Along windswept edges of town
amid stern midcentury angles,
a bright unsunny light filters and glances;
limns the geometric emptinesses between things
on a weekend in shoulder season
on a slip of land off the coast of Long Island.
The color of the wood sea-silvered— salt boxes
beheaded, re-envisioned by exacting minds,
rise out of a low wild landscape to divide,
bisect, and generally make sensible for city dwellers
the unfathomed abundance of sky above the breakers.
No quaint adornments, no flower boxes, finials,
no lacy curtains dance on ocean breezes, flutter out open windows.
Floating panes refract the vast surround until at dusk velvet dark
the reflected scrims inverse— reveal interior stages of we-scale dramas;
unveil views on strict styled stages beneath linear precise prosceniums.
In the deeper hours, silhouettes of deer move among the low pines
grazing, and foxes chase along the sanded strand beneath a
dull-bright moon, unfettered by the intrusion of angles in the
wild grasses, unheeding of stories not their own.
After the crash, we float like ghosts, moving about the old main street unnoticed and silently marveling at the high pitched roofs and tall windows of these old houses, taking in the glow of warm light of the interiors. The long incandescent puddles projecting out through the panes onto the thick blanket of silencing snow create such contrast, we half expect them to melt it. But they don’t.
We don’t feel cold but assume we must be, knowing that we can’t cross the thresholds of these sanctuaries against the night.
There is a room full of young women lounging in or at the edges of inviting pools of water. The room has an otherworldly atmosphere, with dim, colored lighting and biomorphic curves in the walls and ceilings. It feels, looks like a grotto; like some ethereal rendering of a subterranean brothel. On low ledges all around there are sleek bowls containing delicate and beautiful shapes that look at first inspection as if they are made of glass, but they feel gelatinous. There’s liquid or water in the bowls. The shapes float like jellyfish.
They are ornamented in impossibly-detailed patterns. I ask one of the women what they are, pointing to one near her; bell-shaped, and small. She informs me that this particular model is for cutting off one’s arm. I ask “Why on earth would anyone want to do that?” She doesn’t answer, but nearby I suddenly notice a bowl of fingers, small and red; transforming the liquid like ink blooming in water.
Insistent with my inquiry, I ask her how such a thing could possibly cut through an arm, or anything at all, as I lift one of the instruments out of a bowl and display its gelatinous quality, how soft and malleable. It has only enough density to hold its intended shape. This seems to interest her, and she looks at the object as I hold it, but doesn’t answer this either. I wonder if there’s some quality about the material of which I’m unaware— if sudden pressure is applied, perhaps it becomes more rigid, like quicksand, but maybe fine or sharp.
It remained a mystery, as did the nature or reason for the room itself, the girls, and the the other instruments. It struck me that some of the glass tools looked vaguely like those long-ago diminutive shoes for the footbound.
(~2005; recently edited)
One of the reasons I enjoy poetry is because it comprises all of my favorite ways of making. It’s creating images with words, yes; a kind of storytelling. But it’s about so much more than just the correct or precise words —more than denotation or connotation— it’s also about design.
It’s about how the words interact with the space around them; make a composition, make aural and visual rhythms; remainders as important as omissions.
As in any kind of composition, the negative space is crucial.
When I was young, probably in college, I’d occasionally hear a person talking about this or that luminary, describing them as a “Rhodes Scholar.” My lack of awareness at the time meant that I’d only ever heard the phrase, not seen it spelled out. I had no idea. In my adventurous young mind, I heard it always as Rogue Scholar, and that turned itself into something I longed to be. Was it some sort of philosophical pirate? An intellectual outlaw? How did one arrive at an occupation or a moment where ‘actual’ scholars began describing one as a rogue of same? There was an implied concurrence that such a person was, indeed, learned, an expert— but somehow off the beaten path, or got to it by some unknown route. Delicious. Intriguing.
I realize it all sounds rather silly, but the idea has never disappeared from my mind; it has percolated in the recesses. In retrospect, I’m sure I knew it was my own fiction, but I was loathe to lose or destroy the whim. It’s probably still what I want to be when I grow up. Perhaps, if I ever found a grant for creatives, recipients thereof will be known as Rogue Scholars™. (The title alone will act as the first phase of weeding, of triangulating appropriates* for the honor.)
*Ha! That’s an appropriation of an inappropriate word. Maybe appropirates.
He was long ago sealed into to the wall— made part of the wall— with a spell. All the years since, visitors and passersby have presumed he’s just another sculptural embellishment of the palazzo. His consciousness remains, though— eyes, frozen, he still sees; his ears still hear.
Being a mute and immovable witness is a torture for obvious reasons, yet his tenure has shown him the full breadth of human existence in miniature— from the most touching moments of affection between two people, to vivid misdeeds perpetrated against one another.
He’s bone weary. Part of him wishes for an end to this helpless consciousness, but he remains ever alert for the next tender moment. It’s his undying hope that the tally of deeds v. misdeeds will always remain well out of balance.