Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It

Patricia Lockwood’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The London Review...


Doing what, I don’t know, being alive. The green
of her is a scum on the surface, she would like
to look at herself. Should I have a memory?
she wonders. Of mother washing my frogskin
in muddy water? I do not have that memory.
My near-transparent frogskin? Mother washing
it with mud to keep it visible? I do not have that
memory, almost, almost. Warmblooded though
she knows for a fact, and spontaneously generated
from the sun on stone, and 100 vertebrae in every
wave of the lake, as 100 vertebrae in every wave
of her. All of her meat blue rare blue rare, a spot
on her neck that would drive her wild if anyone ever
touched it, and the tip of her tail ends with -ness and
-less. So far all she knows of the alphabet is signs
that say NO SWIMMING.
                      So far all she knows is her whereabouts.
Has great HATRED for the parochial, does the liver
of the lake. Would like to go to universe … al … ity?
She has heard there is a good one in Germany.
They stay up all night drinking some black sludge,
and grow long beards rather than look at them-
selves, and do thought experiments like: if I am not
in Scotland, does Scotland even exist? What do I look
like when no one is looking? She would listen to them
just as hard as she could with the mud-sucking holes
in her head – and they, she thinks, would listen back,
with their ears so regularly described as seashell.
The half of her that is underwater would like to be
under a desk, the head of her that is underwater
would like to be fully immersed.
                                                 I will be different there,
she thinks, with a powerful wake ahead of me.
When will the thinkers come for me. Visited only
here by believers. Is so deep-sea-sick of believers.
When will the thinkers come for me here, where
the green stretches out before me, and I am my own
front lawn. The green is a reflective green, a green
in the juicy shadows of leaves – a bosky even green –
a word I will learn to use, and use without self-
consciousness, when at last I go to Germany. I have
holed myself away here, sometimes I am not here
at all, and I feel like the nice clean hole in the leaf
                          and the magnifying glass above me.
She looks to the believers on the shore. A picture
                          it would last longer! shouts Nessie.
Does NOT believe photography can rise to the level
of art, no matter how much rain falls in it, as levels
of the lake they rose to art when Nessie dipped
her body in it. Nessie wants to watch herself doing
it. Doing what, I don’t know, being alive. The lake
bought one Nessie and brought her home. She almost
died of loneliness until it gave her a mirror. The lake
could be a mirror, thinks Nessie. Would be perfectly
                                                            still if I weren’t in it.

Originally published in Hazlitt #1


That’s Just Your Nostalgia: On Mariah Carey’s Elusive Chanteuse
One of last year’s minor injustices came when Mariah Carey’s “#Beautiful,” clearly intended as a summer-indenting single, got consigned to minor-hit status by two Gallic robots and a certain preternaturally horny Canadian . Gratuitous hashtag aside, it moved with loping, restrained grace, using handclaps and faint amp fuzz not to evoke any definitive past but wistfulness itself. Never the most subdued singer, Mariah even hangs around in the background for half the running time, as if perfecting flirtatious ad-libs for her duet partner Miguel. Blame radio programmers, really: “#Beautiful” peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 but #3 on Hot R&B /Hip-Hop—denied the summit by, yes, “Blurred Lines.” The latter was only possible due to changes in chart methodology documented by Chris Molanphy , increasingly estranging the “top R&B songs” from the core R&B audience. When “artists who emerged from black radio” describes so much American popular music, reducing the relevant Billboard tally to a mere subset of the generalist one is mangling it—especially since white people often seem to be considered the most “radio-friendly” performers of soul or hip-hop. Mariah Carey has 18 #1 singles (including “One Sweet Day,” still the longest-running ever), but the last big hit she managed was “Touch My Body” in 2008. You can ascribe part of that to caprice, a botched promotional campaign or two, her previous album emphasizing sequence over spectacle—and yet the ambivalent pop-radio reaction to “#Beautiful” still baffles me.


Are You Colder in Your Second Language?
Imagine that you’re standing on a footbridge overlooking a train track. Beneath you, a small train is hurtling towards five unsuspecting people. The only way to save them is if a heavy object blocks the train’s path. As luck would have it, you are standing next to an extremely fat man. Do you push the man, killing him, but saving the other five? Or do you do nothing, spare the overweight innocent, but let the five others get mangled by the oncoming locomotive? The dilemma is a variation of the “ trolley problem ,” a classic ethics thought experiment that has been used for decades, with various tweaks. What’s going on in your brain when you make this decision? You’re relying on some sort of moral code, but how exactly are you weighing your options? In a study published last month in PLOS ONE , Albert Costa of the Pompeu Fabra University and University of Chicago psychologist Boaz Keysar argue that your response to these kinds of moral dilemmas may not be based on well-considered logic or deeply held values, but could be influenced by something as seemingly frivolous as whether or not you’re confronting the problem in a foreign language.