Talking Birds

It's absurd to think that periods empty of love are blank pages in a woman's life. My case was not unique: I was already old, I was afraid of dying and distressed at being in this world. After considering the historic page and viewing the living world with anxious solicitude, the most melancholy emotions of sorrowful indignation had depressed my spirits. Long ago all the nice people were poor, allowing for exceptions. It's true, the one thing I have gained from exile is the privilege of going to the zoo. Teaching birds to talk is a task requiring great patience and the right approach. As the owner of a hundred such birds I have studied them at close quarters for some twenty-one years and I know when and under what conditions each species will start to mimic. One day, a woman came up to me. Sooty addressed her: Good morning Judge, what's your name, where is my rosette? There is nothing so sad as to see a parrot cooped up all its life in a tiny inadequately sized cage, remarked the woman. I found, looking at the sky again, a clear, black crystal dome: the sun had not yet risen. Taking a walk that day in the hills. The possibility of a stream that forks in exactly the right position to feed two lakes. A blue Moslem town skirting the edge of a cliff. Two fine horses, horses in the early dawn eating slowly, swaying from side to side, horses that plough, never in a hurry, but always accomplishing something. In case of this. In case of this.

   A collage of original material and cut-ups of opening sentences by Djuna Barnes,
   Jane Bowles, Charlotte BrontĎ , Leonora Carrington, Colette, Simone de Beauvoir,
   Marguerite Duras, Emma Goldman, Radclyffe Hall, Violette Leduc, Countess Markievicz,
   Muriel Spark, Gertrude Stein, Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf

Memorandum of a Mad Project-Maker

In the 4th century AD, shortly before the period that is generally represented as the collapse of the Roman Empire… an author who remains anonymous wrote De Rebus Bellicis (DRB), a treatise for the counsel of the emperor in matters of war. In the late 19th century the text was still called 'Denckschrift eines verruckten Projektemachers' (Memorandum of a Mad Project-Maker).
- Gerald Raunig, A Thousand Machines

Forget your rams, tortoises, raven's beaks and cranes, your scorpions and wild ass siege weapons - your tormenta. The future Sigmund Freud will have a field-day with the naming of the drone. What castration anxiety! A male honey bee, his ejaculation so explosive his penis is broken off and left inside the queen during mating. Drones - like empires - only mate once, and die shortly after their greatest display of power.



My alarm sounds. Raise the alert. System cause & the first sign. My tear. Voice tearful voice, eyes easily moved. Have a little cry. Be a real cry-baby. Drop crocodile tears. Trim, (de)burr, trim, clip, trim. My tear brought 3 month's growth of beard. Whiskers jagged edged, ragged edged, need a shave. Damn it! Blast! What a drag. Barb snorts while ‘it' you rate barb &.. Pain weapon. Gun-murder-spectacled. Agog. My dear frolics lovemaking. My alarm & unit measuring data transmission speed. Marble. Billiard ball. Have a game. Roll-on deodorant. He didn't beat about the bush. He made all the right moves. Pull out. Know a thing or two about history. Billet. Block of wood. Mug face. You should have seen his face! My alarm & mule's packsaddle - there's the rub. Ache all over. Arms. Weapons. Factory soldiers. They came into town to shake, weaken, disturb, unhinge. Shattered nerves. Whole world shaken. Stunned by the news. Happy cattle-herd of humanity* move, set off, start swinging. Sick. Weapon-blinded. In one eye poked out. My alarm is clear. Summer. Lightening. Lucidity.

   * Mallarmé: bétail heureaux des hommes, trans. SM


Water Shrew
you're a water shrew
lovely as
your trembling hands

You dig tunnels on the edge of slow-moving rivers. Seldom seen, your high-pitched squeak can still be heard. Your remains are found in the pellets of birds of prey. Owls and hawks regurgitate your bones, fur and feathers. I occasionally find you dead on paths, drowned or trapped

sentences passed under the screw-plate,
subjected to the saponification of obligatory metaphors

you enter bottles. Once inside, the sloping neck scuppers your escape. Your corpse attracts other shrews: Dusky, Common, Masked, the Least Siberian.
I have found twenty or more dead in a single bottle. It's hard to identify shrews positively. Most have to consult specialist books. Roman Jacobson studied aphasia, a language disorder resulting from memory loss. The language disorder


(I am in the habit of keeping strict note of my mental phenomena according to the methods recommended by philosophy)

of language in different ways so that those suffering from a ‘continuity disorder' tend to use substitution and those suffering from ‘similarity disorder' tend to use association. He said: Metaphor is alien to the similarity disorder, and metonymy to the continuity disorder.
He was drunk! Horribly drunk!

your fur is soft
as willow catkins

you dive well

appear silver
under water

     © Sheila Mannix 2015