Dada (Fragment #018)

I marched towards the library and collided with Patrick near the main entrance. I remembered this boor. He was an assistant at my entrance examination. I decided not to waste time greeting him and just passed on by.

The 20th century German literature section wasn’t a very popular place. Well, good riddance! It was much better to work without the silly background chirrup of girls writing endless nonsense about heroic troubadours and sighing over modern guys who’d forgotten the art of courtship.

Anyway, I figured I should get to work, so I thumbed along the high stacks looking for the letter ‘T’. Gotcha! Tristan Tzara, ‘Seven Dada Manifestos and Lampisteries’.

“Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.
Shake gently.
Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
The poem will resemble you.
And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.”

So, professor, you didn’t like my poem? I giggled at the thought. I’ll learn how to break something that was already broken. Let’s dada, baby! And suddenly, my attention was drawn to some other voices. They sounded pretty tense. I cocked my ear.

“I need this book!”

“The rules are the same for everyone. You can only read it in the reference room. This book mustn’t leave the library.”

“But…”

“No.”

I peeped out of the stack and looked over to the counter. A disappointed Patrick was talking with the library custodian, a large leather bound book clutched to his chest. Serves you right! I thought with gloating delight.

I’d always considered the ‘Codex Seraphinianus’ to be a bit of a joke. I didn’t think anyone of stable mind could ever truly take it seriously. My eyes flicked across Patrick’s sad features again. What a putty head!

Anyway, I needed to care more about completing the task at hand.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Wordy Mikado (Fragment #017)

I stowed the wreckage of the broken poem in my pockets and dragged myself to my room. It was there that I shook out this mishmash, onto the little table in the corner, and I fell to thinking how it could be rearranged into a new poem. Some lines stuck out awkwardly here and there, and I suddenly recalled how in my childhood I would play Mikado. This flashback was so quick and so bright that it slashed through my mind like a lightning bolt.

We preferred to play with fine aluminium wires, not with woody sticks. We bent the ends of the wires into loops, hooks, and waves. This made the game more difficult because every move had to be executed with surgical precision. (By the way, I’d heard of a variation of this game that was part of the professional practice of pocket lifters.)

I found myself mindlessly poking my finger into the pile of words. My angriness fumed away. The professor’s voice echoed in my head: “And don’t spoil such precious words for glamorous bullshit.” We played with literal junk when we were children, and we did it with style. Why should I fuck with such high class stuff now?

I pulled out a long, shiny wire from the pile and smiled. I knew what I needed to do. I accurately stowed all the wordy bits into a little box and went to the library.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

CALIXIAN // Long Tails & Boozy Tales

Write drunk, edit sober.

I look at those empty cans in the trash bin. Then I look at the empty screen with its blinking cursor. So far it’s three to zero for the cans. Words are trailing far behind. But I won’t give up. It’s only a matter of time and patience. I open the next can.

“So, it turns out that the average number of blinks made by someone getting their photo taken is ten per minute. The average blink lasts about two hundred and fifty milliseconds and, in good indoor light, the camera shutter stays open for about eight milliseconds. Exciting, huh?!”

Oh, shit, really?

“This way, photographing thirty people in bad light would need about thirty shots. Once there’s around fifty people, even in good light, you can kiss your hopes of an unspoilt photo goodbye. Listen now, this is the most interesting part…”

Gosh, what a load of cack!

“To calculate the number of photos you’d need to take for groups of less than twenty, divide the number of people by three if there’s good light and two if the light’s bad. Hey, Calix, buy me a camera? Please, pretty pretty please! I’ll take a photo of you and Darwin!”

I take my eyes off the screen and point them at the tank sitting on the book shelf. The goldfish goggles at me from there, its own eyes pleading, magnified through the dirty glass.

“You got a smartphone at Christmas, didn’t you? Use that!”

The goldfish pouts and turns its luxuriously long tail towards me. I give a nonchalant shrug and get back to the throes of creation. I don’t have time for silly chitchats. It’s about one in the morning, four to zero for cans, and I’ve still no fucking idea what I’ll write for tomorrow’s advice column. Nasty egoistic sprat! Instead of babbling various nonsense about blinking and winking, it would be better if he helped me with the task at hand.

Absently, I pull a book from the shelf and open it at a random page.

He called out to the golden fish
and the fish swam up and asked him,
“What is it, old man, what do you need?”

Yes, I know what I fucking need now, but where can I find a bloody talking golden fish? This is life, silly Calix, not Pushkin’s fairy tales! I gloomily open the next can. At least the beer is real.

My last thought before my head droops on the table is that I need to wake up early and take out the trash. I don’t want Darwin seeing this mess. After all, every accomplished woman of letters has her own little secrets.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2018

Testing, Part #2 (Fragment #015)

It was like talking to a brick wall. I elevated my voice slightly.

“Hey, four-eyes!”

Yuck. Not only is he blind, he’s deaf too… I was considering poking him with a ruler when I heard a semi-cough right above me. Again.

Any questions, young lady?”

“No, Sir.”

Question 2a: Define a metrical foot used in the following poem.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots—but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

1) Trochee
2) Iamb
3) Anapaest
4) Dactyl

Question 3a: What isn’t a forme fixe?

1) Qasida
2) Glosa
3) Sequence
4) Tanaga

I looked around helplessly. No help was within reach. Well… if plan A doesn’t work out then I have to use plan B. So, I gave a shit about that, and began to select answers at random.

The blank space below question 1a was very much in evidence, and my inner perfectionist demanded satisfaction. I knew it was better not to argue as this thought would be like a pebble in my shoe—it would hinder and annoy. I wrote something like, “Prompt at five o’clock, I busted a snaplock, and walked around town in a candy-striped nightgown.”

Then I hesitated over where an adverb of time should be placed in an English sentence. Damn. At the start? At the end? Without philosophizing, I repeated the first line at the end. If need be, I could say that I was nervous and forgot to cross out the wrong line.

With a feeling of satisfaction at a job well done, I turned in my paper and left the amphitheater. I felt a roaring hunger.

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017

Broken Poem (Fragment #16)

I knocked at the door.

“Come in!”

The professor was sitting on the window sill without his shoes. It looked a bit strange, but I had gotten used to his little quirks. Generally speaking, our entire magistral staff is a strange sort of panopticon—a freak show if you will—and so sitting barefoot on a window sill looks like kid’s stuff in comparison with the other teachers’ habits.

“What are you staring at? Give me your scribbles!”

I had gotten used to his bad manners too. With impassiveness I offered my worn down notebook to him. The professor opened it, read some lines and screwed up his face.

“What the crap?”

“It’s my homework.”

“Are you sure?”

“It seems so…”

“Quite so. It only seems like homework.”

He tossed the notebook against the wall. It bumped into a shelf of softbound texts, opened and came apart. Lines that I had written with diligence and care crumbled. Words and punctuation marks were scattered higgledy-piggledy in every corner like pieces of a shattered cup. I sniffled and bit my bottom lip.

Gather up this trash. And don’t spoil such precious words with your glamorous bullshit.”

I stood and looked at his bare feet, at those claws clutching over the floor. They were long and crooked with an unpleasant yellow hue…

“Look sharp! I’m not going to hang around for another aeon!”

I started to gather my unhappy poem from the dirty floor. Resentment was slowly turning into fury. Plucked peacock! I will sort you! I will show you anti-glamour!

 

by TETIANA ALEKSINA
© All rights reserved 2017