on empty

empty chill

                                                                         the light is on

                                                                           (like a refrigerator with

                                                                               it’s door open, even though

                                                                                    its shelves are empty)

empty voice

                                                                         just on automatic

                                                                          (like an answer-

                                                                              phone when no one is

                                                                                   home to take your call)

empty thoughts

                                                                          facts without affect

                                                                           (like a machine passing

                                                                               the turing test despite

                                                                                    no real emotions)

empty heart

                                                                          reserves depleted

                                                                           (like a car’s tank

                                                                               indicator on red

                                                                                   before the stall)

                                                                                body present

                                                                                knowledge present

                                                                                empty of me.


Process notes: This was written for dverse, where we are working with atmosphere/mood. My starting point was to consider the exhaustion I sometimes feel as I travel and work during my sabbatical. Sometimes, temporarily, I’m awake and aware, ask me a question and I can answer, and yet I feel void of any emotion, opinion, or sense of felt identity. I tried to capture this by breaking up  the type of empty and its accompanying statement with space, as if time is passing slowly between the articulation of the feeling. The similes are in brackets, as a kind of second voice, an inaccessible echo of my deeper understanding of how I feel, which only becomes available later and after the fact). I kept punctuation to a minimum, and did not use capitalization in order to reinforce the idea of being on empty, and not having the energy or emotion to punctuate.


23 thoughts on “on empty

  1. the similes you chose def convey the feel…particularly the refridgerator as you get the light and the chill…and its rather a play on light on but no one home… and i have been there before…almost on auto pilot i am so exhausted…it works both physically and emotionally as well..your final three lines encapsulate it well…

    • Yes, I’m fine – just busy: I’m taking a four hour train journey each week at the moment and overnighting near the University I’m collaborating with a colleague at, so life isn’t my usual placid pace, but it is productive, though I wish it didn’t interrupt my writing here.

  2. You achieved the mood with the repetition and the ending which really offers no closure just the consummation of the emptiness. The parenthetical asides to me say that you are there somewhere–deep down, with humor and feeling, able to relate to the word in concrete terms–but as asides, it makes that “living” part not accessible, not manifest. I can so identify in the way I have feel the past few weeks–maybe that’s why this struck a chord with me.

  3. oh you did very well with the images…they are perfect mood creators…the light from the fridge, empty shelves… all things that i can see and relate to

  4. The repetition creates an atmosphere of foreboding as the spacing indicates a lack. Your sparseness of language and parenthetical asides reinforce the sense of nothingness. The far right justification at the end puts the nail in the coffin. I especially enjoyed the Turing test which reiterates the metaphor well. The imagery and lack of punctuation drive home the point. You’ve very successfully created a mood with this work!

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