Avery K. James
“There are 72 objects on the table that one can use on me as desired.
I am the object.
During this period I take full responsibility.
Duration: 6 hours (8 pm – 2 am)”
- Instructions placed on a table by artist Marina Abramović
Grape & bullet, metal
bar & white perfume, bread & razor, nail &
wine & scissor, apple, plume. Seventy-two
items lined on spotless cloth for us to use.
First, we pleat a rose between the object’s fingers, press sips of olive
oil & salted honey to its tongue. We comb
hair from its face & learn it has eyes—
brown like cigar rinds.
We give it a hat; we teach it to dance
a dance our grandparents showed us
when they thought themselves alone
at a dinner party. We dip the object low to fold
over our knee & marvel the surrender
of its spine.
One of us grows heroic, kisses
its nose, the aquiline slope, the hollow
of its throat, its lips with open
mouth, & the object bestows us
nothing. Does not
What about the safety pin? Prick
its palms, see if it recoils. What
of the razors? Shred off its sweater,
trousers, blouse, now carve a shallow
line above the breast. Oh, won’t
it blink? Won’t it even squeal
our names? Doesn’t it
Have we run out of the paint?
Could we burn the vellus from
its back with matches?
Where, where should we bury
Why don’t we load
the pistol? Yes, yes, load
the pistol, but where is the
bullet? There, there— by rosemary &
pocketknife. Won’t it pull the trigger for us?
Put its finger there. Now barrel
to collarbone. Oh, won’t it terrify?
Won’t it give us a story for our late-night
fucks after the fucking?
Won’t you speak to us,
Quiet Artist, absolve us. We never meant
to harm you. We never even truly knew you
Avery K. James is a poetry MFA student at Georgia College and State University. Her work has been published in the Forum and the Ramifications Literary Magazine. Things she can’t stop talking/writing about are mythology, activism, video game essays, Harlequin rabbits (even though she is painfully allergic), and her exasperation with Freud.
Stephanie Athena Valente lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her published works include Hotel Ghost, waiting for the end of the world, and Little Fang (Bottlecap Press, 2015-2019). She has work included in Reality Hands, Maudlin House, and Cosmonauts Avenue. She is the associate editor at Yes, Poetry. Sometimes, she feels human. stephanievalente.com