:: Article

Excerpts from a flight of objects that seemed real

By Lital Khaikin.

“Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976,” Francesca Woodman. Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman.


With so many moments once worthless, the everyday is discovered to have betrayed and been made precious. Each of these uncovered fragments arranges itself one after another, teasing with clarity.

I shatter out of tune, without grace, trying to convince time against its nature. Have I been so starved? In this undeclared state of waiting? Of vigilance and apology for this waiting? How long has this void been, and how far has it grown? All parts of me that have lain undiscovered are rustled awake, into a slow and unfolding vigour.

Dare I claim them?

For how long have I turned from them?

There are so many ways to touch a body, but none so beautiful as the quiet liberty that is outside of promise and expectation, compelled only by that which compels. This exactly is withheld. It is in this way that my body returns to itself in shock, with the adrenaline of deprivation, to share in my own silence. So many years shaken off. I keep this bee-sting secret, tucked under a sleeve to provoke my uprising.

For someone who has been outside of comfort, it is the cruelest temptation. The craving for it is more than life itself. The entire world crushes against itself with such force. These unhealing sores, these depths that turn from the body, these staggering dreams upon which closed eyes gaze — the religion of fear accepts everyone. All parts of our days form a relentless escape from the terror of being alone with one another. What mythologies are framed out of these fears upon which daybreak spits its sharpest laughter?

Tell me, how is it possible to return to stillness? As if the ground had not already collapsed in this rift. As if time had not found a new form of mathematics with which to baffle us.

But we return. Slip into another coma where the familiar is refuge, and doesn’t threaten to expose us to our fears. We are returned to a conviction that makes out of all of us heroes of logic, masters of language and conclusions, giving each of us the ability to reason out of any indignity, to make any dishonourable act inevitable. The cowardice in each of us speaks in a private language. In each of us, principles we once clutched proudly, greedily, to the chest, are bartered for an illusion of security.

“I was dreaming,” he said to her. “I saw your absolute silence and absolute distance.”

All I could do was be with these indignities, lifting off of my thoughts with mothwings.

“I saw myself in you. I remade you in my own image so that you might mean something to me. I thought I could become you.”


The experts say that complete obedience is care, and care is bound to fear. A fear that, in order to really begin being, I must suppress all that is strange. Everything that claims space. Separation gathers in me with all the acidity of forgetting. I take on a complacency with time. I accept. I follow. I don’t even have to think. It is unbelievably simple to be here as if by accident. And I am desperate for a way out of this violence of giving in.


To see you without all these things is to strip down to the most light. But not the immanence or clarity of light. Not light that is resonant. Not light that is brilliant. More a whisper that contains its own shadow. Light that is already murk, or mist, or blue sand. Which contains its opposite and does not contradict it.

Here, at this point we may begin to find one another. Is this called hope? I am greedy for it. An addict, I reach to you when my eyes close, in the strip of time between waking and sleep, when the body reaches infantile for the nearest thing, and then all distances are gone. We unravel them with untrained fingers, working backwards on a complex tapestry, slow and humble over the knots. Beneath you, I am all these distances and more.

So we are uninterrupted. We have forgotten words. We no longer need them. Not the soothsaying of poets. Not the formulas of mathematicians. Not the boundaries of geographers. Without words, we exist in a world of no matter. We sink into each other as if this is the only natural thing, the only possible thing.

Our time is a mark, skin falls through skin. This loneliness is a perfectly rational antagonist.


I ask you to hit me in the name of something like art, and you accept this as easily as if I was telling you to tear my skin apart and lick me from my insides.

Will you hit me?


Will you hit me in front of people?

Yes. Anything for the art of it.

In gesture. Jeste.

I announce safety, therefore I am, therefore you can hit me, but I am safe. My consent means this pain is my desire. It is a gorgeous pain that I consent to. It always comes back to that. To make it something to own, something you can’t walk away from. That is to be lonely. Too without something. Not enough of that.

He’s taking me from me. He holds me in a fist and tells me my words. Tells me my language and I unlearn the invisible things that push my mouth to salivate, a dog in the mouth gnawing at my lips, snarling teeth bared to the bell. To be hit is to be announced in a place. To be sure of being. A bell is ringing. My skin is under his mouth. It is to be positioned in relation to the self-other. The act is taken over by the other, and you are momentarily absent, between flesh and the event or the thing-that-has-happened.

Touch is a shattering. Every hand is a weapon. Pleasure is a way to keep a new form of fascism underneath the bones. Sheaves. A hornet’s nest unsettled and sinking. Knives throttled into legs like claws. She takes some of the blood from her lip and runs it along the inside of her thigh. Why? For the same reason for having flowers on a table. For circumnavigating the globe. For translating cosmic radiation into radio waves. You may be surprised by how little you feel. He runs his tongue along the red line. I swear if you were to touch me now, let it be even with a word, this body would break.

“Don’t let him touch you.”

Optimal conditions for submission require despair. The despair you hold, I tell you, if you wish. I’ve set aside my pride. This bare skin hurts. This bare skin hurts, if you wish.


In this place where I have learned to fight with the mythologies of ritual, in this place where everyone inevitably learns to be alone, I am startled to discover my intentions. I forget how to be silent with you, though it’s what I want most with you. I don’t want to possess you. But I reach for you as if I know nothing else. I feel that I’ve betrayed you by letting you become a part of my everyday. I’ve betrayed you by allowing you to become as necessary and selectable as any other routine.

When the home is too hot, too damp, too infested, too empty, one tends to live in public. Privacy exaggerates shame. You took me home here. It felt for a moment like home, because it was public.

We two met with that kind of solitude that is outside of people, our heads swollen with night. You pressed into me outside here, a little harder, bristling with dry grass under the tongue. Was it me you wanted, or my wanting?



Lital Khaikin has published poetry and prose in publications like 3:AM Magazine, Berfrois, Tripwire, and Black Sun Lit’s “Vestiges” journal. Her chapbook Outplace was published with Solar Luxuriance in 2017. She also runs The Green Violin, a slow-burning samizdat-style press for the free distribution of literary paraphernalia.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020.