1518 c/o Audri Sousa

the choreomania of strasbourg

frau troffea is the first to dance herself dead. all of strasbourg watches. there is some assembly required to know she is not really smiling. legs balk at attachment to torso, make obscene gestures at the other jigsaw pieces. there is a jagged hiccup in the sky when saint vitus seizes her by the spine. when she picks herself up, neck the colour of persimmons, and begins to tango and pirouette through the narrow streets. past the forges, undoing stitches along the river hemline. she is not dervish. she is not wheat.

and here in the square we have poured from a screaming kettle. we scratch our temples, we tackle her, we look under her whisked skirts. we say sacre bleu! we ask her are you telling temperature? the way to tell temperature is to be in the air. are you inventing morse code? may we cast you into the grape vats to dance us a new vintage? one suggests it is fata morgana snaking up the wharves. another, it is god. another, it is ergot. the boulanger has baked too much psychotropic mold into our bread. we set him on fire for heresy. it is a sign it is the marquee of july. july! the frothing harpy. july! the scythe.

and we follow suit. six days later a score and fourteen are eclipsed by the dance. sweat runs through the alleys and saturates the fields. onions spring up in the stead of all other vegetation. our hapless organs begin to gnaw on each other. frau troffea trades her legs for rubber spiders. she trades her rubber spiders for a blur. troffea who is neither mother nor daughter. troffea whose name is sounded by stained bedsheets in wind.

it soon becomes evident this queer locomotion is something to be feared. by month’s end, the air surrounding her panting metallic with blood, the woman presses her hand into her own face and smears the paint around. the cream, green, brown, pink required to make it. her tears or her perspirations, for we cannot distinguish between the two, grow feathered and winged, sprout beaks and pronged feet, fly cawing into the sun. from the jagged hiccup in the sky fall thousands of caterwauling eggs. our hair furls back to make a nest for them in the skull. this is a defense mechanism. yolk protects the quadrant of the brain that whispers to the feet. troffea's knees sweat little engines of venom. finally she collapses in a bloom of powder, her body made vitruvian by shells.

more follow suit.

sebastian: stroke
mathilde: cession du coeur
etienne: exhaustion
emile: macarena
after a month, four hundred are consumed in this fashion by the dance. we onion-fed have grown pallid and sunken. have adopted shaken second strands of vision. advertisements for restless leg syndrome now appear in the holy roman empire’s weekly decree. friar billy graham prescribes to bloodlet, castrate, leech, confiscate from victims the silver pieces he alleges to cause the dance. since we deem these worse than the original affliction, our morbid gambol is the sole remedy. the sole remedy is dance.

we send for an illuminated tile floor and disco ball. we fetch the gypsies and their violins, summon the flautist. their chains are removed long enough to strike up the death suite. we request more cowbell. and as they play our cotton retinas soak with all the fury of heraldry. and from them is reflected a map of letting go.

the end of the world is pretty to look at. some miss it while out looking for dragons. all the places we had visited in the womb do not count. orphanages sprout up around us. we sleep and dream of persimmons in freefalling elevators. everyone truncated, beautiful bodies admired behind yellow tape. only the dead rigor of naked legs. let us do this again next year. the sky vacuums up all the jigsaw pieces and swells shut. the mingling smells of bread.