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Hot Desk Extract: three approaches to mem*ry

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Ruby Hillsmith worked on Little Islands, Dead Sea, a multi-genre project exploring emotion, memory and psychiatry. This excerpt, ‘three approaches to mem*ry’, interrogates the foibles/fables/fractures/failures inherent to her own practice of memory.

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i feel the hot/shock of the silver hook


and nurse it for a little while


before i even check(which bastard’s


reeling in the fishing line?)


and that’s just the curse of mem*ry: 


sometimes it turns the gut 

                    before the throat 

                         before the eye


(that one delinquent pupil always seems to trail behind)


and now i want to give up history,


the pit of broken glass


i drag my fingers through 

         (and then revise, each


tiny prick a patient under mem*ry’s super/vision)


to get a job on neighbours: chief amnesiac, 


a girl and her huge plot hole.





i cross the border without breaking


mem*ry’s autocratic state.


the body keeps the score, and


melbourne’s nice, it’s just another place 


to drag the chariot, 

          to blather on and on before 


old visions come in threesstill


there is the mosquito bite i pick until it bleeds,


currents gripping me



mangroves twisting like a mess of snakes towards the sun.


i hire a dodgy contractor to start the demolition


he says grief is an expan$ive lot to be developed


into westconnex and reams of wet cement 


(that you can barely press your palms against 

         without a fine)





mem*ry arrives, again———(((as if it bears repeating)))



       impudent in a cowboy hat, 


worn tracksuit  


dyed a fetching shade of pink—



mem*ry has to change a bit each time it’s resurrected,


so you’ve burned through all your outfits pretty quick—


and all at once I beg the past 


to skim my chest


without incision,


indifferent as a bar of motel soap—


(((but))) suddenly the faucet turns 


(((and))) someone’s calling down the hall


(((like))) slash the ribbons, hurry on 


short of a witness———mem*ry’s gone———

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