Monthly Archives: January 2014

from “Stitch Bitch”

We’re not who we say we are.

The body is not one, though it seems so from up here, from this privileged viewpoint up top. When we look down that assemblage of lobes and stalks seems to be one thing, even if it looks nothing like our ID photo, but it routinely survives dissolution, from hair loss to loss of limb. The body is a patchwork, though the stitches might not show.

Shelley Jackson


from “Disillusionment of 10 o’clock”

Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches Tigers
In red weather. 

Wallace Stevens

from “My Body – A Wunderkammer”

I pictured the inside of my brain as something like a burrow, a labyrinthine system of contorted tunnels with hairpin turns. Ordinarily, the passages were roomy, pale and dry, like tunnels worm-bored through chalk or bone. When my head ached, those walls became an angry red, and swelled until the passages shrank to fistulas. I tried not to think. Thoughts were dirt, and collected in greasy seams in the walls, and inflamed them. If I could trepan myself, I thought, and fit a nozzle in my skull, I would run a hose into my brain. I could almost feel the cold water stretching its insistent fingers into the labyrinth. That would cure me. Or a high wind, blasting through. One night, I went out on the back porch and screamed until blue pressure lights dazzled out the stars. What was that? my mother said. I thought it might help my headache, I said. Did it? she said. No, I said.

Shelley Jackson

from “My Body – A Wunderkammer”

But you don’t approach a cabinet of wonders with an inventory in hand. You open drawers at random. You smudge the glass jar in which the two-headed piglet sleeps. You filch one of Tom Thumb’s calling cards. You read page two of a letter; one and three are missing, and you leave off in the middle of a sentence.

As a matter of fact, I am making a replica of this text: a huge wooden chest in the shape of my body, with innumerable drawers in which I will store my findings. Some of the drawers will be large and c a p a c i o u s, some smaller than matchboxes. Some will be disguised, some will be booby-trapped. I will hide secret buttons, levers and locks in my carved folds and crevices. You will have to feel your way in.

Shelley Jackson

from “My Body – a Wunderkammer”

I was a funky headless homunculus with linebacker shoulders and Tinkerbell toes. It was the truth (from my perspective), but what use was it to art? In my renderings of all-I-could-see, I had better leave myself out, or regard myself in a mirror, at a safe distance. Look too closely, I noted, and you will see monsters. Realism, and possibly reality itself, is reticence and fudging it.

Shelley Jackson

from “The Child that Books Built”

Maybe it is true, as I argued in the previous chapter, that all sentences tell a story of sorts; but the sentences in a story have a special power. In a world wholly composed of words, words hit no obstructions, have no limit on their effectiveness. They can take you elsewhere.

Francis Spufford