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  • Attempts on Life
  • Annemarie Kemeny

Sometimes the mouth is in gridlock. After all, I’m just the mouth piece. The whole is buried in an old plot with its corpse roaming. Sometimes it comes to haunt me, and I spill a little wine on the carpet to loosen its tongue. There are no guests. They’d expect butter-churn stories complete with cow bells in some smoky evening, the fat dripping from a one-day-dead pig. A real red dawn summoned by the five-year plan to every village. And will you visit Ellis Island where all you people come from? This frantic itch to swear shivers in through walls and sticks. Words at times are juicy as the glutton’s steak. A real mouth piece. For what? Speech is in my fingertips. It has been known to bloom through ten skyfuls of snow. It also melts in Spring. And it always finds the surest dam.

No, it’s not poor huddled masses of Cassandras convulsing to the currents of a blank Apollo. Our frames are not that open to the trade winds. I’ve seen Parnassus gray and bare against the sun. It’s a good spook dressed in crags. But something else. When it takes hold, I never twitch and this broken English ain’t no second tongue. It’s one big jam to scramble the airwaves to my crib. Before my mouth was a piece of something. Like a slice of pie missing the perfection of its disk. Except that Sylvie had a hunch about that. Perfection is terrible—it cannot have children. So I dish it piecemeal for a new set of yakkers who will ask the past in and play at haunted house. Well, I lied. I twitch something crazy when it takes hold. We both grab tight until I fade. It’s a seance. Anything short of a seance is a good short story neatly tied like tubes. Sometimes the mouth is in gridlock. After all, it’s a badmouth, and it’s blowing at a land that hasn’t slipped.


Writing is the only act worth dropping. It wouldn’t suffer from ending on the rocks like meat does. Its split-open muscles wouldn’t twitch. Its broken shinbone wouldn’t slice through skin. It would just silently carve itself into a whole coast line of Rosetta stones. But what would it be carving if not the meat that fell with it? The world text has real god-chunks rotting between vowels. Somewhere amidst the schizes and flows of ecriture a tiny slit is bleeding where some uncle’s finger scraped it. Don’t you feel your narratives of oppression and your literary productions of the real stuffed to bursting with the thief’s missing ear, some woman’s bloodless clitoris and her daughter’s head, your apple, that fell too far from its tree? This ink, invisible though it is, has come from where her head and body used to meet.


The wall by my bed was always threatening to fall—it sustained cannon-ball damage during the war. I constantly wanted to excavate, hoping to find the ammunition all pock-marked and heavy. Momma, of course, assured me that the only thing left of it was a shaky wall we couldn’t hang pictures on. Yet regardless of her hovering protectively between me and the world as any good Rilkean mother would, I spent my childhood with a phantom cannon ball lodged ominously behind a thin layer of plaster and an even thinner layer of yellow paint. I used to tap the wall as a primitive form of eartraining, and soon I could tell that it had more holes than it had bricks. This wall I faced every night in sleep, this wall that felt cool against my feet in summer, was my umbilical chord to 1944. Sure I had seen films like Budapest Spring in which women, who always looked a bit too much like grandmother with their soft brown waves falling to the side and the dark lipstick and the severe wool suit, were shot into the Danube. I remember the domino effect, the unflattering shoes left behind...

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