Sweet Nothing: A Manifesto by Chelsea Werner- Jatzke

Read “Jesus’ Son (B.E. Hopkins on Chelsea Werner-Jatzke’s ‘Sweet Nothing: A Manifesto’)” here.
The Four Prophets teach a sweetness attainable to all if we but follow their example. They came to the writer, without choice, for court-appointed defense. Without choice the writer received, through their arrest records and interviews, over the course of two weeks, the truth presented here to guide all of us, alone.
They are of a new worship, an era of complete lacking and utter casual. They are without family or underwear. They are two out of four, shoeless. They are the aching and uncomfortable, the minor notes in a dirge, diluted and overwhelming. They are here to show us a new way. It is in humble and irrelevant service that the four pillars of Sweet Nothing, as it was revealed to the writer in a 23rd floor office in a government building in Paramus, New Jersey, are here put forth:
1. Jimmy Brown
B. 1970
Charge: 1999-Theft. Indecent exposure.
Closed circuit video footage shows K-Mart employee apprehending the accused, shirtless, leaving the store with a 4-pack of Large White Hanes T-shirts concealed in his pant waistband. Accused flees with stolen goods. Officers make arrest four blocks later.
Family History: Unknown
Psychological Evaluation: Displays symptoms of nihilism. Doesn’t listen, speaks little. Subsequent sessions produce minimal change.
2. Ginger Brown
B. 1970
Criminal Record: 1987-Vagrancy.
Charge: 1999-Theft. Trespassing.
Confiscated at time of arrest: 13 shoes, no pairs.
Family history: Unknown. Last address on record, 1987.
Psychological Evaluation: Avoids eye contact, mutters “Oh sweet nothing” repeatedly. Strong tendency toward kleptomania and hoarding displayed in compulsion for others’ shoes, a collection of which were uncovered in the basement of the restaurant where the accused trespassed. Does not resist treatment. Does not stop muttering.
3. Polly Mae
B. 1970
Charge: 1999-Breaking and entering. Suspected intent of vandalism.
3 AM: Forced entry to Home Depot by breaking plate glass window with brick. At time of arrest the accused is on record stating: “I need some black paint.” Further inquiry establishes evidence of accused as culprit for a series of vandalized properties, both business and residential, involving blacked out windows.
Family History: No record of mental instability.
Psychological Evaluation: Suffers from a unique affliction disorienting her from distinct times of day. Further evaluation displays symptoms closest to dementia, manifesting in a lack of regard for business operating hours. Multiple witnesses identify her as a local vagrant and public disturbance. Medications including Valium and lithium prove ineffective.
4. Joanna Love
B. 1970
Legal Name unknown
Criminal Record: 1997-Attempted suicide.
Charge: 1999-Prostitution. Resisting arrest. Accessory to House of Ill Fame.
NJPD Operation Hot House:
3:30 AM–Swat and surveillance teams arrive.
3:45 AM–Swat mobile.
3:53 AM–First arrest.
3:58 AM–Two officers pursue John’s fleeing the scene.
4:07 AM–Officer apprehends woman on rooftop.
4:09 AM–Female jumper detained on front lawn after fall.
Psychological Evaluation: Attempted suicide by jumping indicates hopelessness. Depression manifest in sexual tendencies includes aggressive promiscuity. Confronted by rejection, subject has tendency to begin muttering and rocking, repeating, “Oh sweet nothing.”
It is a chant, a refrain. It is Nothing, this prayer that appears throughout the paper trail of the Prophets. This is not apathy, this is empowerment. It is the true nature of what binds us all, be we breathing or ceased to beating. Within each of their files, used by the writer to develop a case for their hearings, there are the clear and clawing tenants of this Nothing. As reminders of the permanence of The Sweet Nothing, the following artifacts and actions are kept in their honor: the White Hanes T-shirt 4-pack, a collection of single shoes, painting windows black, and finally, falling.
The only defense is to fall, to be in the act of falling always. In this way, we merge with the Nothing. Joanna, the Prophet with the strongest case, she never says a thing on the matter. She says instead, “Oh sweet nothing,” before jumping out the 23rd floor window of a government office building in Paramus, New Jersey. Perpetually, she falls.
Establishing the possibility of innocence for others, ingraining doubt in the minds of the endless jurors is to establish the possibility of doubt in everything. The irrelevant truth becomes a backdrop against which nothing stands out. In the case of the writer against the state of New Jersey for accessory to suicide, the first initiate was born.
The addict and the insane, the flasher and the whore, each of them accept the doctrine you now hold in your hands. Sweet Nothing demands separation of the self from others. Demands a belief in Nothing and therefore a connection with Nothing. To become part of this largest sect you must be a man alone, a woman separate, detached from objects and comfort, from time and gravity. We are notes in a song played by the same terrible instrument. We are fingerpicked and slow. Strung-out across barren bars of a score we can’t read. We are the random hoard.
So we say a word for Jimmy Brown, a man in need of no shirt of his own. And for Ginger Brown, a man whose shoes were taken from him before he was thrown to the streets. We believe that shirts are for the comfort of others and we are against comfort in a thing. We are against the stability of synthetic soles and orthotics. We are for comfort in Nothing.
So we say: Oh Sweet Nothing. We have nothing, nothing at all.
And we say a word for Polly Mae, the first to be freed from dictums of time. Our teacher in the rejection of calendars and the mandates of waking hours, siestas, and Sorry We’re Closed signs. And a word for Joanna Love, our patron saint of falling. The Prophet who sees beyond gravity to the grave, teaching through her falling that there’s nothing stopping us.
Attempted this and that, suspected intent to do anything, accessory after the fact. We are, all of us, accused. People end up in jail, children in orphanages, dogs in pounds, the police auctions make some money for the state. The Four Prophets of Sweet Nothing do not accept the social systems that put them behind bars. We need no defense; we are part and party to Nothing. We shirts and skins, we, shirtless and shoeless, we will steal your shoes. And as we do so we will say, Oh Sweet Nothing. We will throw these words up into the terrible and ecstatic void over these buildings and chain link fences, over drainage pipes and water fountains, over what sunshine once was and over what moonlight was always supposed to be. And we pray, we pray to this.
Chelsea Werner-Jatzke lives in Seattle where she completed her MFA at Goddard College, was selected as a 2013 Jack Straw Writing Fellow, and teaches creative writing at Seattle Central Community College. Her writing has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Extract(s), Northwind Arts Center Anthology, The Conium Review, Guideword, The Stranger, The Brooklyn Rail, Release Literary Journal, and on ListenParty.com. She is co-founder of Lit.mustest, a literary reading series at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, and will moderate two panels at the 2014 AWP Conference.