Death Industrial Complex

Candice Wuehle’s Death Industrial Complex is a meditation on the cultural obsession with the bodies of dead women and an occult invocation of the artist Francesca Woodman. Like Woodman’s photographs with their long exposures and blurred lenses, this book is haunted and haunting, hazy yet devastatingly precise. These are poems as possessions, gothic ekphrases, dialogues with the dead, biography and anti-biography, a stunning act of “cryptobeauty.”

frottuer iii

Double lights. The gleam and then the gleam again
as smudge across the window glass. After some things, you have to wash
your hands. You have to wash your hands
again. By this i mean i felt my feet needed to be unpeeled
from the linoleum of the dormitory bathroom. i felt
i was bearing something i did not want, i felt the swirled tips
of my fingers unswirling. i made a deep cut
in my memory.
i stepped outside my skin and placed my hands on my shoulders
and turned
and kept turning. Vertiginous
birth. A dark loom in the attic of the earth, i
was spun into this shape
to stand beside the bereaved and be honest.
To admit the beams
of the world are rotten; to reveal
the basement has no
bottom. i wear a velvet dress so i will always
recognize myself
as soft, so i will have a record
of the crush, so i remember the meaning
of touch.

daughter of pearl

a top and no bottom is always pretty funny. in fact, any article of clothing worn with nothing else is either hilarious or. later on my father would make work like the work i made; let’s say it was an action of mimesis, the adaptation of an antipredator. let's say i was so powerful the patriarchy coiled in on itself and could talk about nothing but what it looks like inside the shell: about nothing but the mother’s daughter. about how it is to be suspended in the spit of the mollusk and known nothing but spit; to be the inner layer of the skin as the snake sheds its husk; to be left

behind. but back to pants. back to how fashion is a long joke about vulnerability, about lizards who hereditarily remodel themselves in the image of the eye or of a dozens eyes so their predators will believe they are always watching. i, too, believe a mirror is the best accessory. i’m kidding; i defiantly don’t think seeing and being seen are the same but i do believe all the auspices will conspire to convince you to never really look at yourself. cult, do not be afraid of masks. do not be afraid of death masks. do not be afraid to put an oily thumb to your own eye to see an imprint on the cornea, to flirt with the lens. use the sebaceous gate to mark the boundary you will trespass, to chart the space between the pupil and the master. you will need to see clearly

that which needs to be transgressed. chameleonic paterfamilias. i’m honestly most embarrassed by the idea of showing up to the afterlife wearing the same wings as someone else. i’m most afraid that the dreams of everyone will come true and the afterlife will be a mall. i’m most afraid it will be a vast dadland; where jokes will never be terrifying and the music is eating. the only story i know back to front is this one where a new shape walks into paradise and the old shape names her after the moment in time that is always just before. this is a story about never arriving. this is just a story about how parents are like a record player with a broken need le, about glitch babies. shame jingle. this is a story about how clothing was invented. about postlapsarian coupons. the only story i know back to front is the one about how there was only one idea about beauty and only one idea about evil but now i have a new idea about both. i don’t mean i’m some sort of spiritual haberdasher; i mean i’m going to grow the clothes out of my own skin.

so really i’m not afraid at all. i’m going to dress in a white blouse and walk through the woods. i’m an anti-uniform, i’m the one who isn’t going to work for them.


i fear you as the slabbed
marble tiles of the ballroom floor fear
the green seizure of the seedling,
grown. Internal problems, corporate delivery, natural intervention:
fissured, as the body of an expensive woman
is by birth. Everybody loves light and everybody wants more
of it ,which is why i thought so hard about angles,
about the blunt tip of the candleflame
,the arachnid crack that dulls the perfectssurface
intended to induce the echo chamber
of the stage. Twinless,
i won’t share with any
body. i’m trying to tell yyou
i saw how different you are
from me the other night
when i awoke with your tongue
in my mouth: a new muscle
extending from the root of my throat out
into any shape i want. My mouthspace
the corner of an attic
licked clean by feathers, by hard
labor. i’m going to talk twice as loud
now that i am in love
with you. i’m trying to say i varnished my legs in an egg
of pantyhose and knelt upon the mirror
so you could see just as well as me,
so you could see there are no whole
numbers; it is all patterns
repeating. Ideas about cracks. Often,
the newest thing on ear
th is a spider’s web. Often, the light
hasn’t even seen it yet. Sever
your tongue and repeat
the oldest phrase
after me.

frottuer ii

A PDF of a poem with experimental formatting: half-way down the page, the text is struck-through and begins to fade, then becomes solid again.



[Image Description: a PDF of a poem. Halfway through, the text begins to fade and then resolidifies:


A drag of blue black secretion trails
behind me. A seep out
of my feet smudges across this c i ty.
They want it to be w ax or hon ey
but it isn’t w ax or ho ney. My campaign
doesn’t even know about their
desires; the subway car is plastered
with my advertisements for Vaseline.
Right now i am giving a speech
on objects. i am actually too beautiful
to be angry about it. My tan lines
are a bardo you can’t cross. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
aren’t going to get to die.
aren’t going to get to die.
going to get to
aren’t going to get to die.
aren’t going to get to die.
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die. Maybe
you aren’t going to get to die.

you imagined me as a hive with all
these entrances for too long. As a bundle
of tunnels. Maybe now you’re trapped
and i’m surrounded by myself, all
discharge and latch. i am so pleased.]