Dear listener, friend, stranger, lover,

by Siegmar Zacharias

March 1st 2020 I went to New Orleans to be with and learn from people who engage in collective public practices of intimacy with death. 13 days later the Covid 19 pandemics forced a social distancing protocol onto us all and there was no public nor collective practices for a long time. I left New Orleans on the 1st of April through ghostly airports.This text was written in bites over the last two years.

March 25th 2020

Security measures are technologies to keep you free from harm, injury or damage, and induce the feeling of safety. Safety however is a state that our nervous system learns at a very young age. A disruption of this state can be caused by trauma –  physical, developmental, social, ecological or intergenerational trauma. The feeling of safety is something that can be thought outside a logic of harm. As humans, this safety relates primarily to our relational environment. Safety is the base on which a human being develops their capacity to be socially engaged. It is nurtured by sounds and vibrations in the human voice range, it is nurtured by touch, it is nurtured by breathing in fully and exhaling completely. I discharge energy in an uncontrollable tremor. I wear my mask to hold you in my gaze, to not avert the direction of my eyes with the vector of my breath. We hold each other in distance. You are not what I want to be safe from. Our interconnectedness shows up in the fear of and for each other. Holding that thought as I would hold you. With space, giving space to what we could be. Not holding on to a normalcy that never was. Anticipatory grief of lost lives, lost work, lost meaning, lost relations. The streets were never smooth here. The earth is in a state of constant liquefaction where water and solids segregate into cracks and potholes. Years of meandering scars shift the earth into uncontrollable landscapes. Softness. Emotional landscapes that move through us in the old rhythms of inhale exhale bounce. Bouncing between life and death I feel you more then ever my dead sisters. 

May 20th 2020

The space afforded us as unrecognisable bodies
and if space is
bodies are not owned
but places where the alien likes to stay, to linger, to grow.
Soft matter is solid but
behaves as fluid under pressure. 
It is an action of re-orientation and re-organisation.
The membrane holding new connections, other needs.
We attach ourselves to the surface.
Small conduits pointing in the same direction. 
Sucking in the area that gives itself 
as a receptor.  
Abrasion opens. 
Spikes are welcoming, scratching, caressing, lacerating.
There is a binding which is not bonding, but an entrance. 
Sometimes you can enter only through the cracks in a system, 
other times the walls suck you in through their pores. 
Sometimes desire is the driving force, sometimes it’s fear, 
always power
mostly chemistry.
When you put pressure on solid bodies
they start behaving as fluid.
And edifices tumble on the way,
structures of thought and stone and habit. 
The loss of bearing strength is a possibility for new formations
The loss of bearing gaze is the possibility for touch

Until then my friends, strangers, and lovers I have a small offering:

Last summer I made an ointment in a workshop run by Cat Jones: Medicament for your Predicament. What was the predicament? How should the medicament be active? What is it’s delivery system? Would it be taken through the mouth, the anus, the vagina, the nostrils or the skin? I wanted it to be a treatment that takes time and that ideally needed to be performed by more then one person. The predicament it should address is to increase the feeling of safety in the face of radical change. It is an abrasive scrub/exfoliating massage ointment made of coconut oil ginger infusion mixed with sodium bicarbonate, and ground hibiscus flowers, which are full of citric acid and go pink when desolved in water. Being an effervescent it creates a continuos fizz when it touches water. It has three components and four phases. A scrub. A water spray. A kelp powder mist.  Apply the scrub to the area you want activated. The exfoliant takes old layers of skin off and the ginger works anti-inflammatory inducing cell regeneration. Spray with water. Watch it bubble and change colour to dark pink. Sense the bubbles clinging and bursting on your skin. When this micro massage is over and the scrub has changed its colour completely use it to massage the deeper skin and muscle tissue. The coconut oil feels fresh and juicy while the ginger builds up heat for you. 
Once the skin is open and subtle, refreshed and breathing apply light touch stroking to enervate the

Merkel cells. They are special touch receptors. To end you apply the kelp mist, connecting with the tidal forces of the ocean and their periodic variations in gravitational attraction exerted by celestial bodies.

Ask someone to apply it for you. Offer to apply it for someone else. If you are alone apply it to yourself. Breath slowly inhale fully on six exhale completely on six. Caress your heart with your breath. Touch yourself inside out. 

December 12th 2020
I want to come back to you.
I need to be in the swamp for a long time.

June 13th 2021
Over the last one and a half years I continued my conversation with you in my ways. One way I could be with you was by sound. A wave is a force that moves energy from one place to another. Waves travel through matter and space. Sound waves travel around the planet through bodies of water and matter. Light waves travel through the universe connecting celestial bodies. Seismic waves shake up the ground on which we stand. 

I’m happy to meet you soon.

Can we acknowledge the complicated grieves, that are present in this time? Grief for the dead, grief because of the climate crisis, grief because social injustices, grief because of anti blackness, grief for a certain idea of future; individual, collective, worldly and planetary grief. 

Engaging in the entanglement of forces that waves porduce I invite you to this listening sessions as collective grieving practices. I want to invite you to listening with the whole body. Giving our bodies as resonances to each other to be in the wild place of grief, of joy, of regeneration. They are sound meditations for wondering together into a space that we don’t need to be alone in. Building on a practice of nourishment and regeneration we want to sustaining transformative quaking while asking: How can we be together otherwise?

Bring something heavy that you can place on your body or hold in your hand. 
Bring a hot water bottle or a blanket. 
Lay down if you want. 
Listen with your eyes closed, or listen in the dark. 
Listen with headphones.

November 1st 2020
your body holds
future past present
it flows
feel your history 
when we connect through pressure and feelings
hold you 
hold that thought
holding future past and present
we cannot 
survive without 
hands holding us
on the wild edge of grief
we have time 
for grief
this is what we are called for
in a mutual gravitational field 
to consent not to be a single being
the alchemy of loss
is to feel 
yourself tangled
in a planetary nest
it is a prayer a plea a protest
at the centre of grief there is a presence
that is not your own
you are not alone

July 21st 2021

So, as they are talking, death is with them and their cousins loss and grief and love and care. And sometimes one takes the lead sometimes another. And they stay together and stand together against capitalist heteropatriarchal powers and winds of functionality and isolation. And they stand together against the claim, that it is up to them to get over it, and that it is personal and not political. And as they are walking together in the swamp, decay and regrowth all around them, they think about the temporality of smell and how it crosses and connects generations and landscapes and how it is the materiality of the body that grows after death, becoming pungend and rich. And they stand in the swamp seeing it die around them in the fragile equilibrium aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and microorganisms that transforms huge biomass and sediments and stores nutrients for a future to come. And they feel the vibration of subsounds surrounding the planet and how it crosses and connects generations and landscapes. And they learn to listen to the swamp and listen through their skin with more or less pigments and listen with their gut and with their bacteria in their gut, and listen to lives lost, and listen to sendimented layers of saturation, and listen to voiced unheared and voices not listened to. And they learn to listen to vibrations with their whole bodies. And they attempt to speak with their feet in the swamp and the bacterias in their gut resonating with the bacteria in the swamp.  Languaging in ways unknown to themselves they are curious what will come (out) of these bodies crossed and connected by generations and landscapes. They stand together appart in an entanglement with that what was and that which will be, the becoming of new meaning, values and possibilities. 

Siegmar Zacharias is a performance artist, researcher, and death doula based in Berlin. She collaborates with humans and uncontrollable materials, such as smoke, slime, drool, the nervous system exploring  generative ethical dynamics of transformation and radical change. She explores performance as collective grief-work in the tension between intimacy and alienation. Affiliated with Roehampton University she received a TECHNE scholarship for excellency and inovative research to persue her PhD project. She is a fellow at THIRD DASResearch at AHK Amsterdam.


Sweat is the new film by Elsa Brès, who filmed most of it during her stay with Deltaworkers in 2019.

Sweat premieres at FIDMarseille on the 23rd of July 2020.

Counting, walking, getting lost, then dissolving into the landscape. Such is the movement in which Elsa Brès involves us in Sweat, a film shot in the Mississippi delta. At the very beginning, at the pace of a walker, the mischievously incomplete count of steps, captured in fragments. A scansion that is both a recollection of the first mapping of the delta (as suggested by the outfit), and an elementary impulse to measure the world. An opening gesture that the film quickly erases to better go with the flow, drift, and immerse us into the meanderings of the river, between flood tides and overflowing. We drift from one nameless place to the next, following tributaries, through a luxurious nature, bearing scars of human presence and exploitation, like the gigantic oil complex we catch a glimpse of. Through this both sensorial and mental journey, between yesterday and today, while alluding to fruitless fights to try and tame the elements (flood, swarms of insects), the film gives prominence to brief encounters, either with men or animals. An invitation to let ourselves be absorbed into the very matter of a space with unstable contours, made of indecisively drawn banks, like so many convergence lines. Thus, Sweat draws the passage from a charted area to the shapeless, from the ridged map to the smooth space, to borrow Gilles Deleuze’s words. And here we are, plunged into an environment teeming with the noise of its inhabitants, rustling like so many cautionary news about the excesses of a delta that is lived-in, oozy, sweaty, as indicated by the title, like a body, a living organism. (Nicolas Féodoroff, from FIDMarseille catalogue)

Original version : English, French.
Subtitles : French, English.
Script : Elsa Brès.
Photography : Elsa Brès.
Editing : Elsa Brès.
Music : Méryll Ampe.
Sound : Elsa Brès, Maxence Ciekawy, Rémi Mencucci.
Casting : Liam Conway, Alanna Maureen Geare, Libbie Allen, Chase Mathey, Telltales Collective, William Jackson.
Production : Parkadia (Elise Florenty & Clémentine Roy).
Distribution : Elsa Brès.


For the Corona Cookbook by Markus Miessen and Lena Mahr, Deltaworkers contributed a cocktail that has it’s roots in the history of creating cocktails during each residency season, brought to perfection during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Mummke Pitt
Mix in tall glass:
1,5 shot Vodka?
1/2 Grapefruit ?
1/2 organic Lemon 
4 thin slices of organic Ginger from Whole Paycheck
6 fresh Black Mulberries 
3 slices of Jalapeño Pepper
Dash of Bitters ?
Pinch Black pepper
Steens to taste ?
Shake of red ‘Slap ya Mama’ ?

Mix all ingredients together, stir, add ice to fill glass, and stir again. Wash hands with Florida Water before serving The Mummke Pitt. Canoe down any bayou?, one alligator distance apart. 

?any not too sweet vodka is fine
?Louisiana Pink Grapefruit
? Underberg 
? Sugar Cane Syrup
? Authentic Cajun Seasoning
?“Bayou” originated from the First Nation Choctaw word “bayok”, which refers to a small stream. The current spelling of the word comes from the Louisiana French variation of the word “bayouque.”

The Mummke Pitt is offered to you by the 2020 Deltaworkers New Orleans Corona Cohort: Artun Alaska Arasli, Carly Rose Bedford, Nhung Dam, Maaike Gouwenberg, Inas Halabi, Maggie McWilliams, Siegmar Zacharias, Jeff & Sugar the ??, and six ??????.

Bonus limerick from local New Orleans musician and friend Tom McDermott ?

Some people think I’m a goof; 
others might say I’m aloof.
Now, I’ve assistance:
with new “social distance”
it’s easy to confound the truth. 

Download the full cookbook here.

Spring Training, at the Muck Studies Dept.

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
Really Running
Until I fly and
the stars waterfall out
the sky

Into the water.
Running while
A freshwater whale
next to the water,
Cry like
Picking up silver
Foil and enjoying myself way
Too much, crystal
Sweat and
Heavy cursing under
Smoker’s breath
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
I am.

Knowing those
Dirty constellations.
What stars in the dirt? My
Finger pull
At small scrubby weeds, part
Gray flakes from
Eczema I got
served for
For free!
Next to my lover’s
profile picture
I place a piece of

I don’t need to
Go to Natchez, my
Bitches, I
Only know the Olu Dara
song about love and that’s
Enough telescoping
For me.

I make
Friends with
Weapons I’m not
surprised, I know
It and
I’m on their

When I
Meet with the man from Shell
I play
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
like myself
Disarms people
In power
I let them think I’m a
Dumb Faggot
I’m more of a
Lost lesbian

When I meet
Wilma, dirt chemist,
Heavy blue
Blankets behind her
Roaming through gas and listening for dogs in
The River,
I say, I got too scared to go in above my shins.
She knows
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
Internet and
In Bars.
Learn to
Defend yourself
Love yourself in
Front of
Men driving
Too fast down
the highway near
The plant
by your
House, where your
grandchildren are sleeping
where you are supposed
To feel safe, where
Surround is
an appropriate
tactic of
Mourning and
Retaliation, she
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
a zone
Where I
Am Seen
In the most
Racist state
In the country,
Where I
Said I
Would never
Ever go,
They call me
“Our ancestors blood”
And crush me.
I am destroyed.
I join our dirt lost
Whale song
Tears I bring seeds
I’m from a city I
Can’t know. I bring
Back to my
lover, to
Pray over
I put my
anger out
to the
Sound of
Rotten carp
crackling in the
Reservoir I
Slouch by the
Pearl River with
my hydrophone
and trap soundtracks I
Record the toilet
Flushing in the gas
Station for
Comfort. I am
A ghost baby floating
in the

Watching and not
Knowing how to
Speak or move in
this clown-ass heat.
She said
It’s about that
Time I had
To run
Which time? I’m stunned
from a snake next to water
at night.

I leave
The critique
Cause its
About field and
I “ain’t” about to
Be that lost
Lonely figure
Wrapped in Anger in
The middle of some
Pastoral scene.

My friend come to visit
And get stopped at the door
Cause his
Stories were
long and
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
to carry
how I am
Black everybody
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
Still cry
Remember when you
Get hidden
By rules you didn’t make up?
Live the politics
Underneath expletives
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
Soggy fingers
Glinty shards
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
It’s a
Swamp too.
Thank you.


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
a home

The Pig and the Grain of Salt

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 
Under doors 
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.

Swamps bubble.
Toilets bubble.
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.