CORPORA

head

In this moment my head hurts. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time looking at a screen, or maybe I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I

feel

I don’t know how feelings are produced. People talk to me about seratonin and dopamine. I don’t really get it. I take 100mg of sertraline daily. I think it helps.

woollen and

drifting.

This is an exercise in disembodiment. In unfolding and revealing, cutting myself into little pieces. Here, I hand you the shape of my face, slide the skin from my head like a glove. Here, I’ll show you what I’m made of.

The clouds, sliding across the sky, gather and blanket, gray.

arm

My memory is shoddy—I recall little of what happened to me before age eleven, perhaps. But what I can rely on is held in my

hands.

There are different kinds of memory. The kind that’s yours, that informs your every breath and heartbeat, the movement of your fingers, the words that pour relentlessly from your mouth. The kind that you write down in diaries and notepads, sticky note reminders on your desk before you fall asleep, old books and preserved manuscripts lined up on library shelves, someone’s gaze frozen in an oil painting or daguerrotype or the polaroid your sister tapes on her bedroom wall.

Memorized knitting patterns, speedrun strats, keyboard commands, the shapes of letters under my pen. They leave imprints on my body even if they don’t snag on my brain.

arm

I think I’m against

memory.

In Shell Song, an interactive text game exploring the technological and/or social implications of vocal cloning, Everest Pipkin narrates their experience as a trans person. Before they transitioned, they used to work for Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, doing many repetitive tasks to generate data for tech companies training AI. This means their

pre-transition

I will likely never transition medically, but if I were to take that step, I’d do it mostly to change my voice. Sometimes it pitches too high for my liking and comfort. Other days I think it’s fine. Dysphoria is a strange beast. Perhaps, far in the future, when you hear this, you’ll no longer recognize me by my sound.

voice is captured on the Internet, misgendered, forever. Data lives on for as long as its owner likes. Pipkin writes, contemplating generating a vocal clone of their grandfather from a single old recording:

“The obvious next step would be to clone his voice. I won’t, of course - that is a haunting.”

We could resurrect someone from a snatch of sound. I remember reading about a professor whose recorded videos were used to build an asynchronous class that he was obstensibly teaching, but behind the curtain it was run only by TAs—the professor himself had passed away months ago.

chest

My voice comes from my chest. Sure, the throat, the vocal cords—those all play a part in how I speak. But my chest is where my

breath

The smoke from California fires fills my lungs every summer. Just like the state, I’ve been burning out, going up in ash and hot air, smoldering. I’m sorry my work today falls flat compared to what I was able to write two years ago. I’m sorry all my writing this semester has been mediocre. My thoughts have all been sloshing around like cold sludge. “I know you can do better,” someone writes on some feedback for an essay. I know; I’m sorry; I’m so sorry.

comes from. I tend to speak on the exhale, my last words fading off into the air and getting lost. My voice is quiet. Most people never hear me.

leg

Here’s a secret. In high school, in the throes of a depressive episode, I broke open a pen and gave myself a DIY

stick-and-poke

I’m insufferable, so I’ll remind you that in Herman Melville’s Typee: a Peep at Polynesian Life, Tommo/Melville is desperately nervous about the violence of tattooing, of a permanent mark made on his skin, ink pressed into his body. This is in direct contrast to his ethnographic pen, which records meticulously the life of the indigenous Polynesian people whose island he is stranded on, and brings it back to the United States via whaling vessel.

The horror is that of remembrance. Of recording someone’s life after their

death,

“Wonderfullest things are ever the unmentionable; deep memories yield no epitaphs; this six-inch chapter is the stoneless grave of Bulkington.” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

of making them live forever. Haven’t they already been put to rest?

on my left knee. You can’t see it anymore; it’s faded over time and I don’t think I did it properly. Sat on my bedroom floor with a needle for an hour and thought, don’t let my parents see this. They’ll kill me. (My mom’s still convinced I’d never get a tattoo.)

leg

I have the right to be forgotten, to become a glitch in the database, dirt in the earth, a ghost mingling with the sky. Don’t pin me down on paper and pixels when I’m gone: Let me go.

(notes)

text by cynthia li // 5.6.22

made with details, a tiny game engine by cynthia li

inspired by soft corruptor by everest pipkin