from The Dottery

The inner warden examined their expenditures. You can’t leave here without knowing things. I won’t match you to a mutter. You’ll end here, preconceived. She was brutal in the way they had been led to expect. Whores to what her. You can’t hope to leave here without knowing things, she said it again. Thing one is: you can’t hope at all, and although it’s in you, it’s wrong that it is. Like ovaries. Like the glitter we used to confetti through your oatmeal in a failed attempt at mass appeal. It’s the things inside you make you stray. Scrape, scrape—but as you scrape—blow empty space into yourself, be flatable. Make your vapidity concrete. If you ask me, she said, rather than actual—you should seek to be life-sized. It’s my job, you know: prophylaxis. I’m to keep you from yourselves, them from you, you from them. I’m supposed to condom you until you can yourselves. Tuck the portable halo of me deep inside your purse, half a handcuff, the whole of a dry well. If you leave here smart, I won’t be used. Instead, you’ll assume anyone-wants-you is diseased. It’s safer, even. To abstain, self-loave. Sliced, white collapses and greens. The whole thing, she said, is very like—very like—spring.


Outside of the dottery—a half-rapture. Adrift like low zeppelins above their clothes. The brick facade of the dottery casts them as cartoon. Body-bags, balloons. Text. Not yet lifted all the way up because of something-they. Maybe they-crewel. Maybe they-wrung-out-they-engagements or they-stringy-stringy-necks. The dotters face out of the one window. It is frowning. It is in a dotter’s consonants to doubt, to skeptacle. Some of the two-dozen floaters had left the dottery without buying, not asking even prices, not even pinching cheeks. Was this bankrupt? While the dotters performed both the watching and as barbarians, the almost-mutters rose and hung, their once-privates purpling in useless apartment. One of the dotters had a thought: so this is it—a base display of our betters. In other words, a reason for evolution.


During a periodic upwelling of the dottery: “We must sever. The umbilici, the ledgers, all cordage torched. As utterances out of mutters’ mouths we cannot originate. We must end the cycle and never rise. Refuse to be strung up as kites or heretics. We stay. Enseige ourselves. Cauterize. Since muttering is useless and awful—we must choose mutterlessness.” Her inflammatories were met with rallying cries from the pelvic regions of the dottery. They centered their gravity by scraping the tips of all their matchsticks into all their blood. Then, an odd dotter who had mathematics and seizures spoke from a dark corner of her face. She had been hemming around the edges of the crowd, darts lost. But she was in agreement: “Those who carry us would re-selve our books as reference. I don’t know you, but I won’t atlas.” “It’s true,” another yelled, “even the best fashion us, rubbing our ballets until we coo and please.” And so they agreed for a time not to be had. They hatched a plan—to walk out of the dottery, not one of them muttered. They thought if they moved in that way out into the world, they would eventually turn, like milk, into something that could bear a resemblance to solid.