Heart-Shaped Box

Take off the trinket triolet t-shirt studded with a million holes

Joyelle McSweeney

Take off the trinket triolet
t-shirt studded with a million holes
so little joints of air pop their sockets
cuz it
has the bends; take it off wet snake
take it off dry cleaning bag suffocate
crib with fine print baby warning take it off shocked
that off-
gassing chemical garment: synthetic pane: its second name is
cell-o-phane: it says

get me off: make a T-shape incision.
Remove the money portion.
Take off the kidney islands’
sugar coats, coasts where sugar egrets hoist bilious eyes and coast
o’er sugar-bottom beaches casting shadows
the shadows are skinny
the tourists are fat the parking lot
RVs in a thick canaletto of lotion
or little rivuletti hormones glint like
hobgoblin eyes of hemoglobin anal beads parabens
cassette teeth or the
resort brochure that bleaches in the window like a sickening thing.
at sunset, navel lengthens
above the bombing range; bikini
atolls for thee; take a day off
for target practice: Take a year off
for good behavior; take off, tho’ short in stature, the pericardial
jump shot, the fibrous stunt contracting systole layer, di-o-late the
bottom line, ziggy stardust signature collect there, HSN, SVU, oculist’s chart
spelling out demize; how they sink, the constellations,
and how they stank. As nurses hum as they periodically
‘debride’ the wound with power
steering fluid as waves garrote the
crumbling Isle of Nephrititi, Nefertiti, Nevers in France, little girls
make their First Commuter in pillbox hats, steerwheels,
practice against, aghast, Zapruder-framed
by doting uncles, give them a warm-gloved five-finger send off
through the ISP membranes, into the cartographical
black hole

There dragons be.
Only credit cards know where they are now, those images.
Only ones and zeros, credits and debts.

now rocksinger,
rise and don
the fibrous, dendritic diadem, because you are skinny as a girl
you may enter the
nerve chasm that leads to the fault line
stroke hemisphere
where little girls sit on green tripods
waiting for users to
enter their green commands.

(This cave has a hare lip and a mustache of leaves; it scatters its voice like a sow)

a nacreous substance
coats each fingerlet of your diadem
like medical lubricant
it may extend
and touch the breast bone of each starry girl and
freeze the interface
with your bone white iliac muck.

An alarm sounds in Braille!
Every duct just collapses and spills its guts.
A Secret decoder ring goes:


I keep it in a needle; it’s vaccine
I keep it in an ampule; it’s obscene
A crenellated nodule: one day’s dream
I take it out on Sundays; it’s obscene

You mumble the jeans layer. You ruin the take,
slink in the chord-wash
because you are tied up
at the moment. Call back later! brightly
Panties in your mouth.
Rope in your mouth. Fish hook lip nipple. Ball bearing
cigarette filter fist in your mouth. Temporal
bone shards in your
ocular membranes. See stars like the
hyoid bone fragment delicate
choker you wear permanently
xed inside your throat.


On the alluvial
rise, now ride a distribution pipeline past ducts. It is rusting. As air
molests metal, & does not relent, so metal
turns into something else,
maybe a kind of fire. & maybe makes money
for somebody. Blood also oxygenates, everyone could writhe
and be a witness
did they not turn blind eyes. So the senators say
elks may rut in the pipeline’s shadows, as warmth
attracts warmth
in life as on the Internet. As dumb
-th attracts dumpth. You can’t fix it. A thumbth
goes thumpth. So let the dead follow no
senator nor
mourning anchor to the
seating of the dead. O warming shed,
do your worst. Shed your last heat.
For you can no longer be
a place to be.

A place holster.
A place to keep inclinations.
They are so brief that
unless they are preserved in bullets
they are lost.

Let this thought no nor
no thought be lost amid the
blank sheets of the
sliving. Get it
by heart.
Commit it to the brain.

Take it in the brain. Take it in the brain. Take it in the brain. Take it in the brain.
& Take it. & Take it. & Take it. & Take it.
& Take it. & Take it. & Take it. & Take it.
& Take it. & Take it. & Take it. & Take it.

Now you have a new garment. It has a long lace panel.
It has a long lace veil. You can push that back behind your ears or flip it.
Dirty hair holds the style better. Even beauty queens know that.
It has a long swath of lace that wraps the breast bone.
It has a lace pannier for the tummy. It has a lace visor.
It has a lace armature. It has lace-coated
bone ribbing. It is a lace investiture.
Lace goggles for the throat. Lace throat bone for the eyes
To peer through. Open? Open. Closed? Closed.
If you can breathe,
that’s gravy. Cut it out.
It has a lace destitude. It has a lace attitude.
It is a lace latitude. It makes a lattice in the heat.
It makes a heat garment. It has heat signature.
It is a microscopic organism, singing in the heat.
It sings heat, which makes the chest rise
green with insight.

For your head: a gazebo.
For your head: a lantern headdress
of hammered tin with holes poked in
it. & For your head: the pagoda headdress.
& For your head: a nest of snakes
like a smashed up laptop. Evil motherboard.
And for your head: a nest of robins with their tongues cut out.
They warble for worms but cannot make tunes. They sing around the worms
Mommy places in their gullets. The worms
perform the role of tongue until they are digested.
They are alimentary canals inside alimentary canals,
wheels in wheels. Vertiginal Annelid, beautiful word,
& also barely there.
And for your head sweat: A crown of garbled warbling.
A fat static crown, it makes a sing like Yi Sang
It is a white crown like bayleaf or bilirubin
It has white effects
And for your static crown
And to hold your cranium in place
the paste
of white robin’s tongue and also
worm paste
That you may lay your head
in a worm place



Encodes Genetic Information?
Catalyzes Biological Procesess?
Building Blocks (Type)?
Building Blocks (Number)?
Stability to degradation?
Repair Systems?

DNA: Yes, No, Nucleotides,4, Double Strand, Double Helix, Extremely High, Yes
RNA: Yes, Yes, Nucleotides, 4, Single, Highly Complex, Variable, No
Proteins: No, Yes, Amino Acids, 20, Single, Highly Complex, Variable, No

In the cave of the swimmers
Everyone is a swimmer
And noone can see
In the cave of the diver
Everyone brazes a shoulder
On the hammered rebar
Noone rebounds
And noone touches the ground
But swims inside their own vertebrae
Many parts of the body may be called a ‘cervix’
There are many cervices
and crevices
there are many fractures
at various stage of healing
indicating continuous abuse
In the eye of the beholder
In the cave of the glider
Noone knows sin in the
In the cave of the cave-in
No one gets out in the
Cave of the liver
No one gets in

Every chemical
wants to
lift a strand
from your hair
foil it strip it
& lay it down
in lightness

But can’t for it is weak and you are
massy black.
At last.
You wear a massy black
head of curls as you did not in life you lift up your highly complex
bowling ball
that cannot float
it is like something born of the prolapsed uterus
of a self-destructive galaxy
the teenage mother of us all
grandma, your head
is hypercollapsed
no more crowd surfing for you!
no more cloud sourcing
for you!
No more of you and your

But I
a blonde
am lighter than death
because I only play
a bit part
Upon death
I am released from service
leach in and fill the coffin
slim as a nucleopeptide. Then
with my gloves
I come
Parisienne or worse with my
brush, dish and my chemical cart
A coiffeuse
for you
with a cough cough cough
I prepare my carcinogen
for your distressed scalp
So much of it is missing
but I have a single process
to turn it all to light
If I have to reinflate you
to penetrate your skin your hair your
corneal layer tongue soft palate stomach asshole gall bladder kidney linings
I will
osmotic basement
squamous rotting
couch cushion
dead bird sunken
chest level I will glittery
eaten out
grub creep
in the digestive
seminal vesicle corneal nose urethra ovary cervix cock
where birds live
I will
against the flock, the code
scrolls and cornices
transports viruses, robs numbers,
credits, debts, but I
with my ankles bound hands at the small
of my back and locked
like keys
at the knees with a credit card
processing swipe for a
mouth I am weaker but faster I am
right behind

Extremophile JOYELLE MCSWEENEY is the author of the short story collection Salamandrine, 8 Gothics (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2013) and the poetry collection Percussion Grenade (Fence, 2012), both of which also feature plays. She is also the author of four other books and an artists’ book, The Necropastoral (Spork, 2010) in collaboration with the designer Andrew Shuta. She edits the extremophilic press Action Books, teaches in the Notre Dame MFA, and, for the 2012-13 academic year, is a Visiting Associate Professor of Poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In April, her play The Contagious Knives will be performed at the Medicine Show Theater Ensemble in Manhattan.

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