And there was a number of smaller children gathered around the refreshments. Indicating what exactly. All manner of beasts: insects that sting, grit in your mouth,a waterfall, a conundrum, a yellow daisy. Meats on a plate, cold little boats of celery, a plea for dignity. A shadow of a man cast against a cement wall and seed-heads rattling against a windowpane of dusty glass in a hacienda remote from the town square where Eduardo no longer goes, nor is welcome. Innocent of larger ambitions, the girl sings to herself as she walks along the brokendown and empty sidewalks, thinking always of the sadness of the mandolin as played by her blind uncle in the tavern owned by her grandfather who is dead three years Monday next. Cassiopea. Interliminal. Aggregate. Epistle to the Apostle Paul. Agemmemnon sneers over a glass of bourbon, says “I refute it
thus.” And stubs out his cigarette. A Lincoln Continental, maroon and elderly, glides by the open door. Mariachi music leaks loudly from the cracked windows and a white-sleeved arm waves. In slow motion.
Lulu cracks a nut for a blue Macaw, murmurs a lulaby for her baby, rocks the bassinet with her bare foot and watches the football game on her black and white TV, her mind a sweet blank. Outside a man in a red sweater clutches his chest and leans against a honeysuckle-choked chainlink fence next to Nestor’s house. Nestor left the hose running in his yard and the water spills out over the sidewalk. There is a thin scrim of dust floating on top of the water and it swirls into intricate patterns which no one at present is looking at. Even the yellow dog trotting by is too intent on his walk to take notice. The sound of a gunshot makes the dog start. He seems to have stuttered or timewarped two inches to his left instantaneously.
Now he crosses the street, nervous. His small pink tongue juts out from between his teeth like an afterthought. The boy who named the dog ‘measles’ is craving a cherry snowcone. His throat is swollen and his eyes feel like sandpaper. Snot is crusted around his nostrils and shiny ribbons like snail tracks of snot are smeared on his t-shirt. He thinks about how good that cherry snowcone would taste right now.
The Lincoln Continental turns left on Vicksburg and is not seen in these parts again.
Yolie and I went to Slo town last night for the opening of “Local Papers” at the Art Center. My mom had a monoprint in the show, a piece called “2nd International”, a fuzzy gray portrait of a guy in glasses, big startled eyes, bald head, a wonderful, funny piece. She didn’t even tell us she had entered, so that was a nice surprise.
We mainly went to see Nicholaus Kopp’s work. He’s a local guy who lives in a crazy dump by the old elementary school. We always see him on our walks up by the cemetary. He takes his big black wolf-dog for walks by driving infinitely slowly up and down Bridge street with the dog following behind. When he catches sight of us he pulls over and opens the back door and the dog climbs in, also slowly. Nick shuts the door and cruises by. We say hi and wave and he goes a hundred yards or so and lets the dog out again.
A couple of years ago I had a couple of pieces in a photography show and we bumped into Nick at the opening, and it was kind of like seeing the Queen of England at a UFC cage match. Unexpected. I just thought he was a nice, crazy, reclusive, hermit who lived holed up in our little town and never went anywhere except to walk his dog. ( I love being proved wrong, esp. when I have such stupid, stupid, stupid ideas…)
So I asked Nick what he was doing at the show, and he smiled and hung his head and said he had a piece in the show. We ran over and checked it out, and I was totally blown away. A big black and white photo of a silvery hubcap, a dead hawk, old hand tools, all hanging on a metal rack. The hawk’s body was overlapping the edge of the hubcap, and in the curved surface of the hubcap you could see old Nick leaning in with his camera, snapping the photo….it was a powerful piece, totemic. And technically strong, wonderful. He didn’t take best in show, but he should have.
Anyway, now he’s in this three person show, and that’s what we went to see. Nick’s new work was a bunch of ray-o-grams, springs and tools and objects laid out in jangly, electric patterns on big negatives and exposed so that they become white squiggles and lines on a perfect black field. Also a series of spray-painted works on cardboard, very graphic and flat and colorful. Nick was wandering around with a plastic cup of bad red wine and looking intently at each piece in the show, smiling the whole time.
We ran into Dave, who told us about his cross-country bike trip with Paolo this summer. Twenty-four years ago he walked the Continental divide from Canada to Mexico. This time he went across the other way. Two months, a big adventure. He was so moved by the experience, it was wonderful to see. He invited us to come by the house and grab some pears cause they couldn’t keep up with them.
Dave introduced us to Hope Kroll, who had about twenty-five pieces in the show. Incredible collages of images from ancient medical textbooks cut out and pasted onto old, yellowed papers, combined with pics of birds, little girls on swings, tiny dolls, machine parts, etc. She showed us a bunch of her work that wasn’t hanging, older works of altered books….just incredible. She’s doing stuff that is very similar to what Yolie’s up to now, and me, too, I guess. It was mind-blowingly good work, and she lives right in Paso Robles. She’s as good as anyone I’ve ever seen. She told us about her last show, at a local winery. She hung the show, they looked at it all, whispered and hmmmed, then asked her to take it all down.
Said they saw themselves as a ‘family’ winery….
Anyway. A wonderful night, great people, great art, a great time….
An embarassment of riches.
I held the record in the shot put, the tug-of-war,
the long jump. I made houses out of milk cartons,
origami fire trucks with bent straw hoses.
I’d squeeze the truck and shoot milk out of the straw
to quench the flames erupting from the houses.
I used to hope you’d sit with me. I watched you
choose somewhere else. I wonder if you’re
happy now. I wonder if your husband drives a race car or
hunts caribou or is an astronaut.
My friends and I were awkward and loud,
badly dressed, spastic. Tom ate his pencils in class.
Brendan head-butted the tether-ball poles
and said his daddy was in the mob.
I don’t know why I’m thinking about all that now.
We’re behind the Grange Hall where Tom is grilling ribs for the VFW.
I worry a length of string in my fingers, chew a stem of grass.
My stained hands are restless.
I can’t picture you now.
I forget, too, how I folded milk cartons into little bitty fire trucks,
into tiny burning homes.
Tom says the ribs are done but
It could move you, if you was to notice. If it wasn’t the way
it was. If you were somehow different from the way
Incalculable losses tossed off like burnt matches, the pink
of singed skin glowing an ember of remembrance.
I remember you just fine. You used to steal catfish
from my farm.
Oh my lord I am heartily sorry for offending you.
In the summer I cut the pale skin on my arms to ribbons.
In the summer I nursed my wounds and named them.
In the summer I pressed my hard cock against the hot sidewalk
and cried out when you touched my sunburned skin.
In the summer I was unloved for one thousand years.
And cried out when you didn’t touch my skin.
I will never stop loving this world.
I will never stop crying out.
Now the rain ceases.
Now the grit accumulates in the creases.
It must be amazing, the way we
keep gaping at the wheezy
How the lights shine
in the crazy dark.
So much going on right now that I feel things slipping. Work, especially. Slipping, that is. Yesterday was Em’s birthday, which went by in a blur of sweet energy. So many people came by or called to say hi and drop off a gift. Her best friend took her out to the Tea Cozy for tea and crustless sandwiches. She came back wearing a crown, draped in jewels, grinning sweetly…
The bittersweet edge to her growing up is accentuated by the fact that she leaves in a week to go to boarding school. A great school, a wonderful thing for her, but I’m doing a lot of walking around trying not to burst into tears.
My dad is in the hospital with an infection that has migrated to his bloodstream. He got hit with type one diabetes ten months ago and he’s been wrapped around the axle ever since. Can’t seem to get stablized, lots of medical errors, etc. He was down in LA for a District Attorney’s convention last week when he went sideways and got rushed to the hospital down there. Checked himself out a day later, came home, went back into the hospital. He’s supposed to be on IV fluids and antibiotics. After seven hours there, the nurse checked his IV bag, said “Hmm….I wonder why that’s not going down?” and then undid the clamp that was holding the line shut…. Dad’s supposed to retire in a couple of months and we’re all fighting with him trying to get him to quit going in, you know, just put in a cursory appearance every few days, but quit ‘working’…he’s not the kind of guy who can do that. Although this hospitalization has his attention. Maybe he’ll start to listen now.
Drama of other sorts swirling around us, friends in marital hell, family strife….I’m taking a couple of classes this semester, and trying to make it to class three nights a week, although they’re fun classes, is hard to do…mostly I feel like I’m barely there at work. Cases piling up again, things being left undone…
On the deepest level, I’m fine and none of this touches me. On all the other levels, I’m a nervous poodle.
This is all just very normal stuff. Life doing its thang. I mean, shit, I’ve got running water. Power. A car. Some money in the bank. A house.
An embarrasment of riches.
And yet I fuss and whine.
I need to crack myself open, let in some light…..