Thursday, January 27, 2011

in the attic

I stood up and started moving
With a childlike fascination
For those doors that don't have locks
And the stairways that were blocked

And on the last step I was dizzy
Because there were stairs in all directions
But I found another door
And through the door there was the attic
Without old clothes
Without a ceiling
Everything had opened wide
Into the jaws of something bigger

And suddenly I saw that I was
Upstairs and outside and freezing on the roof
Finally it had found me
The answer, the feeling, and the truth:

That I'm small, smaller than the smallest fireball

(lyrics by The Antlers)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

i'm not here

Saturday morning, white light through white shutters, i'm listening to Stars and i'm not here.

In Casablanca, one song is definitive of time place world--"Play it once, Sam, for old-times sake." Sam sings As Time Goes By and Rick and Ilsa are in France looking out the hotel window, are at the station, silver-eyes, the train leaves, We'll always have Paris--

Life was supposed to be a film.

The album In Our Bedroom After The War takes me to Cardiff; i'll be there for the rest of the day week year, reading On The Road and listening to Stars, remembering bad cartoons with writers and film makers who died three times before opening a packet of Splenda.

You can't make art without dying a little every time you open a packet of Splenda.

Fig 1: a bad cartoon. "And here we have what seems to be some sort of robotic Garfield."

They were always talking like that, with the sensitive seems and somes that were later removed for better dialogue.

The music changes; There is a house by the sea, and a distance between it and me--

The song is House by the Sea by Iron and Wine, the place the Welsh Country side, the time half past my second death, the poet Dylan Thomas.

Time Held Me Green and Dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea

Standing there (here), air and bones and blue, i turn(ed) at the cough of a motorcycle. Already the music's changing, so--

Excuse me as i kiss the sky

Thursday, January 13, 2011

From Inside A Lion

painting by me, photo by shelby ursu

I am writing these poems
From inside a lion,
And it's rather dark in here.
So please excuse the handwriting
Which may not be too clear.
But this afternoon by the lion's cage
I'm afraid I got too near.
And I'm writing these lines
From inside a lion,
And it's rather dark in here. 

-Shel Silverstein

I paint from inside a lion, vomiting watercolors I don't take seriously; they splatter like jumping beans, cry like a kid who ate too many Skittles.  

 Painter Joe Sorren says  it's important to capture the atmosphere between you and your subject, the light that makes the air pink.

Study of Portrait of Painter with Brush  by Joe Sorren

I don't think I've ever done that, even with acrylics.  

Katie and I talked about our freshman years of college.   For me there was high school and sophmore year and, in between, this:

I want to delete my Facebook. Let's all do it.  Without the noise, it's an empty room; we can take off our shoes and socks and cry.  

Monday, January 10, 2011

This Song's About Being Trapped in the Snow

My brain's Arcade Firing, firing and inspiring, despite--or maybe because of--this tin-can on the side of the highway, my home, Indiana, PA.

I dyed my hair black.  Surprise!  I'm not a hipster, just a Neil Gaiman fangirl who listens to bands that sing about strip malls and kids digging tunnels in the snow.

The car was a poor, stuttering beast, a salt-eaten dog with tires spinning in place until, suddenly, it was gone.  A cartoon dust cloud lingered on the pavement.  

In Pittsburgh, there's a High Street, or at least there was--kids kept stealing the street sign and hanging it in their apartments.  I have a picture of a lily pond in my apartment, and a bottle of Gentlemen Jack on the mantle.  I don't live in Pittsburgh.  I live in Indiana, on Oakland.

I draw bone trees.

The sun is a window.

 Ever run through the forest and pretend you're a wolf?

I'm still running.

Can we ever get away from the sprawl?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Belvedere's Shaking Hands

I've never had Belvedere Vodka, but there's two bottles on my mantle, tall, opaque relics left by the French exchange student who lived here before me. The land lady says he tied air fresheners to the fan to cover the smell of what he was smoking. Threadbare, he ghosts the windows of my apartment, shedding traces of his presence, little fuck-yous that I, with parenthetical asides and (reader beware) a flurry of footnotes, arrange into a story line.

His name, reader, compatriot, was Belvedere Vodka.

Naturally he was a tortured soul, a sleepless, V-neck of an artist whose eyes saw Van Gogh's starry night but whose hands--swollen, putty mitts-- dropped spare change in grocery lines.

Upon entering his eyes, the stars looped his brain and turned his blood to plasma, which, you recall, is the fourth state of matter found only in distant galaxies, the capillaries of a hummingbird, and the smallest bud of a tree the moment before lightning strikes.

The plasma accounted for a peculiarity of Belvedere, a

shaking of the hands often passing for a tick; or, as his parents told their friends, tourettes, a neurotic disorder typical of socialist leaders, beautiful women, and great, misunderstood artists.

Mr. Vodka's parents were richer than God. They had, on more than one occasion, invited God over for a bottle of Inspiration; and, if Vodka Senior was feelingphilantrophic , a tour of The Factory. Belvedere remembered one Christmas when God, being his usual drunk self, knocked over a shelf of Campbell's soup cans that bled on the concrete. This soup, or blood, was mixed, bottled, and shipped with the rest of the Inspiration, and accounted for the production, among one artist, of some very peculiar silk screens in the summer of that year.

Upon coming to America, Belvedere made a point of eating Campbell's soup for lunch, a routine entailing the literal digestion of God.

(Here, reader, the author must deliver on the promise of parenthetical commentary. It is not my intention to offend any parish, sect, or individual who doesn't find God at the bottom of a soup can. I will say this, however; There are as many ways of coming to God as there are bottles of Inspiration --I myself find him in greeting cards-- and we shouldn't criticize Mr. Vodka for what, to me, is an expression of genuine prayer)

On the mantle above the fireplace, Belvedere kept four bottles of Inspiration. When his hands shook--and they always shook--he would unscrew

On the mantle above the fireplace, Belvedere kept four bottles of Inspiration. When his hands shook--and they always shook--he would unscrew one of the bottles and paint.

Mr. Vodka was no great talent. His perspectives were crooked and, except for a handful of boneless contortionists, impossible to achieve given the constraints of gravity. His buildings grew taller with distance and his streets vanished to both sides of the canvas simultaneously so that his cities resembled upside-down stars. His art never surpassed student-status, though it should be noted that upon seeing his painting, a four year old girl in Pennsylvania scratched her left calf and asked her father if she couldn't have some more of what he was drinking.

On Sunday afternoons, Belvedere played chess.

His favorite piece was the knight, it didn't matter which color. He liked the way his finger slid down the horse's neck. Once be began stroking the curve, he couldn't stop; the cursive c motion glazed him with a tired, hypnotic calm.

When his Inspiration ran dry, he slipped a glass knight under his pillow and pulled it out whenever his hands shook. Under the pillow next to him (he had a queen size bed) he kept the October 2008 issue of Rolling Stone and 99 cents.

Here, my poor, victimized reader, another comment. These items, as well as Katherine Hepburn's autobiography--a plain book with red borders he kept next to the ashtray—are the cancerous bones of American culture. They prop up a flickering, movie-screen skeleton that spills milk and cries for Coca-cola. To Belvedere, these items were more than skeleton, or a literary motiff; they were America itself, as real as the grocery lines and the great yelping stars that made his hands shake.

Every day he wrote a letter to Katherine Hepburn. He never got a reply. True, she had died five years ago, but this seemed very poor excuse for not replying to a letter, especially one he sent every day and that always contained the same message:

Ms. Hepburn--

You are a star.
Do your hands shake?


B. Vodka