THE CURATOR / ASHLEY COLLIER

 

your mouth is a sponge, un-wrung. count to six for me, swallow, tell the museum story over again. i prefer the part about the tar pits to the bit about the fowl. but continue. what had two heads? are you sure there were only two? your mouth is a bowl of milk. your mouth is a wax mold of things cured in arsenic. draw it for me. draw it out, and make your ink with your own hands. berries will not do, they stain too well. make a dust of beetles’ wings. the kind of beetle that doesn’t exist anymore. make sure it is large and prehistoric or the pigments will run out. if it has become a fossil, your tongue should do the trick. you know where to find them, right? your mouth is a root-bound creature. your mouth is– what had two heads? are you sure there were only two? i could make it out better if you painted with your fingers. i don’t think that was the right kind of beetle. try a different hall– maybe you can make a paste from sediment and sketch it out with arrows. where were they joined? how many necks? your mouth is a carpet of moss. your mouth is a heavy wood. your mouth is a– what had two heads? i can’t quite decipher. i think the colors are all wrong. it’s making the lines too wide and the curvature is– what had two heads? are you sure it wasn’t three? we need artifacts, troves and piles of artifacts, and you must be a pirate. make a map. make a map of this and show me where to walk. make a parchment out of skins and where it doesn’t stretch wide enough make your amendments with birch bark. oiled hide will make a perfect remedy to such a lovely tinder. that is a raw balance. your mouth is a reef of old-stock coral. your mouth is a deep, wet, vegetable species. your mouth is cliff-edged and low. your mouth is– how many necks? i really think i’m starting to see three. but they grow from nothing. you have to draw the body. what had two heads? where do they join? gather reeds and make yourself a brush. the marsh exhibit maybe? isn’t there one of those? take the beak from something wide-billed and with some ancient blade create a sun. there’s not enough light here. and paint a sky, or the sun won’t work. your mouth is a super nova. your mouth is a gathering of weeds. your mouth is– where do they join? it has to be three. what had two heads? then what is this? this piece has to go somewhere. i cannot know if it is bone, body, or horn. where is your brush? make a glue of hunters’ heads and fashion it in place. was there a tail? was there a belly? what did it hold? how did it swim? i suppose the hooves could belong here, if we move this over a bit, and– what had two heads? your mouth is a volcanic hive. your mouth is a breech birth. your mouth is–  if you hold it sideways, maybe? perhaps it is backward, and the heads each have an end, and they are hung with tassels. where is your brush? you’ve set the sky too low. it will go into the water. your mouth is a dead mounting. your mouth is boiled fur. what had two heads? count to six for me, swallow. tell it again.

 

 

 

 

 

Ashley Collier is a writer whose work has appeared in Metazen, NAP, and Red Lightbulbs. She lives in Chicago with various creatures of unusual size and co-edits Untoward Magazine.

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