Data Harbor by Daniel Borzutzky

BOMB 122 Winter 2013
BOMB 122

for Amina Cain and Adam Novy


The manager at Data Harbor quit her job to become
a conceptual artist.

She used to oversee the harboring of the data, and now
she works in a laboratory, injecting poetry into blood
cells and bacterium, analyzing the data to understand
the new poems that will form in the ooze of her petri

In basements and cubicles we harbor the data and we
are worried about formaldehyde and asbestos.

We harbor the data and we harbor the carcasses and
we try to keep the two sets of information separate.

But sometimes the data and the carcasses merge
into carcass-data and we are forced to ask questions
about tissues and livers and kidneys that are beyond
the scope of our limited expertise.

The history of man is the history of pain though perhaps
it is also the history of man’s perception of pain
and perhaps it is also the history of man’s quantification
of pain and perhaps it is also the history of the
absence—words and the hole words that constitute
man’s inability to give voice to his pain.

We wear masks to protect us from the data that has
been ruined by nature’s intrusion into architecture.

We cover our bodies in liquids and lotions to prevent
the accumulation in our orifices of abscesses, boils and

We are afraid the boils will join with other boils and
our orifices will fill with crust and oozing pus.

We touch the data then wash our hands. We do not
touch each other while touching the data. None of us
have any desire to touch each other even after we have
touched the data. The data and the carcasses have
eliminated the urge for sexual activity among all the
data-entry specialists. We barely speak to each other
when we are in the act of harboring the data.

As I travel back and forth between carcass-set and
data-set, I daydream that the owner of Data Harbor,
a Dutch man who has harbored data throughout the
United States and the European Union, offers me
$5,000 to set all of the data and all of the carcasses on
fire. Sometimes I accept the money and set the harbor
ablaze, while other times I set myself on fire on
the walkway that runs along the harbor. I do this to
protest the accumulation of data in my bloodstream.
I do this so others will not have to fend off the data.

No one in my data-dreams speaks on cellular phones.

Instead, they leak emails out of their tongues and eye

They defecate emails and faxes and I can see that their
bodies are filled with buttons to activate the dispersion
of documents and data.

At a staff meeting, the owner of Data Harbor, so as to
inspire us to work more efficiently, poses the question
of exactly what is at stake for the bodies who harbor
the data.

He chants: everything is
at stake. If everything is not at stake when you are harboring the data, then why
harbor the data in the first place?

There is a plate of untouched pastries in the conference

Nothing is appetizing when your body is covered in
data and the ooze of carcasses.

But this is not acknowledged by the managers at Data

They always give us croissants.


She sends my body through the fax machine because
I contain vital information that might make or break
the bureaucrats on the other end, but when I arrive
through the wires I am stored in a box and put in
a basement and a few months later the basement
floods and I am stuck forever amid boxes of flooded

The scenario plays out in a variety of ways.

Sometimes I am myself and sometimes I am my

Sometimes I send myself through the fax machine and
sometimes my mother sends me through the fax

The conceptual artist wears high-quality corporate
blouses and as she tests the petri dish for poetry she
pretends she is once more being paid to oversee the
harboring of the data.

She is on the cutting edge of data-entry technology.

She is pushing at the edges of the frame and in the
process she creates space for those of us in the middle
to experiment with innovative approaches.

The history of modern data-entry is the history of
transgressions of previous practices of modern-data

The Dutch man does not know how to play softball yet
he swings the bat for the good of the team.

I play third base on the Data Harbor softball squad.
I am a reliable infielder. I can hit from both sides of
the plate. I am at my best when I imagine the ball is
my carcass and I need to destroy myself to help us win
the championship.

There are people who sit in cafés, eating data, or trying
to quantify what they might do with their bodies
if their data were to suddenly disappear.

I am having lunch in the cafeteria when a voice says:
“Daniel, I love it when you enter your data with your
eyes closed. I love it when you touch the carcasses with
your eyes closed. I love it when you enter your data on
your hands and knees. I love it when you pray to the
broken carcasses.”

On hands and knees over burning charcoal the quantifiers
crawl to the altar of data that may or may
not be resurrected.

Song for the burning carcasses (a snappy tune):

The Pope is Frozen and it’s time to go! The Vatican’s
burning and it’s time to go! The Pope is Frozen and
it’s time go! Let’s burn our bodies in the ground

According to the data, dead children have always
caused a problem for religion.

There is a guy at the café who thinks we all want to
listen to his conference call.

He does not understand that we are trying to enter
our data and that we do not need to know the pornography
of his data.

According to the data, there will be no end to the rotten
carcass economy.

According to the data, there will be an uptick in interest
in the fashion chic of the dead, the dying and the

We are sitting in a fancy restaurant in Dublin when
we overhear the words: “Dexter, congratulations, by
the way, on your Pulitzer.”

Later we hear: “I’m sorry but I just love my Kindle and
I’m scared of formaldehyde and I don’t know how to
spell Qaddafi’s name in French.”

During a staff meeting, we are shown a video of a hunger
artist on the banks of the Chicago river.

We examine the data in his dying eyeballs and hair
follicles and in his distended belly and in the children
who come to watch him grow smaller.

We examine the data in the spectacle of decomposition
and we hypothesize as to what we will find in
the carcass.

Sometimes, it’s true, the data is so beautiful there is
nothing to say about it.

Sometimes I put the data in my mouth for I have the
feeling it will help me understand things that I know
but which I do not know that I know.

Sometimes I try to connect with another human being
only to discover that the data in the space between us
is frozen.

The woman next to me at the café is writing a letter
that begins: “Dear Search Committee.”

She does not realize that she is allowing me to access
her data-body.

I enter her name on Google. I now know where she lives.

She has an email from the Mayor-elect in her inbox.

I feel things growing in the orifices of my data.

I do not have a lover but if I had one I would tell him
that I would like to bury my head in the data inside
his body.

It is impossible to give voice to my data.

My data is an endless word that will never be spoken.

My data is an endless word that contaminates every
inch of every data-body and carcass on the harbor.

Carcass, my love, your data is a kind of solution.


Daniel Borzutzky is a writer and translator who lives in Chicago. His last book is The Book of Interfering Bodies (Nightboat, 2011).

Richard Powers by Sven Birkerts
Richard Powers
Two Poems by Sarah Jean Grimm
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The house was quiet and the world / Greased my palm / The air outside a weighted blanket / Scarab shells rising with the pitch of their hiss / In the shadow of a bodacious oak / I thought of a famous actor

Robin Coste Lewis by Matthew Sharpe
Robin Coste Lewis Bomb 02

“I don’t accept the idea of my history as tragic.”

César Alvarez’s Futurity and Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp’s The Creeping Garden by Michael Blair
Alvarez Cesar 01 Bomb 134

A musical that argues against itself, posing more questions than it could ever attempt to answer.

Originally published in

BOMB 122, Winter 2013

Featuring interviews with David Lang, Oscar Murillo, Rude Mechanicals, Cristian Mungiu, Mark Z. Danielewski, Fanny Howe, Alix Pearlstein, and Tony Feher.

Read the issue
BOMB 122