:: Article

Formal Place Setting

New fiction by Sophie Collins and Livia Franchini, art by Anastasia Kashian.




Noun: Knuckle
Gender: Female

They say ‘knuckle down’, but what does that mean? We’re seldom close to the ground. We’re close to the bone. We kind of are the bone? I mean, we are a kind of bone? I mean, any abrasion to the skin is a grazing, a grazing of the knuckle, no? There seems to me to be confusion between us, exacerbated by the fact that we have often been caught giving in to the brain in an alliance assumed by aggression. By nature we’re fairly benign. Whichever way you put it, a hand can prove useful. At Thanksgiving she just wasn’t herself.

Noun: Community
Gender: Female

UK plugs are most effective in terms of not falling off the socket, but least effective in terms of degrees of pain experienced upon stepping onto one while barefoot, or rather most effective in the infliction of such pain maybe she’s not sure and this is why

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Hopping on one foot in the dark of her empty apartment, rubbing the sole of the other in her hand, feeling the chipped polish of the toe

too many to generate any real sense of community.

Noun: Fork
Gender: Male

Often we end up on the floor. (We like to be close to the devil.) We sing tunes there that no one can hear. (Except the devil.) We miss ice cream. (We miss the devil.) We’re sons of acquiescence. (And the devil.) We adopt the recovery position. We spare excessive delicacy. We’re revolutionaries. We miss the land, its soil. She was like the princess and the pea i.e. too loud. You mustn’t think us callous. We thank you for your concern, but there’s much to be envied in the inanimate. There’s a sense of community among symbols, unlike anything you could imagine.

Noun: Wine Glass
Gender: Neuter

Cut from high quality 24% lead crystal, eyes like cushion diamonds, this elegant wine glass features a cut pattern reaching upwards from the base, where three neat couplets of muscle flick under sleek abdominal skin, resulting in delicate interplay with the light. This exquisitely crafted glass is soaked for hours in a bath of goat’s milk, for a decadent finish. This elegant wine glass, having honed its distinctive almond shape to perfection on the treadmill, is designed to perfectly balance classic elegance and modern style. This slender wine glass is an elegant choice for dinner parties, with its streamlined features that will fit any type of undergarment without subsequent spillages. This elegant stemware features oversized bowl proportions that really let big wines breathe. Featuring a long stem for sophisticated sips, this glass will lift its pinky finger at the appropriate time. Its clean, lasting design is a perfectly balanced blend of timeless beauty and functionality: this glass knows there is a time to talk and a time to listen. Wine connoisseurs will appreciate this nicely weighted glass, the perfect complement to that special bottle.

Noun: Cufflink
Gender: Neuter

To refer to oneself in the third person, irrespective of gender or status, is universally maligned. It might interest you to know that all nouns, whether abstract or concrete, have an unannounced twin bearing no relation to each word’s so-called antonym. In fact, the concept of ‘opposites’ holds no sway in nonverbal spheres, where placemats move with the colour blue and puppies align with despair. Would you pair lip liner with Epicureanism? The cufflink is twinned with the urn. We might speculate that this connection derives from the fact of our being the common resting sites of carbon compounds. An Arabic proverb says ‘Time is like a sword. If you do not cut it, it will cut you.’ An unauthorised adjunct to the proverb goes ‘If you cut it, it will cut you back.’ Without ashes, without diamonds, we’re unable to use our voices. Singing is the by-product of an objective fulfilled. An object’s singing is nonverbal. Can you say you’ve never heard the singing?

Noun: Window
Gender: Female

All shapes, all sizes, everybody’s beautiful in their own way, but real women, real women have curves. See the curved toes of the ugly sisters, as they try the slipper on, goblet of light in the centre of the living room, crystal heel grinding into the 50oz carpet. The Tremaine sisters: Anastasia and Drizella, first one, then the other, many times in a row, clipping toe nails, shaving heels, until blood stained their mother’s set of ceramic knives. No matter how they tried, how they pushed and they shoved, how they huffed and puffed: they couldn’t get it on. The King’s ministers gritted their teeth. The song came in tinkling, as she busied herself peashelling. They said, let the pretty one try. And her toes slipped right through, and they wiggled, framed in the glass. And a thousand and two untwinned shoes were sent out to all the girls in the kingdom. And a thousand and three times the King married. And they lived happily ever after, all thousand and four of them, in the King’s house of the great big windows, which he’d wanted in crystal, for low carbon emission.



Livia Franchini is an Italian writer and translator. Her most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Quietus, The White Review, VLAK and Voicemail Poems. She is currently working on her first book as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths.

Sophie Collins is co-founder and editor of tenderan online quarterly promoting work by female-identified writers and artists. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in PoetryPoetry LondonThe White ReviewPloughsharesPoetic Series(Sternberg Press), Best British Poetry 2014 (Salt), and elsewhere. In 2014 she received an Eric Gregory Award and was a poet in residence at the LUMA/Westbau exhibition space in Zürich. She is currently editing an anthology of experimental translations due late 2015 via Test Centre.

Anastasia Kashian is a self-taught artist, and failed anthropologist, based in West Wales and Andalucia. You can find her on Twitter, and see more of her work on Facebook, and on her website.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, February 14th, 2015.