Cell Atlas – by Julia Polyck-O’Neill  


rude flesh, erodes – private treason

where is the valour in guileful flesh

extend maps to include seditious bodies

read testimonials into the mapped bodies of others

bodily locations elaborate an embodied, situated ethics

one hand feels the other, looping, perpetual

map the body in your infant brain

bodies as diagnostic

bodies as pedagogies

bodies both do and do not facilitate touch

bodies narrate their own decline, a tautology


bodies map depth

cell atlases map the entirety of bodies

anxious, exquisite meat

the importance of touch and feeling over seeing and the scopic – this passionate

intelligent and memory-driven flesh

the world that you see is not the world that exists

it has been heavily retouched by your retina

a string that aims to weave a cell atlas

maps are consequential in constructing a feared self

bodies foreclose narratives

bodies as monuments and parables

poem for flesh

there is no symmetry

this, far from an easy moment

both representation

and intelligent silence

in other words perfectly cultural

an arcane meaning

opaque definitions

the bodies move thru

this opacity like cursive notes

epigrammatic but sterling

what is lost

when the centre cannot hold

the theory of the maternal imagination (after Rosi Braidotti’s “Monsters, Mothers, and Machines”)

my womb bears living capital

monsters are borne of three acts:



and looking

the theory of (imagi)nation

an imagination is a hypothesis

this shared cloud that looms

over our texts and breathings

borderlessness recast as barbarism

choking the front lines

empirically, thresholds are ghosts

borders saw bodies into segments

that get stacked, segregated, and caged

poem for a new geography

the point is that this is built from experience

the times I was called upon to traverse great expanses such as

parking lots, shopping malls, schoolyards, interminable

bridges over dark waters here

is a list of all that has not broken me

a page left intentionally blank to

make a point like a door slamming shut

Julia Polyck-O’Neill is an artist, curator, critic, and writer. She is completing a SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary and comparative doctoral dissertation at Brock University, examining connections between contemporary conceptualist literature and art in Vancouver. She was a 2017-18 visiting lecturer in Transnational American Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, and is a 2019-20 Fellow of the Electronic Literature Organization. Her critical writing has been published in Canadian Literature, English Studies in Canada, BC Studies, Tripwire, Prefix, and elsewhere, and she has published three poetry chapbooks with above/ground press. Tweet at @juliawants

Banner Art: “Entangled” by Robert Frede Kenter

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