i think i think in shadow shifts until they see something through which they can blurt. ekphrasis as thoughts thudding through solid like steady beads of tapioca. Eye Candy is for suck, clack against teeth, maybe melt in the middle. periscope tongue looking always to rest. settling in at the movies.

Eye Candy: Shirkers

by emilie kneifel

Movie still from Shirkers. Four young ballerinas are in a lush green garden with hedge sculptures in the shape of animals.

green, crushing in every sense of the word, fluorescent as eyes in something-like-love. frantic green, buzzing, sweating from only one armpit. shuddering with the force of an attempt to assert the self through an image. 

when she was 19, sandi tan and her friends made a movie over the course of one summer. an impossibly green, impossibly already-a-memory movie. they lost all the footage, until the man who stole it died. they never recovered the sound. 

(i don’t want to talk about the man. he was evil in every predictable way.) 

my friends and i spent two summers building shows, duct tape around my torso, lost the vhs, didn’t even lose it, disappeared — got sick at twenty, whole self packed carefully into a storage unit, only to be mostly discarded two years later by an unsentimental brother. little bag full, barely zipped. 

to selve through material means one can lose it. every time i remember a gone thing, i jolt. 

it took tan twenty years to really talk about shirkers. only after she got back the rolls. before, she “felt like a crazy person, talking about this film that didn’t exist.” a nurse dancing with a giant dog. naked toes, skirting a bush. 

when i recount my earliest memories, my brothers always say i’ve made them up, dreamt them, saw them in photos; honestly, it doesn’t really matter to me where they come from. my human brain being porous, i’m fine with the idea that memory is closer to feeling. 

it all comes back when they talk about it. “it” being the feeling-memories which don’t get to be solely tan’s own. “you were an asshole,” her friend jasmine repeats. topheavy green. up in your throat like the acid of self. 

i have that bent — to insist on genesis because it’s a selfing. to be an asshole. bossy emails about scripts at what, twelve? but it was still there last year when we made playd8s, still there when tan called her grandparents’ flooded yard chocolate milk and i felt strangled, knowing my line, “chocolate milk in the streets,” sat still in an unpublished poem.

when tan sees footage of herself she says, “she was right. i was an asshole.” “as rotten as i thought i was.” 

leah has said i was especially mean that summer. something pushed into being — pushes. through to the rot. 

i keep my anachronisms almost touching. mould of my hands, the rock. forcing my brain to witness these things in the same time-place, not subsumed or all-lost. i see that deep need in tan, in the soundtrack’s hesitant song, its “a-ah, a-ah” lifting like some old hope that pulls my two shoulders up-out. 

but as time rumbles low, (its objects still somewhere, damp-green and rotting), i think: the memory of the thing is more important than the thing itself. if not material, memory can be told. by three friends, in all the old ways. 

still — even talking-about makes me nervous. to cover what was is, well, to begin to cover it up. the way repeating a word just tears it, how i never liked to read french because i needed it to sound like linoleum. how m never watches videos of herself because she wants to remember from inside. 

the memory-of, an heirloom itself. 

white tutu, wide train that no longer runs, ripping through.


emilie kneifel is a sick slick, poet critic, and also a list.