from SMOKEPENNY LYRICHORD HEAVENBRED; Or, Past years / By constant penetration / Encroaching on the reserve

Jennifer Scappettone

The book in progress from which this fragment hails began when I discovered that the copper-rod mill across the street from my childhood home on Long Island, whose unregulated dumping practices were in great part responsible for the community’s cancer cluster, had extracted and smelted its copper in the Peruvian Andes—through decades of labor manipulation that led the area of origin to be listed among the world’s most polluted sites. Digging into corporate reports, I also learned that the mill had provided the electrical wire for the World Trade Center. The text tries and sometimes fails to track the circuitry of copper extraction undergirding contemporary telecommunications & the so-called cloud.

This libretto for virtually sung dialogue between the characters I and O deploys the bizarre lexicon of telegraph codebooks devised for mining corporations at the turn of the 20th century, whose code words encrypt the links between bodies, ore, and the market (“WHITENESSING” is the code word for “wiring,” for instance, “LYRICHORD” for “by constant penetration,” “INTRUSIVE” for “native”)—clarifying how telegraphic technology was used to control the laboring populations who made it possible. Code words throughout the text are distinguished by appearing in all caps; their decoded meanings subsequently appear in italics.

It was performed at the Poetry Foundation with collaborator and code/performance artist Judd Morrissey on March 1, 2018, with augmented and virtual reality movements by Judd Morrissey and Abraham Avnisan and sound by Mark Booth (in concert with Ellen Rothenberg’s exhibition at the Spertus Institute, “ISO 6346: ineluctable immigrant”).

Readers of these Acts will find themselves immersed in the menacing compounds of
Moreing & Neal’s New General & Mining Telegraph Code (London: 1891), a sort of READYMADE: as mentioned above, code words from Moreing appear in ALL CAPS; their decoded meanings appear in italic font. Standard Roman letters are the author’s impositions. Special thanks to John Milton for the cameo.



ACT II: THE UPPER PORTION OF LIBERTY

I and O enter, decoding letter by letter the Morse code for the words TEEMING SHORE.

O: Analyses of impurities in two samples of the Statue skin
I: suggest that the copper used in the upper portion of Liberty,
O: rich in arsenic, could have come from Spain
I: or the mining district of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,
O: and that that of the lower portion, containing selenium and tellurium,
I: could have its source in the Rocky Mountains of Montana,
O: or the Andes. “this new image…would…disclose the fact
I: “that this piece of ‘immovable property’
O: “is actually a two-faceted machine
I: “analogous to an active body.”

O:
READYMADE:


I:
Telegraph by Moreing’s New General and Mining Code

I:
O

O:
GRINDERY


I:
Liberty
Scaled by way of pipes, gears and sprinted July

O:
COWORKERS GRINDLET

I:
Dollars in cash / Have perfect liberty to

ABALIENATE SUBWORKER

O:
Will abandon / 975

I:
WORKERS

O:
London & San Francisco Bank, Limited

I:
Polishing their lungs by dark at the adit drain and the

O:
GRINDSTONE

I:
Must have liberty to
DISBOWEL

O:
The tunnel to be extended by INVALOROUS

I:
Native miners in
AUTOCRAT BREECHBAND

O:
Badly worked / Combination of workmen
Tired, poor, SHUDDERING


I:
Copper wire
INVESTMENT—

O:
We have a good deal of difficulty with the natives—

I:
ILLGOT;

O:
The miners here are a lawless set, and likely to give much trouble;

I:
ILLLIVED MIDHEAVEN UDDERED

O:
The mineral zone of / The mines is producing / 1650 / tons per week

I:
DEATHTHROE

O:
Endeavoring to raise capital

I:
(IREFUL

O:
Not near enough)

I:
DARKSOME

O:
Natives are employed

I:
TOILWORM DISAVOWAL HICCUPING

O:
$19,500 / To extend / Market spirited, owing to receipt of foreign orders

I:
AUTOCRATIC
ALIENS

O:
Have been badly worked
Will not affect us in any way

I:
GODDESSES GRIPEPENNY BLOODYHAND

O:
Leaving / Liberty to act as / Change for the worse / thinks proper;
FATLUTE BLOODYFLUX BLUETHROAT

I:
There is great reason to fear / Change for the better / Will be cheaper

O:
It is CICATRICLE DISUNITED
DODECANDER FASCIALIS

I:
It is Dangerous to delay / Until identified
Owing to the fiery nature of the seams / Blocked for many months by the ice

O:
REAFFOREST
CHUCKLING GREATLY

I:
Telegraph width of vein
Damage / Level has again entered a body of

O:
LIBERTY DISESTEEMING of BYGONES

I:
Can our / Facilities for exploration of Lead in concentrates

O:
GRINDLET

I:
Have perfect liberty to
Leach the new colossal give me

O:
Huddled JEWSTRUMP

I:
Nominate
TRUMPERY POMP

O:
Running at a speed of / 291 / strokes per minute
With a Wal-Mart torch’s brandishing

I:
MANHATER CYMBAL

O:
It will be seen upon the plan sent / After the elections

I:
FATBRAINED FELONWORT

O:
Astonished at the apparent ignorance of / The impending lawsuit

I:
FATHERLY GAMELAWS POLLUTED

O:
Idle / To do justice to / Special reason

I:
LAWABIDING
ALIENISM COMPASSION

O:
Has discovered a good body of pay ore
Will not affect / A full description of the property

I:
INDIGENOUS GREEDYGUT

O:
Money is easy / Has levied

I:
TRANSEARTH

O:
$7,400,000

I:
INSOUL IMMINGLING

O:
Please wire at once your movements / How many revolutions per minute

I:
PROLEFIED

O:
Strike a rich body of ore

I:
ABASHMENT

O:
Before we abandon

ESTEEMING WRETCH WOMANTIRED

I:
Before you have / London and South African Exploration Company, Limited / Pulleys to be plated

O:
PROLEPTICS

I:
Miners have struck for less hours

O:
WRETCHEDLY NOMADA

I:
Metropolitan Contract Corporation / Has refused

NOHOW

O:
Reason why you should refuse

ILLBLOOD NOISEFUL AMASSMENT

I:
Miners / Will not refuse / By this agreement

O:
SKEGSHORE

I:
From the surface workings

FORESHORE

O:
Insurrection

By LONGSHORE

I:
Can you send me the names of the interested parties

By

ESTEEMING   FORESHORE:

O:
Before you have             Insurrection

I:
LAZARHOUSE MARCHWARD

O:
Number of tons of first-class ore is / Poorer

I:
LAZARISTS MARCIDITY

O:
Number of tons of second-class ore is / Poorer and poorer

I:
LAZARLIKE

Number of tons of third-class ore is

O:
TRUPENNY

I:
286:

O:
A Lazar-house it seemd, wherein were laid
Numbers—

I:
BRUSHORE—

O:
In the hands of a company.



The work for this issue was enhanced by archival research and fieldwork conducted in the copper country of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula; many thanks to the kind industrial archaeologists, oral historians, and geologists who shared their knowledge of the area.

Jennifer Scappettone works at the confluence of the literary, visual, and scholarly arts. Her poetry volumes include SMOKEPENNY LYRIICHORD HEAVENBRED: Two Acts (2017), The Republic of Exit 43: Outtakes & Scores from an Archaeology and Pop-Up Opera of the Corporate Dump (2016), and From Dame Quickly (2009).  She is also the author of Killing the Moonlight: Modernism in Venice, editor of PennSound | Italiana, and translator of the award-winning collection Locomotrix, a volume of selected poetry and prose by the poet-refugee from Fascist Italy, Amelia Rosselli.

Read next: Issue no. six fiction section


Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.