sporklet 6

Becca Barniskis



Short Term Village PowerPoint Presentation

I’d like to begin by introducing myself.
My name is Flowerhead and I will be talking to you today
about a short term village.


Short term villages are one of the fastest growing
growth sectors in the village sector today.


Short term villages are popular
because of

Let me show you what I mean.


Next slide:
[photo of small tents grouped in bunches of 4-5]


As you can see this short term village
is almost over.


Consider the fact that while I am talking to you
I am also touching myself.


Let’s go to the next slide


Personal hygiene in the short term village
is actually:

You might be wondering why people live in short term villages.
The top two reasons are:

Village With Two Visigoths Arguing

Disclaimer: The two Visigoths depicted here are entirely fictitious and not based on actual historical figures; any resemblance to actual Visigoths, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.


[We see a small clearing between rustic thatched roof dwellings. It’s sunny and too warm; there are sounds of bees, yellowhammers, and unruly sheep bleating in the distance. A young bearded man clad in a brown-hued tunic and loose trousers and a bare-headed woman in a mustard-colored tunic dress are speaking. Their voices float past each other into the cloudless sky.]



Maps    I fucking hate them with their lines and tiny lettering            cluttering the surface
and everything so spelled out where are you going to go  
I mean it’s all there already                no mystery



I guess    But why don’t we stop repeating ourselves
Why not head in a new direction   Use a map for ideas


[We hear the sound of pigs arguing nearby. A baby is crying inside one of the houses. The strong smell of manure rises with the man’s voice:]



Fuck them   who needs them I’ll tell you what   losers need them because they are fucking lost   
If you are never fucking lost you don’t need a fucking map



Where are you going now  I’m pretty sure I saw you first                        She’s not as—
I thought you wanted to stay and start a family—[Head down, hair falling around face]
Sometimes on my worst days I wander
I mean wonder about what it would be like…



[His jaw set, shoulders slumping] Ever since he started
with the maps and the plans                We don’t just go anymore        We plan                       we plot           
Aren’t you hungry        I am really fucking hungry   
This village is too crowded     I want to find my own



But maps are nice   If you take one you will find your way
back to me specifically [Speaks emphatically and points to breast]



I’ll tell you what those dumbass Romans are doing right now
they are unrolling a goddamn map and jerking off     
[Impatient gesture]           That’s what you do with a map                      
Fuck this I am leaving      I need to move   



Remember how Atlas had to hold still
Even if his nose itches or his shoulders ache
he can’t shift not an inch (a hell I can imagine
but all the world named after you so you stay)
[Sighing and following him with her eyes]
This is me right now watching you walk away


[As she speaks a large cow crosses from stage left; the man walks off toward the stream. Somewhere else a tankard is raised and drained by the chief. Cursing ensues. A rough clattering, then silence.]

Remote-Type Village

This village is fucked. Its shingles are loose
and the cobbles fly out from under your feet
when you are climbing towards the watch tower.
Who can say where to turn when toothache
strikes or dyspepsia? Who knows where to lay
one’s head when darkness falls? All signs faded
long long ago. The children run out from between cart wheels
and their parents vomit nearby.
Shopkeepers duck behind counters
and hide their wares.
The women are all warriors brandishing daggers
from elaborate embroidered scabbards
and the men haul timber towards great turning blades
that never quiet.
I found this place by accident
though some would say we see what we want to see.
Or that the forest is hiding inside the trees. Or something.
The priest when I find him
will tell me how mysterious God’s ways work
in the age of mechanical reproduction.
Everything that happens here interlocks and also repeats.
So said the nun pinning back her hair.

American Machinery Village

The Giant Whipping Machine


How come it’s so loud?
The constant clang of it
located at the center of the village inside a giant shed: creaking wheels,
gears grinding past one another’s giant teeth, the squeaks and groans
of steel on steel still generating hot naked lashes; it’s the only way.
They made it long ago
back when it was important to meet production quotas.
Back when it was perfectly acceptable.
To do that.




Apple Pie Machine


In the back room this machine much smaller counts bills.
All that cash flupping through adding up.
Stacks and stacks on the edge of the desk
plowed right away into
other fields for




The New Machine


Constructed of body parts I mean metal ones that run
smooth pixels past faces glued to gray
screens planted inside topless cubes made from wood
fabric-covered frames and extruded polymer edges
of course fully extinguishable
where the chairs shaped to hold folded bones
This machine is housed inside a special park bordered
by parking lots. This machine whirs softly so as to engine even




More Machines


Peer into this shop see the tiny machines built to fit
within the palm of the hand.
Out there across the meadow machines lifting off
the earth’s surface. Everyone is working so hard
to keep the machines running. Everyone misses you.






You think you know how it works
but a voice snakes into your ear at night
after the second cigarette and talks and talks
about the last marriage
its pits and faults and that crevasse
you did not notice until too late
o too late now to turn back
can you hear the falling down sound?
also the blank space of your twenties
sucking air through its teeth
and the way your mother tried to drown you
since you were born
which has its own thrashing sound
coming in over the line
try to change the subject
try to change the way the dark feels against your lips
smokepeel bluesting gunbarrel—
a helplessness named 1:24 AM
that won’t let you hang up
just forces you to watch stray remarks
uncurl and stretch into psychedelic.
ribbons and dots floating up
into the corners of the dim room—
yes, the deluxe phonevision of the future
will still be connected
hand to mouth




Answering Machine


Calm down. Sit here. Shush.
Enough of that now.
It listened and heard everything
and it forgives as it listens.
The room’s hushed tones the rose curtains
the courteous listening is alive inside
the dull black box on the polished table.
It can hear the slightest.
It records all.
And plays back to you exactly what you need to hear.
In this way it is not so different from the




Musical Machine


Purely representative, of course.
A moving monument to musical achievement.
Gold cherubs tooting on trumpets fly
round and round four lit candles jammed into small holders.
Wax running over the edges. Wings brush
against bells. A delicate chiming
noise you can only hear if you step inside
the General Store where it is housed
inside the front window
on constant display.
Haphazard melodies
generated by small drafts of warm air.
Let’s go inside before they notice our sudden unnatural
attachment to the




Household Machines


in the kitchen that grow ever more
curious about what we do late at night.
Their knobs glow, a face swims in
the stainless steel surfaces blurred, lost,
they’re helpful in their way, cheerful…

Take me to the shiny steel box
up on the hillside behind the house…
not a toaster, no, (you’re funny!) but full
of people staring out windows
at the still sparking wires
which carried until a moment ago
every speck of work permitted
on the premises.
It was a storm did it. Came out of nowhere.
It made us think of something else
when we were supposed to be praying
or maybe focusing on




The Bone Machine


It smells it lives at the heart of the village church
and smolders in the basement.
Crushed Jesus. Baked Francis brother to Moon.
All the gears still turn after all the years.
There it tightens and there it lets go of your hand.
Relic after relic churned out for the faithful.
A velvet conveyor belt carries them out
into the gift shop.




Instructional Machine With No Face


No body to blame just emptyish places
where its processor blinks a little.
Bleat bleat gray  chalk dust box   box bubble.
Enter the small schoolhouse so picturesque
in the late afternoon light. The blackboard
full of figures and sentences in a rounded hand.
Splinters push up between the boards
of the uneven floor to catch a careless step.
I believe the ceiling tiles are sagging
in the far corner.
The children are silent in rows, heads bowed to books.
The teacher faced away.


They say students can actually feel their own luck
rising through the streets and caressing their ankles
and wrists as they make their way toward home.
A soft fog that follows and never dissipates.
They must learn to feel their way through it.




The Blue Police State Machine


Hallucinates a world that needs its heft
and polish. Its gleaming bullets and bullhorns.
At every corner a hog is washed
to cover the sound and stench
of its endless bleating bulletins.
Nevertheless it moves people along
toward one of two directions: into blue
or into black.




The Old Machine


is merely a vise, the simplest machine.
Designed to hold things fast.
It’s been around since the beginning.
It’s kept in excellent working order
despite its age and tarnish.
Always at the ready. Large and heavy
and no one really tries to hide it.
People tend to look past it
bolted tight to the broad counter
where it’s left a deep groove and several dark marks.

These poems are part of a manuscript titled Welcome to the Ice Cream Village. The work is my attempt to explore through description and character the idea of “village” in all its many dimensions and associations. The villages are each characterized by metaphorical, associative, political, historical, and technical-scientific dimensions, and it is my hope that the unifying trope of the village works to make the individual themes of each poem assume concrete and related forms in the reader’s imagination while also raising questions about the discontinuities between, say, a village in which two residents argue about maps, and a village that exists only as a PowerPoint presentation. Think of these as an odd travelogue or guidebook that describes very different destinations very differently, but with a consistent aesthetic sensibility.


Becca Barniskis has a chapbook of poems, Mimi and Xavier Star in a Museum That Fits Entirely in One’s Pocket ( Anomalous Press) that is available also as a collaboration with musician Nick Jaffe in both vinyl LP and in digital formats. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and she performs her poetry to live audiences regularly as part of the bands Downrange Telemetrics and Pancake7. More at beccabarniskis.com. Please check out a music/video version of “Short Term Village PowerPoint Presentation” that she created with collaborator, Nick Jaffe.