Fiction | The Word Necklace by Suzannah V. Evans

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The word necklace was intricate, beautiful. When she put it on it felt light, beautiful,
as if she were wearing coral, or air. The word necklace whispered in her ear: very-
violet-sweet, how manymermaidcrowded, ten fragments of clockwork. When she
walked, the word necklace swung against her skin (pat pat pat pat), and sometimes
she raised her fingers to it, fondled it, felt its crooked-smooth edges.

Sometimes, the word necklace whispered the words of other writers to her: a man as
beautiful as a live feather (Anne Carson), it said; the bee-loud glade (W. B. Yeats), it
said; in each eel a fingerwidth of sea (Alice Oswald), it said. Sometimes it chanted
names it was fond of: Francesca, Frances, Saskia, Rosa, Raphael, Lavender, Zazie;
Ellanotta, Zilletta, Sosaluna, Elvinit, Drin. At other times she could feel the pulse of
its breathing. One morning, the necklace (which she wore, courting danger, at night)
woke her up, whispering in capitals: THE POEM IS THE THUMB PRINT OF THE
SELF (quoting Ocean Vuong at a poetry reading, whose words had floated out into
the air and – yes – into the necklace’s earsight). Sometimes the necklace repeated
words on a loop: bee be bee be bee be bee be (b) (b) (b); sometimes the necklace
cackled like a gull. Mostly, however, it stayed still and breathing against her skin,
whispering, whispering, whispering, only occasionally.

On the fifth day of July (hot) she sat in the sun, her fingers against the necklace, her
pen poised in the air. Words, she thought, words. The necklace prickled against her
fingers, stirred. Blue rush, it said, l’époque bleu. She didn’t want to write about blue,
however, having thought about the colour all day. Je suis hanté. L’Azur! L’Azur!
L’Azur! (Mallarmé), the necklace tried again. Non! Blau sein? – to be blue? – the
necklace attempted, thinking of the German to be drunk (Maggie Nelson). Nein, nein!
Shuffle / mussel / muscle, radiated the necklace. She shuffled in the sun, thought: no.
A Blue-Scape Sea-Scape, A Blue-Shape Sea-Cape, riffed the necklace. A tempering
tampering blau-making sea-lake. She thought, reluctantly, of the sea, of hot/cool lakes
(hot because of the sun; cool because of the water). She thought, with enthusiasm
stirring slowly in her belly, of walking over gritty sand (compacted rocks, shell
fragments, splinters of bone) to the wide water; of the slow embrace of the sea’s
tongue. She thought, with ardent passion, of fully submerging herself in the water and
swimming long, powerful strokes out into sea.

You sea what you’ve done? she thought to the word necklace. I want words, and now
I have the sea (or rather, a desire for the sea). This is not helpful. Water is not words.
And the word necklace answered with a poem title: Water What Sounds (JL
Williams). And then: the taste of those salty bones defamiliarising words (JL
Williams again). And then: in her mind were bones, words, sea, salt,
familiar/unfamiliar things. She thought of the salt on her lover’s body late at night.
Unvoiced laughter / voiced laughter, said the necklace. Schopenhauer, Cy Twombly.
She wondered where the necklace got its references from. Kinship with the saxophone
(T. S. Eliot on Gertrude Stein), the necklace motioned in reply. She thought of the
deep brass/gold/light of saxophones, she pursed her lips into the form of about-to-
whistle. She leaned back against the hot door where she was sat.

Now it was later in the month, a Tuesday. She wore the word necklace cradled against
her collarbone. Cradle, candle, cliffs, copper-coloured, cadenced, said the necklace,
using words from a poem it had seen/heard. This Tuesday required other words.
[A]lways meeting ourselves (James Joyce), the necklace suggested. Draw your
pleasure, paint your pleasure, express your pleasure strongly (Pierre Bonnard, in
translation), it said. I speak French, she thought, and the necklace hummed quietly
against her skin. In the gallery! Sea of significance! (Not the sea, no, not the sea, this
time.) But a gallery? She thought of wandering through cool archways – but no – the
last exhibition she had seen was violent – tender – difficult – tragic – : war helmets,
scattered; broken men, bowing; one statue, bent and on all fours; a grave, marked
simply (but new colours of life pushing through in the foliage behind); women,
rushing; women, round-breasted; and – and – and – that painting by David Jones, so
claustrophobic, so much littler than she had expected, drowning in unfortunate pink,
the press of birds in escape. And collage – collage with images – images, not words –
images of buildings. But here she was running on images, her mind saw images, saw
pink, saw grey, could not press the images into words. She clutched the word
necklace. She felt soft distress in her belly.

And here the necklace offered her images/words of light: un collier de soleils dorés
(Jules Laforgue), and then simply: light, light, light.

And then the necklace hummed and resonated gently against her skin, saying: robbin,
ribbon, and then: What was it that spoke to me like this / in the language of ribbons?
(Hugo Williams). And it spun words into the air like ribbons (red–red–red–red–red–
all fluttering in the breeze that moved the hot air around like it might move washing
on a line – or was the breeze the air – or was the air a ribbon – or what was a ribbon?)

The necklace said: ribbon.

The necklace said

       The necklace

ribbon

 

BY SUZANNAH V. EVANS

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