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Tenement Press is an occasional publisher of esoteric,
accidental, & interdisciplinary literatures.

‘My head is my only house unless it rains’

Don Glen Vliet

Rehearsal      /     12. Jess Cotton

Daughter of Marxism

Sitting atop a hill in Orvieto the child could see nothing but
ten wild goats, herding their young. There were woods to hide
in but he preferred his own jokes, still new to them, still sticky
on the tongue as he found his language inside it. Sitting atop
a hill in lent an old man remembered only the first time he
had learnt the trick of looking up schoolteacher’s skirts. Now
he takes to the shops, headfirst brandishing a ruler, the length
of a stomach, such games the child finds endearing. Sitting
atop a hill, hard to climb, outside the hospital, newly built with
petroleum negatives, the ageless woman gasps the hyaline air,
crosses herself with the frenzied motions of a man rocking
himself under a tundra of cloud, orange as Ophelia, feeling
hope fall. Sitting atop a hill in Marseille the woman dreamt
of panisses and oranges, and antibodies in small black hats,
and wounds that laugh gutturally, cooked them herself, did
the work of a sore aureole and took the child back to the crib.

Where may it be spring?
Here not
but somewhere? It was an uncertain spring.
she said come again.

States of Bewilderment

States of emergency are states of the spoken
body speaking bodily is not yet to have spoken
paralysis is not a body that can be airlifted into
speech. In the insane light of morning anxiety
flings through the window. The inside let’s itself
out. A breath, a sight, a whimper curdles in the
edge of rain around the window’s exhalation. The
graphable chokes out the rainbow, we eat data for
breakfast. Data vomits a synchronised spectrum
of dominance, turns white to red. Pain is regular,
justifiable, flesh-wrapped, monetary. We, are all
in this together, the roaring clap sounds as night
falls, we, explodes in the past memory.

States of working the pink tongue-typed hour. The
end is close but who could be closer than this, you,
hey stranger! holed up, the shrapnel of injury shoves
the spring panic into the serviceable branches of the
imagination. Babes would be born, babies would not
be borne. Still nationalism, still forms, still buildings,
still landlords, still deposits kept, still bastards stilling
time. Time’s up. Time for breakfast, have radishes with
your apocalypse, keep speaking of the not gardens at
the heart of the city where the real green is. Partial
inventory of morning says time’s up time and time’s
up can it still be true, for how long can it still be true.

The best states are not of the mind but of the mind
dreaming. Entry level planning, entry level planting.
Even then, armed not with resources. Disability plants
itself inside the memorandum money is no object. The
collective body speaks the words of a Russian scientist
with a feel for life after death, whilst other states choose
certain death. Loved ones never your loved ones. There is
not a we to hold but we are in neither of these places. The
streets are unoccupied, the streets will be occupied, listen
to the sounds that plant themselves, bring back the stall, a
state of mind communal, have you not listened to it out the

Out the window an in breath punctures your chest. Everybody
is your body now, your body is everyone’s, alright Whitman !
Hard to believe there are this many holds inside, buildings to
occupy, downloading hope in the isolation station. Laughter
shakes us into focus, inducing labour pains. The family cannot
hold up, held up, for this we offer prayers. One rose for another
rose, a dream of an empty street with flames at your back and
crowds with no faces, pumpkins beached. We are all beached
whales in the aftermath of a golden libertarian coalition. The
starry vespers are cute, play cutely, the minister said, letting
go of the frame, the body sings, the body slings a shot out the
window. The colonel said he would write the poem himself.

Failed states speak with cotton in their mouths. It is not a
brief history, it is an ongoing history of nothing that is not
inviolable nothing that is not inalienable nothing that is not
not addressable. All things wash up at low tide, as long as the
satrapies are in order. The present madness is singular: crisis
and power qualified to the nth power. This is not theory. This
is not Marx and Hegel though they knew. This is not your boy
friend in the pub telling you he is a philosopher, drinking on
someone else’ expense. That is all. Workers in Iowa withhold
their labour in exchange for the certainty that we will commit
ourselves to building safety. Here is a model you say, we say, 
with working lungs.

States scatter ashes the wind blows back onto its
greener soil. There is a history of feeling of weather testing,
weathering is the work of mourning in climates where grief
is ordinary, everyday, we could be saved by a rubber boat,
a comet, of the imagination, the alternatives are your guess
gage, gauge, gall, foreclosed feeling, tot up the past, fabric a
feel of possession. Flow, break the flow, it is not operational,  
it is not optional. The only relief is relief in grief, grief that is
taken hold of, grief that leaps to frenzy. Such states produce
octaves of rage that have not yet been discovered. The time to
discover them is time up, growing inside, inside balloons
outwards, the future, a fracked heaven floats over red sand.


Today I wake to
a crest of your
orange pink
leaves and
find autumn
where once
‘you’ were

Someone says
‘keep busy’
Someone belts
out an absolute
of truth that
are old props
and ‘things can
only be looked
at too closely’

Take, for example,
this body on this
morning blue
some would say
breathless some
might say if it
were not still

And most of all Anna
I fear your fear of
waking one morning
to this morning to a
textured thing one
cannot clasp between
finger and thumb like
your voice its feeling
things that cannot un-
happen like a woman
or an island of which
you are both


I think only of you on this damp, unlikely
morning (there is an air strike, there is an
announcement, there are hearts broken,
there are limps transplanted) or rather of your
hard cool stare in La Notte that looks back
at no one but is our screen through which we
flounder for sympathy glimpsing your reflection
in Monica Vitti’s three-way-looking glass as
she scrambles across a marble living chess
set of a life of her own invention for what
else was there and how when you walk past
the rockets (how many rockets had you seen
in your love before, thousands, you say, none
you say) a masterpiece of indifference and so
you keep on walking knowing that your
world is better than no one’s and to turn
round, to pause and to admire that which we
recently built would be to risk not short of


Outside it all grows stronger the liquor lacking
up the pan shot into the still of your cap-cropped
dress across which we hear the unspent foliage of
women hammering into walls into the next room

And so you appeal to too much stock to the blaze
and furnace of our autumn hearts spent in black-
and-white throes where fury is a kind of mutual
investment on bulking shores

And so we take leave of the trees while they still
stand where the untoppled balloons soar over roads
that lead into a sandpiper of a moon under which
the children still play and a man goes on reading a
paper of news and where someone is about to cut
our last patch of green

Jess Cotton is a writer living in London. She mostly writes about poetry.

︎︎︎    Back to Rehearsal

Were a wind to rise
I could put up a sail
Were there no sail
I’d make one of canvas and sticks

Bertolt Brecht, ‘Motto’
(Bucknow Elegies)


Tenement Press, MMXXIV