Madame Blavatsky to Robert McAlmon
I prefer you skeptics to the credulous ones. You
have a more fulfilled sense of silence. Those who
claim that my chamber was equipped with trap
doors amuse, even excite
me. That’s your mode of gift, is it
not? Gossip? The aggregate of your disbelief
mutes the generosity behind it. You’ve heard
the term “clairaudience”? The ability to
receive messages through the ear? The voices
arrive with their own suggestions. They teach
by the Socratic method, plying questions which,
like you, I decline to answer. The lengthy pause
is what they are after, their medium, so that
long after you and I are banished inside that intermission
we’ll still be geniuses together.
Pamela Colman Smith and Havelock Ellis
She dreams that there is a blister of dried skin on her forearm, and
when she tries to rub it off, it opens as a flower, still soft and dry, layer
after layer opening up.
Each layer she tries to scratch away and
She hums: “I am speaking of course of myself.”
He arranges her bare limbs, bending the knees and angling them away from
her pelvis, then steps back to look. From the horizon, her legs form an M.
So he tells her.
“But I am not an M.” “At the crux of the M,” he explains, cupping her vulva, “this is your mandorla.
Do you know this word?”
“I’ll investigate it.”
“Yes,” he says.
“Temperance,” she comments.
His gaze lowers.
“Not abstinence,” she clarifies, “but what is poured between two vessels, all
tempered by their conjoining.”
She has had a dream in which “biting one’s tongue” means to remove
it as a parcel from one’s mouth and to stuff it with its own content.
Romaine Brooks Evading Natalie Barney
Does a painting have a protagonist or only a subject?
She knows too well about being subject.
There’s a little, purpling deity being rubbed as sand
into the muscle of the breast.
There’s a sibling rivalry sans sibling.
She knows that haunted houses are banal.
An auto-portrait, where the subject is the doctor of the protagonist.
A sibling rivalry where the sibling has been effaced.
One is an only child and the other is not.
The painting suffers its own apparitions, but only just.
As with all runaways, they are forced back to the fold.
The physician claims that death reversed is inertia, petrifaction,
This was death footnoted, in which two sisters become lovers.
Their intimacy is the measure of the protagonist, in whose beloved is begun an
absence that exceeds conception, also known as the self-same.
In other words, the ghost was bottom heavy, a sleepwalker after all.
The Baroness Elsa Haranguing W. B. Yeats
As for myself, I am a patriot of the body, but we each speak with an accent.
Brevity has not been my strong suit, nor yours,
but let our prolixity make us to fly as the crow
flies, transceptual, over each our allegiance
to impulse, vision, the carnal insight that makes a citizen.
I restate citizenship as
an ultimate penury,
as you must know, and as
the anatomy of
my skull lacquered and your male parts
sewn together with monkey glands,
though perhaps these are traitorous forms,
these bodies who breed us in countries, who
sign us to pacts, we,
in our ludicrous uniforms.
Amy Lowell Drowsing while Antonin Artaud Picks Her Pocket
I love you perhaps enough
not to caricature you, as I love
your sodden pockets, planted, a mess, with the detritus of wealth, wriggling
with blooms. Your American garden, I hear,
is extraordinary enough that the posies cry from across the ocean
when I take
my leave of you. A magic cane that crooks into
your possession to break my body and put it back together like stems who
decapitate their blooms.
Your fattened body is its own locket, and I rub my gaze across its interior
leaving my death portrait enclosed for you to discover.
It is not the image of me, but a “pattern”—all right,
a joke at your expense. An asylum in which I am safe to
offend your proprieties, as sleeping, you are the actress
I covet most. A genteel lump made of knuckles.
Mina Loy and Oscar Wilde
I’m running quite late, harried by my own exile.
you’ll expect me
to say so prettily, or
at least smartly, but the quip will no longer do. When
the boat sailed round the bend, it was
inevitable that onlookers
would foresee it reaching
its destination. And now we know
that destination is the quip, the
brilliant element, the horizon that
can be folded handily,
crowning the daylight like a lampshade—
Lost jest on
wave we thought would return
our wits to us.
Sigmund Freud Thinking about Bryher
I think of islands.
Here is a place that is not a place,
and a refugee adopts a name, a code,
a symptom, just as an island
is a symptom
of the landmass that once attached to it.
Far beneath the horizon, the water suggests,
the island extends like a trauma
through the sea.
At its base: We do not know.
It is not a science, this passage to neutrality.
The island is not a surety, it is a symptom, a beneficent symptom.