Catherine Ormell

Part 1 from No lifestyle-driven antidote

Toy optimised

We set off to look for ourselves

How horrible to be the same, predictable, a known dataset, an identifiable type, one of billions, and quite dispensable.

How hideous to be like the trustful inhabitants of Molbo¹, who spent so much time sitting together, they were unable to recognize which were their own legs.

Taking soundings from friends, consulting podcasts, video biographies, we determine — to find ourselves! And we start by homing to the city museum, 

entering by a solemn side entrance where our mood sinks a few degrees as the twilit interior draws down a condition of loveless-ness. 

Pausing at the History of Scandinavia, before the Great and Lesser Wrath, we linger with some puffins in a salt-struck diorama, we heed their taxidermies

stiff with razor feathers. Each identical, bearing no scars from scraps, no dimples, having no evidently different beaks or tails or shape.

They stare out of voided keyholes set in their artificial eyes. On their fibrous rock they offer only face-to-face bill-rapping courtship displays.

Later, outside Gifts, we sit with coffees not saying, but wondering… when we set out to be different, how did we end up the same?

Know us by our caramelised hair, our jeans and rucksacks. We ornament every settlement that sports a rotary, nail bar, a fried chicken outlet,

crack house, a shut-up church-hall-gym, decaying stadium. We stroll among unaccounted lives aware that in the civic whirl 

there’s a disfigured organising apparatus, wheezing electric notes in riffs, a funerary organ piping of aspiration and detestation.

Daily, we run up against a lifestyle of hard transient spaces that with a swirling pomegranate wipe may be freshened for our successors. 

We can outsource our worldview, our shape-shifting selves, our bodies to therapists, to friends, to family. 

Yet there’s no antidote (I mean, no lifestyle-driven antidote). And no one can advise us what we might be or say exactly who we are…

¹ from Søren Kierkegaard’s Repetition

First published in Long Poem Magazine

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