The Patchwork Compendium

Dedicatory Remarks

I build a monolith of my sister’s arms, her hips, her teeth, her ears. An anthology of body parts, a patchwork compendium.

As you climb, you will find that I have incised a may-or-maybe memory into each part and molded each from scale model casts of my sister’s body, smuggled from the morgue with her consent. I make no excuses. I do not evade arrest. This monolith is my advocate.



“We know the flesh only through his bones, the bones he cloaks in putrid clothes,” intones Bar Shibli of the man they flayed against the Weirding Creed of God, his skinless master-martyr Hallaj. According to the chain of transmission which begins with Karnaba’i, Shibli stole what remained of Hallaj from the Queen-Mother’s museum of schismatic heads and entrusted it to the Remnant hiding in Khorasan, and it is said the head will never rot. As for Shibli “he made a prayer mat from his master’s flesh.”


Patchwork #0: Muqaddimah

I wonder, comcestral niece or great-granddaughter who read this inscription, if you know the word maquette, a word in the ancient patois-melange cognate with the Italian bozzetto of our Recombinant Mothers, a preparatory model for a sculpture or, in other contexts, the twisted helices, a tremulous sketch of blood. It would do reverence to your own Blood to look up these words before climbing on. Remember, one day your bodies too may loom here with the rest of us.


Patchwork #GNRH1: The Scale Model

On her deathbed, #252 of 500 crowdfunded hospital tombs, I heard my sister paraphrase Proust. “The sculptor is tidying up.” And then, perplexed. “The sculptor forgot the tits.”


Patchwork #Msx2: Our Ladyneck of Worms

She is a budding taxidermist and she has found a headless bird with a maggot-neck of worms. A maggot is a breeding tomb; these cadavers give birth to flies.

Death does not bother her. What bothers her is that these maggots have vandalized the bird’s final art, which the bird had sacrificed its life to sculpt. 

Yi-Shuen grinds her teeth, flips the bird with a spatula into a ragged shoe, flicks the maggots into a pot of boiling coffee, skins and sprinkles borax on the feathers. She saves and stuffs eighteen birds that summer, one rose-finch, three starlings and other names which I would only recall years later when I took up bird watching in locales beyond the reach of cellphone towers to forestall a second intimation of divorce.


Patchwork #20E: Indulgences

“Death bothers me,” she confesses to the stars.

She hunches her shoulders inwards as though she had butterfly wings vast enough to engulf herself and engender a kinder metamorphosis.


Patchwork #TBX4: Shahada

The fifty-fifth rak’ah and worming circumambulation rubs her belly raw.

“Com-passio-nate thy supplicant, Holy Worm which grows inside the Worm, Hole which grows inside the Hole.” She worships. No one will think to connect this invocation and apostasy with her idolatrous body-mods.


Patchwork #18.01528: The Book of Water

Man is but a book of water,” according to the antique ‘Phrase Book of Innocuous Body Language.’ Correct, but hyperbolic according to the latest science. 

Of other people we only know their drier parts. And since we have found no Rosetta stone for “reading” human H20, I should forgive myself for how little I knew about my sister.


Patchwork #C5orf50: The Headless Head

For Halloween my sister dresses up as a headless David Hume. It’s the year before she abandons me and switches majors from philosophy to biology (having dropped taxidermy, age 16, as a “bit too goth”). Like all biologists she will be a tragic failure, unable to put the fundamental axiom of her own death to the test.

The costume is a tight fit.

“Please don’t goose-step on our cat,” I admonish as Yi-Shuen stumbles blindly. Our cat is less cat and more basic parlor tiger who does her best to simulate a big game hunter rug.

I see a girlike indentation through the neoprene neck. The indentation scowls. I think maybe she is not quite getting the effect she sought.

David Hume, let us not forget, was a philosopher of the World Before who denied the “I” (playfully, his enemies accuse) and advocated what Bint Mithana calls ‘bundle theory’ which reduces the human mind to a plantlike array of sensors lacking any sense of self. Conspiratorially, Hume has been opposed by those I like to call dharmic materialists who think that you and I are only the residual slime of the real world as it slugs on by, with solipsists as a nervous buffer state between these two philosophic Powers.


Patchwork #31: Beat Off

The Akhuan Institute has just denied her first research grant, but she twerks her neck sedately to some chillhop music. Characteristically her tantrum is days late in arriving. She always seems to act/react in the past, making cutting ripostes only after all the other banterers have moved on to other jokes, staring color-blind (she was never color-blind) at traffic lights before finally hitting the gas, swatting xenophobically at flies who had long since emigrated to foreign noses. And if this makes sense: ducking a basketball that has already hit her in the nose.


Patchwork #Hs 738: The Host As Appetizer

I see a drooling mouth attached to a starving woman. 

When her cancer spread from missing breasts to throat, even her own saliva burned like a lava flow. But her salivary glands continued to secrete with undiminished hope.

At last she decided to stop swallowing and let her mouth overflow and river down her chin and chest and make a marsh between her toes. Hunger did its digestive work.

I had just returned from the store with more painkillers or placebos. When I saw her, I was encouraged. She seemed the fattest I had seen her in many months.


Patchwork #p63: Mao for Precocious Grades 3 – 12

I see the spongy lips of Mao Zedong chirping aphorisms, as his crony Chou En-Lai twitters madrigals in praise of ditch diggers filling mass bougie graves.

I point these resemblances out to my sister who raises her fist in response.

Of course she is the opposite of a mass murderer. She has a surgeon’s hands, not pampered knockoff peasant hands spilling red ink on death warrants, pruning the nation as a gardener, with juicy gloves, snips undesired stems from a tomato plant.


She’s scheduled another struggle session, as I lounge in the other bed, knees crossed in faux sit-up stance, recounting fangirl filtered synopses of YA novels she does not allow herself to buy, omitting all plot details in favor of shipping character X and Y with the algebraic zeal of an al-Khwarizmi plagiarizing Hindu numerals. Meanwhile, Yi-Shuen breaks from protozoa to study chromatids, from chromatids to poring (sweaty hands; nerve problems) over cartoony coils of mRNA, stopping only to transcompose her self-made lesson plans into mimetic songs which she will gargle dusk to dawn in counterpoise to scenes of pixelated refugiados trudging down a trail of terrazzo tears blazing from our grandparent’s fritzy qamariyya storyglass window.


Patchwork #46: Excerpt From the Phrase Book of Innocuous Body Language

“Crestrisen eyebrows indicate boredom waterlogged by a lusty flood.” It was somehow appropriate that they never hooked up. She’d rather he drown, and self-reject, then have what she could never want.


Patchwork #88: The Finishing Touch

I cannot kiss her forehead because in a moment this forehead will no longer belong to her. 

She is the shapeshifting sculptor of cursed power, with godlike control over every cell until 1 + that final moment dividing down to neverness. In neverness she cannot even touch herself.


Patchwork #17: Chicken in D Minor

When I asked her what she was listening to she replied, sticking her ragtag elbows out and pecking at the ground. “Bach, Bach,” her favorite composer. “He’s named after a chicken’s cluck.” Snooty chickens, I guess, but at six years old I took her at her bock-bock word.


Patchwork #NaN: The Gaybee Factory

The sign hanging across her chest reads “Open for Business.” Today she is a “gaybee factory” with fists on what she calls her “queer-bearing” hips, inversion of her bully’s “child-queering” taunt.


Patchwork #26: The Talkative Butter Knife

She is reading a butter knife, with which a little while ago she feigned to “cut away” her missing breasts. I think it’s a junk design for decorating genuine silverware, but she runs her fingers over it with all the ecstasy of an archaeologist decrypting crusted hieroglyphics for the blind.


Patchwork #A-43818: The Twisted Helices

After the mastectomy, she lapsed into a morphine dream for several hours. At around the fourth canon-hour, she awoke. I cradled her as she cried. “I’m a biologist, nature’s goddamn gift to life, but I can’t even prove I’m going to die…”

It was of the utmost significance, as deep an omen as any bloodied wolf-cub to our Conscript Fathers, that she came across that Proustian line shortly after. The line reiterated her only failing as a brilliant young biologist. She could not, being dead, falsify her own death and thus her courage failed, and thus her faith in science died.


Patchwork #A-43818: Addendum

We need not verify death. As Edward Young remarks. “All men believe all men mortal but themselves.”


Patchwork #PITX1: Buckshot Elegy 

We park by the side of the road to infiltrate a PSC wheat field and record some parasite blog footage with the microcam, but most of it is pretty boring, except the aphids zeroing their cornicles, anti-predator wax launchers which fail to fend off the Nom Nom ladybugs.

Yi-Shuen is hobbling, but only when I go to dump the bathing basin do I see the blood. She admits, under interrogation, that private service commune Farmer Shang’s buckshot had “just” grazed her ankle, digging a canal straight through our family mark, a double flap of batwing flab, a wound which darkens in putschy shades of learlike purple for several months.


Arreshy Young’s work has appeared in The Ex-Puritan, Western Humanities Review, Carousel, Midway Journal, and the monomers of the Ajami Private Diction. His favorite chapter is Chapter 8. His hot sauce of choice is forever dribbling onto his favorite page. He has maxed out his credit cards buying fresh copies from profiteering book publishers who insist on selling him the 323 other superfluous pages.