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Cargo-cult of the libido



Reliquary of a world’s desire
silk cotton elastic
albino marbles for her eyes
milky with confusion
bandages for stockings

all I ever wanted
or shall ever want
ancient desire
preterite and future perfect
a salt bone breaking its doll

moaning wind
through a graveyard
whose green hair stands on end and trembles



She being the child
spirited out of a convent back door
in the dead of night

her eyes her tiny breasts
white as starched linen
on the presbytery bed



One man’s strand of hair
behind its shewglass monstrance
a single tear preserved inside a lachrymatory
wept on your future

by another man’s goddess



Definitions drain desire away

Pygmalion thought all women in his country sluts
wanted that ivory embodiment
retaining precisely what it gives
but oh how our man prayed at last
her marble fingers should heat to melt him

Venus on hand with her battery
hallucinations electric as Medusa’ hair

any paraphilia involving
statues dolls mannequins

In Kraft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis
a gardener fell for the statue of Venus de Milo
in the hortus conclusus he was zealously tending
and was later discovered attempting coitus
upon his stony inamorata

(Connie was never so frigid with Mellors)


Tear my flesh you’ll find machinery

like Pris in Blade Runner
inside I’m all cogs and circuitry
whirring whirring whirring

till the whirring stops

dea ex machina
providing such chaste commandments


In ‘The Fetishist’ Michel Tournier explains
how men are defined by their footwear

take away a torturer’s boots
replace them with large felt slippers he says

that torturer will surely vanish
like scotch mist



Oskar Kokoschka commissioned
a life-size doll of Alma Mahler
who’d left him to marry another

constructed with great care
by Hermine Moos
on whom Rilke lavished handsome praise

this he took to concerts dinners
convocations of illuminati
then at last to bed

he had measured his model’s dimensions
with a painter’s precision
her mighty hips and Mae West décolleté

pneumatic indeed
both Alma and her feathered substitute
whom Oskar beheaded at last

one drunken dawn
bespattering her headless corpse with wine
at the end of their last supper



In Surrealism’s cellar
the heart’s authentic gimmick
awaits its eschaton

one dead eye

and so we come at last to Hans Bellmer
to the dead doll still looking, Die Puppe
eros unconstrained by logic or mortality

all the ruinous anatomy of love
vox uteri
phantoms of a ghostly womb

agate in marble
a young girl’s intimacy spirals
its torque

see how your gaze will
wear her out
until she vanishes



Cargo-cult of the unconscious

objects of desire assembled
then demolished

I am your god he cries
then slips beneath the ocean’s lid

or the itching heaving
terrible flesh of the sea

LandC150aAlan Wall was born in Bradford, studied English at Oxford, and lives in North Wales. He has published six novels and three collections of poetry, including Doctor Placebo. Jacob, a book written in verse and prose, was shortlisted for the Hawthornden Prize. His work has been translated into ten languages. He has published essays and reviews in many different periodicals including the Guardian, Spectator, The Times, Jewish Quarterly, Leonardo, PN Review, London Magazine, The Reader and Agenda. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow in Writing at Warwick University and Liverpool John Moores and is currently Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Chester and a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review. His book Endtimes was published by Shearsman Books in 2013, and Badmouth, a novel, was published by Harbour Books in 2014. A collection of his essays has now been issued by Odd Volumes, The Fortnightly Review’s publishing imprint, and a second collection, of his Fortnightly essays on Walter Benjamin, is in preparation. An archive of Alan Wall’s Fortnightly work is here.


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