Blackbox manifold

Issue 14: Laura Elliott


III.1 Functional objectives of Descriptive Cataloging

of Rare Materials (DCRM)

III.1.1 Users must be able to distinguish clearly among

different manifestations of an expression of a work.

III.1.2 Users must be able to perform most identification

and selection tasks without direct access to the materials.

III.1.3 Users must be able to investigate physical processes

and post-production history and context exemplified in

materials described.

III.1.4 Users must be able to gain access to materials

whose production or presentation characteristics differ

from modern conventions.

‘That which is bibliographically significant may thus be obscured’


I am inarticulate less written,

plotted with romance precision.

Flowers are so often fic(xa)tives,

anomic transcripts, dialogic transfiguration

stemming from the sacred.

It is a soft day for a fetish:

700 x 10  re-valued objects

*ensure language of botany throughout*


Ordinary orchid, I have been meaning

to transcribe you according to

these graphic principles set internationally,

these non-standardised bindings.


             But you are loose leaf,

placate the distributed rosebuds

in their ornamental moulds.

In the strong room the tortoiseshells freeze.

Plot structure

All I know of orchids has been drawn

                              from the Spike Jonze movie

                              and a Joan Didion essay

that is more memorable for an image

of shooting horses on fire on a beach

                               during a hurricane –

which you have to admit is colossal.

The orchid keeper is always a male character

thereby feminising the flower further –

invariably                   the protagonist submits.

Questions I was not asked in my interview

And how is this anarchival?   Insofar as

we detach from connecting to a concept.

And how do you represent this formally?

       ‘As  though  it  were  perfect’.

Orchid cabinets

               ‘This is an unfinished drawing

                of orchid flowers

                which cannot be identified’.        

Gently    press the bone-folder against

               this hermetic cache of cells.       

Rerouted taxonomies

I have learned that all provenance is paratext

and contributes to the valuation of a collection.

In this instance your genealogy befits you a sovereign

e.g. Odont. Crispum Xanthotes  var. Snow Queen 

e.g. Od. Fascinator Prince of Orange 

I have learned from the Feminist Library

that donations constitute the majority holdings

and the depositors lineage could be crucial

to a monetary bid, yet the manuscripts

retain a stubborn anonymity.

Discrete piece

The orchids gave you away, so lovely

yesterday, objecting. It is not not that.

Terrible restless consequence of growth

exhausting the glass. It is that I have

a mole, immaculately conceived,

where you conceded a whole freckling.

Sunspots also on my mother's temples.

Lift the paper shade aside to fix

definitions to the ordinary light,

                         marry  our  blemishings.

Hospitable dissatisfaction

The orchid is a portal through which

I have come to understand theological

attainment, the structure of arguments:

for ‘it is the reality of the self

which we transfer into things’

                                      (Simone Weil)

Something so familiar about the smell

of boiled white rice in a room where

you can hear the electricity simmer.

Pornographic abstractions,

charged with remunerations - I should be

writing essays about interruption.

Economy of loss

Rarefied embodiment

+ discrete annihilation

= sublime profit.     

Enigmatic as luxury, remoteness is desirable.

What I mean is even our emanations are fragile.

Copy & myth – as in rumours – circulate without us.

Shortcuts act on behalf of the lossless,

the value not in its existence

but proof of faith that it was.

Agency vs. authority

Kosuth’s one & three inheritance perpetuates

its own necessity via a sacred-scientific mythology –

it all comes down to this hierarchical ordering:

the flower composed botanically

and curated genetically – language is form

is anarchive or not dematerialised

until you wonder was the description sufficient

and how can you test this.

Slut walk

Shall we talk about my mother’s trans-phobia.

It is a difficult compromise, she says,

between operating rape crisis centres for women

and allowing the male body to run

amok amidst all that sensitivity.

                       Whoever she may think she is

                       she remains intransigent.

Elsewhere, I have been trying

to write about breath, or was it data.

The vivacity of objects

If I cut off your limbs, maim a string of code

delete a leaf, bury an emanation

[describe potential damage to each form]

which of these is least iconoclastic?

On the other hand [a list of actions that could

represent animism] what is the terminal verb

that could uproot you, the ritual disproof?

Discussions in cellular macro-biology in any case

go no way toward disfiguring the subject

despite determinations to your maidenhood.

I offer you description so that you might transcend

Still life preventative measures

An orange in the armpit is worth a sniff

of a bowl of nectarines.

Composite saint  :  obscure nutrients.

We would be sick but we would be grateful

for this, the strangest rest.


The nature is questionable. How to care

for people in pain. The orchid is a gift,

the gift is really the vase or an experiment

in prostheses.  The orchid is a topic

of conversation. Replacement must suffice.

In the scale of pain, subheading Sensory: Misc.:

            tender |taut |rasping | splitting.

Categories for Affective: Misc. include:

            wretched | blinding.

How best to detail the privileged equivalents. 


Hysterical petals have you ever seen

the orchid’s grotesque dangling.

Pick it, swallow it. The relation prompts

comparison to competitive annihilation.

Tap the glass to make the fruit flies shy,

watch them scatter. What struck me

was magnetic. Hysterical helicopter-ing:

                   evacuation of distaste.

Neither imitation nor resemblance

Back to my mother, abandonment is not

a word to use lightly, but deterritorialisation

in the most affective sense of the term.

To calculate, we owe her three years.

This piece of information, when relaxed

into the orchid template, plateaus.

Not seeing one has become increasingly

more deliberately an act of avoidance

than I ever intended.

Laura Elliott graduated from the UEA Poetry MA in 2012. Her work has been featured in a number of publications including Shearsman Magazine, The White Review, Poetry London, and 3:AM Magazine, as well as the Salt collection Best British Poetry 2014 and the Bloodaxe anthology Dear World and Everyone In It. She is co-editor of the forthcoming publishing experiment para·text (@paratextual). She lives in South East London and is training to be a librarian.]