Poetry: "Penknife to Paradigm" & "Museum of Survival Exhibit P89L

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


that glitters

Museum of Survival, exhibit P89L

Date(s): 23-12-2010

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.