THE ORCHID CABINETS
III.1 Functional objectives of Descriptive Cataloging
of Rare Materials (DCRM)
III.1.1 Users must be able to distinguish clearly among
different manifestations of an expression of a work.
III.1.2 Users must be able to perform most identification
and selection tasks without direct access to the materials.
III.1.3 Users must be able to investigate physical processes
and post-production history and context exemplified in
III.1.4 Users must be able to gain access to materials
whose production or presentation characteristics differ
from modern conventions.
‘That which is bibliographically significant
may thus be obscured’
I am inarticulate less written,
plotted with romance precision.
Flowers are so often fic(xa)tives,
anomic transcripts, dialogic transfiguration
stemming from the sacred.
It is a soft day for a fetish:
700 x 10 re-valued objects
*ensure language of botany throughout*
Ordinary orchid, I have been meaning
to transcribe you according to
these graphic principles set internationally,
these non-standardised bindings.
But you are loose leaf,
placate the distributed rosebuds
in their ornamental moulds.
In the strong room the tortoiseshells freeze.
All I know of orchids has been drawn
from the Spike Jonze movie
and a Joan Didion essay
that is more memorable for an image
of shooting horses on fire on a beach
during a hurricane –
which you have to admit is colossal.
The orchid keeper is always a male character
thereby feminising the flower further –
invariably the protagonist submits.
Questions I was not asked in my interview
And how is this anarchival? Insofar as
we detach from connecting to a concept.
And how do you represent this formally?
‘As though it were perfect’.
‘This is an unfinished drawing
of orchid flowers
which cannot be identified’.
Gently press the bone-folder against
this hermetic cache of cells.
I have learned that all provenance is paratext
and contributes to the valuation of a collection.
In this instance your genealogy befits you a sovereign
e.g. Odont. Crispum Xanthotes var. Snow Queen
e.g. Od. Fascinator Prince of Orange
I have learned from the Feminist Library
that donations constitute the majority holdings
and the depositors lineage could be crucial
to a monetary bid, yet the manuscripts
retain a stubborn anonymity.
The orchids gave you away, so lovely
yesterday, objecting. It is not not that.
Terrible restless consequence of growth
exhausting the glass. It is that I have
a mole, immaculately conceived,
where you conceded a whole freckling.
Sunspots also on my mother's temples.
Lift the paper shade aside to fix
definitions to the ordinary light,
marry our blemishings.
The orchid is a portal through which
I have come to understand theological
attainment, the structure of arguments:
for ‘it is the reality of the self
which we transfer into things’
Something so familiar about the smell
of boiled white rice in a room where
you can hear the electricity simmer.
charged with remunerations - I should be
writing essays about interruption.
Economy of loss
+ discrete annihilation
= sublime profit.
Enigmatic as luxury, remoteness is desirable.
What I mean is even our emanations are fragile.
Copy & myth – as in rumours – circulate without us.
Shortcuts act on behalf of the lossless,
the value not in its existence
but proof of faith that it was.
Agency vs. authority
Kosuth’s one & three inheritance perpetuates
its own necessity via a sacred-scientific mythology –
it all comes down to this hierarchical ordering:
the flower composed botanically
and curated genetically – language is form
is anarchive or not dematerialised
until you wonder was the description sufficient
and how can you test this.
Shall we talk about my mother’s trans-phobia.
It is a difficult compromise, she says,
between operating rape crisis centres for women
and allowing the male body to run
amok amidst all that sensitivity.
Whoever she may think she is
she remains intransigent.
Elsewhere, I have been trying
to write about breath, or was it data.
The vivacity of objects
If I cut off your limbs, maim a string of code
delete a leaf, bury an emanation
[describe potential damage to each form]
which of these is least iconoclastic?
On the other hand [a list of actions that could
represent animism] what is the terminal verb
that could uproot you, the ritual disproof?
Discussions in cellular macro-biology in any case
go no way toward disfiguring the subject
despite determinations to your maidenhood.
I offer you description so that you might transcend
Still life preventative measures
An orange in the armpit is worth a sniff
of a bowl of nectarines.
Composite saint : obscure nutrients.
We would be sick but we would be grateful
for this, the strangest rest.
The nature is questionable. How to care
for people in pain. The orchid is a gift,
the gift is really the vase or an experiment
in prostheses. The orchid is a topic
of conversation. Replacement must suffice.
In the scale of pain, subheading Sensory: Misc.:
tender |taut |rasping | splitting.
Categories for Affective: Misc. include:
wretched | blinding.
How best to detail the privileged equivalents.
Hysterical petals have you ever seen
the orchid’s grotesque dangling.
Pick it, swallow it. The relation prompts
comparison to competitive annihilation.
Tap the glass to make the fruit flies shy,
watch them scatter. What struck me
was magnetic. Hysterical helicopter-ing:
evacuation of distaste.
Neither imitation nor resemblance
Back to my mother, abandonment is not
a word to use lightly, but deterritorialisation
in the most affective sense of the term.
To calculate, we owe her three years.
This piece of information, when relaxed
into the orchid template, plateaus.
Not seeing one has become increasingly
more deliberately an act of avoidance
than I ever intended.
[Laura Elliott graduated from the UEA Poetry MA in 2012. Her work has been featured in a number of publications including Shearsman Magazine, The White Review, Poetry London, and 3:AM Magazine, as well as the Salt collection Best British Poetry 2014 and the Bloodaxe anthology Dear World and Everyone In It. She is co-editor of the forthcoming publishing experiment para·text (@paratextual). She lives in South East London and is training to be a librarian.]
Copyright © 2015 by Laura Elliott, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.