Publick Universal Friend Pauses to Warn of Hell but Can't Remember Who Invented It
Enraptured by this American hellscape in springtime,
I invent more hellscapes to keep busy.
Hellscape No. 1: A world in which gas can only be expelled from the body through
publication, so you just have to submit and submit and submit your
farts via submittable dot com, and most of your farts have been
declined or have been under review since 2018, and you’ve gotten
to the point where it feels irresponsible to produce more farts
without publishing the old farts for fear of carbon monoxide
poisoning, and so you wait indefinitely for fart publication or
eventual and imminent intestinal rupture.
The farts here are, of course, a metaphor for poetry.
The metaphor came to me in a dream.
Hellscape No. 2: Sarah Palin dressed as a pink bear rapping Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992
“Baby Got Back” on national television.
Sometimes, the hellscapes beat me to
their own invention.
In the driveway, the neighborhood’s feral cats or semi-feral
cats or entirely domesticated cats who nevertheless dream of
ferality invent a boisterous hell of their barbs and soft parts.
As it turns out, I know nothing of hell. Just of how it feels to
have my lights go out while standing under the midday sun, and to
drop down towards my own private southwardness.
Se acerca rápido el infierno, I mistakenly write in
an email to a friend, speaking of winter, and then
wonder if I’m wrong.
On twitter dot com I tweet about the first hellscape of my
invention and submittable dot com responds, and this is also part
of the hellscape. One of seven sublime circles.
Hellscape No. 3: The same as Hellscape No. 2, but this time it’s Sean Spicer
dancing salsa or Ellen DeGeneres, US America’s most popular
queer, watching the Dallas Cowboys with a war criminal.
I can’t keep up and there are pine beetles in the
trees. There’s tear gas in Portland and a respiratory
pandemic on our hands. At least Harry Potter World is
open again or is re-opening soon, and the
globe’s foremost thinker on gender
studies and politics, JK Rowling,
is tweeting again, and (unrelated, maybe)
all of California is aflame. And at least,
you are here with me
in this American hellscape. At least there are some
breaths between us. At least one in each small throat.
Publick Universal Friend Sees the Signs
And for three weeks, Mastercard advertises True Name™
to me in every corner of my particular internet. And for
three weeks I dream of trans meaning in a neoliberal state.
Doctor, I’m feeling particularly panoptic
today and can’t ignore the signs. Doctor, is
it psychism or psychoanalysis, the way
they know the bones within me? Are these ridiculous palms
data or Dada? Your stupidity is your greatest
danger, two fortune cookies tell me, years apart.
Nobody cares about how many books you’ve read, the
horoscope app tells me twice. I’m still learning to
read the signs and can barely tell time on
an analog clock. In ASL, PEACH is bigger and softer
than EXPERIENCE, but not by much––both an open,
then closed hand on the flushed cheek. In the
middle of an interview, in the middle of one of many
Octobers, I am asked to return once I have gathered more
peaches. In some orchards, I am entirely unemployable.
In others––macerated fruit at best. ¿Kikirí que le haga?
a Chilean rooster sings on Youtube, apathetic and decorated,
while a tuxedo cat drowns. In my suburban neighborhood,
one coyote is a sign of wonder. Two –– a sign for alarm. I turn around, a
deer in the dark, and moments later, a friend on the phone says of public
speaking, We should recognize that we’re essentially herd animals.
I trim my nose hairs in the mirror with a machine designed specifically
for the task, and I am both signifié and signifiant. In the age of human language,
there’s no way to not be Saussurean. In the autumn breeze I am a fag
and I am thusly named. By which I mean, I love and love
and am loved, and on my balcony, only one potted plant,
the darling lemongrass, has made it through July.
Day Heisinger-Nixon is a nonbinary & disabled poet, essayist, interpreter, and translator. Raised in an ASL-English bilingual home in Fresno, California, Day holds an MA in Deaf Studies from Gallaudet University. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Witness Magazine, Booth, Boston Review, Foglifter, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles, and can be found on Twitter @__day_lily__ and at dayheisingernixon.com.