I recently watched a video in which Swedish pop icon, Robyn, cites “Arvet” by Bruno K. Öijer as a major influence on her own “Missing U.” And, indeed, a closer reading of “Missing U” reveals lines that are articulate echoes of “Arvet”. Where Öijer writes, “I wish that my view of the world/ could change into a beautiful/ fragile object in my hands/ like something made of glass thinner than air/ and when I put it aside, it casts no shadow,” Robyn sings:

What I find fascinating about both Robyn and Öijer is that while their work is saturated with sorrow and loss, what they are really discussing is the unnameable after of the event(s) that lead to the loss. There is a sense that some substance—some stickiness or reside, some displaced vibration, some decontextualized glow—remains after the event, in fact lingering as emotional and actual material to be encountered, or, clues:

As Oijer writes in “VIII” of While the Poison Acts, the speaker misses watching the way an acquaintance would “…shake off the genetic material coming from everyone/ who wasted their time on living in the world” (71). This “genetic material” is, I think, something like “affect” as described by Gregory J. Seigworth and Melissa Gregg in “An Inventory of Shimmers.” Seigworth and Gregg explain affect as that “which arises in the midst of in-between-ness” and “resides as an accumulative beside-ness.” Across Öijer’s The Trilogy (comprised of three collections: While the Poison Acts, The Lost Word, and The Fog of Everything), the speaker moves through the affectual ruins of himself, others and their un/shared experiences. Often, these ruins arrive as dismay with history’s inability to leave even a “trace” of itself, as in “II” of The Fog of Everything,

and there’s no trace
of those who once lived here
just a feeling that they have
let their bodies loose in the darkness
thrown themselves
like spears into the sky
straight out into space


Oijer’s speaker is bound to traverse this traceless space, to himself become (to again cite Seigworth and Gregg), “a palimpsest of force-encounters traversing the ebbs and swells of intensities that pass between ‘bodies’ (bodies defined not by an outer-skin envelope or other surface boundary but by their potential to reciprocate or co-participate in the passages of affect.” These passages leave neither the speaker nor the ruins that serve as the The Trilogy’s mise en scene untouched. Later in “II,” Öijer writes,

I watched the city disappear
over the rooftops the sticky film remained
the film of everything unsaid
the film of meaningless careers
the film of nothing
the glue


What remains—the “sticky film”—is a remnant of the past and a remnant of the future.

It is on one hand the energy of intention, the pre-ghost of speech or action, and also the “glue” which binds the speaker to a state of in-between and beside-ness. When reading tarot, I often explain this type of intentionality to a querent who has drawn a lot of wands (the suit of energy or intention) as the feeling of being about to stand up or jump—an unseen, unmanifested but very real connection between the brain and the body. An invisible, occult force that nevertheless serves to transform the speaker; in Öijer’s poems, the speaker is transformed into a person whose pillow has “a border of spirit voices” (“THE COLD,” 209, The Fog of Everything). One who, in “DRAFT FOR ONE OF DEATH’S SPEECHES” (79-83, While the Poison Acts), is “foretold that I would show a way out of here” by “mile long vocal cords [who] called me by/ different names.” In this way, the speaker is transformed into “the memory/ of a better life” that manifests as:

book of fairy tales thumbed through
by future children


…a treasure map
trying to erase its x


…the man who dated
himself for lack of someone better, I
became I as in longing, became
the sideways figure eight…


I was traces of ice cream
In the victim’s mouth

These are just four of the many examples used to describe the way, through the processes of “Bindings and unbindings, becomings and un-becomings, jarring disorientations and rhythmic attunements,” Öijer’s speaker transforms into a body “belonging to a world of encounters or; a world’s belonging to a body of encounters but also, in non-belonging, through all those far sadder (de)compositions of mutual in-compossibilities” (Seigworth and Gregg). Through these transformations, the speaker is ultimately delivered to a place power, in which he defines himself as:

…a distant
relative of an absent
emotion, the tip of your tongue paralyzed in a glass of
cold shadow, I was the one
who came to rule, I was the compass
around the wrists of the deceased and born to show a way
out of here, bound to deal with things
like the flickering of white sheets
stretched from pole to pole

It is this ability to “deal with things” that are mere encounters, traceless “flickerings” that nevertheless demarcate liquid boundaries that define Oijer’s speaker not as one who experiences sorrow or even who “witnesses,” but who makes something from the affect. This ability to feel and know what is not there and transform the “film of nothing” into “glue”—to turn sorrow into glass—is the occult technology afforded to one who is willing to experience both belonging and non-belonging in a world of encounters.


Often appearing as the color blue, the are some instances of affect as an occult technology so powerful as to actually transform matter, as in “IX” from The Lost Word, a poem in which the reader watches as the speaker’s mere sense of a “blue streak” manifests into a power strong enough to right an “overturned steam locomotive”:


I must have sensed a blue streak under
all the layers of darkness
and by the tracks
lay an overturned steam locomotive
heavy and cold
black blacker than black
it lay on its side
and underneath it bluebells came up
small and fragile
they must have risen on their stems
and blossomed into a blue space
that slowly pressed itself higher and higher
and turned the train upright
lifted it onto the rails again


This ability to “sense” through “layers of darkness” is, I think, most apparent in The Trilogy during the moments in which the speaker must exist beside himself. When I read the lines “I came up to myself/ I put an arm around my shoulder” from “EVEN IF EVERYTHING COMES TO AN END” (63-64, While the Poison Acts) or “…you were your own rope/ you tied yourself to your own thoughts/ strapped yourself to your body” from “V” (223, The Fog of Everything) I felt the uncanny creep one gets when reading a sentiment I believed to be only my own, now voiced by someone else, far away, a long time ago. The sense of feeling certain I am home while in a foreign land. I suppose poetry is inherently uncanny in this way insofar as to “be moved” by poetry is always to say that “the call is coming from inside the house.” In my own house, Death Industrial Complex, I wrote the sense of existing as a self beside the self many times, in particular as in these lines from “frottuer iii”:

i stepped outside my skin and placed my hands on my shoulders
and turned
and kept turning. Vertiginous

Maybe it is tacky to reference my own work, but this is part of my point—poetry should be tacky; it should stick.

The sense of being beside the self is also tacky—a type of affect. It is a sensation such as putting your own arm around your shoulder, or, I suppose—dancing on your own. Öijer writes of “the dark sealed room inside you” in “XI,” (170, The Lost Word), suggesting that communion with oneself is potentially as alien, as unknowable as communion with another. A Reiki practitioner once told me I could measure my aura by holding my hands parallel to one another in front of my heart and drawing them inward until I felt something push back. This point of pushback would demarcate the lines of my energy field. Öijer undergoes a similar experiment in the poems “GHOSTLIKE” and “THE SECRET DOOR.” These are both poems that feature the speaker unexpectedly encountering himself while “in the midst of” the “in-between-ness” of sleep or time. In “THE SECRET DOOR”:

quietly and without a sound
you open the secret door
to your room
and sneak up on yourself

when you prick yourself with the needle
the subterranean needle
the needle of the dead

(171, The Lost Word)

While there is a sense in “THE SECRET DOOR” that the waking self must conjure the sleeping self with a sinister medium (“the needle of the dead”), the sense of horror that often accompanies an encounter with a double (the doppelgänger of John Donne’s wife holding his dead child, Sexton’s dystopian doubles, or David Lynch’s “Evil Cooper”) is absent in Öijer’s work. Rather, Öijer’s speaker chooses to exist beside the encountered presence, as in “GHOSTLIKE,”

when I turn the key
to my apartment
I sometimes feel like I’m intruding
like I’ve come home too early
and without warning
I stand there
waiting before I open the door
the invisible ghostlike one
must have time to put back the chairs
and clean up
take away all its things
before I go inside
and pretend I see nothing
know nothing

(256, The Fog of Everything)

In stark contrast to the usual conventions of encountering a double, Öijer’s speaker does not violently encounter himself, but chooses rather not to “intrude” upon the “invisible ghostlike one.” He suggests that it is he, not the “ghostlike,” who have fallen out of time and “come home too early.” This is again a moment in which we read “a palimpsest of force-encounters traversing the ebbs and swells of intensities.”

The photos of Francesca Woodman (who is the subject of Death Industrial Complex) often feature similar moments of gentle doubling, of encountering the self with a sense of respect for the space she consumes. While thinking about photos such as “Self Deceit #1” and “Untitled Rome, ’77-78” I Googled the term “déjà vu in reverse” and came across the vardøger, which in Scandinavian folklore is basically a premontory presence. In some stories, the vardøger is corporeal and can be seen by its double performing future actions. Unlike a doppelgänger, the vardøger seems to be a sort of spiritual guardian (the term is actually Old Norse for “watchman soul”) that can be glimpsed when time happens on top of itself. I read Öijer’s doubles in a similar way—not as oppositional to the self, but as an affectual sense of the self, an ability to so profoundly exist between the past and the future as to be always in between, to stick.

Francesca Woodman, “Untitled Rome,” ’77-78

Francesca Woodman, “Self Deceit #1,” ’77-78







Candice Wuehle is the author of Death Industrial Complex (Action Books, 2020) and BOUND (Inside the Castle Press, 2018) as well as the  chapbooks VIBE CHECK (Garden-door Press, 2018), EARTH*AIR*FIRE*WATER*ÆTHER (Grey Books Press, 2015) and cursewords: a guide in 19 steps for aspiring transmographs (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Her work can be found in Black Warrior ReviewTarpaulin Sky, The Volta, The Colorado Review, SPORK, and The New Orleans Review@glittertrash__