Eight Short Poetic Essays

Eight Short Poetic Essays

Alisha Dukelow


is eyebrows down, track, look, listen,[1] tentative with your angles. To filter stores in alphabetical grade online, click: Bijouterie Orly, Boheme, Brioche Dorée; to conceptualize the complex before body perceives it, ask what is necessary or what is possible for you to be interested in at the underground mall? Excitement — or hunger — could be why you choose the fast Parisian café, a tart for its containment of blackberries, the way jammed fruit pigments like a bruise, an object handled with volition in middle, unfungible, as if we have been programmed to invest in the coolness of this shade. Interest recalls that before the computer was a machine, it was a person, a clerk, gendered, approximately two-hundred women keying a wartime symphony of metallic digits;[2] it notices the barista’s mouth like a grammatical opening, her dash of violet lip paint, her eyes, turquoise, natural, or unnatural. It is anticipation of sweetness, a gag, a longing for sticky fingers. After the transaction is made, to think of licking, all the words you learned in attempts to reward with your touch. Excitement is aerial, forgets the gelatin emulsion, greenwashing, Big Blue upstairs, absence of sun down below, pretends real butter in the subterranean. It is to sugar the sampling, its spatial dizziness, the astringent of tannin. Yet you feel obvious for the gravity of your drive, not your inability to co-assemble it with your emotion: perceive and appraise[3] your self-view in the sub-system as you shiver at a metal table, cognize the tinted glass and sandstone facade from inside, out. Swallow the pastry’s purple-black drupelets and try to take interest in nature, an antioxidant possibility, but reach for what you can’t touch. Devour this before grandeurs darken, current stunts in circuit, you turn off:


is lips widened up and out, because dentistry invented the Duchenne smile.[4] It is automatonic relief of escalator: motor assembly to main drive gear to idler sprockets; anchor truss to comb plate, landing cite;[5] the triumph of skylight to marble, fluoridation, an orthogonal ideological posture that fits the floor plan. Enjoyment might be the privilege of a curvaceous breath, or the free moment, lavender scented, because you escaped interest in L’Occitane’s Imortelle Divine Eyes, only bought the hand lotion you needed. It is caffeinated, vitamined, and medicated, an obscene luxury[6] with steep decline in neural firing, a drain of white heat like snow thaw: through a high west office window, how Mont Royal’s peak must italicize the cut of its valley and tunnel. Here, joy is an expensive proprioceptive ease, to recollect spring, a field of indigo inflorescence, a picnic mood and script, to clean and shine your childhood. It becomes emotional when grasping the soft fingers of familiarity: a baby likes to localize her parents before she can believe in them, objectify the recognition, and this is with differential repetition. Does it have anything to do with your aimless returns to the rbc vestibule? Enjoyment is contiguous to reapplying lotion, only brief in the claustral corporate bathroom: when washing your hands with warm water, and the smell of antibacterial soap triggers the stale taste of the restaurant peppermints your mother would stockpile, that you would steal from her purse, that melted to spikes under tongue before breaking. Joy could be such lather towards nostalgia, pastel, because in the stall is maximum intimacy, or widest imagined opportunity, to make-believe a sustainably moisturizing reciprocity:


is eyebrows up, blink: when an rbc employee swings open the glass door before shutter clicks in the vestibule, though you only meant to photograph the prismatic reflections. It is hypothalamic, your nervous system’s lag when she asks if she can help you; there are just partial modes of autonomic response. Startle’s unwelcome interruption prompts a double take, a yank at central assembly, the potential for light leak in mauve, blue, or yellow, diffuse of shame, fear, and/ or excitement, yet surprise is simply precedent, transient, an almostevent. Silvan admits each glitch, that it can be difficult to securely attend to a minute’s information, though when you startle, he thinks, you should learn to be rapid, electrically efficient in transmission. And paradoxically, you can expect that surprise will occur: there’s a hole in the chamber of your camera and temporal snags in your memory, a misplaced address of a neural firing pattern, and this isn’t always about projection. While you can’t decipher what figure has cast shadow in the black box, the cumulus shape is invariably enigmatic as Daedalus’ labyrinth, umbra moth wing dust, automata. Startling is to wonder, then: can your emotions — what you report and remember — rupture you, change your direction? Is the sound of a thought ever as loud as the wrong heels on carbonate crystal? To surprise might motivate hope for an escape from the incriminating interaction, your visibility in loitering on white grid of bank lobby floor. But to wish for decorum is impossible. If there is punctuation between feelings, it cleaves achronological, at random. Within this impasse,[7] we know the racist-capitalist devices are predatory,[8] wired to reset the debt economy with renewals of estrangement and withdrawal:


is arched eyebrow, mouth down, tears, rhythmic sobbing, beginning with birth, the first blindly stimulated distress. Of course, anguish is a ubiquitous press, breaching our enjoyments at high-decibels and deadlocking us to our objects. When you try to rewind your roll of film, and the crank’s slack, counterclock, the roll, blank—your camera, old machine, does hurt to your heart. Distress elicits your purchase of salt and vinegar chips, remedial action of sodium acetate, a modular hope to transmute acetic and citric acids, the Advil hue of Liqui-Gel turquoise, a crosscut in the earth to Pharmaprix. And Darwin, too, thought about eye spasms, tired pathos of man’s strain on reflexes of exocrine glands, their toxically aqueous secretions. Distress is such sting, negative spatial insertions. It is related to (im)permanence of ocean, the emotional and environmental loss of pastoral cliche, plastics in the oysters, how you will always weep for tropes of saline. It is the phenomenology of fatigue that tides you back to the main floor and The Keg: the Happy Hour sign glowing like a firelit cave, a shelter from the rough ventilation. Your alcoholic uncle took you there once. Silvan says anguish requires warm soothing baths, cocktails, tea, snacks, and the reassuring state of modern pharmacology; daily distressing failures ensure that the problem of human sadnesses can upkeep the high tonus of their peripheral musculature. So you order a gin and tonic again, cruelly optimistic with the quick release of the pour. Because anguish is like a knife to rare steak in the translation machine[9] of science, its experiment with your head and the world: such a shame you can’t afford to enjoy the tenderness:


is frown, clenched jaw, red face, amplified in the aisles’ mediating corridoricity.[10] It clogs in the grey matter, with shopper collisions, wide gaits of men’s airs and colognes: all of the universalizing aesthetic decisions. It is because they bump into you, walls are washed in white Ripolin,[11] ads pixelate skin, try to tattoo in ruddy temperatures. And anger follows, pained in L’Occitane, when the beautician asks you to think critically: how finitely multiple are the problems with your chin and its reflection? It spreads in allergic reactions to the various glazes prescribed for your irritations: inflammation, rawness, and chafing.[12] Yes, anger rashes. Silvan simmers it down, says rage can bloom from abstract activators like bad papercuts, sunburns, or chilis stuck in cheeks. He claims it could be a by-product of stubbed toes that ignites deviants within society, barbarians without, while the colonial code calls Kanien’kehá:ka land the Dorchester Street hole, and Place Ville Marie, a route to solve the stain of railway trench.[13] But with perceptual thorns, anger burns through such myths of pure forms; after Duplessis’s iron grip and the Quiet Revolution, the aluminum curtain wall signalled six floors of Alcan and forty-seven storeys of hydroelectrified grid, sparking up cybernational tower. Rage selectively springboards the affluent to vascular vocality, lustful self-righteousness, an ancestral spice in their professional glower. Yet it also keeps you warm. Rage heats like a shot with vr1 cell’s urgency: a star in the throat, in the chest, in the belly:


is eyes frozen open, pale, cold sweat, facial tremble, hair erect, is an emergency motivation, getting locked in the wrong elevator with cardonly access. Fear needs a team of security guards 24/7, computerized control, 260 plus surveillance cameras complex-wide linked to a digital recording and viewing system,[14] the bank’s bluish white beacon by Northern Electric feigning sky, scanning nightly, panopticonal. Your terror is elevated six hundred feet high: in the rooftop Au Sommet, a multinational conglomerate corporation in grey flannel uniformally chewing Mujol caviar canapés. Fear blazes after sunset like the ceiling track’s flare of red bokeh, stuttering beep codes, and might be the main stem and medulla of pvm’s creative destruction, the alarmic rhythm to evacuate soma, the building, and run for your life — yet again, if you escape, it remains as terminal condition. This is because terror demands that you habituate yourself to its very scene if you’re bent to be master; fear replicates itself within, toxically recycled, if avoided. The accellera, accellera, accellera of neural flames propel you with the force of steel, of cement. And more concretely, terror is in the contraction of the neck’s platysma muscles, cyberstructuralism’s[15] historically strangulating concepts, the modern struggle to pay rent. More severe than any other interruption, it sears like peripheral gunshot within cortex, in chilly womb of International Style. It is why human beings are the most violent and the most anxious of animals (and this is one of the mistakes of the evolutionary process)! For these reasons, the potentially dangerous or revealing epiphaneias (fire, women’s bodies, blood) still must be housed, clothed, and examined upstairs; you were supposed to stay shopping underground:


is eyes down, head down, violent blush towards soil that was never tabula rasa. Inhibiting interest, it is overexposure, in pressure to blanch, and might scaffold with the fact that Montreal calls Place Ville Marie, grande dame, crown jewel,[16] claims that the cruciform ensures brightest effect of light’s penetration — yet the construction’s negation, what’s under and through, is gravid in pictures, dark centre. It colours the basement gym fluorescent: when the man through the glass wall, watching the news as he walks the elliptical, sees your screened reflection and stares at your camera as accidentally, it flashes. Humiliation is why we are deeply contaminated creatures, and the high-speed moving picture’s lens can figure shyness with feedback and precision. It is vicarious, to be pinned looking because you saw, and were mirrored crooked, in a refraction of dissociating dimensions (and this is uncanny, but it would be dangerous, Silvan says, to reduce the experience to Freud’s furniture). It is every useless law, imperial and metric, which maintain that you can Image nothing straight or rectilinearly harmonious about your body; why you lack ambition towards Le Corbusier’s Modulor math, the purported golden ratio. Shame is in the fenced heft of shade below the concrete perimeter columns and metal girders in summer, the wasted de facto civic space of the plaza, while humiliation glints in the greased foil interior of the plastic chip bag, its flavour film gummed with sweat to your palms, the crumpled layers of polyethylene glossed hot in the garbage. It hangs in the adjacent pvc tree, the ficus drooped, crudely waxen:

Dissmell and Disgust:

sneer, magnet and magnify nausea: all the real and the performative[17] toxins. They are what David’s Tea does to you, with weak copper syrups in mini paper cups, collective sicknesses, clotted. Concentration of contempt in an object, dissmell is a self-pollution pill, tastes of old pennies on tongue, othered bitter rust drops, and depression. It is discriminatory renunciation, spit-ups shamed in the nursing room, because of the disastrous neglect of milk left to sour: why a woman shopping in Marie Claire was prohibited from breastfeeding in a changeroom at a quiet hour.[18] Disgust phantomizes nipple under guise of defense against who’s and what’s noxious, opposing oxygen, auxiliary to hunger. It might be a bad tang of electrical shock, or rejection, a permanent power. Dissmell happens in the proximity of diesel to doctor’s office to chain-cooked sirloins and seafoods (in ’62, La Presse boasted that the telephone wiring would have been enough to serve Magog,[19] but the socialist Italian who invented the first desktop computer was secretly murdered in the cia-ibm plot’s fog).[20] And disgust will curdle in hierarchical individuations — like dining below the Esplanade’s gourmet biergarten’s glass ceiling, or stepping into the elevator, out of the smog. Dissmell is acidic, uproots like white baneberries, poisonous, not radical. And therefore, in the promenade of cn Real Estate, this commercial centre of gravity, is it the way that cosmos frames chaos that disgusts you? A door that slams shut and an umbilical cord cut, and forever, it may be why, in the intermodal clash, we pull away from each other with one eye on the network and the other on the exit: why you eject here when you have the narrow chance: »


  • [1] Unless otherwise noted, italicized diction is an important concept or term in Silvan Tomkins’s four volumes of Affect Imagery Consciousness (Springer Publishing 1962, 1963, 1991, and 1992), which draw on the vocabulary of first-wave cybernetic theory to delineate a modular and neurobiologically rooted program of nine The affects, Tomkins argues, evolved in the “central assembly” of the human mind and, preceding and exceeding the influences of one’s drives and thoughts, serve as our “primary motivational system.”
  • [2] See Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray, Computer: A History of the Information Machine (Westview Press, 2004), pp. 3, 71-72.
  • [3] See Magda Arnold, EmotionandPersonality (Columbia University Press, 1960), 8.
  • [4] See Lisa Feldman Barrett, How Emotions Are Made (Pan Macmillan, 2017), 51.
  • [5] See Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Architectural Body (The University of Alabama Press, 2002), 5.
  • [6] See Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture (Coach House Books, 2006), p.
  • [7] See Lauren Berlant, CruelOptimism (Duke University Press, 2011), 4.
  • [8] See Jackie Wang, Carceral Capitalism (semiotext(e), 2018), 17.
  • [9] See Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World (Princeton University Press, 2015), p. 217.
  • [10] See Kate Marshall, Corridor (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), 7.
  • [11] See Le Corbusier, The Decorative Art of Today (MIT Press, 1987), 52.
  • [12] See Sianne Ngai, Ugly Feelings (Harvard University Press, 2007), p.
  • [13] See Don Nerbas, “William Zeckendorf, Place Ville-Marie, and the Making of Modern Montreal” (Urban History Review / Revue d’Histoire Urbaine, vol. 43, no. 2, 2015), pp. 5-6.
  • [14] See Place Ville Marie
  • [15] See Marsha Kinder, “Medium Specificity and Productive Precursors: An Introduction” (Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities, edited with Tara McPherson, 2014), 4.
  • [16] See France Vanlaethem, et , Place Ville Marie: Montreal’s Shining Landmark (Québec Amérique, 2012), p. 9.
  • [17] See Sara Ahmed, TheCulturalPoliticsof Emotion (Routledge, 2015), 92.
  • [18] See “Breastfeeding Mom Denied in Marie Claire . . . at PVM,” CTV News Montreal.
  • [19] See France Vanlaethem, et , p. 157.
  • [20] See Meryle Secrest, The Mysterious Affair at Olivetti: IBM, the CIA, and the Cold War Conspiracy to Shut Down Production of the World’s First Desktop Computer (Penguin 2019).