by Artun Alaska Arasli
by Geo Wyeth
Stupid smile in my new Nikes,
down by the river that
My ancestors linked
to the stars.
I say, I’m grateful for the money and
the time and then I cry boo hoo.
Green totems stacked on my (male) brain
with (white) glue (matter),
Keep it high up so
That Master can see
I’m pretty enough
To move my legs
For a living, and I love
to be alive but that
Part’s mine. The
trucks pass by and
Must think I’m crazy I’m
Until I fly and
the stars waterfall out
Into the water.
A freshwater whale
next to the water,
Picking up silver
Foil and enjoying myself way
Too much, crystal
Heavy cursing under
that’s my secret Propaganda,
It’s what I have
I can’t throw it away because
that’s how I was raised
To be more than
What stars in the dirt? My
At small scrubby weeds, part
Gray flakes from
Eczema I got
Next to my lover’s
I place a piece of
I don’t need to
Go to Natchez, my
Only know the Olu Dara
song about love and that’s
Weapons I’m not
surprised, I know
I’m on their
Meet with the man from Shell
it like I’m mad
I wear sunglasses
And slurp my
Iced coffee that
He ordered for
It feels weird cause really
I have a car
And I love TV and the
Smell of gasoline but
I don’t mind
wearing horror makeup
Almost ever it makes
me feel more
I let them think I’m a
I’m more of a
When I meet
Wilma, dirt chemist,
Blankets behind her
Roaming through gas and listening for dogs in
I say, I got too scared to go in above my shins.
Trouble from God gonna
Get in, above my waist one
Day and it’s okay to
get angry sometimes and
Kick a door in and say
DARNIT and be
pulled apart by the dust
from Old Stars and
Be technical about things
I only heard about on the
Love yourself in
Too fast down
the highway near
House, where your
grandchildren are sleeping
where you are supposed
To feel safe, where
Sweet syrup pink skin and
tired eyes, she say
she’s a tired black lady, and
my mother is a
tired black lady.
When I go to
In the most
In the country,
They call me
“Our ancestors blood”
And crush me.
I am destroyed.
I join our dirt lost
Tears I bring seeds
I’m from a city I
Can’t know. I bring
Back to my
I put my
crackling in the
Slouch by the
Pearl River with
and trap soundtracks I
Record the toilet
Flushing in the gas
Comfort. I am
A ghost baby floating
Watching and not
Knowing how to
Speak or move in
this clown-ass heat.
It’s about that
Time I had
Which time? I’m stunned
from a snake next to water
About field and
I “ain’t” about to
Be that lost
Wrapped in Anger in
The middle of some
My friend come to visit
And get stopped at the door
He was my family and
The cops targeted him and I say
“Overcooked pasta” and
then kick a door.
I can’t see
The Dollar Store kids it
Reminds me of something
I tried to
Forget, it’s the truth that
I’m really a boxer, Imma stick
Out my chest at the chicken spot and
Men will respect me,
I could be in
Law school, I got
I seen skinny men in
Heavy spaces, rattling
Saying I could. The
I could learn
how I am
Knows its an inheritance
You just cannot throw
Away even if
It makes you a
more difficult person
to understand, says the
tattoo I wanna get
On my face.
I once had Two tits but
Remember when you
By rules you didn’t make up?
Live the politics
Imagined enemies Shout at you in
Your history that becomes
The stop sign of
Research dreams. 80 hours
of Crumbling walls next
To the river to get
Grills and peels of yellow onion
And silver wrappers. And
How to how to
In the way I can handle
a tub of dirty wires
After Remco Campert’ Lamento
by dean bowen
Here now in the echoes of your language
I’m lost, a no-man’s-land along
the deep water where I thought
that always, that you’d always
Here now in the echoes of so much
and lost twilight through the embers in your voice
that I thought that always that always
fire always fire and the storm
always fire and the storm
that always a new plain
at dawn the diffuse dawn
that there’d always be ritual
that I always in the living ritual
that always is lost on a new plain
the living ritual
in the echoes of your language that always the anointing
that always along my insides the anointing
that always the fire will burn
that always the storm will rage
always along my soft insides
in the echoes of your language that I’m lost,
a no-man’s-land along the deep water
where I thought that always again
that always the voice
that always the voice, in the poem
the poem always along my insides
that always the heart beating
always the warm heart beating
along my insides anointed and the storm
that always the living voice always
the echoes and the no-man’s-land along the deep water
that language is there in the fire in the storm
that I always therein
that I thought that I always therein
that the living ritual always that
always the embers that this never
that this never that always the twilight
that the fire always a new plain
that the diffuse dawn always
that I always a no-man’s-land thought I’d never
that always your language that always your language
and the echoes that storm within me
that I in the ritual of the echoes
that I always in the light
of your language and in its beating heart
By Bianca Lucas
I never did well in groups, still don’t. A few years ago my kindergarten librarian had tracked me down on Facebook. She wrote a short message: “I remember you well, always sitting in the corner of the library all by yourself, your head in the clouds”. I too remembered her well. I did not respond.
Growing up in a relatively affluent environment in post-communist Poland, the worst punishment my parents could ever possibly bestow on me was to introduce me to other children in the hopes of germinating a play session.
Playgrounds, playrooms- the stuff of horrors to me, the site of inevitable humiliation and loneliness. Still, throughout the years, as my mum flipped through club-med catalogues advertising for perfect, family-appropriate holidays in Tunisia, she would look over at me wistfully: ‘they have a children’s club!’. Fat chance- halfway there, as the child-safe gates came into view, I would double up in the heat, become a stone fixture among the palm trees. Scooped up and taken away, much to my mother’s disappointment, I would never walk down that miniature path again.
As I grew up, I did have friends, I did become sociable, but the problems I had with being initiated into a group remained. I would become reactive, cold, arrogant, before I eased into the idea that the people surrounding me were not necessarily out to get me, but by that time considerable damage could have been done. I would often miss my chance at becoming ‘one of’ something. One of the family, one of the team, one of US.
See this picture of my kindergarten class all dressed up like princesses and pirates? I am the pig.
All this to say, the prospect of joining a house full of artists (“Wait, what does artist residency mean? I don’t get it”, “It basically means artists living together somewhere for a certain amount of time”, silence) did fill me with some dread.
Especially since, after years of abhorring anything faith-related (the way in which religion is used as a shaming tool in Poland will do that to you; the predominantly literal interpretation of scriptures anywhere else will too), painstakingly deconstructing anything I came across (without bothering to reassemble it into something that could actually help me function)- I was finally going through a spiritual renaissance of sorts, my own brand of faith, one that I knew I couldn’t easily explain and that would not make any prospective initiation rituals any easier.
I had come into an unshaken conviction that there is no separation between biology and mysticism, God and us, metaphor and science, right and left, allegiance-fueled identities and tyranny. Prodding the limits of the things you are comfortable to associate yourself with had become a practice to me, engaging with ‘evil’ and understanding its position in a long history of inherited or learned trauma a sort of religion. A return to scriptures which- whether you like it or not- have informed the way our societies have been structured, was in order if I was to understand what archetypes our passive, active and reactive behaviours were infused with. Some anecdotes I found incredibly helpful in understanding human nature, others less. But that is tricky to wear on a name tag: my religious views are nuanced and I believe in God (the cosmos, the spiritual matrix)- but not in icons. The image often denigrates the cause it aspires to serve, banalises the complexity of a belief. If I am anti-anything, I am anti-icon.
At this stage in my internal development, there was arguably no better place to explore than New Orleans. The residency was both as difficult as I dreaded and a completely natural situation to be in. It felt very fitting given the portals that were opening up in my mind, and yet tough on account of my well-camouflaged social anxiety.
Not least because of how polarised U.S. society currently is. As I ventured into the streets of New Orleans, with a surprisingly large proportion of encounters I felt- and believe this is not just paranoia- shrewdly scanned for my allegiances. It is as if a whole lot of contemporary Americans are now completely fluent in some form of ‘Newspeak’: the right combination of slogans will unlock approval or disapproval with you interlocutor, depending on their ‘tribe’, and on whether they classify you as part of it or not. Disapproval is invariably synonymous with refusal to engage- or blacklisting, to be blunt. It is exhausting, and it is scary. There is no longer any tolerance for nuanced views, for overt thinking and searching. You may not lend your ear to just anyone, you may not give most people the benefit of inquisitiveness. You are either with us, or against us.
This is the oldest trick in the book. When you refuse to engage with people who may not share the same political views as you, when you regard them with a mix of superiority and contempt (at best, condescendance), you effectively start dehumanising them. This is the first step to any reign of tyranny, no matter the guise of political or social cause.
Whilst this polarisation is happening all over the world, the U.S. seems like a particularly vulnerable target for partisan propaganda given its short history and memory.
But I digress. While it was difficult having to hear and at times regurgitate doublespeak, it was invaluable in terms of having to bolster my own sense of sincerity or truth. In short, figuring out how to move through the world with a clear conscience– something which has, over the years, become the single most important thing to me.
During our stay at the residency, we were asked to do a presentation of our craft or process. In the context of my works, which contain a healthy dose of anger and cynicism, I decided to do a presentation on Forgiveness. This was met with much, much resistance. Forgiveness, I had forgotten, is still associated in many a mind’s eye with the institution of the Church. For me, part of my individuation (therefore liberation) was to elevate Forgiveness beyond the superficial edifices of any institution. There is a trend, one particularly smack-in-between-the-eyes in the U.S., of victimising oneself and attempting to fight for social justice from that position (and often using it as immunity to criticism). Being a victim is being in chaos. I know, I have been there. To encounter harm at the hands of a person, group or system that has never been brought to justice, or that has permanently affected your sense of worth, is destructive, painful and leads to inner chaos that is very difficult to navigate. And the problem with chaos is, it is a very difficult place from which to make decisions, bestow judgment, and protect yourself- let alone fight for a whole community. I do not want to claim any pretense to having found solid solutions for this predicament. However, for me personally, Forgiveness was key. If I can try to humanise people I deem to be wrongdoers either in the past or present, I can start to understand the probable fear, trauma, complex, manipulation or other self-sabotage they acted out of. If I can understand that, I might stand a chance at stopping that from developing within me, or the people around me. Forgiveness, to me, is about breaking a pattern and resolving inner chaos. And this includes forgiving yourself, as I do believe we all share the responsibility for the here and the now. Because when you forgive, you cease to be relative to one phenomenon, and become relative to a whole universe instead. For me at least, that is a much more expansive and instructive view.
Deltaworkers was an incubator for all of these reflections. Luckily, not a sanitary one. Messy, intimate and intuitive (not to say impulsive), like human life is and should be allowed to be. But, ultimately, it was practical and led to real developments with boots on the ground, rather than being just another exercise in diplomacy and CV-embellishment.
The process I underwent did eventually culminate in meetings and friendships I can describe as nothing less than magical. ‘Chance’ is just a nonchalant word for: the natural consequence of the mental labour you put into recalibrating your energies. That, is when your predestined magnet starts working the way it was always meant to.
During the residency, I started to believe in something God-like again, I shot my first and last gun, I drove my first pick-up truck minutes before I crashed into a sports car, and I fell deeply, deeply in love. Oh, the difference two months can make.
by Kari Robertson
In the beginning it was everywhere
And we embraced it.
We reached out our arms and extended our fingers to hold the air.
We stole ambergris from beaches and musk from deer and rubbed it on our bodies not to mask but to emphasise our animalic odours.
We sniffed each other like dogs and navigated with our noses as much as our eyes.
We smelled for fear, for sex, for water.
We wanted to be breathed.
We slept outdoors in nests hairy and entwined for warmth where we emitted a collective odour so if all were still we couldn’t sniff where one body ended and another began.
And our dreams all smelled like moss.
But at some point we began to build an inside.
and as we noticed that our odours were different we preferred to sleep alone.
We sheltered, turned our backs against the breeze.
And got afraid of the smell of the outside
Decided it was dirty.
It came in on the night air
Suspended in the wind
Creeping off the swamp
From the sea
From the poor
Rising out of graves
and came through open windows and orifices
So by the time you smell it it’s already in your lungs.
We believed that it brought with it yellow fever, clymidia, syphilis, the black plague, cholera, amorality, poverty.
The monks identified the stench of adultery on amoral women.
4 People died from the smell of the prison as they walked by
from the stench of incarcerated sin.
We tried to use even fouler smells as scent gargoyles to scare off the miasmas.
We drained civet from otters.
We smoked cigarettes so the smoke made private clouds around our bodies. We sucked the air out of churches after worship and pumped it into brothels to remoralise the gases.
The local council made a shaded place in the park where we could safely dispose of miasma we had picked up involuntarily.
We held our breath as we walked past beggars, criminals or rag-pickers.
When this didn’t work then we started to fight it
We shot the breeze, fired canons at the swamp to try to kill the air itself.
We covered up our orifices against possibilities:
infection, impregnation, stagnation.
We drained the swamp, chlorinated the river and burned the boats because everyone knows that boats are just floating swamps.
We wore scented masks, built air conditioning and double-glazed windows.
We caught the the miasma in filters, shut it out and starved it.
We weaved our clothes out of lavender and perfumed our food and our lovers with Chanel no 5.
We used Listerine to remove the Miasma from our breath and dislodge it from our molars.
We declared baths immoral.
We rubbed ourselves all over with lard or Vaseline so the miasma couldn’t collect on the surface of our skin and enter through our pores.
We deodorised the proletariat and broke the union of the comrades in stench who worked with sweat and trash and sewage.
And apart from the artists and the philosophers everyone was pleasantly odourless.
And after some years we thought we had succeeded, the battle was over and the miasma was gone.
We declared a new war on Germs.
We could now breathe freely but we couldn’t touch or lick the sweet lead paint from the walls.
We developed a new vocabulary of plastic gloves, Tupperware, soap and sanitizer and showered daily.
The air lost its elasticity and when you stuck out your tongue you tasted nothing.
But through all these years the miasma waited in the recesses of the earth
The ground inhaled the fermentations from the surface and accumulated them in foul-smelling vaults and hollow sulfurous, fingers where we had mined for salt.
Bursts of air spewed forth under the gulf of Mexico and gathered forces in oil refineries, sink holes and sewers
Miasma breathed in by volcanoes was trapped in the hardened lava and waited to be fracked.
It lay evolving, waiting, bubbling.
Freshly watered lawns bubble.
In the peripheries of my nose one day I was aware of a smell of woodsmoke and burning sugars and suddenly I was a kid again toasting marshmallows my hands and face hot from the bonfire.
The next thing I knew I was leaving Walmart with a 14-person tent I purchased for 239 dollars before tax.
After this things get worse.
The Miasma is an invisible enemy.
It crawls inside our memories and mines for emotion.
Those who do not have their nostrils stuffed with tissues, spontaneously stop talking mid-sentence, stare into the distance and start to cry.
It manifests in the chemical combination of your grandfathers cigar smoke and aftershave, in the house you lived in before it got torn down, in the smell of your trauma.
The Miasma travels in on the highway of nasal nerves that circumnavigate the cerebrum.
It brings armies, weeping to their knees and makes angry police dogs roll over on their backs whimpering like puppies.
It grows stronger
Peaches give off the aroma of burned garlic
Freshly cut grass emits the scent of human sweat
Flowers start to smell like petroleum and babies heads produce a strong odour of flowers so bees land on and try to pollinate them.
The miasma grows so strong and omnipotent eggs stop being fertilized because sperm can’t smell them.
We close down our borders and declare a state of emergency but the gases blow over the walls, in through our ears, across the barbed wire, come from above and below.
We try to outsmart it, to breathe only bottled air.
We impart a travel ban on molecules but they just ignore it.
We realize we cannot win and try to surrender to the odours.
The miasma grows, in depth, in strength, in musk it reaches up our noses and shakes our olfactory nerves loose from their sockets.
And in the end all that we smell is the wet green scent of our brains.
In the end all that we smell is the wet green scent of our brains.