I Live in a Halter,

and So Do You


Martina Montelius


A moral halter, a trailer halter, an oxygen halter, a bacon halter, a texting halter, an arterial plaque halter, a specially decorated halter for the illusion that is love, a spiffy halter for hysterical blindness, psychosocial paralysis, tacky cruise ships, casket sprays. We have walk-in closets with halters all lined up, hanging off of fish hooks attached to velvet drapes. We have nosebleeds. Red is a pretty colour. You can draw pictures. Mrs. Claus breastfeeds an elf. He burps and shits so adorably in his frightfully tight leggings with the pricks on the inside. Babykins munches Mama Claus all up. If he gets any tissue caught in his throat, we whip out the mucus pump. It’s all good.

I’m going to tell you how it’s done: you strap on the halter so tight that it cuts of all blood flow to the brain, and your brain sprouts wings and breaks free from the endless toil of deciding when to spray-paint the tiling, breed teat sucklers, gobble a knob. The choking reflex, the gag reflex, the cramping reflex: all gone. Instead: nothing but colours. The words get all jumbled, and become untranslatable. Your language is yours alone. You are your own burning shroud. An electrical storm passing through the layers of ice, all alone.

The trick is to dissolve the barrier that separates myself from everything else. Transform it from uteral wall to Alka-Seltzer. It’s all in the under-currents of the language, and of the images. They are the top-secret miniature doorway at the back of your throat, the tiny chicken-skinned dimple between your thumb and index finger, reaching further under your eyeball than any bitten-off fingernail ever could.

There, in the pus-filled recess left by the heaviest whip, you might find yourself suddenly giggling. And see a cruise ship puffing along. The smoke that billows from the phallic chimneys draws pictures of cervical mouths in the sky. Spit drips off the railing. A crippled man pisses into the plumbing. A child wails unceasingly, for it has lost its spleen in the booze bucket. But oh do I board the ship, oh do I board it. Beware of this ship–beware!–for nobody wants to return once their own electrical storm has started to mate with the greater one, the infinite one. The skull opens up, and every last embryo meanders out from within, spitting and quacking, their knickers around their ankles, all shrivelled up and wildened by a thousand rotted spasms of grief, and yet, alive.

Each half-formed thought, broken until its steaming bones reach beyond the layers of flesh, calling for dear old pappy’s veiny shithole, each thought of that ilk, entertained only until the laundry room is close to deadlocked and the salmon steak becomes indistinguishable from your best friend’s ashes, each thought of this ilk hurling itselfover the granite spare tires of the ship like spurts of vomit from a dying calf, hollering and emitting arias of distilled, pathological bliss as they clamber across the chewed-up skyline of the city, the toasting marketing professors in the hovering bar suspect that someone might have spiked their mojitos with wormwood,the intestine makes itself felt, the symptoms, the symptoms, did we accidentally eat gluten, but no, it’s you, it’s your own humanity that blemishes their fields of vision, you have to exhale it all over them, your mango puree-stained humanity, each and every individual with a Swarovski-adorned snout

Ryan McGinley, Tree Hugger, 2017, C-print, Edition of 3, 40,5 x 61 cm

Ryan McGinley, Tree Hugger, 2017, C-print, Edition of 3, 40,5 x 61 cm

Ryan McGinley, Descending Dock, 2017, C-print, Edition of 3,    40,5 x 61 cm

Ryan McGinley, Descending Dock, 2017, C-print, Edition of 3,  40,5 x 61 cm


who has dug through your mind with catheters and icing tips, your itchy-fingered life mate, your sex-crazed headshrink, your strung-out nanny, wrap them all up in your guts, roll them out like dough, make little gingerbread men out of gall, and cream, and send them out into the universe that seems so wondrous to infantile souls, make them into cheesy decorations along the narrow hem that surrounds the underworld, hell, the ultimate colonic stretch of confinement, disappointment, and disgust that is existence.

That is the true face of freedom. That is the whole point of the coercion, the hatred, the ever-unfinished mammography in which your will is the teat, your broken corns and your exposed acne vulgaris–they are fertilizer, performance-enhancing substances, spears through your pork belly, penetrating your body, forcing it to abandon itself and hurl its mass along a wide-ranging arc above the non-smoking workplaces and the perfumed thigh bones, towards the taut ocean surface, and split it, so that you might become a sadistic amphibian, forever moving about under the water ceiling, contaminating all ocean life, cruel and unreasonable as a wife-abuser, a marauder, a vindictive teat suckler with fangs each a full yard long.

The words, the images, the senseless gestures, which get the plebs to wrinkle their gold-plated beaks with pork-cheek details in disgust, these are the only pieces of paraphernalia that will keep your anger from turning into an overcooked vine dolma in a mixture made from the mother’s milk of the oldest of doves.

This is an alarm. You’re stuck inside a burning building. You are a burning building. You have to transmogrify your molecules or be consumed by the fire. You’re the one who has to grasp it. You’re the one who has to grasp the fire, between your itsy-bitsy fingers, gently smiling you will have to grasp it and insert it into your wailing nostrils with a poison-dipped cotton swab, all the way to the little cottage of your brain, to set fire to it, and toss it into the swirling waters like a toaster into a bathtub.

Please begin.

Martina Montelius is a writer and director of Teater Brunnsgatan Fyra in Stockholm. Her latest novel is “Ibland är man lessen, ibland är man glad” (2017)