Ten years ago, I lay on an IKEA couch with our two dogs and tried to write my body back into existence after an experience that is called a ‘missed’ miscarriage. The room was small and the walls, which had been textured at some point prior to our residence in the house, were painted pea green. There was a shelf of books, and doors with glass panes that made translucent the boundaries between the room and the garden, between the room and the rest of the house, between the room as a moment in time and everything that had transpired before and would transpire, endlessly, after. Attached to the room was a half bath, where I found myself a few times trapped, my internal organs having not yet adjusted to the cascade of spontaneous changes. My body didn’t know how to pee properly anymore. The basset hounds flanking me – one in a crescent against my belly, one in the curl of my bent legs – were warm and itchy, breathing the slow, deep breaths of resting animals. It was me, the dogs, and the writing.

The writing I was completing at this time ten years ago was an article for Body, Space and Technology, composed in the Fall of 2012 and published in the Winter of 2013, entitled ‘Going Home: Mike Kelley, Mobile Rhetoric, and Detroit’ (Anderson and Haley, 2013). The environmental circumstances captured in the excerpted italicized passage above were some of the most potent, the most present and have, subsequently, been the most abidingly persistent aspects of these moments in my proliferating remembered imagination of this period. Yet, of course, I wrote about none of this in the article that emerged from this place. Instead, the BST article worked exclusively through questions about the life, the thinking and the untimely passing of the artist Mike Kelley. In the ten years of aftermath of writing that piece, however, I’ve revisited the ideas and words in that essay again and again with a desire not only to adjust what I originally wrote about Kelley, but also a desire to invite my lived experience back into that writing, where perhaps it should have been from the outset. I was writing about Kelley’s sense of body and sense of place, and his use of art as a technology of paradox in representation, at a time when my own sense of body and sense of place had escaped me and I was using writing as a technology to find my own way back home.

I gave myself the assignment to create a performance text for BST during this ten-year anniversary, wherein I would, as I note above, invite my lived experience back into the writing. I anticipated that I would correct what I wrote. I would argue with my (former) self. I would question. I would endeavour to excavate what was lost from the beginning and what had been, somehow, simultaneously both lost and found in the interim.

What emerged from the experiment are three poems – or perhaps just words organized into a kind of poetic structure that follows the pattern of speech that I used to compose and record them in the first instance. But these poems fail to meet the criteria of the assignment I set for myself, in the sense that the lived experience here has not been sewn back into the writing from ten years ago at all. They fail so completely, I feared, that they should not be sent along at all. Yet, they’ve persisted over these weeks between proposal and submission. And they’ve insisted to me (privately), that they still somehow belong to that original article. That they came from him (it). And I think I realize now why. No – this lived experience isn’t sewn back into the original. And there is, in point of fact, no critique of the original embedded here. Not because a critique isn’t possible. But because this is not the aftermath that the original prompts. The pieces here are all about the children. The children that were born after we lost that first one. And the pieces, whether shaped by the circumstances of that original loss, or shaped by our absorption in the sadness around the loss of Kelley, who we did not know, but who meant something to us in ways we’ve never fully been able to understand, make clear how much our experience of parenting has been knitted tightly together with all of our deepest fears that these children won’t survive. Or that we won’t survive. That everything is so god-awfully, blindingly contingent. And yet that, within that awfulness, and that blindness, and that contingency, the most beautiful and the most perverse qualities of our lives – the art of our lives, if that doesn’t seem too embarrassing to write – are necessarily intertwined with those fears that we will not make it. That we cannot make it. That we are of this world but not made for this world.

So the writing is a house. There isn’t a way back home. But the writing is a house where some of these artifacts can breathe. And the images. Richard made these images. I asked him how he arrived at drawings of photographs that he then painted with watercolours, since this has not been his practice.


I (originally) thought just photographing the photographs would do something.


What did you think it would do?


I just thought it would create a further distance. A photograph is a representation of experience. And I thought it would expand that space in between the experience and the representation of it further. Or distort it. But still look like it. But it didn’t do that.


Why do you think it didn’t do that?


I have no idea.


Why does this approach (with the drawing and the watercolours) work?


This one’s more physically altered. More faded. Like a photograph that’s been stuck in the rain.

So here are our memories and our photographs that have been stuck in the rain.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Hands in a Box of Treasures.

Image: Richard Haley.

Forensic Account

sitting on the green couch eating yogurt with granola
feeding bites to Oliver
careful not to include any raisins in his bites
I call to Emilia to ask how it’s going with the work I asked her to do -
the quiet meditative practice of inviting one’s inner wisdom to reveal itself
to answer the question of why one might choose
to get off at a bus stop they had been told
was not theirs
of why one might choose to, as they put it,
‘spank’ their brother and then explain to their mother
that they did it because they had read about it in an old book

(even though the moment in this particular book was discussed extensively with mother,

who was clear that while things like this used to happen, that it is not customary for this to happen anymore, that it is understood that parents are not permitted to hit their children ever for any reason – and that is a conversation one has had with mother many, many times on many occasions – just like the conversations about the location of the bus stop)

have these conversations been forgotten?
did one think that mother had forgotten them?
but mother is a water elephant, child.
part of the herd Hasan saw at Victoria Falls,
on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe,
passing along the cliff’s edge
where the water rushes and disappears
into three hundred fifty-five feet of gravity
the devil’s pool,
a natural infinity pool,
on the edge of a sheer drop.
And this herd,
this elephant herd, passes splashing across this devil’s pool,
only steps from that sheer drop.
With complete clarity of purpose.
With some sense,
some internal compass composed of
muscle and bone and electricity and synapses.
also called neuronal junction,
the site of transmission of electric nerve impulses
between two nerve cells (neurons)
or between a neuron and a gland or muscle cell (effector).
The handwritten notes Emilia has taken while
watching her math class video:
   Everyone can do well in math.
   When you learn something your synapses fire
   Some parts of your brain light up when you are estimating
   Being good at math doesn’t mean you are fast at it
   to deeply understand thing and relate to them
   When you make a mistak (sic) your brain grows.
Some internal compass composed of muscle and bone and electricity and synapses. Slow down, Emilia. Slow down. Give that dotted half note in Greensleeves its three beats. Give it its time. Give it its space. The song isn’t allowed – isn’t free, isn’t permitted, isn’t able - to be the song if those dotted halves don’t get their three full beats. . . . We only have this window of time. This little window of time. And it’s closing. It’s closing. Like the sunset sounding chord progressions in Grand Central Station, the next song in your lesson book. Like the sunset seeming passage in the last lines of the last story in our Complete Tales of Winnie- the- Pooh, baby blue cover missing, pages lived right through, stories told on told on told in years two and three and four, sitting for hours - hours, reader – in the fat, bunchy, cocoon of the blue velveteen chair. Adjacent to the fireplace. Facing the windows. Ten foot ceilings. She can’t possibly be listening, I think. She can’t possibly be listening to these hours and hours of stories on end. But it turns out she really is. She really does. And she tells back to me, independently, unprovoked, unsolicited, what has happened and what it means in ways I never could have thought to think:

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

And so you see it’s not only a sunset seeming passage. It’s the final image in the book. The joined silhouette of the boy and the bear,

as seen from behind, legs lifted, bent into an effervescent asymmetrical pas de chat (step of the cat), suspended in flight above the silhouette of the grassy earth, mid-skip, towards the endlessness of the pink horizon. Sheer drop. Water rushes and disappears into three hundred fifty five feet of gravity. This is the sunset they face. With the silhouette of a bird above, just out of reach, just over the beyond, on the edge of the picture, where the pink fades to white.

And she retreats to her room to give it all some more thought.
To try the stream of consciousness version of inviting her inner wisdom.
Because if the meditative version isn’t bearing fruit, maybe it can be scratched out,
brain on pen on paper on brain on paper.
And as she retreats I come across a picture from last night.
Last night, I think it was.
Or the night before.
Oliver, like a wild, relaxed, perplexed lion, is laying in the green grass.
With a green top.
And navy blue terrycloth shorts.
He is anychild.
He could be any child from any time.
Jane and Michael.
Scout and Jem.
The boy.
And the way the camera has captured him, it appears that he is not laying in the grass,
not laying on the ground, not drawn into the weightedness of bodies in reality,
but rather hovering inches, centimetres above the grass.
Like a spaceship.
This is an effect of the camera, which in the after-sunset and without a flash, was reaching toward the image to try to grasp at any light left,
to apprehend and thereby to produce light in its effort.
So the grass and Oliver, himself, are far brighter than they are to my eyes,
than they are to the view of the camera.
But the camera goes to a setting it calls NIGHT.
And the camera determines that it will perform a function it calls Auto (3s).
And the camera displays a message for me that says:
Hold still.
And I hold still and the camera collects the light:
And Oliver is christened a cherub.
And the grass, divine, the Sistine Chapel.
I see the image because – I don’t know why.
And I see the image because – I don’t know why.
But I see the image and I remember that I had intended to send it to Richard.
And I send it to Richard.
And it is 12:10.
And at that very moment I hear the distinct, unmistakable sound of choking.

A lion’s roar is so loud because it’s vocal folds form a square shape. This shape essentially stabilizes the vocal cords, enabling them to better respond to the passing air.

And the whole of my body is propelled in the air out of the couch and up onto each foot,
grabbing the ground with force toward that sound.
And Oliver is in the white room.

And his mouth is wide open as if a snake with jaw unhinged and his tongue protruding and he is grasping with his hands into his mouth toward his throat attempting to extract an object I can’t entirely see.

And I can still hear his crackling breath, I think.

I can hear the sound of air being drawn, being sucked into his body, against the resistance of some obstruction.

And everything is happening so slow and so fast:

Reach for the head.
Reach into the mouth.
Extract the object.
Tiny plastic object.
Baby blue.
A piece of a piece of a toy.
A trolley.

A word which he pronounces with extra articulation around the tr- and extra roundness in the shape of the mouth and extra enunciation of the l’s all for the love of Peppa.

Peppa and George.
Is there anything else in there?
Is there anything else?
He shakes his head.
And he cries.
His tongue is dark.
Is dark blue, I think.
I am looking at the night sky of his tongue,
of his mouth,

I am the camera reaching toward the image trying to grasp any light left.

Hold still:

And Oliver is christened a cherub.
The message from yesterday.
The message Richard left on my phone when Emilia and I were buying her dance clothes.
The message he sent before I sent the picture today:
   Your son took off all of his clothes.
   Need help.
   He is dumping salt on the floor and sticking toys in his butt cheeks.
   Won’t stop or put on clothes.

And we are back at a park in a neighbourhood where we don’t live anymore. Five years ago. Circa Emilia’s birthday. Mom visiting and watching as all of the children in the park chip through the gravel with their pounding feet and hurtle themselves down the slide. My mother, in her darkness, says:

It’s a wonder any of them survive.

For god’s sake, Mom. For god’s sake.
But -
her wonder -
her wonderment -
she’s not wrong, is she?
Figure 2
Figure 2

Oliver in a Bear Suit.

Image: Richard Haley.


[an aside]

[an ellipsis]

blue light

spiegel im spiegel

(lit. ‘mirror(s) in the mirror’)

there is a thing I do
when I leave the house
away from the children
or prepare to drive the car
with the children in it
which is to
visualize the space they are in
showered in blue light
this is because
a woman at Emilia’s preschool
let me know
that this was a trick I could do
to protect us
Catholic woman
who worked at a kind of a clinic
where they supported pregnant women
hoping they wouldn’t choose abortion
and this is pre-Roe
I should say
before Roe was taken away
and Roe are salmon eggs
and there is a
baby Roe
because, of course,
the decision did not come in time
the court decision
determining the fate
of the unborn child
the fate of the child
having been determined
by the absence
of the court decision
blue light
I have to imagine it just right
I have to see it in every corner
I have to believe it covers every square inch
of cubic volume
of the space surrounding
the house
or the car
or wherever
they are
but the blue light may be
why we are seeing
precocious puberty
in E
because it interferes with
the body’s release of melatonin
a hormone
that makes us feel drowsy
and interrupts
other aspects
of paediatric endocrinology
so what I am
asking is
do they sell
at Walgreens?
blue light
and this is vintage
from the time when Emilia and I did a lot of driving
to dance
and violin
and music together
and swimming
and parks
and snacks
and shopping
and the car was in
two accidents in less than six months
so the blue light
was a protection
the woman said
for the time when Emilia is in a carseat
in the backseat
and spiegel im spiegel comes on the radio
and she says
being four
that it sounds
a little bit sweet
and a little bit sad
all at the same time
spiegel im spiegel
mirror(s) in the mirror
and we haven’t had a car accident since
but I have to imagine the blue light
just right
I have to see it in every corner
I have to believe it covers every square inch
of cubic volume
of the space surrounding
the house
or the car
or wherever
they are

[an aside]

[an ellipsis]

blue light

she has the wingspan
to play my full-sized violin now
and I don’t know
where to place the pad
in my undergarments
in such a way
that I won’t bleed through
while I am waiting on the stage
to give the arts achievement award
tie the blue wool blazer
around my waist
while I stand at the podium
something very Gen X
you just deal with things by yourself and get on with it
and I am taking my old birth control
that expired 15 months ago
one at a time
and sometimes four at a time
and last night I took two
or was it three
because it felt more orderly
to complete the row
in the blister package
so what I am
asking is
do they sell
at Walgreens?
Figure 3
Figure 3

Emilia in the Leaves.

Image: Richard Haley.

The Bone

key sounds
ignition turns over
seatbelt slides
[cough cough]
internal combustion engine hum
tires rolling carbeast over pavement
Jim sat across
the conference table
from me
told me I was
an HSP
electric window rolling down
he then explained
electric window rolling down
that this is an acronym
windshield wiper
windshield wiper
that means
he also told me
I should read more
the clouds today
are sleepy
depress clutch to shift
like my puffy eyes
they’re like a
storybook version of
puffy eyes
a real version of
puffy eyes
and hollow
a dark and hollow eye
a 45 year old eye
which catches the shadows
pools of shadows
that rest
in the space
beneath your eye
reminding of
the bone
bone which
ten or
twenty or
thirty years ago was not
so apparent
because the tissue
around the eye socket
was more supple
the morning clouds
but the bone now
the outline of the bone
is more prominent
car growl
people are made to feel
they have to spend more time
and money
using products
to conceal
that space
a space
for which they use a product that’s actually called
conceals other things, too
depending on how old you are
the condition
of your skin
your feelings about
how flat
how matte
the surface of your face
should appear
a flat
a matte
upon which
new textures and colors
can also be applied
I love my bone
I love that
I love it
at least
I know
it’s there
I know it’s really there
other things
in the architectures
of my imagination
which I have built
I have built
as, Jim suggests,
the highly sensitive person
that I am
an HSP
which he says
fills the plays of Tennessee Williams
oh, I say
of course
of course
and I begin to speak for him
in the southern dialect
which was the dialect of
seventy five percent
of the people I came from
these giants
of my childhood
Jim doesn’t seem to pick up on how
my dialect is
been crafted
from so many years of listening
to the dreamy questions
angry tirades
of a generation of people stuck
life obligations
that trip
that Nana
had planned
and Papa
in his single
comfortable chair
in his bedroom
listening to
on the radio
making it clear
she would never go
she would never go
and I would never go
with her
the fate
which meant
far less to me
at the time
than it did to her
the only
member of the grandparent royalty
that was not raised
with a southern drawl
but which he
in his much later years
when all of the rest of them were gone
as if to reclaim the soft sweet curling space
of their language
appropriate it
for his own
why am I so sad?
is the sadness
what was once
the anger
is it
truly about
such a deep care
for the precious things I love
is it
about fear
that the thing I thought I had
I didn’t have
it was in my mind
it was
made up
version of connection
each age
that the parent
based on these needs
which become apparent to us
only after
they’ve already manifested
so late
to arrive
at the party
parking brake crank
I don’t know
what’s left
I feel like we’ve
broken up
and she’s
like a
that might
soon be loosed
from the gravitational forcefield of its planet
even stranger
it already has been loosed
but it’s
to do the dance
for a bit longer
you can see it tipping
you can see it tipping
its rotation is
the symmetry
of the mother planet
is tipping
a bit
and the moon
has no idea
where it’s going
it’s only
outer space
in the dark
dark pools
dark pools
but boneless
without even the hint
of the trace
or the undercurrent
of calcium
and it’s all happening
she brushed her own hair
she twisted it into a kind of
kind of a
that’s wrapped
and under and through
she did it
she didn’t
with a brush and
the elastics
and give me instructions
on how to style it
decided to do it
and she’s
and she’s
all those things
and I want
nothing more
than to somehow
hold her
in my body
wants to
hold her
even just
in my
I need to know
that she’s
[to me]
eight years ago
was the halloween that I was
washing my hands and
glimpsing myself in the mirror
in the reflection I saw the
shower curtain shaking
as Emilia liked to do
having not yet
learned to walk
she would climb
into standing pose
next to the
bathtub and
shake shake shake the curtain
shake shake
shake the curtain
it must have
had a nice feeling
and sound
as an extension of her own little
toddling body
but somehow
in this
iteration of the exercise
in the
fraction of a moment
my seeing the reflection
of the motion
and my
turning around she had
fallen down
fallen right down
on her face
so profoundly
I can feel the sound of the
in my trunk
I can
feel the sound of the
of her
of her
on the
on the floor
she didn’t know how to fall
she didn’t know how to put her hands
down in front of her
beside her
to stop the fall
lessen the impact
and so on halloween
a snowing halloween
she was dressed in the
with a
so spooky, indeed
five years ago
five years ago
she had her first
piece of chicken on the bone
she called it
chicken on the bone
bone chicken
little fingers
on the bone
was something
one of the other children
had had
for lunch
that she wanted, too
the confidence
the clarity
of eating
a chicken
on the bone
whatever it is
we had built
over here
she would now
car door opens
car door shuts
Figure 4
Figure 4

In the Grass in the Dunes at Oval Beach.

Image: Richard Haley.

Competing Interests

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

Author Information

Mary Elizabeth Anderson is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance, Wayne State University. Her articles have appeared in Teaching Artist Journal; Research in Drama Education; Journal of Dance Education; International Journal of Education & the Arts; Arts Education Policy Review; Canadian Journal of Practice-based Research in Theatre; and Theatre, Dance & Performance Training. Her monograph, Meeting Places: Locating Desert Consciousness in Performance, was published by Rodopi in 2014. Recent work has appeared in Theatre Pedagogy in the Era of Climate Crisis (eds. Conrad Alexandrowicz and David Fancy, Routledge).

Richard Haley is Assistant Professor of Teaching, Department of Art & Art History, Wayne State University. He exhibits and curates regularly. With Felecia Chizuko Carlisle, he developed TIME/FRAME/MATTER, which brings artists together to create works in real-time, to experiment with the live broadcast as a medium, and to discuss ideas about the transmission of material and objects through virtual space. With Anderson, Haley has co-authored articles for Performance Matters; Adjacent; Theatre Topics; About Performance; and Body, Space & Technology and the volume American Dramaturgies for the 21st Century (Sorbonne Université Presses).


Anderson, Mary Elizabeth, and Richard Haley 2013 Going home: Mike Kelley, mobile rhetoric, and Detroit. Body, Space & Technology, 12. DOI:  http://doi.org/10.16995/bst.54