Penknife to paradigm
Sipping on hot choices
flicking through bookshelves of tall tales
of painkillers and wolves at the door
as if I have none of my own
Curled up, a doom dweller
only menaces of motherland
feats of schizophrenia
climbing hills, views of churches turned flats
prosaic leafblowers and communal bin areas
I put penknife to paradigm and find nuance
circumstances turned eternal agonies
Social housing turned to rubble
inspired and dispirited in single gust of wind
reminiscences of drunken stupors
untold loves and a hazy sense
that if I can make poison into poetry
I can erase it from my heart
and free my soul for something
Museum of Survival, exhibit P89L
Container: Desk drawer II, 1/1 SR EH9
Scope and Contents: Lighter, engraved, flip top, brand: Zippo
note: broken; lifelong warranty unclaimed; gas full, no spark; no cosmetic damage; does
not serve intended purpose
Object wall plaque:
Zippo Lighter: Engraved with a still from the Studio Ghibli Film ‘My Neighbour Totoro’
(1988). Edinburgh, 2010.
The juxtaposition of the image, taken from a popular children’s film, and the medium, a
cigarette lighter, represent an unlikely combination, almost performative in their
differences, unnatural bedfellows engraved together through the ages.
This object represents a gift between lovers, early in life and late in a relationship. The
object has an obvious monetary value, such that it is, though serves a function identical to
it’s disposable plastic counterparts, and in this way is a symbol more than a practical gift.
The piece is accompanied by a lifetime guarantee; however, the object is broken, the
guarantee disregarded, the recipient has chosen to discard it broken, no simple
repair undertaken. The lighter contains its original fluid, but cannot burn. A broken
flint cast utility and longevity aside after first use. A simple fix was not made, unused
lighter fuel remains bottled indefinitely, flammable, never to be flames.
It is understood the owner quit smoking.
Helen Bowie (she/they) is a charity worker, performer and writer based in London. Helen has been featured or is upcoming in Streetcake Magazine, Beir Bua Journal and Untitled Writing among others, and is editor of tattiezine, a litmag about potatoes. Helen loves cats and mayonnaise, and hates injustice and ketchup.