a burning
slick with spilled looking up
the light in dismay Fake
I am looking up
I am standing on my lawn
The lights of half a starship blink behind a cloud-form
(chorus ?)
Nothing is pressing
Just a new force’s up-pull sharp as a fresh blade
Warm as wool
I am looking up
seated in my cubicle
the ersatz marble ceiling tiles
Are not deserved of your ridicule
I am looking up
At real jungle foliage
And as the rain falls
burning creatures take the stage
I am looking up
at my Cavalier’s underside
tarmac slick with spilled tea
Where my head, heart and hands collide
I am looking up
abstract as a currency
I extinguish the light in dismay,
stoke the fire of near-clarity
I am looking up
watching soldiers scale a building
paper gets crumpled
safety raft
the fire
hands collide
Blink behind
marble ceiling

No oak
Early Man
a stream
No Oak is like a flavour
At the Marble Slab.
The one you never get.
You never know it's there.
They won't let you in
Not without a shirt.
Everyone pushing sundaes
Against the stream.
Steel your stance,
Push against the stream
To push is to wait
For your parfait.
Put your cone down.
Cold pink ball.
No such thing as an early bird
No dawn caught by early man
No such thing as early
Sundaes always streaming
Sundaes always around
No such thing as before.
You don't know
to ask for No Oak.
Brittle toffee smoke, charred salt
Caramel cousin.
Thunder as a kind of cream.
You don't know that they don't call it No Oak.
You don't know what they call it.
But you know that they must have it.
The flavour came, one day,
As you folded socks,
Soft from the dryer.
Put them on the stack of shirts.
You smell something as you look outside
for the first time today.
To only smell cumin,
To let it obscure the quiet threads,
lavender left from the wash, insipid left, staunch right
Take my cup to the dishwasher
Held against my jaw,
As I try to make that phone call,
There's no clock with a second left unticked
A roll at the top of the screen, wavering like a flimsy brim
I'll call her another day,
She didn't recognize me when I called her Auntie on the subway platform
Switching from north to east,
I said Auntie to her,
She saw me as a stranger,
No time to consider the opposite of a cousin,
The train was coming in,
But we still have time,
Cumin covers all sheets,
They cook with one spice at a time
If everything you wear is the same colour,
It's not so easy.
You only change when you run out of ideas
Often with several nights in between.
The spice is one steep angle among many,
You're allowed to move,
I chewed this gum until the taste waned
drove to the retail park and back again

The whole month
just one night
hard won time
set alight

I should be stretched out across the back seats
under pastel blanket sound asleep

yet roadside
picnic bench

It’s strange how good a yawn feels
when you’re sipping tea and not at the wheel

And still, I’d switch this tea for coke
target calories now up in smoke

How did the cashier sing it?

left the box unchecked

boil over
the whole month
taste waned
take my
from their

Who put your clock into the basket?
Mine is here on the mantle.
It needs to be re-wound,
Now how will we know where to start?
The chorus?
Another part?

Or the part,
where you hand it to the left?
What if we find it has gone,

missing one part,
missing one day.
What is it like,
When you have enough hands
Easy work for a crouching plumber,
Easy work to true a wheel,

If I say
Take this chain,
hold it flush with your sinister right
will you know which hand I mean?
If I say,
it's time to wrap,

will you know which fold I mean?
If you can take it out of the basket,
And wind a dissolve wipe,
A transit in the grating,
will you know what comes next?
My tick-list’s still unticked. There’s work to do. 100 half-written emails still to finish. Who to call? There is tonight to get things started and I’m left with several nights of this ahead. Fuck, it’s quiet. Such is nighttime, I suppose. Tricky conversations. I must not get bogged down in them. And after all that reading, I still feel as though I’m still in the murky centre, stuck between ugly right and insipid left, all-the-time dreaming I’m a clear-sighted radical. Will the first call go badly? I forgot about the time difference and woke her up! She told me to take my tick-list and… I’ve got a saucer-shaped hot water bottle with a khaki neoprene cosy and hold it against my belly. It’s too-hot sides help to temporarily obscure my anxious abdominal tension and cramps. Oh god, I’m a shit friend; an embarrassing aspirant; a clumsy, trying penitent; an intractable self-policeman; a clown; a dolt; a desultory, sulking birthday girl in a soiled princess dress; a prancing imbecile; a dickhead, the opposite of a cousin.
Cover your
Without a day
flavour came
Put your
For your

Obscure my
with several nights
insipid left
take my
against my
opposite of a cousin
It’s early, man she said
Marry me he said
Cover your mouth when you yawn, she said. pass me that t shirt
It doesn’t smell, he said. I checked. Pine-fresh! No, Oak-fresh™!
Oak-fresh? Did I fall asleep in the film last night? she said
I don’t know, he said
You always know, she said
Then you didn’t, I suppose, he said, did the thunder wake you?
No, she said
It was so loud, he said. And the rain was really coming down. It will be like a stream outside.
I could do without a day like yesterday she said
You always say that he said
I must steel myself for worse she said
You are getting dramatic he said
Fuck off she said the t shirt does smell by the way. Can you reach another
Here he said
everyone is a dick she said
Line seventy one indicates the full amount earned before deductions.
Line seventy six, drawn from edge of spoon minus first mastications, before the taste waned.
Additional impressions added, in case of compensations or deviations.
Sum of total impressions.
Line twenty six.
The scent of calf liver, even from the driveway.
Left the pot to boil over.
Turned around, halfway to the airport.
The window apparently also left open.
Stove unchecked.
Line twelve plus line twenty nine minus line forty six and you justify it as research.
You remember the cashier but can't find the receipt.
That never happens.
Knowing that the dog prefers chunks of boiled liver to jerky blocks, they started the soup the morning before the flight.
Highly unusual. They would not see the dog for the whole month, exactly the first to the thirty-first.
If you have no additional earnings, skip this section and continue to Schedule Nine.
You recognize the song halfway through.
You don't remember ever doing this before and now it's started to rain.
Schedule Nine for total expenses incurred for local and/or continental ground travel; if you are the professional driver of a commercial truck refer instead to Schedule Thirty-One. Tally earnings from first quarter at the rate of three-quarter sleeves and pastel jumpsuit. Take my bag for a sec, she asked.
Hold the bag while she tries on the studded bolero and continue to Schedule Five D.
Smells a bit, no? She says, brings nose to collar.
Holding the bag, say, it's used, who knows?
Ruthia Jenrbekova

Court Testimony for the ‘Opposite Day, Missed Connections’, November 17 2021.

Dear ladies and non-ladies, dear jury, honorable court!

1. What can I say in my defense? My version of what happened differs from everything we’ve heard today in many respects. It differs so much that it becomes the opposite version, the contra-version. For me everything looked extraordinarily different. Although I cannot deny my complicity in a plot to rob the Kunsthistorisches Museum, my overall involvement in the machinations of Serena’s group was, in fact, minimal.

2. Our first meeting took place in early spring, at the right bank of the Danube, near die Reichbrücke. In order not to attract attention and to conceal our identities from the surveillance cameras, we were wearing black masks decorated with plumes. Serena introduced herself as a gang leader and told me about her plans to find and capture something that was neither this nor that. Since I didn’t understand anything about the proposition, I agreed gladly, having been offered a good share of the future loot.

3. May it please the court, ladies of the jury, I was far from the idea of doing anything wrong, if by wrong is meant the opposite of the right. As a matter of fact, I was far from any idea. As my medical history eloquently testifies, I am not a true criminal, although from an early age I tend to break the rules of conduct (which eventually brought me here, to the Academy of Fine Arts). I was born and raised in the country which from its very appearance in 1920-s and up until now has been governed by the brute force of military and security institutions. Since my childhood I knew that taking part in any collective project implies a lot of responsibility, hard work, rigid discipline, strict subordination, and, eventually unavoidable bondage and punishment. So I was ready for the worst from the beginning of my involvement in Serena’s group, and I don’t regret anything.

4. Our next meetings occurred in different parts of the city, but none of the crimes conceived were successful in any way. The meticulously planned robbery of the Kunsthistorisches Museum failed because the map I prepared turned out to be the map of Kazakh Museum of Fine Arts in Almaty. The next plot to steal already stolen artifacts from the Weltmuseum fell through because we arrived there on Wednesday, and Wednesday was a day off. The tension between us was constantly growing via Whatsapp messenger.

5. The grand final showdown took place in the depths of Prater park. By that moment Serena, an experienced gang leader, was already aware of the fact that I was playing a double game. Without further ado, she invited me to change sides, and proposed a simple choice between the two possible paths: (on one hand) a path of non-binarism, (on the other hand) a path of abandoning the binary/non-binary divide altogether, (on the next hand) the straight path of Prater Hauptallee. I felt trapped by the weird duality of this choice, and hesitated to answer. Finally she made it clear that my hesitation will have consequences. “I'll get my people to contact your people” — she said darkly. Despite the panic, I found the strength to bluff. “I will get my people meanwhile” — was my answer before goodbye. Some months later a bag full of poems, drawings and videos was delivered to my door. I don’t know if this evidence is against me or in my favor ..

6. In conclusion, dear jury, I plead guilty to being complicit in the activities of Serena's group, but, given my frank confession, I ask the high court for leniency. Please take into account that my involvement was of purely chronic nature and therefore will hardly happen again.