in response to “Still Life with Skulls and Bacon” by Richard Siken
I cut off my head and threw it on the ground
except my head was a cobra’s
and this was a reoccurring dream I had
based on a true story
and by true story I mean
when I was seven and watched someone
cut off a cobra’s head throw it on the ground
If you repeat the same word
over and over and
I mean really repeat the same word
over and over
does it lose
its meaning because
I’ve said a lot of words
done a lot of words and
today is one of those words
yesterday was one of those words
what I am
feeling now is one of those words
Weeds you tear out
heads you cut off and
everything thrown on the ground
has a way of finding itself back to you
has a way of finding itself back to you
But some days
you will feel
in your teeth
while making coffee,
barefoot in the kitchen
because you like
how the linoleum feels.
On such occasions
you earn your laurel
in dog-eared pages of books—
this is enough.
a poem that’s trying to tell me something
but it is the atmosphere that makes me lean over and say ‘we
should go to a psychic.’ you agree, but what i meant was ‘we
should go to a psychic, not actually inside, i just want to take
pictures of the neon lights for my instagram.’ you look at me
funny but give me kudos for being honest. i went to a palm
reading once and the lady said something about lifelines. what i
heard was my diagnosis: the line is short, life is certainly
shorter. to be honest with you, i’d be better off in the dark. i
don’t want to know. one of the itchiest feelings is when you’re
driving in the car at night, somewhere new, and you get off an
exit that goes around and around and around and suddenly you
think ‘oh right, home is just up ahead, almost there’ but déjà vu
is strange, memory is strange, distance is strange. you didn’t
grow up here but suddenly the whole world smells familiar.
nothing is new.
‘-n. the frustration of being stuck in just one body, that inhabits only one place at a time’
Listen: I don’t know if you know this but—we are floating in space. On a sphere of metal and water. Really. Look around the room. Really, look. Where does it all begin and end? Sure, there are corners and edges but nothing has outlines. No black stencil. Not like a coloring book. What keeps us on the ground? Newton’s theory of gravity? The ‘atomic weight of love’? Probably ourselves. I think if we really wanted to float away like those vagrant satellites we could. We should. But none of us want to jump. None of us want to be lost. We are too afraid—afraid of space. Of John Cage’s music and the breadth of silence. Of the outstretched muscle of time. Of all the ‘known unknown’ terra incognita of the universe. A girl was ‘staring into space’ last night at a party and everyone waved their fingers in front of her face. There she was, floating away. Why the need for temporary fortresses? Why the need for a body at all? And we brought her back—the heroes that we were—to our beloved earth. To accessible, grounded experience. To corporeality. And then we climbed up ladders to the rooftop to look at the stars and talk about the meaning of life, which I guess is a different thing, and is okay. But here is some breaking news—‘Stars [Are] Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, Nobody Need to Worry.’ This is also okay, but they are a lot farther away than we thought. This probably upsets you. We want them to be closer, to exploit the exotic beauty of starlight. We love the stars, and all things placed beautifully in the distance. We constellate and map them. This is how we exist—we map and measure and mark up the world. All the time. So let’s map the distance. If I could hold the tiny particles of light, I’d take them and draw a meridian from me to you through our zeniths all the way to the edge of the universe.
*References John Koenig, Tomaž Šalamun, Hans Zimmer, John Cage, Rebecca Solnit & a 1919 New York Times article headline.
Yaz Lancaster is a student at New York University studying music and creative writing. When she isn't violin-ing or writing, she sometimes does other things.