Cornelia Barber

Gesture #8 Dress Object
Documenting spaces of failure. Of ruin. Documenting how you did not succeed and couldn’t figure out what the fuck you want. Documenting the estrogen. Documenting the pheromones. The calcifying. The mud. Documenting what was left and what remains. The waste. Littered. Where the ocean meets it.

Where the dress is submerged. Where the dress is confiscated. Where the dress is worn to salt and the salt to floor and the floor to river. With the glass that cuts you. With the ring you lost. With the ring you threw off the bridge into salt.

With the waste you conceived. Drifted through. Re-organized.

With the waste that entered you. The waste that mingled and came.

The dress without salt. The dress without water. The dress without wedding. The dress made of tissue. The dress un-made. Disintegrating. Un-clenched.
Where waste sits. Clumps. Loads. Demolishes.

How it took too long to arrive. And the arrival was weak.

You pull on fibrous strands. A mouth opens.

Secures the fatigue. Wrapped in its self-sustaining nutrients.

Wrapped in salt and strain. Clenching and un-clenching.

the tension of the book lies in what’s unknown in the body

the tension of the body lies in what’s unknown in the book

how to deal with another body
how to re-build a difficult force
how to implement motives, intentions, actions
how to say yes when you mean it and no when you don’t

Another body says want and you perceive threat
Another body says calm and you perceive wilt

Want into form
Desire through guilt

you find the dress you keep it
you find the book it reads you

in the afterglow of reading a body waits
a first discernment
If the whole world is sick, if humans are sick, and The United States of America, where I am from, at the center of promulgating this sickness—through drone strikes, through poisoning our poor communities, endangering our earth with pipelines, gunning each other down, erasing our brown and black citizens and non- citizens, erasing what we deem impure: the disabled, queer, weird, foreign, fecund, gross, scatological elements of life— how can this book make things a little less sick? Or help? Or do anything other than problematize itself and erase you? Eleni Stecopoulos writes, “In radical empathy the body is not individual but cosmically extended in participation, para-sited.”

Like a schizophrenic who connects their own sensations/thoughts/dreams with that of other people and cultures, who is in fact unable to disconnect the fascia of live experience—who is everywhere and everyone at once, interdependent—I would like this book to be the parasite that destroys the whole through augmenting “wholeness” to reveal itself as a fraud, or reveal myself as a fraud, and reveal these words, not as fragments of an illusory whole, but as what might be possible, what might heal, the metaphor for the event that is not this book.
The child that sees pain


the River

who spies, uninterrupted

the lake, the depression, the field of no

take her baby-palms

in figure eights and glide her


to retrieve from the under-parts

a new surface

and her little face

welcomes it

a hand becomes intrusive

a play-house

the pillow sinks beneath her


and the gold dress, the gold earth

that she remembers

entwined in weak contests

sipping plastic coffee

rubbing toes on clits

shoving what is left
between nipple and throat

how ravaged

and ashamed

with marks of a future self

limping forward unannounced

trying out the want

the head of his under-story
how to fit it inside
and transpose the what into
her own pelvis

to shake out the debris
of this forest

to grow tired of it

how long the river
widens for
opening then close

the fisherman

a wide reception for her hand

red and yellow cardboard blocks

and photos of the yellow house

on the hill

stuck engrained and sad in black and white

the gravel ripping her back
videos on the ground
speech floating between bones
up through a muffled resource
of throat and lips and tongue and breath

the buoys drift

a house lit up

in the river

and they carve the words

into the house

and the house relieves them of pain

and the little girl washes her feet

she calls to them, again, and again

how she wanted them to say yes, and to come to her

and to never go away and to never die

how she wanted them to never die

dripping out and dancing in mud, in gravel, in water

pouring the water


slipping in rain

the way out of nothing
the way out of crying
the way out of pain

an oscillation of response and witness
a verifiable and decent reply

no more objects to hold
no more moments to implode

an agreement

a song

that lulls her to sleep
catching her breath
remembering the pink room
and the iron bed
where her body lay
down to nod
into blank

and to heal in the air

as the sun rises to kiss
its shadow in the sea
Beside the river. To hold flesh. To obfuscate these memories.