By Miriam Karraker.
November is the silver month. Myself and November cannot be anything but silver in the silver month.
On the bus I engage with the hypernetwork. I write silver things into the note application on my phone. The hypernetwork is viscous, it moves from my fingers into my device.
In the natural history museum, I mill about until I happen upon swans. Swans behind Plexiglas, polyurethane forms beneath feathers, fixed in static motion. I delete photos from my phone to capture these taxidermy swans in their manufactured habitat, the lake scene behind them much too vibrant. The swans are all looking towards something, I imagine there’s a man with a bucket of fish or a handful of breadcrumbs outside the frame.
One swan has wings bent, its neck feathers especially downy and ruffled. I imagine there’s a slight breeze. Another’s neck is extending forward, mouth open, glassy eyes popping from its small head. I have to imagine it screech.
I am struck by the lone swan in the foreground, its head bent towards the plastic dirt. There’s nothing at the end of its beak, no fish or breadcrumb or bug. There’s some invisible grain. I remember the meanness of swans, I’m glad that I’ve never fed them bread.
A plaque describes this particular habitat. I take a picture, of course. I forget everything. I have to take pictures of melty autumn leaves. I delete more photos, I need to make room.\
The hypernetwork is blooming but the jasmine pearls in my hot water will not open.
Slippage is always silver. Slippage is silver while static is an insufferable red. Static tastes like vinegar. I turn off my phone, I taste an absence of red.
Two years ago, November. I approach the pond at the Parc de l’Orangerie in Strasbourg. During my stay, I do not buy anything sweet except for éclairs on Mondays and fake champagne on Saturdays. I want ice cream, but the brightly colored stand is boarded up. Note the willow trees and swans.
Remember the male ruffles his feathers, close to the female. Remember how she bit his neck and yelled. The willow leaves seemed to shudder.
The only souvenir from my six month stay is a tin of pastille candies, citrus.
Memory feels more world-sharp, data retentive. I prefer souvenir, stodgy and vague. Souvenir is doubtful and real: all the spades slipping from a deck of cards.
I leave the park and wait for my friend outside the tabac. My only friend in all of France. 7pm on a Saturday, I feel cheap but I look elegant. I wear the black, warm wool, knee-length coat, and my black boots. A man comes up to me and asks Combien? with a louche wink. I give a shaky va te faire foutre and manage to spit on his shin. He calls me something I do not understand.
Meet my friend, we have nothing in common except the English language. We drink until midnight. I return to the apartment and cry because my French is terrible and I feel antsy in English.
Email my sister, tell her about the man who propositioned me. Drink a bottle of rosé in the bath with the radio on. Dry off and feel the circuitous lull of Gymnopédies.
I myself am an actant node in the network. My input is equal to that of others and of other nodes in the network.
Swans and I go back. Grandmamma is frail. I am sixteen, she doesn’t know who I am. Her new room does not have any plants. She used to garden, she kept everything in neat rows. She could name everything, she could name me.
Driving to the Augusta airport that night, the car kicks up sand particles that linger in the headlights, white noise against the dark green of Carolina low-country brush.
She is still in the eldercare centr. I think about this, my mouth tastes copper.
My mother visits her, roughly every six months. They go to Brookgreen Gardens, an old plantation. They walk, go to tea. I imagine her as a young woman with my grandfather, before dementia, still happy. There are exotic animals walking the grounds, peacocks. I know there is a manmade pond with ducks, swans. I wonder what she remembers when she sees swans.
I send my grandmother notes in the mail, cream-coloured paper with hand-drawn camellias. I write about the weather, I do not know what to say, I cannot ask the questions I have grown to want to ask. Description feels fickle.
The hypernetwork is blooming in fits and starts.
I wonder if my memory card is reliable. I wonder if I will wake up and the photos of last night’s dinner will be gone.
The network is slipping.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Miriam Karraker is an MFA student in poetry at the University of Minnesota. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from DIAGRAM, BOAAT, TAGVVERK, Full Stop, and Indiana Review. In 2016 she was a finalist for Black Warrior Review’s Poetry Contest, and was the recipient of the Marcella DeBourg Fellowship.
ABOUT THE ART WORK
May Waver is a new media and video artist based in St. Paul, MN. Her work investigates relationships between people and technologies, with a particular interest in care and intimacy. May is also a co-founder of cybertwee, an arts collective that explores intersections of femininities and technology with a focus on community and education. www.maywaver.com / https://twitter.com/maywaver
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, December 12th, 2016.