Percussion Grenade: Or, Persephone: Suicide Bomber; Or, Sound as Violence

by on Jun.19, 2012


Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova, 17. Teenage widow and suicide bomber.

The Argument:

My late book, Percussion Grenade, is a book of poems-for-performance, which is to say that they are supposed to have a very overt sound structure to either thump the listener on her head (anaphora) or tangle her up in knots of sound (assonance/alliteration) so that she becomes totally ensnared in the poem’s sonic loops and suspended in its time signature.

Sound is a kind of violence– it touches and changes the air.

Police in Chicago were equipped with acoustic or ultrasonic weapons which damage or rupture the eardrum and incapacitate the target.

Hearing damage is the No. 1 disability in the war on terror, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The word for ‘grenade’ comes from the Old French for ‘pomegranate.’

‘Pomegranate’ is also the fruit of the underworld; when Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds, she had to stay in Hades six months of the year.

Now Persephone is the percussion grenade, she has the pomegranate seeds inside her.

Persephone as suicide bomber, whose body, per Jasbir Puar, is a costume and a weapon. She goes up to earth in Springtime to ruin the spring– to ruin Ceres, to strafe the land with sound, to make it hybrid, to ruin sincerity.

Persphone, from, person: a bomb: a mask:

Person: early 13c., from O.Fr. persone “human being” (12c., Fr. personne), from L. persona “human being,” originally “character in a drama, mask,” possibly borrowed from Etruscan phersu “mask

Persephone, a bomb dressed in sound.


The Poem:

Here’s what passes for a ‘narrative’ poem for me- it’s a Persephone poem. The Chechnyan teenage widow suicide bomber ( that’s her in the photograph above). She comes up to the city, brings spring and her body-as-bomb. It’s also a necropastoral. It’s a bomb exploding in CGI– slowly. The first stanza ends with four line misquote from Sarah Palin (Per NYT: “So you,” she told a young woman who risked her life to save a stranger, “having a kind of a downer day being in a valley, to then have been at this peak now, Angelica, because of your selfless action.” “So kudos to you and thank you so much.”}– a typically garbled transmission.


Arcadia (Post-Caucasia) For the Caucasian Dead

Harsher severer crueler

And just all that shit you were pulling trying to go viral

Honest normal

Overwhelming majority and perfectly decent

Very sensitive

So having a downer day being in this valley, but now having kind of a peak

thanks to your selfless action,


Thanks to your self esteem



Where comments have been disabled

Where contaminants, contents

and laminates shed

Hair treatments made from horse placenta

Maiden’s porch

On the gilded age


Crumbling away


Ambient pathogens in the Kinko’s-parlor

In the Pachinko parlor

Goodmorningnews tumbling down

Tinkling like gum wrappers from the b2 bomber

Dropped to disturb the sonar

So the weaponized whale pod startles and wheels around

Somewhere far away

Emits a ‘photocopier’ or ‘new car’ smell

That fills the valley

Extinct olfactory

Nasal estuary

Shellfish smog, mother-of-

Waiting to be unlocked like

Waiting to be unriddled

Idling in the engine of the mind like

A map shoved in the glove compartment

Body in the trunk






Gives Uncle Sugar Sugar Roger

The good old contagious run around

Weaponized, brushed

Up or aside, ill

Logical hairdo

ice pick or ice cream

rinse or headache

-icide needle

Inserted where the lining

Mumbles its lines


The crinkled

Dollar bill

Fetal cells like a wrinkled sock are


Ectopic, out of place

In the abdominal

Organs of state

Unfoldingcrisis line

Congo Line

Where the palm cells close

(Far cry) at dawn like a bordello

Put up their dukes in a palisade layer




Krill Kreme

Vroom Croon

Bordello fans

The saga of bringing hot water to bordello


The button at the cuff

Of madness catching in my hair

That was sprayed to a stiff prow


Buddah’s girdle

Black Widow

Swiping away the smut of self-doubt

Above the ethereal gaming table

Where the chromosomes kiss and divide


Kiss and ride

Sweet fission

Sweet degraded copies

Ride and disseminate

Black Widow

Your head devoutly down

Your sweet parting

Hidden in a peak-imbued gown

Your black- and blue-

Baby face

Unpranked by age or doubt, your

Nasal bridge snub pistol


Blows of a baby’s fist

Green gallowglass above the glass factory

The bellows the

Estuary downwind of

Abattoir High


Got me a woman so

young she smell like milk so

Sayeth the Lord

To the bedrock

‘s mountainface

Theogenic lockertalk

The valley’s greensward


Light dips its blade in the scabbard-valley

Comes up clean as money in the bank

Swiss and nameless

Zeros and ones

The playback system sheds its value

All over the place

Sheds information

Sheds its asking price

The technology issue

Goes extinct like a magazine

The magazine stand

Just sells Jordan almonds

And celebrity face

The ex-tissue

-scabbed valley


Was known to cause a changing of the mind

A parting of fetangelic


A pluraling

Of fates



Which the district head discretely denies




Nasal ash that now

Rises now



To the laudspeakers


Termitic chambers

Eats, shits, and dies, and eats

Away the nerve sheath

And dies and is esophageal

Becomes a gastric bypass

A channel and tunnel

Choking traffic, spilling fuel


All over

Wet petals

Blow down

The subway line

Black boughs rictus up it

Cough up a black syrup

Grin through smashed tiles

Begin to look like the map

When your face begins to look like your forged

Subway pass or blown out

Subway line time

to leave, time to

Exit sign Too

Late and too

Soon Spring is spied dropping

From its hinges, its hide

Smoking and melting

Spring’s concealer and eyeline

In Spring’s concealed cylinder

A chemical marriage

Spit and ash

Makes a black ink

Pollen and white

Flash makes a woman I know

Lie down

White as a lie

Her lovely small white

Kisses the pedal

Blankets the terminal line


This poem first appeared in Propeller Magazine’s science fiction issue. Please read it here.

4 comments for this entry:
  1. R.mer

    Looking forward to reading your book, Joyelle.

  2. Lucas de Lima

    Awesome, Joyelle! Your pomegranate connection just blew my mind, which was already exploding with the birds in your book.

  3. Lucas de Lima

    Also, from a review of M.I..A.’s last album: ““Lovalot” was supposedly inspired by Islamic Dagestani teen Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova, who suicide-bombed the Moscow Underground in March after Russian government forces killed her militant husband. But any reference to her story doesn’t seem to extend further than lyrics that rhyme “Taliban trucker” with “eatin’ boiled-up yucca”.”

  4. Joyelle McSweeney

    Yeah, she’s my Persephone, photo above!