Julia Polyck-O’Neill

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1942 Suite (Woolf)
I could tell you wanted to die.

This is not written very seriously
Cultivations; anemones; bluebells; violets
Petals all metal, pointed at the lip,
Run a fingertip along the ridge

A drench of rain falling,
Like a veil streaming down
The sidewalk steaming in its wake
The street is empty, and we’re all inside

And then it was horror
And then it was “honour” and hauntology
(there were four walls and no doors)
And then the narrator died

I have yet to give an empty house (an empty hour)
This is a first draft but I’m out of words
I’m out of worlds.
I think I convinced her.

An unprecedented spectacle; the empty houses burn
Despite the rains, incessant
Burning, even though initially it was a relief
To know the space would be cleared

The gas wld be cut off
At one point all that stood were skeletal remains
And then they were also gone
The puddling as the sooty ooze returned to the earth

We later learned there were victims;
Occupants—squatters; a young couple
Who had taken quiet refuge in the vacant rooms
Their bodies in the soil, and now police tape marks the grave.

No change
All was chill serenity, dignity, and severity
We were unable to work; very little got done
We held our labour close, in the palm

Written up were the names of great men
And all was alientation and the severity overwhelmed
The evolution, painfully slow, and the revolution
Notably absent

The walls were thick; all becomes Brutalist
In the towns of our collective imaginaries
The weight of words and worlds
    The wait, the wait.    

The life had dried up; you were absent from your eyes. The gaze was heavy but vacant.

Let’s say:
The heat has come, bringing with it the inexplicably disagreeable memories of parties
and a fear haunts me even now

I become out of love with everything,

Let’s say the state wins.
Let’s say we all lose and we must march forward as though our lives haven’t been emptied of all joy.
Let’s speak in whispers as all the empty houses burn
As all is emptied and evacuated of meaning
As all crumbles and turns to sand and ash.
Finally anti-theory wins, and the victory is gloriously hollow
But we’re all so hungry and frail. The audience is no longer following
Let the dull winners dance in the ash of their victims.
May they inhale the dust of our sorrowful bones.



Body Bearing (after Sara Ahmed’s “Queer Feelings”)

1. Surface

where life is conflated with the social ideal
(the recesses and the excess)
the embodiment of the failure of the ideal
(this body, ever-failing, inevitably)
regulative norms function, or do not –
the surfaces (bodies or thoughts) will suffice
to script a body as disobedient.

how long will the estrangement last?

the length of this sequence of days:
                        (the proximity of time
                        an uncertain painterly quality to the outline
                        everything! indefinite and disquieting
and sublime, somehow
this proximity

how does it feel to inhabit a body that fails to reproduce an ideal?

bodies as signs; the reading of bodies as intertexts
my body bearing all that I’ve read and known and felt
—a reflex
          a reflex.

2. Do They Breathe

I’ve heard the narrator whisper contain her
do soft bodies have souls, do they breathe or just inspire?

the hilarity of learning the slopes and heavings of bodies in a second or third tongue
crannies in the shapes of language objects made new; sex makes new and real (it sells; the production cycles alien heartbeats; shark bites)
retracing small shocks placing word and phenomenon side by side

a feminine body is made up of a series of cavities
feminine life is formed of lacks, they suppose
but the unexamined gaps have agency
the damp wrappings form dense amalgamations.

we self-identify as underdogs.


Julia Polyck-O’Neill is an artist, curator, critic, and writer. She is a doctoral candidate in Brock University’s Interdisciplinary Humanities program, where she is completing a SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary and comparative critical study of contemporary conceptualist literature and art in Vancouver. She has taught in art history and contemporary visual culture in the department of Visual Arts at the Marilyn I. Walker School, and is currently a visiting lecturer in American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. Her writing has been published in B.C. Studies, Feminist Spaces, Tripwire, Fermenting Feminisms (a project of the Laboratory for Aesthetics and Ecology, curated by Lauren Fournier), and The Avant Canada Anthology (WLU Press, 2017). Her debut chapbook, femme, was published in 2016 by above/ground press.