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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Six Nov-Dec 2023.
Three stories by Elsa Korneti.
The Animal of Memory
Memory returns. Memory does not forget. Memory remembers. Memory hardens ever more and congeals like a black sludge in the dark. Memory becomes a wasp that stings the mind like an unsuspecting rose. Nothing assimilates anymore, it vomits it all out undigested, and the final bout of indigestion unfolds in a cloud of belches. In sleep, struggling, it cries out Help! I can’t digest my memory any longer.
The ignoramus feeds his memory like a pet, with toxins and fatty foods and other acidic and polyunsaturated elements, and it in turn swells up and fattens and from its obesity it deactivates and lies supine. His once throbbing, singing memory has become flabby, dingy, immobile, calcified like stone. His memory trembles, creaks, shatters, and can’t be glued back together, lying there exhausted.
And it is at that point that a voice program like a neurotic genie is activated by his faithful mobile phone, from the constant frantic scrubbing of it with hand sanitizer. Then a strange bluish smoke starts to emerge from the sleepless smart phone and it takes on the shape of a magic lamp. The magic cell phone-lamp stores its owner’s inhalations and exhalations, images of life, experiences and doings that are translated into micropixels, magnetized, and stored, moved from his memory into the memory of the telephone.
Fragments of life like random lyrics, incongruous paragraphs, irrelevant prologues, rambling epilogues, lilliputian references all stick together, clustering into invisible clouds, begetting new forms of paradox from the real memory that empties itself of its past, present, and future, and another one, manmade this time, that fills up with all these things instead.
A new world is being gestated, a world where anything that can’t be assimilated or digested, whatever has been vomited back up from the past and the present, is reabsorbed into the memory of the smartphone by a background app he didn’t know it was running.
And he has no idea what’s going on, looking deeply into its digital eyes, into the depths of the crystalline screen, waiting for the ethereal blue-tinged genie to come out again, waiting for recognition and acceptance, “I believe in you, I don’t doubt you, you can do it,” until this eventually puts an end to his anguish, and replies, “You don’t need a teacher or a professor, just me, to become my worthy misprint.”
Anymore he burns for messages and calls. He prays for someone to call him, for an image to appear on the screen. But the device seems speechless and dead and images of life, once flickering, lie frozen. The last thing he remembers is that bald head with the close-set black brows and the adamantine teeth, smiling broadly at him, shooting malevolent glances, vaping in the frame.
Quickly it dawns on him that there is no substance anymore, because his whole life, his whole memory, the memory of his life snuck slowly inside and got stored in the smartphone, and his entire being is managed by an ethereal, benevolent, blue-tinged genie with shiny adamantine teeth, a genie that acts honorably and friendly and supportively, and he who has lost his memory because his memory abandoned him, following the orders of an ethereal, benevolent blue-tinged genie that lived, unbeknownst to him, in his smartphone, has lost not only his own memory, but even his access to its memory – the one stored in the smartphone-lamp, locking him out – like an empty tortoiseshell of his memory – unable to call to mind the slightest thing, unable even to remember the sacred PIN.
The Ministry of Loneliness
The furious amassing of information and data devours life, thinning out the world. Only a good weeding can get the world growing. There is a widespread sense that soon, a new form of life will take hold when the machines have dominated the last human cell. But since the phenomenon “man all alone” took on gigantic proportions, the newly established Ministry of Loneliness stands tenderly and responsibly at the side of loners, reaching out a “helping hand”.
It’s her own hand, which was chosen to be copied, to assist, responsibly and tenderly, keeping thousands of people company. It was chosen to be modeled and made into a mold for a hand of companionship and psychological support, the rescuing hand which, according to the ad copy, will be beside you, will support you, will perhaps even save you from countless psychological pitfalls.
She would recognize it anywhere, that slender Renaissance shape with the somewhat uncommonly long, bony fingers. It is her hand, the hand of a virtuoso violinist who has played for and thrilled lovers of classical music on every great musical stage in the world.
“When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller,” so said a great poet and it’s a fact – she knows it better than anyone – that that hand has told many stories; perhaps that’s the reason that they chose it out of so many others.
The Ministry of Loneliness’s surprise Christmas gift for pensioners, the old, the older, and the very, very old, the lonely and the solitary, and all those who are, according to its judgment, companionless, unattached, deserted, and alone by fate or by choice, – a new achievement from the indefatigable field of Compassionate Robotics comes to stand beside man, for man, when the statistics alert us yet again that during the Holiday Season baneful loneliness increases and is magnified.
A waxen, flawless hand free from liver spots, veins, freckles, and wrinkles, a hand with a human texture, ageless, unmarred, timeless and scentless, with a built-in thermostat and an internal heating element that keeps the activated device warmed to body temperature; it will be the perfect helping hand for the emotionally insecure, for all who need it, – a hand, as if chopped off at the wrist, a palm with fingers, that came out of a mold with the imprint of our famous national violinist, a gift to hold your hand, warmly and tenderly, in the lonesome days and nights of these strange holidays, and beyond.
The Cat’s Eyes
A glassy day dawned when, in the unsuspecting city, down the streets, sidewalks, stoops and avenues, pedestrian walkways and squares, glass marbles began to roll, like the marbles in the old-time game, played from antiquity until recent times when there were still patios and neighborhoods and carefree children playing outside, when little boys in short pants in cities and towns wandered about with their pockets stuffed to bursting with them so they could play at any given moment, in any given place.
The clear marbles, seemingly filled in their centers with colored irises, a Japanese invention employing internal fractures, – known as cat’s eyes – seemed to fall from the sky rattling down in a glassen rain, others cascading in their thousands down the side of the mountain that rose from the city limits, producing an extraordinary and unprecedented din, to pedestrians and every variety of vehicle, stalled in place by the glass hail that pelted them horizontally and vertically and filled in every space between the high buildings and the houses with those little round balls, smooth and glittering, and inexplicably gushing down from everywhere and piling up in little glassy hills.
The panicked residents who at first rushed to hide, slipping, tripping, falling one on top of the other, searching blind for a refuge, trying to pull themselves together from the unexpected calamity of the glassy day that had dawned, when the glass rain and the glass hail began to relent, and the marbles stopped pouring down, came out with their arms akimbo for balance, scrambling to grab in their hands as many marbles as they could hold.
They fought to shove whatever they found into those two empty sockets in their faces, the cat’s eyes with blue irises, or green, black, or brown, in whatever random combination it might be, as long as they might not stay forever blind in their eyes that, over long horizontal and vertical scrolling of their phone screens, had come unmoored and started rolling on their own, until eventually they fell out from their sockets, rolled away, and were lost like glass marbles.
They had no concept of how they had lost their eyes, how they had rolled and fallen out and how they had searched to find them, but they did recall that a long time ago, glances, full of meaning, had ceased to be exchanged, no one looked in on his neighbor, physical flirtation was gone, and anymore they wandered in their minds, everyone with lowered gaze, fixed to a screen, the only thing that could move them at all. They recalled that it was then when, scrolling with their eyes alone, they scaled steep digital slopes and descended into fertile digital vales, constantly exercising a gaze that rose and fell, up and down, with rolling, scrolling eyes that learned to roll successfully in digital valleys.
© Elsa Korneti
Active in organizing readings and events with other poets, Elsa Korneti was born in Munich, Germany, but grew up in Thessaloniki, Greece where she still resides. She is a Greek poet, essayist and poetry translator from English, German and Italian. Her career has been similarly diverse: studies in finance were followed by work as a journalist for well-known newspapers and magazines. She has published poetry, short stories, essays, book reviews and translations. She organized several successful poetry slams in her city and in Athens; she inspired and organized events, and staged original poetic performances. She has published fifteen books of poetry, short stories, essays and translations. Two of her poetry collections have been distinguished as shortlisted, nominated for the National Award of Poetry. Her poetry has been translated into several languages and is also featured in various foreign anthologies and magazines. Recent publications: Recent publications: Poetry, The hero is falling (2021), Short stories, Rooms with teeth and other sharp stories (2023).