14 March 2020
LISTEN: The Perfect Crime by Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross with musical accompaniment by Bog Myrtle
The Perfect Crime
I’ve heard of exactly two perfect crimes in my lifetime: the first, the strangulation of a fraudster on the run by their own pet boa constrictor; the second, the murder of a man by icicle.
The others are all imperfect.
The littlest known truth in the history of the world is that most crimes—and I mean, the imperfect ones—are born from a basic ignorance of poetry. This, from a man who did two years for a clumsy mountain of magic tricks before being released into the frigid air in nothing more than slippers and a prison robe. This, from a man who lost both his ears to frostbite right there at the bus stop—one ear, then the other—before being delivered into the wide open arms of the most innocent, loving, and unsuspecting librarian known to the history of libraries, what with her inky smile and half-dozen rooms bursting forth with poetry and fine classics so defined by the canon, all of it (her arms, the rooms, the books, the very concept of self-improvement) heated to the perfect temperature of kittens’ breath.
My librarian lover feeds me lines of poetry, thinking that poetry alone will satiate my hunger. Meanwhile, my craving for the perfect line makes me hungrier than I otherwise would have been. I’m so hungry in fact that my hunger has since grown into a painful welt in my side that makes it difficult to carry books from room to room. If only I had a little bit of money, a little bit of bread to eat, I could repair the hole and become a great reader, a great intellectual. My lover, at least, wants me to believe in this possibility.
But I’m wretched and dispossessed, always will be, like they told me, and when I throw my fist into the window of a car to snatch yesterday’s forgotten stale bread, I have the cleanest delivery in the history of the world, leaving no glass for the innocents to tread barefoot into. I sneak out in the night and heap crime upon crime, each one more perfect than the last. Meanwhile, my librarian lover states publicly that I am not capable, and points to another, less-literate suspect. “No one who reads poetry would commit such a crime!” she cries, desperate and unbelieving. Now I want not only money and bread, but also literary acclaim.
Some years pass in the quietude of fireside reading, writing, and petty crime. I am famous, for a time, while the less-literate subject does two years for never stealing yesterday’s forgotten bread and grows ever hungrier for a more righteous plot.
It isn’t until one snowy evening in late February that I finally meet my fate. Stuck straight through the heart by a blade of ice, the likes of which is never found; the bloodstained book vanished from my lap. The less-literate subject escapes through the window and becomes a great writer of poetry. The librarian, mourning, reads these books but refuses to see them for their honest, innovative forms.
Who knows what poetry achieves? My only hope is that, with this new knowledge, you, too, might write the perfect line —
You, too, can commit the perfect crime.
—Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross
Installation views: Vicissitudes: Act Three, Commissioned by Mercer Union, 2019. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
SPACE invites one artist to produce a yearlong series of images for a public-facing billboard located on the east façade of Mercer Union. Erdem Taşdelen’s Vicissitudes: Act Three (2019) is the third edition in a series of four billboard images commissioned by Mercer Union. An accompanying text written by Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross can be found above.
Erdem Taşdelen is a Turkish-Canadian artist who lives and works in Toronto. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions internationally and across Canada, most recently at venues including Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen (2019); VOX Centre de l’image contemporaine, Montreal (2018); Pera Museum, Istanbul; Or Gallery, Vancouver (2017); Museum für Neue Kunst, Freiburg (2016). Taşdelen has been awarded the Joseph S. Stauffer Prize in Visual Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts (2016), the Charles Pachter Prize for Emerging Artists by the Hnatyshyn Foundation (2014), and was long-listed for the Sobey Art Award in 2019.
Jacquelyn Zong-Li Ross is a writer based in Vancouver. Her fiction, poetry, essays and art criticism have appeared in BOMB, Mousse, Fence, C Magazine, Kijiji and elsewhere, and her chapbooks include Mayonnaise and Drawings on Yellow Paper. She publishes books by emerging artists and writers under the small press Blank Cheque, and is currently at work on a novel and a collection of short stories.
Image: Erdem Taşdelen, detail from Vicissitudes: Act Three, 2019. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto.