Fail Safe

J.A. Pak

Alex Schauwecker

A sweater keeps the body warm. The hairless body, one without thick fur. But let’s not talk about primary purposes. On a day that’s considered ‘bitter’, there’s this dampness, coalescing droplets of sweat next to the skin that get trapped by the layers and layers of wool and cotton placed for protection. I’m sticky & wet but also frozen (face, fingers, toes, legs), the hair on my head lacquered with icy wind so that the hair is a half-blown sheet. Or a mangled raven’s wing. The latter is more poetic (dislike) but perhaps more accurate (mangled).

Sweaters unravel. We’ve lost that skill or the yarn, even the language to knit it all back together again. A hole grows and it’s all very wabi sabi because they put holes in jeans and make you pay $100 extra.

I think all that I say is original (mine) but then you say you said it first & I don’t know what was yours or mine or how to make ours yours or mine & I don’t know if it’s wabi sabi or we’ve broken up & this is fucked kintsugi.



Flight. Ransomed inside like this it’s impossible to know what the exterior of the building looks like. The whole may be a plain box or an octangle of male egos. Ornament & crime in double helix. But here, inside, a room (or rooms) that flows in polished copper light like a telescope extending into infinity. Endless screens of beveled glass, Japonaiserie turned men’s club boudoir. Mahogany of discontent. Everything I’ve done bleeds failure.



(There’s fuchsia in my sandwich [the color, not flower, named after Leonhard Fuchs {1501-1566}, botanist]. My 1st thought was that the sandwich was contaminated. Radioactive. We don’t say Chernobyl anymore. Fukushima? Collective references hold for barely a generation. The fuchsia makes me hungry for sherbet only sherbet is icy and this is—Jupiter, volatile. Apparently we wouldn’t exist without Jupiter, our second sun. Not because of warmth but because of gravitational pull and the formation of planets & so on. I heard this in a podcast. Podcasts are sound waves and sound waves go on & on, certainly inside my head as I still hear splices of pods. Well. There. I’ve eaten the sandwich. If you find me dead tomorrow you’ll know the cause. Fuchsia. Fuchsia of Jupiter.)



In the medieval game obligations, if you offer me a fish and say ‘Plato was a fish’, I can concede or deny. Instead, I offer you a cat.

*clearing throat*

Cats sleep 70% of the time. I’m turning into a cat, climbing from dream to dream like the way one nestles deep into one’s own fur. Awake is jungle black, noises jumping out at me, signaling (or not) danger because sometimes (often) noises are simply their own beautiful raison d’etre. Cats have special night vision. Their urine glows in the dark. My vision died long ago. No special night vision but ossification, buildup of microscopic failures that endless trips to the optometrist will not fix since Snellen eye test charts are b&w code for relative nothingness. Thinking this, I am already drowsy and the 30% turns into the 70%, b&w symbols smearing through my occipital lobe.



The Korean word for revenge sounds like a ripe fruit exploding needles: ‘bbok-su’. I’ve been promoted to goddess rank. What modern man simply does not understand is that gods are dangerous. Their power wasn’t the power to turn squashes into carriages but the power to create universal chaos (i.e. inescapable human suffering). While it was your turn to work, I dreamt this:

Short French film. Watching it multiple times while waiting to be called to the cash register so I can buy three slim books; each version of the film different. About a young woman & her modern life adventures, the details quickly fading as I write the dream down. Liked the film so much, the next weekend, I invite a friend to watch it with me. He’s bored and I’m disappointed because I was so sure he’d like the film. When I ask him if he liked it, he says he’s seen it countless times as the art house movie theater we’re at shows it endlessly. But he gamely watched for my sake. There’s another version he likes better. I agree, disappointed the more complex version wasn’t shown because that’s the version I want to share with him. Waking, I think how well the dream had captured that particular friendship, a friendship of a time & place between two young selves with a kind of maturity now gone.




Block of color. Radiant energy. Traveling heat translated through the brain as states of existence: envy, sadness, tranquility, nausea, mourning, happiness, slaughter, safety, stop, go, good, bad, heaven, hell.


Internal, chemical interactions with a world that manipulates & is manipulated, now arranged into formulae that exclude subjectivity (that ontological angst of not knowing if even the basics of life like color [language] are translated true from individual to individual) and that tremendous confidence in naming the sky blue.




Mea culpa is something you say when you’re not terribly sorry. There’s this thing that’s been stuck on your shoulder—this—there, near your left shoulder blade and I’ve wanted to pick it off you for ages, so I did, only it wasn’t detritus but something attached, vital and it began unraveling—the more I tried to stop the more my fingers grew active—how can such a small speck unravel into this huge, embarrassing mess? I want to run but I want to stay and be accountable for my, all, mistakes. I don’t understand shame, why it appears when it isn’t appropriate, why it unravels into a mess of guilt to be picked at, why I’m the bird with the speck in my mouth, building nest after soon-to-be-abandoned nest. A hummingbird’s nest is quite beautiful (I have never seen one).



J.A. Pak

J.A. Pak’s writing has been published in a variety of publications, including Joyland, Queen Mob’s Tearoom, Luna LunaAtticus ReviewQuarterly West, and Art/Life. Come visit her at Triple Eight Palace of Dreams & Happiness.

Alex Schauwecker

Alex Schauwecker was born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1982. A childhood spent snowboarding and skateboarding around the mountains and temple complexes of Kyoto engendered a passion for both nature and the topography of urban life, which continue to serve as the dual inspiration for his art. Schauwecker lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland.