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Alessandra Bava

Unfairy Tale #1 – Almost Tom-Thumb

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Can you hold a grenade
and tip-toe?
Behind the lens
impatience morphs
into a long-legged kid
that needs no pebbles:
a mini-giraffe looking for
the safest way out of this luminous
side of hell.

after Diane Arbus's Child with Toy Grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. (1962)

Unfairy Tale #2 – Mirror, Mirror

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S/he smokes
s/he is distant
s/he looks at me
there is no thin line
between what s/he is
and what you see,
just a freaking good
face opening up
towards the lens
as the darkest,
unknown flower.

after Diane Arbus's A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C., 1966

Humpty Dumpty in the Asylum

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for Antonin Artaud

The ancient addiction to cocaine, heroin, laudanum,
the ever present schizophrenia, the constant
incarceration of the vulnerable mind. Antonin

created amulets to protect himself from
the spells cast on him by premeditated
institutions, hideaways of black magic.

Not even straitjackets nor the 51 electroshocks
poisoning his paranoid conscience and his
wrenched heart could detain him from his art in

Rodez. He and his double, the one he always
claimed he knew better than himself, would work
on their occult initiations, on their megalomania,

as well as on translations that Doctor Ferdière
insisted he (perhaps, they?) should undertake: Lewis
Carroll's La Traversée du miroir (Through the Looking

Glass), that he had never read before, Alice and
Dodu Mafflu* inhabiting his dreams. Not a faithful
rendering but a deeply felt piece of writing on living

and existing. Secluded sufferer, neither dead or
alive, he battled his demons as a graphorrhean
warrior to mend the fragment of his own annihilated

self. Antonin fought asylums his own way because, as
he wrote to Breton in his letter dating back to 1947,
anyone who is insurgent shall be declared mad.

*Humpty Dumpty

Loaded Blunderbass

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for poet Alda Merini

She was neither beautiful nor pompous as most
poets are, and she would never write as Emily
Dickinson did because—as she candidly
admitted—she could never afford a housemaid.

She had four daughters and a husband but never
a normal life. Poetry lingering in every cell of
her body—a prison already. Something many
tried hard to steal from her, uselessly.

Decades of decay in an asylum, like Emma
Bovary on a daily subway ride wondering about
her tedious life with Charles wearing slippers
all day long—the real madhouse!

The entity that was Poetry licking her face as a
rabid hound—angrily present, exploding in
tentacular electroshocks through each finger,
in a painful slow-motion delivery of words.

Madness fired like a loaded blunderbass for years
after she was released. Traces of it present on the
walls at her place where she would note phone numbers,
aphorisms, poems, ironic self-portraits in red ink or

lipstick, surrounded by utter chaos. Writing whenever,
wherever necessary, looking at the world with crystal-clear
desperation. The same way she filled up her handbag with
lighters, scraps of paper full of lines, the occasional cigarette

butts, her lively intelligence. And, a powerful laugh.


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