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The Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
Edited by Andrei Codrescu
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diaries and memoirs translation and her retinue
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the corpse reads classics letters the book of revelations and epiphanies
the making and unmaking of person
Anti-Anthropomorhism or: Animals Redeemed

by Colette LaBouff Atkinson


Enough of them so that their flock shook in levels of branches and they screamed like treed cats. We called them wild parrots. They arrived with the high school's morning band practice, mimicked off-key anthems, a faltering marching beat. In the afternoon, they returned when I was the only one home in the house he'd left. Each a green witness in the blue gum. I heard they were escapees from the wildlife park where my aunt made us ride an elephant and burned my sister with a cigarette. Later, I heard differently. Sometime in the sixties and released during a Los Angeles brush fire, they'd been saved.

Saved, they flew to our house and multiplied. I didn't know what we could offer. Once exotic ornaments, they landed, daily and cherry-headed, for berries in my mother's front yard. The conures cried as if fire burned still and they were singed, as if the keeper had starved them or let rough children pet them. They cried and fruit smothered their beaks. I watched the red burst and wondered from what we'd broken free.


Pigs were drawn on the outer plant-walls. On the way to Vernon, where Leonis the Basque saw steer for cuts Los Angeles would need, my father drove alongside milk trucks and drunks to early business in the dark.

Over a bin full of steer, he didn't expect the heads, severed, to wink and twitch, didn't expect to see what's habitual give up. Watched with charges outnumbering ones he could tally against himself or others, he hurried to toss a canvas-mat over heads stacked two-high. An old-timer gave him hell, said he'd be to blame for the quick turn. Everyone's got to see, he said and pulled a sandwich from his metal lunchbox.

Three months later, my father, candy bar in hand, stood over freshly-dead steer, their faces separated from parts most would want. Looking past their lives, he eyed pieces to slow cook, sections reserved for those with patience to rub the muscles' toughness, for those with time to erase what years of chewing had hardened.

Split from solid bodies, their lives' heat ascended into my father's face and his chocolate melted. He didn't see the reflexes; his own had ceased. In Vernon, he hardened, left off with accusations and offals to keep sight of the cheek, a prize. His vision narrowed to see past the most for what gets trimmed away. After sleep and time at home are shoved into a cooler, what remains is good, too: the waste of work and midnight sliced from the whole.


Mt. Rainier before my summer gold looked almost paper-thin. We'd come that far: my aunt's black car crowded with women and children. They drove to show us something besides the wait for Friday night's face-down cards and smoke in their low-hanging kitchen lights. Four of us fit around them, women who lorded over two motel queens the first night.

When the road opened, we stopped for Lee, carsick. I leaned on the hot fence, plastic bags banging there. Later, Neil and Bobby waded into a lake and came out screaming, drawing in the air a snake they'd seen. Further north, at a café, we talked with a tall man whose leg, an open sore, was crossed for me to watch. He pointed out leaves to avoid. Everything green could hurt me. On the last day before we turned the car south, my mother asked a ranger about a bear we'd seen the year before. Shot, he said.

But no one wanted to return. And no one noticed the men were gone until the 101 and somewhere near the Santa Susanna Pass. The black Impala, lost in the Ventura night, strayed. I heard them say this is where it happened. I heard them, in the front seat, say let's sing a song. The too-thick gap between words forced me to the floor. They sang. I listened to the engine. Between songs, my aunt couldn't see a goddamn thing.




home archives submit black market comrads hot sites search ec chair peotick kultur anti-amthropomorphism
new economics of late capitalism gallery zounds the making and unmaking of person
diaries and memoirs translation and her retinue
the book of revelations and epiphanies working class sweat
the making and unmaking of person the corpse reads classics letters

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