Susie, Kiki, Annie by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

BOMB 66 Winter 1999
Bombcover 66 1024X1024

On its own terms, my project with them developed a gentle

The vulnerability of their situation engendered a spirit of play
      and togetherness.

Going to work, I passed several family members standing in a
      group, close together.

I asked each one to tell me his or her thoughts, and I tried to
      remember them all.

My sister has just fixed the motorcycle of her friend Tom, and
      she’s waiting for him.

Among them, a fox turns to look at me, as if in nature, but
      she’s drawn it, it’s symbolic.

What can someone who looks like my sister encompass on a
      different level, if she were not my sister, or if I had no
      knowledge of the formal relation?

A projector in dark casts a line of light under the door.

Energy gap between my sister and a strategem that construes
      her as pure appearance disperses along the web of family

There’s a stringent, physical link, but what goes on inside seems
      close to freedom I know as my power of imagination, so
      strong, it appears as a deliberate loss of information.

One fox, an open structure, empties like a funnel.

One fox enters the world.

It does not appear to be an image.

There’s a relationship between them in which she is involved,
      walking between two animals asleep in late light like blood.

I’m interested in the alleged realism of the fox, while she sees
      it as actually behind the scenes.

They watch me in suspense.

There’s the mute probability of a reciprocal lack of under-

Lately, I’ve been interested in failing to make something excit-
      ing, equating the act of walking from one tree to another
      with understanding.

I try to speak to her in a way in which she might take me seri-
      ously and answer back.

The situation is an image of her gathering a toy horse from
      beside each candle, of my sister on a white horse, of the
      horse stepping backwards in water.

She stands there for a long time, then takes out of her pocket
      one of the toy horses.

She tells me about it, as if I were also a lover of horses, which
      I am not, as she well knows.

The way in which she shares her happiness, as a matter of
      course, gives me a sense of guilt, because I do not feel the

All the animals in the story, who eventually die, consist of
      lines scratched into reddish dark ground.

The white of an eye is scratched away.

Many appear sleepy, as if just wakened up—squirrel, little cat,

She wears an oily smock and clogs with a rubber daisy on each

Light glints off her glasses, as she waits with an awkwardness
      that’s both conspicuous and nonchalant.

She feels their presence in the woods as a priori mottled light
      subject to decline.

Is this story of defeat and disappointment, uncertainty, inter-
      ference, malfunction transcended by a present situation
      of competent employment?

She loses track of her thought, then resumes, laughing at herself.

The horse takes a small jump in the air, and her head
      and shoulders arch back.

I see Minnie Mouse, instead of a thin girl in a cotton smock.

The ambiguity releases energy.

No one enters the family unit, except through the magnetism
      of this energy.

Stolid girl’s scowl like an old man, wild girls in a meadow in
      the afternoon, are subject to evaluation in which cheap-
      ness cannot be avoided.

She marks time with her hand, and the horse curls its neck
      and head around her, light shining through etched lines
      of its mane in the arena.

Their coalescence inundates like theatre.

It’s an aspect of the artificial linked with sleeping, dreaming,

I wonder about the effect of cheap emotion, but give in to
      collective phenomena, teddy bears, flowers.

I place a vase of red water by the door of the theatre, trying to
      push an uncertain situation into wild association of spirit
      as nature and my sister’s visualization of its chimera.

The horse dances in a mirror of water, steps backward and
      awkwardly lowers itself onto its haunches.

A stranger on the phone says, I know who you are and what
      you do.

I’m helpless to suspend his narrative from which something
      real is taking form.

Animals, real red cushions scattered on the floor.

The small group walks upstairs, shoulder to shoulder.

My awkward sister, still waiting, is proud of her work.

She has washed the motorcycle, it’s shining.

The room fills with movement, noise, and the uncertainty of
      physical contact could change, losing themselves watch-
      ing a girl dance to her walkman in the hall.

I saw them crowded together in their jackets and heard
      sounds of wild birds.

Odd objects remembered against a background of intimate
      traces, spindle, a packet of dried fruit, are left as they

The sense of deferral has been added to this weave of naivete,
      humor, fragility, but our relation has in fact ended.

Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s recent books are The Four-Year-Old Girl and Endocrinology, a collaboration with Kiki Smith.

Originally published in

BOMB 66, Winter 1999

Featuring interviews with Janine Antoni, Yayoi Kusama, Jenny Diski, Michael Cunningham, Simon Ortiz, Petuuche Gilbert, Simon Winchester, Gary Sinise, Thomas Vinterberg, and Marc Ribot.

Read the issue
Bombcover 66 1024X1024