Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship – Ruby Hillsmith

Hot Desk Extract: three approaches to mem*ry


Check out details about these Wheeler Centre fellowships here: HOT DESK FELLOWSHIPSRUBY HILLSMITH

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Ruby Hillsmith worked on Little Islands, Dead Sea, a multi-genre project exploring emotion, memory and psychiatry. This excerpt, ‘three approaches to mem*ry’, interrogates the foibles/fables/fractures/failures inherent to her own practice of memory.



i feel the hot/shock of the silver hook

and nurse it for a little while

before i even check—(which bastard’s 

reeling in the fishing line?)

and that’s just the curse of mem*ry: 

sometimes it turns the gut 

                    before the throat 

                         before the eye

(that one delinquent pupil always seems to trail behind)

and now i want to give up history,

the pit of broken glass

i drag my fingers through 

         (and then revise, each

tiny prick a patient under mem*ry’s super/vision)

to get a job on neighbours: chief amnesiac, 

a girl and her huge plot hole.


i cross the border without breaking

mem*ry’s autocratic state.

the body keeps the score, and

melbourne’s nice, it’s just another place 

to drag the chariot, 

          to blather on and on before 

old visions come in threes—still

there is the mosquito bite i pick until it bleeds,

currents gripping me


mangroves twisting like a mess of snakes towards the sun.

i hire a dodgy contractor to start the demolition—

he says grief is an expan$ive lot to be developed

into westconnex and reams of wet cement 

(that you can barely press your palms against 

         without a fine)


mem*ry arrives, again———(((as if it bears repeating)))


       impudent in a cowboy hat, 

worn tracksuit  

dyed a fetching shade of pink—


mem*ry has to change a bit each time it’s resurrected,

so you’ve burned through all your outfits pretty quick—

and all at once I beg the past 

to skim my chest

without incision,

indifferent as a bar of motel soap—

(((but))) suddenly the faucet turns           

(((and))) someone’s calling down the hall

(((like))) slash the ribbons, hurry on 

short of a witness———mem*ry’s gone———