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Your Glass Mouth

Your Glass Mouth

Your Glass Mouth

by Alexander Schaef

I’m not well exactly … Well …

I’m not exactly what I thought I was.

Let’s start with the way the tea bag gets awkward and gross and sinks to the bottom of my glass; I am alone. A tortured simper uncoils itself across my mouth as I open another bottle of Penis wine. I whine and my eyes turn from blue birds to vultures. Let’s start here; they say all hate is self-hate, and that’s just a damn shame, isn’t it?

What’s happening? I sharpen my pencil, I pull down my pants, I pretend your hands are there. I pull up my pants, I sharpen my pencil, I miss you. The audience is watching which means it’s time to cry. I stand up and stomp over to those bluebells. I rip them to pieces above the trash. Their petals practically disintegrate and fall slowly, like thick, soft snow. I should’ve never left New York.

I did, on one lonely starless December lust, use my brother’s hunting knife to slice off the tip of a moldy rugby ball, and filled that horrible skin with a group of hibernating crayfish from our pond. I am the youngest of three; this means I am durable, yet see-through. This means I am still fragile. Actually, I say I have several brothers but I only have one now. My birth was fetus in fetu, meaning I developed inside the body of my conjoined twin and ate him from the inside-out. (Sometimes I like to imagine that there’s a third twin still inside me, just waiting for the right moment to chew his way out!). The other brother perished in a petrol explosion. “Shit happens.” I should have never left.

Everyone in my life is gone. Or not gone, necessarily; it’s somehow worse! It’s as if they’ve been butchered, like just total bloodbath shit. Gosh, I can say the word slaughter out loud in an empty room and the letters actually suggest the meaning, you know, with their physicality and all. S is sexy, that’s obvious, but AU is totally naughty, Baby! And that hard T, fucking woah!

(Slaughter, daughter, farter … Oh my gosh!) …

I woke up thinking about a piano porno that popped up the other night, a bluegrass string quartet of all hunks, honky-tonk style. I woke up and wrote a haiku:

Descent from A-sharp —
Mozart’s dick is a baton,
A homophony

I was on the couch and everything was sad after I came and came to my senseless self.
And now, after waking up with this very familiar sadness, with that same sadness you get the second you hang up the phone and realize you said nothing significant to the most significant person in your life, I am writing suicide notes. They all start like this: The house is quiet now, like usual, like, I don’t know; the house is dark and … the hallway smells like old metal sludge. Tears will show up on my face and I will take the time to convince my imaginary friends it’s no big deal; not all tears are symbolic, (dumbass). Strange the way a fictional audience helps me cry, keeps me emotional. And they all end like this: The kitchen swings its glass mouth open and the curtains there look like fangs. Sometimes I pretend I’m inside a snake. Sometimes I think I am the snake. I’m hearing voices again.

I’m hearing voices again.

I am always brought back to this vision of a glass mouth, and I know for certain it’s related to that dazzling vintage tea set my husband used to own. The day we met, after noticing the unmistakable copper spout of a ripe swan-neck teakettle peeking around the corner of that cork purse kiosk in the Berlin Brandenburg Airport, and watching this man take little sips from his cup, dragging his wary fingers across the golden mouth of a Burmese glass, his fingertips clenching that hollow body, I said “How are you doing?” to which he responded, “Fine, and you?” to which I responded, “That cup you’re holding … I wish it was me …” (or something). And right then, a poignant and passionate romance was born and burned brightly like a summer fire.

And the world keeps spinning.


Being an artist is funny because you can cry your fucking heart out and still never make it past the tip of someone else’s tongue.

Art is funny, really, because of context; I can submerge an antique unicycle into a bath of melted white chocolate and people will presume I’m piggybacking some conversation about gentrification. Or I can organize a circle of women, each at different stages of pregnancy, around said unicycle, have them take turns burping and tossing clumps of black confetti, and title the piece ‘Abnormal Abortion.’

(Try explaining that in therapy!)

Or I could go one town down the river, walk into a pub, and literally shoot myself in the fucking foot for 99 likes and 12 followers. Untitled IV.

Hashtag modern art.

Well …

The world keeps spinning.


This July has a sun like raspberry jam, almost; it sweats its salty scowl across my thighs — the wispy fur sprouts up around those old scars and illuminates into golden ripples, smooth, and … well, I place my hand there and allow it to wander. I wonder what it feels like to die suddenly, as well as silently … I guess. And this makes my boner sad. Bummer. My warm skin feels distant and somber, somehow sour, or maybe I’m projecting. Yes, I guess it’s true, I have been distant and somber towards my lovers lately, (as I said, I hang up the phone with severe insignificance; didn’t you know I’m nothing?!); it’s because I think they hate me.

I’m hearing voices again and some of them sound just like you, but older, like, shakier …

Those delicate African violets drooping out the side of my dragon ear vase make me want to scream. I will throw those out when I get the energy to stand up, surely, but surely, if I was to ever have a guest I guess they might act as some silly conversation starter. “Oh those are so pretty,” he’d say. And I would try to smile and I would try to nod. Conversation over. Gosh, my imagination isn’t pretty, I wish my people understood this. Blunt, unambiguous communication is what I need most, it’s true. And I tried to tell him! And then I received no communication at all! So, you guessed it; I’m talking to myself now …

“I’m glad you’re doing wonderful,” I’ll say to my reflection as I pass that full mirror and the floor creaks and the walls whisper.

I am reminded again of your glass mouths; the sound of that liquid stream butting the teacup is like rolling a pebble down a metal slide. And then silence. I can almost taste that briny wolfberry, the one you always brewed, and the scent of smooth ginseng blossoming, consuming my pallet … I can practically feel that seductive swallow as the hawthorn pear slumps its claws into my tongue. We used to mimic the streams of steam, the way they aroused themselves, smears of white, and danced around the apartment naked.

I remember locking eyes with you during those moments and noticing that they were proud. You were always like that. Proud. And I remember that one crazy rain on the sand with that ice cream man laughing, his rainbow umbrella turning inside out …

Well. If you were still here you could hear my voice tremble a little, now and then, maybe, maybe mostly now, now that I think about it … and then it’s Happy Hour or so, so I try to turn my attention to the tomato plants because I talk to them too; they’re the only ones who’ll encourage me to stay sober. I like that about them. I like that I can look there and still see you sitting on the floor of our terrace, gripping the gaping red-rimmed mouth of your peacock teacup, the one with a scissor-slicken handle, soaking up sun like a perfect orchid.

Three of the men I met never made it through Spring frost and you told me that that’s fine, that’s life. “So that’s it? We just die?!” That’s so, Fuck! That’s so frustrating, you’re so … You think you’re so forgiving but I’m on an island, Baby, can’t you see? Me myself and … well, all the others. And then the rain starts up again and doesn’t stop for months so this conversation is all-together meaningless. And I don’t see you so perfect anymore; God, I wish I did.

The tip of my pencil breaks. The phone rings and I press decline. I cry the hottest tears of my life; they slide down my cheeks and onto the floor. They look so stupid there.

I’m hearing voices again.

As I write these letters, my bracelets clink against the mahogany arms of our Burro’s-tail sofa, making the sound of a harness bell, like the ones the donkeys wore at the olive oil manufactory I grew up on. I’m remembering my mother’s oily breasts as she drew the buckets out of the well and dragged them to the shed, my father spanking the asses and pulling fistfuls of dehydrated pomace out the crankshaft. I remember the flood that wiped out our entire town, the blood that stained my childhood.


Not everyone took joy in watching Billy’s goat barn and farm stuff float down Main Street the day the dam broke and flooded the village — how that one goat got glued to the back of the field fence by the intense current, how he managed to dodge a futon, a vending machine, and even a telephone pole, before tragically being taken out by one of Riley’s rams — how her horn speared straight through the young goat’s eye socket, both creatures squirming then disappearing below the vicious, murky tide. Not everyone thought it romantic the way those bronze rivers split and streamed like hair & brush through the gravestones and into the chapel.

Following the flood, Father and I spent a full month uncovering bodies; it was a strange and perverted game of hide-and-seek. We mounted the dead onto large pieces of driftwood with nails and tape, and stacked them squarely into 10-meter spires. Our town got nicknamed ‘Jenga’ because the piles of bodies resembled Jenga towers. And I find that disgusting. And I find that rather clever.


Anyways. I’m sitting down and writing letters to Bob, John, Michael, Mitchel, Andy, Anus, James, Caroline, just kidding, not Caroline; I don’t write letters to women. It’s not a misogynistic thing or nothing like that, (I mean c’mon, look at me!), it’s just that I cannot physically write unless I am slightly aroused. But not too aroused! … Sorry not sorry. “Boobs make me want to vomit,” I said once at a bottomless drag brunch. And you laughed. You’ll never know how happy that made me.

But actually, now that I think about it, did I ever even say that? All my memories are blurry! I feel like maybe I said something like, I’m sorry for having a voice, and then you spilt the entire pitcher of mimosa and we both died laughing. Or, no. I think I was in the bathroom and your colleague took the urinal next to mine, and we laughed about you. Really! I’m not sure why.

Or … I don’t remember. So blurry.

Blurry in this way: I can clearly recall the sugar cane creating a foggy black pyramid in the bottom of your teacup the day we met, and how the airport windows secreted a syrupy sort of light, a refreshing lemonade type of glimmer, which snuggled in around us and dripped down your face. But your face is not your face here. It is my face, sort of, or the face of your colleague, maybe, grinning. And then the light isn’t lemonade anymore; it’s piss! Oh gosh. Blurry the way I sucked those silky sunkissed stones below the broken dam, savoring their salty undersides, just a few feet from a stack of bodies. Damn.

The stones have turned completely cold under my tongue, in my mind, somehow, and heavy, like golf balls. I try to remember the sensation of mint leaves in my cheeks, a baby bird, the texture of quills, like velcro, that smooth ginseng confiding secret temptations and goosebumps on my tongue … I try to remember my eyes growing wings and racing through forbidden caves, then plunging into the sea, the way you provoked me. But I can’t recreate these sensations.

What does it feel like to feel? I can’t remember. What does it feel like? I can’t remember. I can’t.

Well …

I’m in the middle of my life. Fuck. I’m in the middle of this one letter and at this point it’s a little nonsensical, which is exactly on par with my literary voice, according to my sophomore year creative writing teacher.

Funny, actually really awful, side note; her father, my professor’s dad, was a pilot on one of the planes that got hijacked on 9/11. (Moment of silence). Could you imagine? And she told my entire class this! Could you imagine?! And all I could think was it’s going to take a little more than creative writing to deal with that sort of trauma.

So yes, I guess I did learn something in university; there are levels to trauma. Or not levels, oh gosh that makes it sound like a mindless game … more like tiers (I’ve never used that word before); I’m actually thinking of a beach. Imagine one of those wide, white beaches, a simple one: you have the fine hot sand that expands most of the shore, and then that line of dried seaweed, (yummy!), then the hard sand, the crispy kind, then the wet, coarse sand, and then the shallow water, then deeper, then colder, then deeper, (colder). Trauma’s like this, I think. And it would be silly to pretend we don’t remember what it feels like to drown. And of course there’s some shiny seashells along the way and maybe you’ll see a crab or a dolphin, or get distracted by a kite! … Only real difference is that you can leave the beach. For survivors, this is rarely the case. Sad.


It’s really hard to tell whether I’m a complete moron or a total genius. Hard to tell which is worse … Ha!

Being an artist is funny because of backstory. An artistic blurb goes one of two ways I’ve noticed: a used piece of toilet paper, caked in pure shit, or, a grandiose analysis of the human species and their history of self-destructive tendencies.

Imagine the unicycle exhibition, for instance. What I want to do is write the word death 100 times on the entrance wall in blood and semen. But art-viewers love party-favors; they need to know the art is theirs to dominate. So what I end up doing is constructing a graceful stack of pocket-sized booklets, each with an artistic statement that inherently reads something like this:

The Incidence & Aesthetics of Angular Appropriation and Tech. — Such Abnormalities in Curator Penile Curvature Culture by Byzantine Brushwork Breakdown and Calligraphy Correction Facilities with [or without] Hypnosis have Reimagined the Case of Systemic Literature versus Post-9/11 Girth-Rates; they Double-Cross themselves in a Single Diptych here, where Cityscape Classicism and Neo-Necrosis Induced Social White-Anglo-Saxon Protestant Genital Alterations Swap Sequences of ASMR-Generated Triggers in Cultural-Icon Culture. This Cyclic Facade Proves the Progression of, or, moreover, the Depolarization From* Snake to Sinking Sailboats. And as Crystal M.E.T.H. Culture turns Earthwork Culture, Nano Powder Explosion Safety Tutorial Subscription in Preteens Morphs into the Grotesque — The Behavioral Impact/Velocity of these Shifts, in Contrast with Burning Neanderthal Symbols in Sleep Paralysis Synthesis Amidst the Me Too* Movement, Delivers us to an Unsettling Conclusion: Finding Footings and Re-Fixating Footings Found to End Illusion Analysis* Exploitation* Betwixt BLM* Documentation* Culture*

And that’s fine too.

I’ve never been fond of rising mid-sentence but the pounding in my head becomes urgent; it turns obsessive … I imagine my husband is still sleeping in that horrible bed, and so what do I do? Gosh, what can I do?

Strange the way my imaginary men make their presence apparent and are still surprised to see my eagle eye through that rusty peephole. Yes, I’ve reversed the looking hole in my door so anyone on the outside can peer into my apartment if they please. I learned this about myself at a very young age; I will never deny men the attention they crave, in fact, I will over engage and gaze so deeply into that stupid abyss! And that stupid face they make; it must be the face of a child after realizing their ass no longer fits into that plastic swing set. And so my backyard is empty now, metaphorically; the children will find other, more perverted ways to play, the way they (always) do. The way we used to too, playing around in the dirt and not wondering why, not wondering why the shadow doesn’t always match the shape.


I’m imagining plopping down on some bean bag chairs in the Bean Hub with your mother. Let me update you for this scenario: you’re dead, we threw you in a fire, and now we can’t make up our minds about which urn to put your ashes in. I dip my cinnamon crisp into my pumpkin chai as she unfurls our options on the table. “This one is too … chunky, wouldn’t you agree?” she says, gesturing towards a brass urn centered on the coffee table. This one is a little strange surely; it has a glazed beef-jerky-like exterior that sort of husks out into a glass backsplash of blue-grey cold sores, and on the upper portion there are three embryo-like bulbs that fringe and wedge upward, splitting thrice into some distorted dystopian porcelain fingerling things that nipper down the spinach-colored cover. Hm. “But this one is also a little…” She pushes a second urn forward. And I agree with her; this urn is a little … Well, let me try to describe it. The urn is in the shape of a pickaxe, like for ice climbing. It’s plated with these throat-centric sophisticated aluminum ruffles that wrinkle counterclockwise around its sweaty swelling body and rejoice into braided testicular knobs on the lid, the heel of the axe, which is polished with Polish pellets, zinc. Hours later, we agree on a simple little manganese box, and I watch your mother struggle to empty the large bag of ashes into the box before jumping in a cab. And I take myself out for ice cream: malted strawberry chunk and passion fruit pistachio.



This September has a sun like saliva. It snogs and swabs around my open wounds in a predictable way, just spreading thick honey. It’s funny, actually, to feel time passing so casually sometimes. Sometimes someone says something to me about the seasons and only then do I take the chance to look out the window. And the leaves are wow! They’re practically the color of a Mars crater, almost purple! And sometimes someone says things like there’s no such thing as dying: you’re either living, or you’re dead. Okay … But the pitch of your glass mouth against mine changes depending on how much tea remains. Does that make sense?


As you can probably tell by now, I have different ways of telling the same story: You come home, I’m not there, you leave, etcetera, repeat. I come home cold, nobodies there; I begin to fall asleep but people arrive and keep arriving. And soon the house is so full you can barely stand crooked. And someone’s breathing on my neck and yours, individually. And I can’t tell if I like it: Etcetera. And I can’t tell if you like it: Repeat.

This December has a sun like shit. I know I said I wouldn’t drink but it’s clearly time for a cocktail. I lift my sexy, awful body off the couch and head behind the minibar. The bar is where I hoard all my glass mouths, my memories, my secret recipes. I flip through a stack of loose Post-its inside my herculean chest, and land on an oddball; the recipe’s titled Wet Collision. It’s kind of a complicated concoction, but I have time.

1 Oz. apricot mischief, 1 Oz. Black Cow, 1.5 monkey gland, a bar-spoon butterscotch angel face, 1 scoop Brazilian Nuts, Damn-the-Weather, lemon-lime mudslide rim, splash of Corpse Reviver #2, and three, tarragon twizzler straw, celery champagne floater, two dashes Three Olives, brown butter, egg white, platinum blonde bitters, 4 drops suffering bastard, Van Gogh, handful of lichi shells, blended, crystal head souffle crown on top, dandelion squirt garnish, one long ice cube, shaken, served in a snifter glass.



I’m imagining being at the carnival; Why not?! I am shifting a jug of gumballs around and guessing their number. I am pegging pink darts at a purple balloon moon and watching them burst toy soldiers. I win a huge stuffed snake and I give it to the shirtless boy beside me who’s crudely throwing lacrosse balls at a pyramid of cowboy ducks. I am on the Ferris wheel now, drinking shitty beer. I look down, down, down, and the ground is smiling, swirling and spewing neon beams, caramel streamers and …

Do you think great things attract beauty? Or vice-versa? Hard to say anything’s terrible when you’re stopped at the top of the wheel, comfortably drunk and alone; I feel like I might never come down from this high. Looking out, beyond the bumper cars canopy and that haunted house of mirrors, far out past the last line of corn dog trucks and popcorn parades, is one magnificent mountain, gleaming in the moonseed. The mountain looks like a sheep’s horn, rough and jagged and ready. The moon above it is just a silver splinter, blazing handsomely, like an eye that’s winking at me. Some pearly tears twist around my eyes as a string of fireworks mushroom up and shatter the sky with a triumphal thunder. Gold, red and blueberry explosions. I can feel the rush of life itself just slashing through my veins and bulging out my chest with an unhinged hilarity. I feel holy, in a way, like a master of myself, like nothing and everything at once!

Then the muffled hum of old machinery ignites. My body is jerked backwards as the wheel begins to spin. I watch through the barricaded windows of my cart as the mountain slips out of view, and the moon too, tucked away behind the smoke. I can see rivers of carnival scum, busted bead necklaces and soggy lemonade buckets, which have accumulated along those filthy electrical wires, creating a network of rainbow rubbish across the fair floor. The fireworks sound like bombs now, stern and unsettling. My beer is flat. My feet are heavy. The wheel spins down, down, down …

And then it stops.

Alexander Schaef (they/them) is a writer and installation / performance / chaos artist originally from Woodstock, New York, currently Berlin based. All of their artwork grapples with fear and honesty, specifically how these emotions intensify, mutate, and self-destruct in the aftermath of traumatic events. Their creative process involves reflecting upon and manifesting the profound rage and loneliness they felt throughout childhood, growing up queer and neurodivergent in rural America. They strive to unearth and devour the intimate vulnerabilities of each reader/art-viewer by illuminating the many ways we manipulate and/then deconstruct the self in an effort to reclaim our own humanness.