Jiselle Kamppila is a multidisciplinary artist and experimental poet based in LA.
St. Jerome Writing
“There is death inside of me, death crawled inside of my mother, my father, my sister. There is death inside of me.”
Sleep has arisen. I open my eyes to the next bar, cling to my nails and rub the floor with my dignity. The last drop of blood goes to my poor soul, soaked in whiskey.
My eyes open to the descriptive sunlight I call my body. I smell harm. Picking up my weight, I limp to my next destination, the house of disrespect. I was picked up by a harmful stranger on the way there. The car next to us was flipped over, like a ship ready to sink. I notice the amount of cum on my black, tight pants. It’s a mystery where that came from.
I stumble out of the car and head back to my bug-ridden apartment. I scrape my nails against my chest. My hair reaches out to the mirror: a new surprise. Lipstick all over my face, my hair disheveled. I wasn’t the same. Something had changed inside of me. A fire. A light that is unnatural. I began to sink.
I open my journal to drawings I know are not mine. Writings scribbled in the dark, poems about being a savior. With my last cigarette, I light my insides on fire to get rid of the sting of shame.
The next day was school-- everyone was waiting for the worshipped one with blonde hair. What could they tell her today? Switching realities, a guitar is waiting.
I thought maybe death was inside of me. I rest in the gurney and recite the poem of my life. “There is death inside of me, death crawled inside of my mother, my father, my sister. There is death inside of me.”
What do I have to do for you to notice me? I scream in the hospital, the five names I was adopted by, the rejection of the world caressing me with every ounce of its being.
“What do I have to do, bleed? Because I will.”
The gurney is rolled into an ambulance and I watch as I am drifting away from my father and sister. The psychosis has finally drifted into my body mind and spirit and casted me away to the doors of the mental ward.
They stripped me, took a good look, asked me questions that destroyed me. They spit me into a room with three other women.
I cried. The four walls that kept me captive. There I was, on a dirty bed again. But at least it was cleaner than home.
I remember the dark crevice of the window bleeding into the mesh. A spider was staring at me, like a bad omen. I counted each of its legs and begged for sleep.
Spreading memory through my fingers, the surging of my head. This twisted reality. There I was back where it all exploded. My studio is wretched and had the stench of the past. I would run out of the room intrusively to weep in the bathroom.
Remembering the character I embodied to keep the mask from fading. The strong queen, the strong life. But when I would get home, death was waiting for me.
I didn’t matter whether I was suffering. All that mattered was art. And my blonde hair and skinny body. What I can offer the audience was a mystery. My brain is still laden with its aura.
Every night, I lay awake. I think, I think, and I think. The flashes of disgusting nights fingering their way through alcohol like ants. The way my hair turned from blonde to black. How it all went black. How a man almost took me, like most men have, and abolished me from any dignity I had left in my body. I was kept captive.
I was alive in that mental ward, alive with fury and the mania in my veins. I sat in the common area, twitching with hatred and poetry. Each time I spoke, I spoke poetry. Every window was nailed down, it was menacing, but felt like home. The restrictions on my brain, everything tethered to the floor. Just like home. My eyes were sinking into the dark, with my black bangs and blonde hair, I was almost all dead. But at the same time, I am reverted back to my perverted childhood. I have been rejected by all the world.
All the men were swimming into my brain. The one who rejected me most, it wasn’t my father, it was him. It was that dark night he slid off my clothes.
He slid off my artistic will, my body to the stars, my way to heaven. My will is deceased. All of them, crawling back, everything makes sense now.
“Take a look”, it’s my blood again. I was in the gurney again looking at the trees waving back and forth as if they were telling me a tale. My screams coated them with glory, as the windows blocked them from me. I am screaming for the death inside of me, the fear, the family. The suffering, the stares. The paramedics throwing profanities at me all while my Dad hisses “are you happy now, Jiselle?”
I was in my hospital bed on Valium across from my father who was on fire with resentment. I begged him not to think of me as a bad person. I yearned for his love, for at the moment I had no love left.
10 am, the spider still stares at me. Through the nailed down windows, I’m taken to a time of grief. I’m grieving all my talents. My horror was sleeping for days, weeping. “I tried to jump out of a window.” “I tried to stab myself in the heart.”
My thoughts spinning to the beat of my bones I took to the piano in the common room. I pounded and pounded at the keys, lost in the reverie of sweet music. Somehow, I knew how to play the piano. The keys spoke to me as I was drowning.
A man was following me around, resembling my father. He had white skin, tattoos and an obnoxious attitude. When I cried, he cried. When I made a fuss, so did he. “You’re a real artist”. Why? Because I’m frowning in my sleep, gritting feverishly at my shortcomings? That I’m clawing out of my body?
I ran out of that room, with my whole body shaking. “Is it my father?”
I thought I was a prowess of knowledge. The fountain that never drips, the shine to everything silvery. My soul shined bright.
My eyes are salty and awake as I reach for my journal, three lines; “May I live? Can I take what’s left? Who are you?”
As my grandeur grew, so did my hair. Looking in the mirror, I saw the resemblance of Rimbaud staring back at me. Like a ghost, I felt like Saint Jenet, Anais Nin. I felt these writers running through me like hot shots of whiskey. Something’s changed. My curiosity of my humanly mechanisms grows within each stare in the mirror. My face seems to bruise with makeup and my hair seems to bounce with art. I took a hit of my joint and poured myself into music. Like a phantom, I was mesmerized. My head tilts to every chord, to every lyric. Bliss.
I put on my cheetah print dress, my glossy blue platforms and smoke a cigarette all at once.
“I can’t ignore it, I miss you so much”
The storm in my arms and legs reach for books like murder. Every line highlighted, scribbled on, forced with my thoughts. Chaos on paper. So many actions of the day reminded me of some kind of act of violence. Such as the teacher and the student. Malfunctioning communication reigns upon art itself. It’s broken. I had no home. Everything felt like rejection. The way I touched paper, the way my pen swelled with ink. Nothing fits.
Everything seems to fit for the man above. With every power he has, every calculated detail of what he calls “sanity”, we are all left behind in some kind of blustering confusion. Of what he speaks of. We all lose. I lost. Every bone breaking prose, every line, every painting, none of it fit.
I was standing on the very top floor of the parking lot and I couldn’t help but to fantasize about dying. The ground up from above looked so comforting, distorted heaven. As I was staring down, my eyes glance to the edge with a suicide hotline number placard on it. Soon I realized I was going to die.
Staring down, the ground moved and there I was in the mental ward again. This time, I sat in the waiting room for my intake. It was traditional, with questions like, “Do you have thoughts of killing yourself?”or, “Do you have extreme mood swings and mania?”
Like a maniac, I text everyone I know, like a mating call or suicide note. I pranced around with the message that yes, I am in fact being carried away to the nut house again.
I stared into the white wall and saw my name written in ink upon the walls. Jiselle. I still couldn’t fathom why I was even given a name, intrusively even. Right away. Right as I entered the world from the dark womb, I am “Jiselle”. Everyone knows me by that name, but it obscures my image. I am the girl who loses yet wins affection. I am crazy.
Thoughts lurk when you’re in here. The ones you dig deep inside, until the dead knock. “Memory”, I’ve studied in many forms; physiologically, phonetically, psychologically, poetically, linguistically, fatality. It’s when your brain glances down at your body and preaches laughter to an empty stage. You are the conductor of such perceptions, but your body has no choice but to react violently.
For some reason the same ghost keeps visiting me. The rapist. He had a guitar and bones for eyes. What was the reason he followed me everywhere, every mental ward I go to? I was addicted to abnormal love. I thought it was love. “Love”, I don’t dare study it. The only man I ever loved and still love is my dear partner.
For when I first stared into his eyes I knew comfort. Those honey brown eyes with friction. A man I know I can trust.
The white gaunt face reflects in the mirror. I remember laughing manically on ritalin, thinking I have survived. There’s no way I would survive what is next.
They shot me up with medication. I went home only to find a mirror shaped as an octagon. What I saw is what I despised. I would sit up all night, shaking, thinking I would die. All the memories surfaced, the taste of freedom I used to have in the days of serving the angel inside of me. In those times I was a slave to writing. The night was my shield. I would write about my death, the synesthesia of cursed poetry. Nobody seemed to be paying close enough attention. The days of blonde hair cursed me. My guitar would blaze with noise and stabs of my knife. Everyone paid attention to the exploitation of my body.
The spirits of Joan of arc and St. Catherine had arisen, setting me to burn and churn on a flesh eating wheel. Flowers adorned my body as I fantasized about building my own coffin out of books.
I started to give all my possessions away. My beloved Rimbaud book, which I had since I was sixteen. I had detailed annotations and sweet notes inside. It was gone. I left my studio in a chaotic cluster of mirrors and sand. Of books stacked to the ceiling. The last breath of my sanity.
There was an angel inside of me. Singing and gasping, dying and bleeding. Nobody knew I was sick, dying from exhaustion. Exhaustion from all the artificial fame in my mind, the threshold became otherworldly. I wanted to fight. Fight all of the world’s demons, conquer the world. I was on an otherworldly conquest for freedom of my body. It was a protest. I wanted to be in prison, be dragged away by authority. But little did I know, I already was.
He took everything from me. The need for validation still lingers within me. It would be the sparkling curse of my childhood self. Where is my body? “Memories that destroy the spine in me”. I was playing for a cursed crowd. It was as though the audience was begging for an empty hand, for an upheaval of energy I never had. The bright blue lights stained my being, my bones aching to my guitar. I started to become a man, wielded to my alcoholism and despair. The objects weren’t clear anymore, it was just a blue light. Not a magical specter, not a ghost, just me. My muscles tightened to this misery. There was no way out. The only way to escape was to die.