Collage #2: Elective Mutes

This is the first draft of my poem collage based on "Elective Mutes," by Lucie Brock-Broido (see below, full version, for full text). It's a long, very creepy poem about two twin sisters (June and Jennifer Gibbons). Much of the symbolism in this collage is lifted directly from the poem. The fire is prominent because it keeps showing up as a theme throughout several of the poem's sections, and the two identical faces in an almost-kiss on the right side of the image represent the two sisters. The broken dolls are from section 2 of the poem (esp. the Register of the Deaths of Dolls). I chose to use calla lilies to represent the many different flower & plant images scattered throughout the poem, even though calla lilies themselves are never mentioned, because of the symbolic significance of those flowers as an image of death, marriage, and sexuality. The moon shows the time of day most of the poem occurs during, and serves as a symbol of femininity as well. The moon-reflecting water in the bottom right corner hints at both the American swimming pools (section 2) and the swollen riverbed under the bridge (section 5). (Photo sources attached.)

Elective Mutes
by Lucie Brock-Broido

Nobody suffers the way I do. Not with a sister…
But this sister of mine, a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight, is my one and only torment.
- June Gibbons

Tuesday afternoon, Broadmoor


In summertime, when we were little, I remember we
walking with synchronized steps, a four-armed girl,
we’ve got everything
the same. We were eleven, a shadow & a shadow
of her shadow. I am born
first & I teach my sister to be quiet.
Here’s the secret:
One day we will burn buildings together.
One day we will set fire to great things.
It sends shudders down my spine.
In the heat of swing park, we will take boys
down & mingle with them in the brushes.
In a basket, we will float down rivers, Venus
rising infrared, you’ve no idea
what it’s like to have this other
half. We floating like hot house
fuchsia, two Chinese lanterns
through the water edge, a bulrush, shooting
stars. I will teach you to be perfect, more
quiet. I will teach you to be hard high self
mutilating. We will talk patois, speeded
up 78 on the record player, so no one else
can understand. We do, we know
the languages of hemlock, jimson weed.
Sometimes, my hands smell like sex.
That summer if anyone looked at one of us
we froze, like girls made of bloodstone,
crackleware. We kiln things.
We love each other like we grew
from the same set of pelvic bone,
as if we were attached like clethra
flowers to their stems.
We’re budding now.


We were sixteen & took to our room.
J & I are two colored girls of history.
We do dolls, most are twinnies like we are.
I am the vicar here, the dolls marry
on the floor, kneeling on a red patch
of my mother’s velvet dress.
We sing hymns we stain the hymnsheets
in the colours of medieval luminations
the colour of Mars, some nights bloodred,
the blue of Mercury, azury
like the sky lit up all over America,
a clear suburban summer
night & the lawnmower’s stopped
& the swimming pools are filled up
with the bice of night
water, a town in mid-America gone
mad, deserted. Someday we’ll live there
when everyone’s gone to the drive-in
& blonde twins are on the roofs of cars
or lounging on their sunchairs in the dark, soaking
up their moon, all the convertible tops
are down & the speakerbox hangs
on the rear view mirror like a locust,
slow & distorted like that
& you climb in back to have a boy
inside you, that’s what I want, on the back seat
sprawling in the noises like an animal
he makes, but you’re shy, you’re bourgeois, you talk
American which I sort of like but it’s kind of sleazy, you know?
But me & Jennifer are up here in our room, broadcasting
Radio Gibbons in the gloom of an English outpost of the RAF.
these are my children now.

From the Register of Deaths of Dolls:
June Gibbons. Aged 9. Died of leg injury.
George Gibbons. Aged 4. Died of eczema.
Bluey Gibbons. Aged two and a half. Died of appendix.
Peter Gibbons. Aged 5. Adopted. Presumed dead.
Polly Morgan-Gibbons. Age 4. Died of a slit face
Susie Pope-Gibbons died the same time of a cracked skull.

We forecast the weather from our room.


Dear Lord, you have no idea
what it was like. 11 June 1981.
I want a baby of my own, caged wren, tiny
trapped inside me like a blow of laurel
growing in a field, high and taking
from my own blood like an other only smaller,
someone I can call my own.
We to Welsh Hook & down into the barn.
J’s lover, Carl, is there he broke
my virginity
tonight. She
watched us, there was we
& blackeyed broken glass fallen
from the windows & a wild bird caught up
in the rafters, couldn’t find his way back out.
Shrike: hangs its prey on wire fences, thorns.
This is what it felt like: for the first time
now I am alive. We did it
to the stylistics, J watching
then we lay down heavy in the hay, heat
sticking stalks up under my blouse,
strawflowers, a resurrection weed inside of me.
Smoke: indicates confusion.
Fire: desire for escape.

Shoes off, summer night, whole world
smells of fennel, all romance
from the Book of Red Dreams:
Arson: indicates a twining.
Bitch: flammable, a lover.
Nakedness: perfection, fire inside thing consumed.
Sometimes we even dream the same, get that.

I burned it down today.


Without my shadow, would I die?
At school once, in a tuberculosis scare
when we uncurled our limbs for vaccination
ours were the only coloured arms.
Pink pink pink pink black. I love
flowers. When we grow wild we are.
No one can hear us talk, we mute we shy.
The other girls are none of we.

From The Little Books for Little Angels:
It is Christmas day. The TV’s on all afternoon. Lassie, Bonanza, imports from America. It is ten years ago, I have this dream. There are five children, blue-eyed little angels. There’s a bird on top our tree. The TV’s gone blue, all the stars of the show are twinnies. My father in his big old resting chair. Everyone’s dressed in Victorian clothes, as if there’s been a wedding. White gloves & something catches fire. J is on her knees. We’ve come home from putting flowers on our mother’s grave. She isn’t really dead yet, she feeds us bloodpudding for supper. Everyone talking with no vowels. It’s snowing hard & our house is getting more & more muffled. I’ve blue eyes, covered with lace. J & I are brides. We both have this disease of the lung. We are inseparable.

We’ll die early & be stars.


By the next summer, we’d bandaged our breasts
down so hard we could barely breathe.
High on vodka and glue, we both fuck the same
boy. Lupine, hawthorne, love-lies-bleeding,
small violence of the scent.
Something like magic is happening.
You’ve no idea how much I am
she. I am she. Dear Lord,
I am scared of her. She is not normal.
Someone is driving her insane. It is me.

Tonight she would a cord around my neck
to strangle me, 6 November, Furzy Park.
She broke our ritual, she goes too far.
We take brandy from beneath our bed,
go to Gypsy Lane to walk.
Wolfbane, daphne, trillium.
Really it’s more of debris
there than anything else, the river’s drying up.
But tonight, everything is full.
It has been raining for days.
Everything is dripping
like pen & ink drawings, long & lean
as the blackened Modigliani faces of my sisters art.
We entice each other constantly
in these beautiful nights
after neverending rain –
First of all, I wept to God
– when world is wet & shiny, under the bridge, I hold her
head down under
water & I feel her thrash
against me, just this once, I murder her,
it’s a once in a lifetime thing, you know?
You have no idea
how much I love her, I am she.
Sweet alyssum, larkspur, yew.
We kiss. Monkshood, nasturtium,
forget me not.

(sections of the poem in italics are direct quotes from June's diaries)

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I really like this image, it

I really like this image, it is very powerful. It makes you want to keep looking deeper into the image to see what you can find. I especially like the integrating of the face into the moon. Great job!

Katie Akrop | Mon, 03/17/2008 - 14:05

I like the feel of this

I like the feel of this piece. It has almost two themes or pieces running through it with the stuff on the right differing from the left. I feel like everything is pretty well integrated, but I have a hard time picking out the image in the fire near the top. I can see and eye, but it doesn't have the same presence as the figure below and makes me a bit unsure. Otherwise, I like all of the elements. I wonder about the scale/presence of the flower. i really like how it stands out, but wonder if the gesture might even be more pronounced.

Daniel Anderson | Mon, 03/17/2008 - 12:53

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