Catherine Street

Sharp reports (2023)

There is a sweet, clarifying liquid
and a small growth, very fine and sheer and smooth
Reflecting the palest of colours
Sponginess, a fleck of semen and a soft foaming of bile
We witness the beauty of disease
the squandering of life’s time
A disaster frozen in novocaine
There is a machine for drilling into truth
and flexing the hardness of humanitarian intervention
Interior vaults, the automation of love and the redistribution of
time, an instrument of deferment
A diamond head biting at flesh, ripping at elastic tissues
brings us the new theatre of economy
Growth stemmed from feeling
slowly waiting to be seen
The act of looking fuses with the gut
An inflated bowel and flayed black kidney
Small spots, sound of footsteps and metallic pings, sacrifices to
the gods of focus
There are flipped morals, there is a breath there is a beat
a trembling voice over machine sounds
The almost human, the creaking life in science’s mausoleum
The history of knowledge squeezed into a woman’s body
A distilled longing for truth and possession
Giant tongues plying the glass
A cough, a spurt of life
A gentle pacing – tip tap – until it’s gone

About this work

Sharp Reports was written in the Surgeon’s Hall Museum in Edinburgh in response to the museum’s collection of awful but beautiful items, including hundreds of specimens of diseased body parts. Street’s spontaneous, bodily and associative style conveys the visual impact of these items, simultaneously surfacing ideas about the embodied mind through the lens of her own life and experiences of illness. The deliberately ambiguous title could be a sound—“reports” heard from gunfire—or a reference to “sharps” in a hospital and “reports” on the surveillance of illness.

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