Issue #17

Rhythm 0

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  

stop us. 

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 

the flashlight? 

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,  

just once? 

Quiet Artist, absolve us. We never meant

to harm you. We never even truly knew you

were there.

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.