by Stu Hatton
There’s a booklet called Patient Rights which no one has read. Ceiling-mounted cameras raise conversation from its natural pitch by a semitone. Count the kinds of innocuous: white walls, a small set of lies played back to placate. For some of us the timetable remains mysterious, opaque; it approaches the divine. Fluorescent tube flashes code; spasmodic pain. Clipboards held towards white coats, shieldlike. Conspiring to dull us; that’s my theory. Ticking off the codeine. The sharps (syringe, paper clips, knife) stored in micro-lockers. Some inmates bemoan the lack of music. Keys carried by orderlies provide semi-regular percussion. Padded footfalls. The door’s alarmed; red pulsing bulb. When a car pulls up outside we set our foreheads on the glass. We ogle with the sincerity of children. The muscled orderlies arriving to move us on, their strides replicated on the monitors. Such incidents are all we have. Sometimes manhandled, sometimes a needle pierces.
Author’s note: This piece is a remix based on Nathan Moore’s poem “Sharps”, which resulted from a collaborative remix project between Nathan and myself. I received Nathan’s blessing to submit the poem.
Stu Hatton is a poet, blogger and freelancer based in Melbourne, Australia. He teaches writing and editing at Deakin University. His work has been published in journals and e-zines in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and US. He contributes to the poetry news blog dumbfoundry and also blogs at wordyness.blogspot.com.
For more of Nathan Moore’s work at qarrtsiluni, see his contributor tag page.
Your outlook should become more depressed over
the budget. If banks implode, search for some anodyne
that could ease forgetfulness. As for your television,
leave it in your front yard until a neighbor comes to argue
its price. Avoid paying for small items — especially
those that are not behind glass. In the meantime,
anonymous benefactors may offer you loans via the Internet.
Make sure your car is easy to hide and your name is fake.
Your anguish should become more apparent over the telephone.
If collections calls, ask for flexible managers who can learn
to fuck themselves. As for your microwave, store it in your garage
until a neighbor comes to cook a burrito. Avoid
making payments — especially those that are not life threatening.
In the meantime, strangers may mysteriously eat your money
via the Internet. Make sure your hair is combed and your identity
is somewhat intact.
Your children should become savvier about the market.
If jobs open in coal mining or textiles, it could lead to steady
income. As for your credit rating, employed dependants
guarantee a high score. Avoid selling your children
outright — especially those that are not unskilled.
In the meantime, reproduction may bring you a decent
profit via the birth canal. Make sure your calendar is planned
and your wallet is open.
Your expectations should become more yielding over the years.
If standards relent, look for sleeping arrangements
that could lead to someone’s basement. As for your hope,
burn it for warmth until the neighbor comes by with kerosene.
Avoid math problems — especially those that are not coin-related.
In the meantime, your desire for religious salvation through costumed oath
and strange prophecy may be satisfied via the Internet. Make sure your robe
is clean and your doubt suspended.
by Nathan Moore
Let’s get two things straight: Collaboration isn’t incarceration or incorporation.
True, collaboration is like incarceration in that handcuffs, particularly the kind lined with faux fur, are absolutely necessary. The collaborative process works best when participants are attached but still able to reach with their free hands. Of course, by “free,” we mean within the context of their material conditions (e.g. diet, geography and astrological determiners).
Collaboration is also like a company in that profit is collected. However, paychecks come in the form of beads and trinkets. Threading these requires a keen eye and a bottle of aspirin. Sharing a set of contact lenses is not advisable, since blurred vision leads to the most desirable outcomes. This is art, after all, not a driving test. Nobody wants or needs collaborative art taking up valuable space on our already congested highways.
Like a brain in the gut, collaborative process challenges the ego. Thoughts smear like cheap mascara on an overly emotional drag queen, which is not to say the collaborative process is overly emotional. In focus groups, collaboration has been called “impersonal” and “emotionally unavailable.” That’s right: Collaboration is your father. However, collaboration has also scored high in the areas of “inappropriate staring” and “monkey business.”
We applaud those who undertook collaboration for this issue. We sympathize with your resulting identity crises and ecstatic spasms. Unfortunately, we only have poetic licenses, which means we can’t dole out any medications to help you return to your isolation chambers. Soon the word “I” will disappear from your vocabulary. You won’t notice when it goes, but might later feel mild tingling and foreign-body sensations in your ribs.
There will also be a slight awkwardness when ordering at restaurants. People will wonder why you always order for two. They will assume you are using the royal “we.” They will never understand you. You are an artist. You are not meant to be understood. Thank you.
The Juke Box Needle Hovers Over ‘Could We Start Again Please’ from the “Jesus Christ Superstar” Soundtrack
Each lyric douses Jesus in light waves and sound particles.
The 45’s concentric grooves capture and release
the bar’s stale fluorescent glow, as much a miracle as any.
The many feet, the sagging arms, define the space.
Jesus parts the throng, laying hands on strangers’ thighs.
We become germs and weariness begging for soap, heat and water.
The music starts again, this time without a source.
Jesus looks up, his eyes crackled marbles ushering light
into the bowls of his retinas, small imploding suns.
Elsewhere rags soak in kerosene, entire blocks catch fire,
old padlocks corrode and release all the inmates.
Jesus hears every cry as glossalalia. He stutters into song.
Pretty words won’t live past his teeth. Hard ones marry music.
Jesus taps out rhythm in sudden necessity, raises his arms like driftwood.
We learn food can be sung to, coaxed out of sand and cloud.
Now Jesus moves his body as if conducting a jazz orchestra.
He sways in front of the destruction asking questions of flame.
Bricks blacken, crack. Tar runs in from streets, seals flesh to flesh.
Our skin reddens like the eyes of a tired bartender. Hurt accumulates:
change in a tip jar. Jesus takes cover behind the bar, hunkers
next to thumbed copies of Maxim, Bartending Today and Screw.
Who doesn’t blink in a snow of cinder and ash?
How can the end come down to this: a sound like a trill,
like olive jars trembling on a glass shelf?