I want to take photos of everyone in the grocery store wearing their plague masks. I love their dead eyes, less lively than even birds, and the frenetic tiredness that embodies their shopping. Note that I am also shaking like a leaf as I browse for left-over canned goods and medium-sized eggs (they are cheaper). My pleasure in the consumer-masquerade is interrupted by my own anxiety and how often I squirt hand-sanitizer on my hands.
These photos, taken with my broken Polaroid, would be precious to me if I could get them. I am scheming for it. Plague-world means something more than catastrophe; plague-world is now the embodiment of all my dreams of infections and art-making. Plague-world looks just like the dying flowers in my neighbor’s window and the photo I am unable to capture from my own apartment. I am obsessed by these flowers, barely standing in their bruised white wicker basket. I do not have questions of their presence. Their presence is unquestionable. The flowers stare back at me but I do not know what they are trying to communicate. Are they a warning? Have I stood naked in front of the window too many times?
I have also taken these manual photographs in cemeteries, back when the world was freer, and felt similarly puzzled when the photos did not correspond with the image in my mind’s eye. Not as a matter of composition, but of apparition. Why did the bones of the dead not filter through the lens the way they filter through my eye? I see the skeletons rising to the top of their graves, as if the land were a liquid wave that could carry them easily to the surface. What happens if the grave were permeable? It probably isn’t allowed. Last night I dreamt of a haunted house where my Polaroids never corresponded to the images I saw through my lens. Every person whose photo I took, disappeared from the frame. Everyone was always in another room.
Similarly, on a midnight cemetery tour last summer, I pressed my body against the doors of a mausoleum and begged to go inside. The air was so hot that I could not breathe. The group had just exited the crematorium where we happened upon mortuary assistants doing their fiery work. I can say with certainty that I breathed in ashes of the dead! Yes, everything was too hot, and I don’t have photos of that moment either; the sweaty horror of accidentally walking in on the real work of death. The cool stone of the mausoleum felt like a relief.
Perhaps what I want is a photo of a moment of sublimation. Or maybe the reverse. A transformative moment. I’m not sure. Grocery shopping or things that rot us but we do anyway; not merely a communiqué from plague-world but also the sublimation of the self into nutritional facts and iHeartRadio playlists. Wild made domesticated, healthy made sick, ignorant made informed. Lasik eye-surgery. I often fantasize about pouring breakfast cereal all over the carpet and then rolling my body all over the carpet. I want a photo of my brother breaking his leg, which he has done several times.
This week I am trying to read Joyelle’s Toxicon & Arachne but I am struggling. Her work often hurts me, sometimes because it is everything I want poetry to be but mostly because I feel too dull and stupid to properly digest it. Her necropastoral is in full force in the first few pages already, the form mirroring the function of the work: every word infects and mutates the next. I’ve been reading slowly, petulantly, often stopping to look up words and ponder the wisdom in pursuing a vanity PhD. Maybe I need more schooling? Discipline? Or maybe simple love, as much as a I have for the images of flowers and shoppers that are eluding my possession. So much poetry makes my eyes glaze over— What does that say about me?