There is a hum in the wires. It’s faint but if you close your eyes it’ll find you. It was there before the wires were strung, but in them it found a conduit. It’s elemental, but not the way you may think. It’s not the wind, either. Those forces are altogether different to what sings along these undulating lines.
Here are a couple watercolor sketches that I began on the weekend while in Fire Island, and finished last night.
And an excerpt from a text I sent to a friend, regarding a particular mission while I was out on the island:
Twice this day I’ve filled my pockets with soft sea-rounded stones for our purpose. I think there will be a glut, so I will edit them, size- and shape-wise, over coffee in the morning.
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 scenes 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.
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.