Three Experimental Pieces — Chris Campanioni

Screen Play

Start with an apartment, just like any apartment. A chair that’s not for sitting. A settee that sighs when you sit on it, arms and a back tattooed with letters, half-written or ripped in parts.


                     the time of day for listening to jazz and

  opening up all the windows to see   

                     Don’t be a stranger!

                                                         touching, it almost made me

 for only five pesos too, or if you put on your best smile and ask

                                                                  what I mean to say, it’s as if

never considered I’d actually

                    remember when you invited us to

                                                                                                                help, if you can

 throw my head back and sigh, or sing a little something

                    perfect—just perfect! I couldn’t have asked for a better

 time of day for listening to nothing, just to sit around and think in silence, you know? I couldn’t believe

I never thought to

                                                                                      feel like you missed out on something, or maybe only


Bottom of the pool stillness. Deep end stillness. Hollowed out, like a toothache, before the volume kicks in.

Feel it in the eardrums like the pop of a toy pistol. Louder, more shrill than a live one. And now, feel everything.

Footsteps and furniture moving, badly-dubbed voices through walls, half-heard music, doorknobs rolling in the breeze—use your imagination—somewhere else

The sky was so blue I thought it was your jeans. Blue jeans blue. So real it looked fake, staged. I almost

Said it too, but you caught me. Lying, half-blinded. The sun was knives, slipping in between the spaces of skin and self, and whatever else shredded the shadows through screens, when our lips joined

We dropped, sliding under and through and onto the bed I paid extra for. A zipper moving mingled with the sound of passing cars. Unless it was only passing cars, revolving around the corner like a carousel. I couldn’t see a thing but I could picture it, your hair stuck to my cheeks, bone-blushed and glistening in the strobe above the mattress. Without my eye

Glasses everything looked like a stroke trembling underwater. Like nervous hands. Like hands holding a tray of flutes filled way too high. At a party in which everyone knows each other and nobody talks. Rushed. Blurred. The time it takes to develop

A memory. Afterward

We watched a true crime on the black box blaring in and out between black and white and Technicolor, the sound muted in places, too loud in others. I’m just a real person

In a movie, you said. And we laughed because you’d forgotten to turn

On the recording.

Rules to Love By

  1. Listen to The Submarines for the first time after some casualty

So much to sift through, you hardly ever noticed

  1. Note the similarities between the girl singing

& how you remember your lover’s voice

  1. Use the names of each song for your own liner notes

Where You Are, Anymore, Shoelaces

Occasionally untied as you trip over your doubts

Each word & syllable too

  1. Make a prompt, contain yourself

Within the confines of rules, parameters, refrains

An obligation to create

As other things & people recede

  1. Admit the obvious: desire + fear

So many whispers on the inside of each eyelid

Which never really fade

I could still surprise you

  1. Imagine your favorite café

Dutch puff as soft as your lover’s palms

The smell of jasmine & toast

  1. Put yourself there
  1. Put the sun there
  1. Put some music there

Music for Films

Music for Airports

Music for Break-Ups

Missed connections

  1. Where would you be without a sense of longing

Or belonging to something outside yourself?

  1. Make a list in your mind & write it down
  1. Steal a ginger candy from the bar & say

The thrill is enough


Focal Points

I’d been watching it for weeks, taking notes, pretending to play it back in bed or brushing teeth. A boy stands beside his image, all grown up & muscular in the mirror. I drank all the milk in the carton too. I’d been diligent, searching for any signs each time I swallowed. I was born so small, barely visible. I was born breathless, incapable of breathing on my own. I often think of these fingerprints, traces, impressions left by friction ridges, things I’d seen between the show. So much can be learned in 35-second increments. I’m writing this with my thumbs.

people say it works

taking care for later

safe and fast

3 inches in 5 days

your network is growing

how are you?

what is your name?

i am looking

for a serious, long-term

deal of the day

i am in need of

your assistance

i’ve been abducted

to take a chance on love

and really see me for who i am

quick and pain-free

pay up front

advance your career

to view this in


click here

Like a picture where the focal point is the cut-out image, some kind of emptiness, discarded pieces, the halo of expectation or only what’s been missing, I’d stare into space at the dinner table. Even at the age of five, when I was eight, when I was nine. Take a look. Look long enough, you’ll see it too. My mother, my father, the whole world wide web of iterations, the ghost behind each motion. Haunted from an early age. I’d ask if it’d be best to go back two or three years’ past, weighing what I’ve done since then against trying to do the same again. So simple. I could get lost like that. I could so easily lose myself in a thread of letters addressed to someone without a name.

it is my pleasure to

find out more

you’ll never believe

your last chance

it ends today

dear valued candidate

like us now

please share this

don’t get left behind

I never learned to blow a bubble, how to wink, or whistle with my fingers between my lips. I thought it best to watch, or what I told myself on dead-end afternoons, standing idly, hands at my side, wondering what it’d be like to be someone else. I’d practice playing dead or how to disappear in snow, arms folded across my chest before I spread my wings. I was still learning how to be myself, what it meant to be.


I’d been watching it for weeks. People say it works, taking notes, pretending to play it back, taking care for later, in bed or brushing teeth. Safe and fast. A boy stands beside his image, 3 inches in 5 days, all grown up & muscular. Your network is growing in the mirror. I drank all the milk in the carton too. How are you? I’d been diligent, searching what is your name? For any signs each time I swallowed. I am looking. I was born so small, a serious, long-term, barely visible deal of the day. I was born breathless. I am in need of your assistance, incapable of breathing. I’ve been abducted on my own to take a chance on love. I often think and really see me for who I am, these fingerprints. Quick and pain free traces, pay up front impressions left by friction ridges. Advance your career. Things I’d seen to view this in between the show, enlargements. So much can be learned in 35-second increments. Click here. Like a picture. It is my pleasure to cut-out image. Find out more, some kind of emptiness, you’ll never believe again. So simple. Your last chance, I could get lost like that. It ends today. I could so easily lose myself. Don’t get left behind in a thread of letters. Like us now, addressed to someone.

Please share this without a name.

Chris Campanioni is a first-generation Cuban- and Polish-American. He has worked as a journalist, model, and actor, and he teaches literature and creative writing at Baruch College and new form journalism at John Jay. He was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize in 2013 for his collection, In Conversation, and his novel, Going Down, was selected as Best First Book for the 2014 International Latino Book Awards. He is also the author of Once in a Lifetime, a book of poems from Berkeley Press. Find him in space at and @chriscampanioni or in person, somewhere between Brooklyn Bridge Park and Barclays Center.

Image: bored at the vieques airport, © matt, Creative Commons.