1. the conjurer
She looked at her curling hands, manifesting nothing, and
screamed why? but only in her head. Her mouth, too, was not her own,
paper-dry and strange. The body’s unrequested performance: both a trick
of control and lack thereof. Remembering a Seurat painting in the Orsay:
a yellow-costumed rider standing on the back of a white horse, frozen
but turning endless circles inside a ring. A clown, acrobat, ringmaster,
and the audience gazing upon her curved limbs, bent in an act recalled
from the depths of the body as if in a dream. Accusatory tips of hair,
mane, and clothes point in judgement. The entertainment of witchcraft,
the witchcraft of entertainment. She remembers, and a flutter of
repetitive sounds bursts from her lips like applause—
I don't know, I don't know,
I don't know.
Little teeth clatter their approval as her constricting hands recall
both nautili and the womb.
2. the gleaners
They wanted to upturn the metal waste bin, to draw out and read what
they thought must be sheet after sheet of stories imprinted on
tissue-thin scrolls like some ancient library of crêpe-paper entrails.
Laid out, torn off, then forsaken for each new entrance like winding
sheets or moulted silences, snaking. A parade of figures whose
remainders were more articulate than the poor words that had tried to be
drawn from their mouths; those little fish could do nothing but splutter
and writhe when exposed to the world.
3. the fisherman
Each day he sat in a windowless room playing miniature tapes of
appointment notes. Listening and rewinding as he typed, the hypnotic
click-and-whirl of the tape machine released its hourly secrets in calm
voices, great nets of flailing emotions. As his fingers grew numb with
repetition, he imagined himself an automaton powered by the words of
others. At the end of each session, names of medications and experienced
side effects were repeated, doses adjusted. The shifting dosage numbers
moved as an infinite line in his head, like a scrolling market index—
Up 5 grams, down 2 grams.
He fantasised about those voices: catching his own emotions as he pieced
together reassurances with scraps of words that did not belong to him; a
scavenger among the plastic carcasses. In his imagination he played back
his regrets. First with nostalgia, then with the incredulity that he
could rewind but never return.