Inhabiting "Untitled"

Inside the body of r.m. berry's words

Lidia Yuknavitch

1. My voice is coming from inside the box . . . Within, the sensations are pronounced, sonorous as a shower stall, all reverberating surfaces, like tile and porcelain, if you know the echo I have in mind, but anyhow, a noise like no other, the resonance, you could say, of its own name. If names could resound, if bodies intoned them.

Quickened flesh-quiver as-yet voiceless--her skin, filled almost like a balloon by excitable breathing, rises and shivers and lifts toward sound, deaf and dumb and excruciatingly present. She has been sleeping. She feels the pull of now.

She pushes herself up a bit from the dirt and looks around. Nothing. She heaves a sigh.

Was it sleeping?

The same dream, always. If by dream we mean capture and escape.

In the dream, exactly the same as in her waking, the urgency jumps her pulse. As always. Her drive toward the possibility of immediacy. Toward a pure, physical now. Toward the possibility of the unmediated moment.

Corporeal impatience.


Voice me before this suspense called time kills me.

As always, she opens her mouth to the empty.

2. Was I melting or returning to salt? And then it occurred to me, exactly what it’s impossible too say, in a whisper of wind. Oh, I’ll never forget that coolness! I fell into a rapture, saw vapors rising. My body had been assumed.

You know, language’s distance hurts. Sometimes her longing is so painful it fruits thick as pomegranates.

A few times she has gotten close.

Over and over again in that way that life moves its circles and waves, her body said come, only there was no utterance, no articulation, just all this lunging and squirming and arching and gut-wrenching all over the place.



Representable in the dumbest of ways.

Her flesh pinkened and wet and throbbed without end. Jesus. Just what they want. A moaning, sexed-up object.

Lucky fucks, she thinks without speaking. She’s thinking this as an adult.

As an adult she has ingested and digested the terror of her childhood. Her terror born between ages four and twelve finding a form, silence, absence, invisibility, her closed mouth, the endless unsaid.

Lucky fucks, she thinks as a woman untethered from her past. Look at their mouths. Clicking with sparks.

3. I’ve confused myself with this echo often enough, mistaken the dying of my own voice for others and know how prone I am to lie, or perhaps imagine things . . Nothing I’ve recounted so far is anything you haven’t heard forever. I might be utterly empty, my flesh a mirage, and how could either of us tell? See. It’s this that gives rise to my voice.

Once when she was five she found a dead wolf in the woods. She was alone, but her boy cousin, who would later in life go to jail, was not far behind. When she found her she was elated. Her excitement at finding her nearly killed her. The death laid bare before her, the fur of it, her sex exposed, she almost couldn’t breath at the breathless thing she was before her. The pronouns between her and her, of which she was only barely aware, swam together irrepressively. Suddenly all in a thoughtless and unspoken rush she squat down and pissed, half on her dead her and half not, her face reddening, the blood red line between them.

Her boy cousin came upon them.

Like that.

She opened her mouth but nothing.

Animal silence.

Primal embrace.

He said, “that’s fucking disgusting, what’s wrong with you?”

He said her name loudly and his mouth looked ugly.

Then he ran.

He said her name.

All wrong in his mouth.

This is why it is better not to speak.

4. I longed to continue as before, to be again that tangled knot of first one thing and then another, the former furor who’d now become the past. I haven’t the vaguest idea what I mean, but it felt as though some rift had opened, a schism forming my hiatus. I learned to say was. I learned to say them. I learned to hold my peace.

She thuds exhausted to the ground.

Both in memory of girlhood and now

Thud is the right word. Like a heavy animal. Without grace in its falling.

All she is is a body is she seeing.

Unsaid thing.

Her physicality all waiting.

Her mouths endlessly open.

5. My real interest—the precise word escapes me—lies out there, among these surroundings, with you. Life lies, they said, or something like it, out there. To imagine even once, despite these sides, above and below and the four turnings, to imagine that contact might still be made, that we could mingle.

She is trying to say. What is it. What was it. She wants to say.

She opens her mouth.

Nothing nothing nothing nothing.


6. But how should I presume, miserably provisioned as I am—a voice, this box, what I’ve seen—that you might feel ltouched?



Out of her god damned reach again and then again again.

Should she say I and alchemize this grief into pronouns?

She cries. Her better eye pools with salt and wet. It lolls in its little socket. Her better eye seems like it might have a chance.

That kind of hope could kill a person.

She opens her better eye and everything before it---wide as the world—is blurry and off-kilter.

7. Anyway, I recall no moment inside when I wasn’t trying to tell you, or if not you per se, then some approximation, the story of my enclosure, how all without—life, I think they said, or lifelike—became within.

She thinks her body. There are moments—ecstatic moments—both in memory, which is becoming not memory, and now, which is becoming indistinguishable from breathing, pissing, shitting, sexual release, there are moments when she is glad. She is relieved. She is enormously relieved. To be without language. Without it, after all, she is becoming every moment of being. As lifeless as Spirit. Her full corporeality does not signify. Who would not feel relieved?

But if there is such a thing as flesh bellow—beyond any animal slaughter sound—this is what is lodged in her throat. This is what swells her tongue. For to reach no one, to not reach the one . . .

A living death.

If she could simply let go of the living, the death would release her into the oblivion for real, rather than representationally—a body filling up space, moving through time, dumb narrative.

8. If I couldn’t tell you were there, if I couldn’t be sure I wasn’t just reverberating, then it felt like I’d never be able to tell anything again.

One time she told a story. She can barely remember the words, but the story had something to do with an infant born dead of her. From her. Birth came last. It died inside of her and then was born. She remembers getting it mixed up with immaculate conception. She remembers getting it mixed up with a story she read in adolescence about a monster, written by an adolescent girl afraid of dead infants and men creating. She remembers getting the story mixed up with her own birth, her mother’s hips terrible tilted, her mother’s right leg six inches shorter than the left, the word cesarean, the act of being physically removed from the birth sack by outsiders, keepers of culture, if you will. And since all of the stories are now mixed up, since they create an unuttered palimpsest of sorts, she can only think of them as language itself.

Where everything is possible.

Where everything is trapped.

Like a beast.

9. No, no, dream that none are without, that your semblance never hears, that beyond my box stretches purest devastation, smoking flesh, rubble, vistas of unspeakable anguish, well, such nightmares have been tolerated before and will be tolerated longer, but, please, never say this absence isn’t you, that y our silence hasn’t been pronounced. Even nothing comes to an end somewhere.

I am here.

I am here.

This, here, now.

Her body is screaming but skin doesn’t make a sound and thus seems . . . just irreducibly there.

Cry and cry and cry and cry it won’t make any more difference than sweat or a fever or a bruise or nausea or a facial tic or grinding one’s teeth or cum-surrender or pissing down your own leg.

Go ahead, shit in the middle of the room of the world.


Inside the nothing, inside the silence, unspeakable and deafening empty, she rolls her great shoulders and jaw and hips and tits over like an entire mountainside rearranging the terrain. Plate tectonics, or an ordinary woman rolling over in bed at night. What is it when the silence and the absence of any language to account for her corporeality rolls over?

No available grammar, syntax, rhetorical device.

No linguistic expression.

Is it like the sound of a bell, an echo chamber, underwater undulation, space dust forming planets or sucking into a black vortex, or a cow bellow?

10. To smell your hair again, to fondle your dampness—my Keepers can offer relief but no forgetting. I resound. To make this box my home is always to know there’s more.


I am begging you.

I want to mouth it.