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The Author Is Dead

Juliano Zaffino - The Author Is Dead - Blog

Devotional Studies

Juliano Zaffino

'the bloated carcass of what / once was'

'the bloated carcass of what / once was'

While working on CASSANDRA, I wanted to return to some of my favourite literary figures, to explore and reinterpret their minds, to understand them and to attach myself to them. Devotional Studies is a result; most of these poems pre-existed this project but have been subsequently altered. The rest were written specifically with the aim of co-opting literature for my own expression, and subsequently sequenced to tell this story. I hope you enjoy.


1. Havisham At The Feast
2. Bath Tub Woman
3. Gerard’s Grandeur
4. SHE
5. He The Colossus
6. Like Brutus
7. Gerald, Agamemnon, Other Men
8. Turn, Good Lady
9. Bridesmaid [fragments]


Havisham At The Feast

Keep good news away from my ears
So that it doesn’t deafen me; an act
Of awkward protection for my sake,
Sparing me the humiliation of knowing
You’re doing quite alright now, thanks.

Or maybe it’s not benevolence?
Cherish your championship victory
Safe from the Debbie downer’s dour
Doom and gloom. Joy be your dowry,
Fleeting, spent beyond my clutches.

And so I agree with your decision.
Don’t ask me to come and celebrate;
You wouldn’t bring a child to a wake.
Don’t you tell me just how good it’s getting.
Who’d invite Miss Havisham to the wedding?


Bath Tub Woman

I think about The Shining when I get out of the shower,
Kubrick’s film more than the book,
Although I prefer the book.

I think about the dead woman in the bath tub
In Room 237 (in the film, not her bookish
Counterpart in 217).

I think about how Jack (Torrance, Nicholson)
Grabs her, embraces her in the steam,
How he would fuck her.

I think in the steamed mirror above the sink
For the briefest moment that I’d fuck me.
And then the steam dissipates.

I think I am become the bloated carcass of what
Once was, engorged on my own rotting
Sense of self, sort of porous.

I think I am fit only for a closed casket funeral,
That the state of my waist precludes
The chance of any love.

I think I would strangle someone too, like her,
The first man I see with a smile who looks
Like a sexed-up reboot.


Gerard’s Grandeur

Oh to be a comforter, a Master
Of words and wills and wonder that adorn
My mind’s canvas, to find Hopkins reborn
As inscape moves on the landscape faster

Than the lightning that strikes these blank pages
And charges them with words and fills them whole,
And pours past overflowing this old soul,
Gives life to thoughts dead-dropt through the ages –

And for all this two fraud-Gods we should be,
Who give long-life to that which can’t survive
Of its own accord, word-Lords unholy
As the abortive nothings we contrive;
Create ourselves with words religiously
And in our poem-bibles stay alive.



Deny her thrice like a lesser Jesus
If you want, it makes no difference.
She has seen it before, seen it already
And will not hesitate to see it all again,
Cannot help herself in fact,
It is her gift and burden.

It was god, when he (for vengeful gods
Are always he) desired the prize
Between her legs and she (for honest
Victims are always she) rebuked
He, nuclear, was revenged on her eyes
To weaken her words.
“She babbles, inadmissibly.”
And so he is safe.

But what if I told you she saw enough
To change her fate? Through sight
And isolation she could rage
Against his ancient crimes and make
Recriminations fleshly manifest
In scars across his genitals.

A fugitive now but fine; untraceable,
Always a step ahead, knowing when
They will find her, quick to leave.
No life left, just running on until
The time runs out – but he is gone
And She, a vengeful god,
Will take his place.


He The Colossus

He grows in the distance like moving mountains,
Marc Antony, come for vengeance.
Unholy huge figure, monolith, mono,
And the Romans run about his giant legs
Unaware, unblissfully, that here stands
A man unlike any other, unknown.


Like Brutus

He will be found like himself:
Like Sylvia Plath in the oven,
Like Sisyphus and his boulder,
Like Trump at 2am.

He will be found like himself:
Like Beijing’s starlight in the summer,
Like Ulysses in translation,
Like a godhead’s promise.

He will be found like himself:
Like poetry without the white space,
Like Kennedy’s head cavity,
Like an oyster hollowed.

He will be found like himself:
Like martyred protestors catching fire,
Like Jesus crossing the water,
Like a better Caesar.


Gerald, Agamemnon, Other Men

I find that I can’t get it off.
My finger is held inside this ring,
A prisoner. Love’s fugitive.
It aches, yearns to be free,

But when I twist and spin it
‘Round determinedly,
No matter how hard I try,
It will not budge a nail’s width.

Has this metal contracted,
Become smaller over time?
Or have my fingers grown
Too fast for elements to note?

No butter is enough,
No water hot or cold,
No spit or oil or tears
Will get it off.

I use my husband’s blood instead.
Off. Off. Off with its head.


Turn, Good Lady

And I do, and look upon my Perdita’s face.
I reach for her, I say my final words.
More words, the curtain falls,
Our embrace continues in perpetuity

Turn, good lady.

And I do, and look upon my Perdita’s face,
But see nothing in her eyes that I recognise.
He said she was not his;
Perhaps somehow she is not mine.
Filthy changeling.
I stand and reject her, reject them all.
Confusion, curtains, chaos forever,
My memorial.

Turn, good lady.

And I don’t,
Instead I grab her by the throat
And shake. Why should she be young,
And have so much joy ahead,
While I have spent so long of my life
Dead? I shake, I rage.
Paulina tries to no avail
To abate my anger.

Turn, good lady.

I’ve heard it a thousand times
And every time the same thing.
‘You gods, look down, and from
Your sacred vials pour your graces
Upon my daughter’s head! Tell me,
My own, where have you been
Preserved? Where have you lived?
How have you found your father’s court?
For you will hear that I,
Knowing by Paulina that the Oracle gave hope
You were still in being,
Have preserved myself to see my issue.’
I stand, I embrace, Paulina, damned hag,
Drones on. And then he does the same,
The most hateful still a monster, concealing
Only barely the tyrant’s face masked
By sixteen years of forced penance.
The curtain falls.
It begins again.

Turn, good lady.

Turn, good lady.

And for once,
Though I have known my story since before it began,
Though I have lived it forever –
I cannot move.
It is not that I will not
But that I cannot,
That I am made of such heavy stone
That to move would defy the laws of the earth.
I stay there, where I have been forever.


Bridesmaid [fragments]

Bride: a woman who is newly married or is about to be married; in needlework, a thread or loop that joins parts of a pattern.

A bouquet is tossed carelessly in the air
By my friends, and it lands somewhere
Out of my line of sight so I try to refrain,
I try not to read anything into their game
But I know, they are all dressed for weddings
And I am barely dressed for out-of-bed things
Like writing, that old sinful craft of mine
Which, with our economy, has been in decline.

I think of personal witticisms I’d once construe
Like that old adage: “those who can’t do, review”.

So I want a husband that I can call my own,
And I want to write a good fucking poem.
I want to bleed the ink from all this paper
And slay all words like a literary crusader
Since I’m so sick of reading all this stupid shit.
I’m doomed; always a reader, never a poet.