In Their Own Words

Emmalea Russo on “In The Compartment”

Emmalea Russo author photo

In the Compartment

You are in a house attempting domesticity warding off hysteria and irresistible impulses. For instance, you’ve never been more aware of the weight of the brain on the neck.

You respect logic but can only take it so far before emotion seeps in, the wind at the start of the event. You would like to number your feelings and place them in miniature folders. Fold them and find an adequate compartment. An archive for the changes of the waves of the brain. The filing cabinet could live at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and move in and out with the tide.

No, it would stand firm amidst the changing tides. It would be waterproof and benefit from saltwater. The color would change from deep green to lighter green. What was once clustered and dispersed

would get compiled.

You would return daily to the object by the ocean and you alone would have the ability to use the information. The feelings inside interacting with each other in the dark.

Of course, the contents of the compartment shift.

What time is it?

You weren’t removed from your body but weren’t exactly in there, either. All around the edges shook. The porch at the front of the house and just beyond that, the filing cabinet where you’ll place this and just beyond that, the ocean. The original waves.

The house is still intact. Brainwaves weigh nothing.

A text message received: What’s up?

You gutted the house. The house with the view of the compartment. You had a strong feeling about it. Ownership, the word love. A showy house, an edge taken.

You think you can see the deep green filing cabinet from the attic window.

The man said, “because what is consciousness but a wave of the hand?”

A wave.

Avoid storms of any sort. Do not walk outside when it’s windy. Move to a place where the temperature is consistent but still look at photographs of the seasons. Travel infrequently and prepare weeks ahead of time if the need arises. Follow the centuries old rule of living a temperate life.

The archive is wild.

The compartment should hold real answers. The emotional archive is your only boat.

Now that you’re in the ocean, looking at the compartment from the other side, you’re confused.

According to the man, logic is or had been more reliable than intuition.

According to you, logic had never been more reliable than intuition.

Your body moves back and forth between the house and the ocean. You place thoughts in the compartment as you pass.

Near the dreary February ocean, you are choosing to live austerely.

You’re swimming.

Accruing emotional documents requires labor. The man said, “some women are logical and you are not one of them.”

You’ve never felt so clued in, so able to access the wave brain. You can inhabit the archive whenever you want.

The tumultuous she. The brainwaves looking sharp on the tundra. Especially you who. Were sought after, arranging the archive, going to just store it away or find a method for display. A whale moves in the night ocean.

Deeper inside the house, fresh white three-hundred-thread-count sheets.

The horizon is an imaginary line. The archive is vertical. The horizon is unchanging. The tides are changing. As in temperament. The body becomes more muscular, then softer. Forms and unforms. Steps between wave and archive. Words drip into water.

The house and the horizon with the compartment and the ocean in between.

Short-term memory: some loss.

Vitals: same-ish.

Condition: steady.

Patient: ruled more by emotion than by reason.

Decision: respected but not recommended.

It’s always nice to talk to you. I like when you come in. Please do get sleep. After you wake up, it will be gone. You have a three percent chance of dying from your condition in the next ten years. At the rate you’re going.

At the rate you’re going. The brain is trainable.

Make a list of things that are trainable.

"In the Compartment" from Wave Archive copyright © 2019 by Emmalea Russo. Reprinted with permission of Book*hug Press.

On "In the Compartment"

The phrase IN THE COMPARTMENT arrived one afternoon during one of those hard-to-concentrate seasons. You know that feeling of shooting through a landscape or the sky in the enclosed space of a train, car, plane, or other mode of travel? I must have been yearning for access to that mutable kind of enclosure. Also: agency and compartmentalization of emotions and sensations ineluctable and vast.

I drafted IN THE COMPARTMENT in one energized burst during the first winter I was living at the Jersey Shore, which felt like the opposite of a compartment and also the opposite of New York City, where I’d lived for the six years prior, and so I envisioned one. It was green and ancient and immovable but mostly it was magic in the sense that it was a physical object –analog and sturdy – meant to track my emotions, moods, waves in a more sensitive way than a machine might. It’s the final section of WAVE ARCHIVE and I think I’d been writing and pulsing to the dispersing stir of the text for so long that I desired a gathering-up and into. Disembodied, I desperately needed a compartment and it heeded my call and arrived in a weighty vision at the water’s edge. WAVE ARCHIVE can be abstract and also loopy-technical, as I’m writing about epilepsy and also the desire to catalog and record and understand the titanic amount of energy that comes through during seizures and the electrified spaces they create. The book’s metabolism moves into and away from the ocean, which is this sublime dream weaver. The compartment was a funny somatic moment that I needed and need.

The archive is emotional. The compartment is emotional. Writing has a way of both enervating and filling me and I wanted a container and a witness for that kind of motion. Goodbye emails, goodbye machines, goodbye brain waves on the monitor. Give me raw emotional material for the creaturely compartment. The compartment is like the sun in the sense that it’s meant to be orbited. It’s a central location at the edge of a greater galaxy. In the poem, it’s beheld from the ocean and from the sand and from the attic window and we’re always regarding one another. I wanted to invite the reader in. I’m realizing only now that the compartment is the body. It’s this weighty thing that impedes our freedom while also being the great clunky vehicle. A gift-curse. But that’s for a different time. The body!

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