Snow White's Coffin
Tom Waits records the sound of frying chicken
that’s how he achieves his pops and crackles.
Our old unit had a hooked grey arm,
it was a trunk of wood with woven speakers.
As a child I worried about forgetting:
the hexagonal handle, a creamy honey cell,
that flaw in the lino resembling Donald Duck
while the others of its kind looked like grey bells.
Sometimes life would seem too big, even then
an empty Sunday where you drifted as a ghost.
I saw Bonnie and Clyde on such a day,
as I recall, in black and white
when the bullets came
they died like oceans
full of slow turbulence
as if brought by death to life.
Why preserve one’s childhood memories?
So, like Egyptians, they might be packed into the grave?
That I would sit up nights, eating from the Haworth mug
spoonfuls of plain sugar mixed with cinnamon.
Is there room in the sarcophagus for that,
for the feeling of the covers of paperbacks,
in which girls survive, among great trees,
girls who make mistakes in forests.
One thing I loved was to pick the scabs on my knees
while sitting on the toilet.
Do I need to say, I ate them?
Who is taking this down?
The Dutch I believe, have built a car one molecule long.
I’ve seen its silly form, its atom wheels.
It looks nothing like a car, it looks to be a pupa
some kind of baby bee surprised by disaster in its cell.
The problems of this world will not be solved by tiny cars.
Everything is small enough already
and there is too much, too much of everyone.
To understand your life you need another whole life.
I think we are sitting here on the axis my friend
that is why we feel a bit unwell.
Buried in us are minutes, days, mornings slept late
nights of no rest, turning to one side
turning again like a tide
sweating into the bodies of hot beds
those bucketfuls of moisture.
I think that futures might be in us too
driving in tiny cars, they are opening their minute glove
boxes and with infinitesimal hands
draw out maps too small to imagine
but they imagine them, they look at the lists of streets
all arranged according to the alphabet.
And then I think they throw the book away.
And they get out from the car
and they throw the keys into the ocean
howling. They do not want to go to places in books.
They will not drive
in their molecule cars
those ridiculous cartoons.
Snow White’s Coffin
is an integrated radio and record player
that introduced Plexiglas to the domestic interior.
Relieve yourself of the excruciating clutter of the world
is what it says to you
everything you thought was being alive
is revealed as a problem
which can be solved by good design.
Kate Camp is the author of four collections of poetry from Victoria University Press: Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars, Realia, Beauty Sleep, and The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, which won the 2011 New Zealand Post Book Award for poetry. She was awarded the 2011 Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency, where she wrote her most recent collection Snow White’s Coffin, for publication in May 2013.
Camp comments: ‘One of my favourite places in Berlin is the Museum Der Dinge—the Museum of Things. It collects tens of thousands of objects: doll’s house furniture, china, soap, cell phones, mugs in the shape of breasts, even a velvet cushion bearing a portrait of Hitler. The latter was banned under the Nazis’ “anti-kitsch” laws which forbade the use of Nazi iconography on anything perceived as tacky.
‘Among the exhibits is a travelling exhibition from the 1910s, which showed Germans how to avoid committing “home horrors” by displaying replicas of tasteless interiors.
‘It was at the Museum Der Dinge that I discovered Schneewitchensarg, or Snow White’s Coffin, Braun’s iconic white and grey record player with its revolutionary Plexiglas lid.
‘German culture places such a high value on the intellect, and in my time there I thought a lot about this: how the intellect can be such a powerful expression of your humanity, but also a powerful way to deny it.’