tear up my poems when I come too near.

The biggest ones kill everything as though everything is meat. They run in packs, they are unduckable.

The little ones in training use dewclaws. They are practicing rudeness, boos.

Last are the medium sun dogs, who lick up the gristle.

I want the sun dogs to die.

They try to follow me home, widening their yellowish eyes to appear less dangerous.

They smell poems on my clothes.

To trick the sun dogs, I take different routes, enter different apartment buildings,
wait for hours in strange lobbies, sneak home through the alleys, set booby traps behind me all the way. Ha!

At home, my poems recognize the traces of a struggle and are wary.

The sun dogs want this poem very much. Back in their thorny, bone-littered lair many new pups want poem-milk.

When I die, the sun dogs will starve. But before that, my poems will devour my body.




Sara Wainscott has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Washington. Currently she lives in Chicago and teaches writing. Most recently, her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Columbia Poetry Review, the Ohio State Journal, and Poetry Northwest.

Dahuangling

The orchestra swells like an afternoon.
End-summer. Mid-heat. Cages

swinging over the stage, in the back
corners of the amphitheatre. From behind
the orchard: a bird museum.

Closer and you realize the bars of the cages
cuddle like toothpicks twice threaded.
Then you see them, splendidly perched
on pinning legs: thousands and thousands of
crickets. At once, all the familiarity of chirping
gone.

In groups.
In groves.
In the concubine’s curio.

These crickets either singing
or, at least, sighing for sure. Each purposeful
chiu a sobering crescendo. Forewings
strumming a quiet, courting song.




Danielle Aquiline graduated from the MFA program in Poetry at Columbia College Chicago. In addition to teaching FYW full-time at Columbia College, she is also the editorial assistant for College Composition and Communication—the flagship journal in rhetoric and composition studies. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Black Clock, Court Green, Yemassee, Bellingham Review, Bloom, and Gulf Stream. She lives in Andersonville with her partner, Sona, two cats, two dwarf hamsters, and two dwarf bunnies.