WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT YOKO ONO
1. A Tinder date steps into my living room and notices the Yoko Ono poster on the wall.
I listen for the tone, but can’t quite hear it. I turn his way. There it is. In the face. I don’t need to ask. I already know what he meant I ask anyway.
‘What do you mean?
‘I mean, are you kidding?’
I wait for what I know will come next.
‘What good’s she done? Shriek at an audience? Break up The Beatles?’
2. My brother and my best friend are immediately across from one another. Play It By Trust (1966/2011) is between them. It’s a uniform white chess set. I watch them play, my eyes occasionally darting across the room to watch Cut Piece (1965), which is being projected across two blank walls, adjacent to one another. I’ve never known how to play chess. Yet somehow everything in the room feels familiar.
3. At fifteen or sixteen, all I have of Yoko is a faint recollection of the cartoon version of her that appears in an episode of The Simpsons. ‘I’d like a single plum soaking in perfume, served in a man’s hat.’ I like The Beatles in high school. I vaguely understand her relationship with John. I know that I’m not meant to like Yoko, so I don’t. I don’t really know why. I just know that I don’t.
4. I start experiencing anxiety symptoms for the first time at eighteen. I learn to calm myself down by pressing my back to the ground and staring straight up. I think about A Hole To See The Sky Through (1971) until I feel myself resettle.
5. I move into a new place. I’m given a rushed period of time to gather my things and begin to worry that I might have lost my Yoko poster in the move – I can’t find it amidst the boxes.
6. I pull out my copy of Grapefruit (1964) for every poetry assessment throughout my degree. Tutors ask me who I aspire to be. I say Yoko. Yoko, Yoko, Yoko. They ask me why, and I respond by pulling pages out of the book – they speak for themselves more eloquently than I ever could for them.
7. I’m a blue willow plate broken into four pieces. Jagged and nervous. I am whole if you let me be, but probably not best to eat off.
8. It’s 2013 and I’ve taken my dad to see War is Over (if you want it!). I’ve been before but it’s his first time. I try to use my iPhone camera to take a photo of the WE’RE ALL WATER (2015) installation, but can’t quite capture it. Dad suggests I lie down on the ground next to the work. I ask him why; he says something about all images being better with a person in play.
9. Can I exist without response? I might be a blank wall, a pile of pens, a stack of posted notes – hoping that someone will feel the need to communicate, engage, touch.
10. I visit my brother interstate. One night, he goes to stay at his girlfriend’s place, so I opt for his empty bed over the couch. I see the poster I thought I had lost, up beside his bed. There’s a large tear in the middle, nearly splitting it in two. He’s stuck it back together with Blue Tac. I sleep well.
11. Later, as we’re leaving the museum, I ask my dad to stand next to Apple, 1966. I pull my phone out for a photo. He pretends to take a bite.
12. Can we pull the sky back together again? Keep the pieces in your wallet. Stitch in the lining twice as tight.
‘What do you mean?’
Madalyn Trewin is a writer currently based in Canberra. Her work pokes into ideas of process, gesture and performativity. She has recently embraced the term ‘poet’ when describing herself to other people.