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Paulus Potter, The ‘Piebald’ Horse (1650-1654) Wikimedia Commons

I think of my Floridian friend. She likes the spotted horses best. I think of my friend in her car on the green of Florida, and the black sky beside her – stormclouds like a jug of heavy flowers on an empty table.

My friend between the lakes, the fruit-soft slackenings where the alligators live motionless. The orange blossoms and their scent which is like an object in the air, like rope on water. My green-eyed friend conducting her body through the black snakes and the snow of pentas. My friend amidst the towers of porches, old wood, and on the lawn the evening clouds, which are hued like light on beasts, yellow and pink because their bodies are white.

The spotted horses cross and reveal my friend’s face as they run. When I was young in shop class I dropped metal crumbs, machine-colored and hot as viscera, onto soft silver, where they cooled and left black speckled impressions. These horses’ furs grew toward heat, blackened from foalhood – muscle and color jams itself into the light, running.

Garland

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Krishna and Radha in a Bower (c. 1665) Wikimedia Commons

Walking in the wind on the Westside. The air is not so cold as the man thinks – though my ears hurt in my hair. The man has gone in his car to his home. I am turning my head to look down the tubes of side streets, over bright bumpy hills and at the blue sky.

Men smile at me as I go past. I am looking for the café I know. On my way to the Westside it was orange blooms and yellow cactussy scrub which drew my attention, along the cat-rib rise-and-fall which the green made along the highway. The orange was redder than Hindu marigolds. Now the light sparkles on the round sidewalk trees, and on the palms which move like skirts.

At lunch the man reached down and fondly took my ankle. He was surprised by my anklet. He opened the circle his fingers made to see the anklet and then to put his index between the anklet and my leg.

In the café my ears warm and I drink another rosé. The man on the Tapatío bottle looks up, surprised, delighted. Dimple lines and black brows. Fine small features. In the wind, out the window, the sidewalk tree separates like a school of fish and wobbles like tofu. The brilliant Tapatío climbs inside its neck, textured like the trunk of an oak.

Amtrak

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I went down to see my cousin. I took the train. The land shone by.

Toy-colored toaster trays of halved cars piled in a car yard. Pink aisles of flowers: through one corridor, five cop cars, a cuffed man. Beautiful construction plains, blue concrete trucks, squares of water beside the river.

Beer flags, fair sliced mountains, leaves in the curves of the lunch umbrellas, bougainvillea trotting boxily by over the sidewalk.

Blown to beachside, high yellow houses, people in sunchairs with wrists to knees. Friendly speckled hills grew numerous then relaxed into abstraction.

Hospital buildings, cetacean, slick asymmetrical rises, promised solutions beyond your understanding and your tolerance. They will slide silver discs, warm to the touch and so smooth they seem wet, between the teeth of your spine and you will lift your chin and be taller. You will be like the building. You will be other than your surroundings, extended from the others.

From the boatyard, where the boats were leant in little tents, where secondary tents of blue tarps were drawn from the mouth of the boat to the ground, to the wide land and lumpy hills, great peaked houses and girls in bicycle helmets riding between boulders.

The river pinned back to its concrete table, pink graffiti. My train put me over a highway – the cars passing beneath gave me an instant’s erotic thrill, like a finger running between me. Clay of underpasses, wires of old vines, swallows’ nests, the cruel daub sides of aughts gentrified projects red and white, shrubs’ shadows mercilessly laid out –

The couch at my cousin’s. Once Jerry punctured his lung: “And he’s weepin’ and saying Oh Col, Col, I’m so sorry, don’t be paralyzed man, don’t be paralyzed. And the tears are running down his face – going Oh Col, I’m so sorry, man, I’m so sorry!”

Nightwalks

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George Ault, Bright Light at Russell’s Corners (1946)

Today there is a soft breeze. The air is warmer than it has been these past weeks. I sit on the hill. The branches of the lemon trees creak above me – beyond, level with my eye, the green spangles of the ashes flourish as if a hand has passed up them – the cypresses wag.

I used to walk at night. Big distances across the western end of San Francisco. When you live at night, not in the extended daytime of clubs or theaters, at night in a place of serious fog, the eye makes an engineering choice and the black sky begins appearing to you like a ceiling – so that you are surprised on your rare daytime outing at how little of the sky the buildings really take up, at how high the sky goes.

And when you live mostly at night the color which most strikes you, which seems the dominant color of your environment, is white. The white of industrial paint. The white everything becomes under a city lamp – the white of a fox’s face in a flash photograph. The black ocean curved like a stunt car all the way to China – but it was the white along the black bus cables, the white on the square frozen houses, which composed the world. I began to dream about white cities lit weirdly against black skies, marble Paris under snow and Klieg lights, immense lawns between palatial white museums, colossi the color of surgical tape standing in glass atriums, reflections shining like shore foam on transparent walls which also showed the fog-blank night outside.

Crossroads

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Californian roads heron into themselves, head below knees, head into the river for something to eat. The crest road is on the valley road. Naked in the chaparral, the fire trail also is on the wide river walk, and on the braid of river.

Now in the rain the eucalyptus trunks turn the color of sweet potato flesh. They are inside the olive leaves. The black burned ruins and the green fast brush around them open their heads like baskets over the low herbs, which are loud in the cold air. These distinct places are one place which comes to itself. Somewhere the coyotes hurry, uncomfortable, wet like bleach-damaged hair gets wet. They pass their paws out in front of their bodies.

In my dream I go down on two men, one living one dead, standing together. The dead man is teaching the living. The living man looks down on me with a desire attenuated into an expression of unhappiness. The dead man knows how I like it. The dead man puts his thumb inside my mouth.

Back East

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Image: Audubon, Prairie Warbler, Wikicommons

The prairie at night in November is like two spouts of water, one chill, one hot, on the same hand. Poor stunned hand! The frost, the grasses and the night clouds lay themselves out, elaborate and plastic as music. The ground and sky are hard, smooth places for falling across.

Whatever elaboration moves across your body, the moon is quite plain, the bird is quite plain, you are obvious. Whichever body crosses the prairie, it will be beset with a progress of knots and lace and upright root networks, all of which yet cannot disguise the body. Poor hand! The body is driven still, at least for a moment, oppressed by the legion of detail and the monumental empty places.

In March in the day the bird calls. It is amid the lower grasses, visible because its little weight tries its grass blade back and forth. The wood of the fence post above is fragrant. It is grottoed by exposure. Its overhangs and teeth will drip when it rains. Flowers will pull up around it. They will change color as they rise.

The fence post sustains itself in the sense that it remains real. The bird is on the fence. Its song-note drops from the blunt of the post’s head to its foot. The dry place at the center of the post may, with its whole form which is keeping itself together, buzz with sound. Sound may move throughout it like percussion down a railroad.

Room Temperature

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Image: Roman, Wikicommons

The little studio is pressed into the back of the yard, and the yard is trashed by flowers. The actor and the audio producer speak as we walk. The actor is tall and long-legged; he moves as if he were in the final steps of descending a sheer rock wall and at the same time turning from the wall to drop his hand down on your shoulder and smile at you. The afternoon air is filled with a dream of light.

Inside the studio, where it is dim and cool, the actor puts himself into a hidden room. He leans out twice: once, to give me the bottle of water they’ve put out for him, because I am thirsty; once to pull my chair closer so that I can see the men work. Then he closes the door and his body is gone, taken off his voice like a husk off corn.

The studio walls are slick with screens. The producer pulls best takes down from the red range of audio and the takes turn blue; “That’s an A right there,” agrees the director. “Got it. Wow. Holy shit.” The men watch the red sound with yogic concentration. They joke and the producer’s face breaks into a laugh like a rock breaks into a geode.

They discuss their options. “Too much air,” thinks the director.
“Yeah,” says the producer, and tells the actor, “Too much air on that one.”
“Sorry, dude,” says the director to the actor, “can we have you move a little bit off the mic?”
“I can’t hear you when you both press the button at the same time,” says the actor’s voice.

A break. The actor asks for water. The producer rises for the mini-fridge then stops himself: “I’ll go get something room temperature,” to protect the actor’s throat.

We rest outside in the kind sun. The director stands in the doorway in a ballcap and black. The producer’s dog comes and puts its head on my knee. The actor is a body again, unrolled over the cabana, his feet spread out along the ground.