BURNT CELLAR & HEART CELLAR
By Shastra Deo
29 October, 2019
Shastra Deo is Running Dog’s poet in residence for October and November.
Each month, a poet produces new work, which is distributed via Running Dog’s monthly newsletter—Stray. If you haven’t already, sign up to our newsletter.
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Paper fortune tellers have gone by many different names: chatterboxes, cootie catchers, paku-paku. Invert the fortune teller and it becomes a salt cellar, the voids for fingers now fit for holding salt. Salt cellar: domestic, ready to serve the hungry, to preserve and purify. Salt cellar: evocative of the deposits used to encase America’s nuclear waste—its nuclear history.
When images of my first ‘Salt Cellar’ were published in Baby Teeth Journal, I was concerned that, in unfolding, pulling apart, dismantling the salt cellar, I had somehow dismantled a potential future. So, in an attempt to ‘reactivate’ it, I invited Twitter users to play for their fortunes—I manually manipulated the device based on their choices and posted photos of the process. My hands, my phone camera as an extension of my hands, my Twitter account as an extension of my self.
Now, I have removed my physicality from the equation. ‘Burnt Cellar’ is a paper fortune teller minus the paper, delivered through Twine, while ‘Heart Cellar’ lives precariously as an Instagram story, requiring you to tap and hold your phone screen as appropriate. I collaborated with Talk to Transformer in writing the fortunes enclosed in ‘Burnt Cellar’ and ‘Heart Cellar’, but I will not clarify who (or what) wrote what. I simply don’t think it matters. Perhaps the digital apparatuses of play diminish my embodied role as paper-diviner; nonetheless, I am not absolved of responsibility.
Consider where, when, how, and who you are before consulting these new world prophets. Once you know what is to come, you cannot turn back.
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