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Score for Descent

Dani Smotrich-Barr

A series of rectangles, hovering gently inside our stomachs. We press them down, through the hardwood, towards the Earth. We build a spiral staircase, drilling through the grass shoots. There is no such thing as too far underground.


A brings me tea with mint found by the creek. I want to remain immobile. Have you made a plan to stop hunching forwards around men? L asks. I have not. Nevertheless, I try letting the woods in. I wear all green to remember that I am real. Silver spoons refuse to barricade the air and it enters, touching too much. 


It’s a joke about a laughing city. Or, it’s a tale about a city at which they laughed so hard it disappeared. Either way, the children have heard it so many times that it lives deep within their chests. Nobody can tell the children what the city looked like, but they promise that it had something to do with a dullness. How they made tiny perforations in the walls, hoping for sudden pinhole cameras. How as the gray mornings still kept coming, the people laughed and said, ‘how lucky, to have no need for windows. Imagine, having to plan around the sun.'



Have you remembered your daily apology? The sentry asks. 

Made a radio to separate the sound from the noise?



I leave the city after a few days, because everything feels jagged. A man barks at me on the subway, like a dog. We enter a large black room without a floor. To really listen is to trust that we have all been cut by dissonance. To not lose yours through the funnel, but clang it, angry tender against mine.


[Sound can be determined by the semiotics of the State,


[Sound can be determined by the architectures of the inner ear,


             [   Noise is mine

                 Noise is collective

                 Noise will disperse, with or without us



Of course, some cities can be worn instead of bodies. Isn't that why we all came here. D and I google ‘gay bar,’ follow directions to a parking lot on the edge of town. It would be almost better to end the night on this punchline, except for my need to keep moving, vanish into someone else’s night. To find the perfect club, in which I don’t exist, but still know all the words.

Have you counted all the squares in the sidewalk? The sentry asks. 

Drank enough to fit under the curve?



[No composition emerges independently of every interval it passes through.]


[No note is more real than all the frequencies left un-named.]


[The State wants the noise to become sound.]




Autumn falls inevitably, teething on its vowel shifts. It is raining now and only I am here: brief miracle. Noise has come to feel like sound, meaning it no longer feels like home. If I had a mind that never broke I would not know the way in which soundproofing is assembled and never stays. We may not contain ourselves so much as briefly hold whatever enters from the outside. 



Where in the kitchen is your ghost jar? 

Have you poked the proper holes for me to breathe?



The city teeters on sleeplessness. Quickly sketches new and newer cathedrals. The people hurry through their morning tasks, delivering blank newspapers and 'reading' them (memorizing their forms). The city is now a place of Action, Embodiment. We all take to mothering, despite our genders, attempts to flee. Curl over our twisted forms until patterns accumulate. The Men convince themselves mid-flight that they never changed time zones. 



Does your broken-brain [rail way] to be carried? 

Have you touched all the gaps under the highway?



The city is strung out, diving, now. The people run across the square, soft-footed buildings sinking easily into the snow. It’s an old dance, anxious swerve, like that circle game that we played because we saw that it happened in other windows. What happens in our window is that the pane comes loose and snow falls in and soon we are living in soundlessness. 



I want to remain permeable, no, I want to remain inside the passage. We will create worlds by looking for them, M suggests, temporary worlds inside the looking motions. Sitting in the hollow, though, it's more like a pact: nothing can be too discrete, so long as the wind can still enter it. Even when we are not all here, we are held in thrall of the ground. 


M very loosely refers to Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's brilliant The Freezer Door.

Thanks to Dina Fulconis for "strung out, diving."

Dani Smotrich-Barr is a poet and visual artist living on Lenape land. His work has previously been published in Foglifter, Birdcoat Quarterly, Vagabond City, Dialogist, and elsewhere. You can find him collecting green glass bottles, or on Twitter @smotrich_barr.

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