A new letter from Henriette!
(Read her previous letter and my reply in bones, candy wrappers, a winnowing basket.)
Henriette libre! Chávez became a bird, and I emulated him, slipping through the bars of my cage. For his corpse my guards were sent to herd the queues of mourners clogging the streets. I got my coat and walked right out, stood beneath the red portico of my prison de bellas artes. Nearby, a confused man (at the wrong museum). I smothered him with my coat, and stole his clothing. Left him naked, recumbent as an odalisque upon the threshold of the museum.
I wish I could have stayed to watch him come-to, humiliated and exposed.
Do you still measure time with grains of sand? Caracas is no desert. I will learn to blow rings from a pipe. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. It is my life, lovely halos of smoke, disintegrating.
You ask if I ever learned how to love? I try to love myself.
Here’s a photo of my new self. I mean, my disguise.
On the lam,
Henriette was always the wilder of us two. Some cruel justice in her…smothering a man with her coat! But she escaped she escaped!
What kind of bird is Chávez? Maybe we have mutual friends. We could convince him to give you a visa and you could visit us here in the obelisk? I’m not sure how you’d get up but maybe you can rig something with smoke rings and your coat? I have bones here–I cooked a turkey for Thanksgiving, and kept the bones because I didn’t want to upset black swan by throwing them into the marsh. They’re in my sugar bowl. You can have them if you want.
I put your picture in my scrapbook with a collage that is not a pipe.
If you are seen, I hope you will be appreciated.
Your (treacherous-less) friend,
I’m not writing anymore about love, but I did make a Valentine. My valentine has ruins in it. Owl tells me there’s a fetishism for ruins called “ruin porn”. Amidst the outer-world’s compulsion towards youth, development and progress, there is a counter-fascination with what has fallen apart somewhere so unprofitable it is allowed to remain-an aesthetics of inevitable capitulation, a poetics of collapse. The stones that have crumbled, the rotting curtains, the empty rooms, the sunken roofs, all, all are ephemeral garlands upon absence. Absence: the presence of what is no longer present remains, a meta-monument to impermanence.
This valentine reminds me of an early conversation with the black swan:
…Is there a love otherwise made? Of stone?
Its architecture, yes, toppled in weeds,
though an entablature on slipped columns
remains to frame the inorderable sky.
I could think: Marking a grave. Or
Its austere grace! What time cracks falls away
to reveal a more essential beauty.
The ruins memorialize themselves.
Two might still walk among them hand in hand.
“Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!” Let love, in its ruin, grace forgotten spaces, defy the spirit of our age which points, it would appear, only to annihilation. Its shrill, destructive euphoria spares no room for soul-deepening ruins, lovely and bittersweet.
Happy Valentine’s Day! May your love exemplify grace.
A series this week! On the complex concept, “enough”
[click to enlarge]
[Fig. 1 DETAIL]
[With words a beautiful, strange creature, all scales and song and shimmering fins, I bring out of the deep]
[for you to give you con ]
[The beast sings in the air then submerges. The sea folds over it.]
Cans and shells are both abandoned when no longer useful.
One, when empty (by man). One, when full (by glob-footed organisms).
Glob-footed organisms cannot live inside aluminum cans.
Shells do not litter the streets of major cities.
Broken shells can mulch flower beds.
Crushed cans cannot be used as vases.
Neither makes a tasteful ashtray.
Neither illustrates prayers or sells in tourist shops.
Neither is likely to be gilded, to impress ladies at a luncheon party, or to evoke true love.
Either might evoke memories of an ex.
Neither can nor shell should be clutched too tightly to the bosom.
Neither is an apt metaphor for the muse. Neither inspires odes. O cracked bit of shell O crushed aluminum can
And so forth.
The shell, broken, reveals a lustrous encapsulation of roseate dawn. It is pleasing to the thumb.
The can, crushed, is illegible. It’s crinkled lip flashes in the sun like a razor.
More sea trash (read bones, candy wrappers, a winnowing basket here).
One of you, fair readers, wrote: “Odalisque, your obelisk is very tall, and you say it is made of obsidian–a glass-like volcanic rock–with ‘no chinks for the intrepid to grip‘. So how did you get into it?”
I rested my chin in my palm and got all misty-eyed, gazing towards an empty sea.
Why do I hate the ocean? What good are bird friends? Why does every odalisque need a fantastic coat? I, The Odalisque, reveal all (even my head) in my first very low-budget movie (shot entirely on scrapbook paper): everything I remember about HOW I GOT INTO THE OBELISK.
Rated X for cerebral exposure and unexpected violence.
See the movie poster
See the publicity photos
Read about my heads
Read about my coat
My feelings about the ocean
How I avoid type-casting
BONUS FEATURE: my SWIM-SUIT
Thank you for looking. Thank you.
[click to enlarge]
figure [unenumerated]: boreal
Midway on life’s journey, the right road lost, I find myself in dark woods
pursued by armed men crying: Nymph! Goddess! Celestial Queen!
They say they are artists.
Their eyes are on me.
They do not presume that my solitary repose is neither for being seen nor to better see them.
(I include the confounding nor: boys, you forget how
pretty you are.)
I will not play hunter, bewitcher, or conquered prey in this interminable masquerade.
Leave me alone. Go away.
(foot fiercely stomped.)
(bows lustily drawn. )
(swift incurable flight. hooves.)
figure 7: boreal (otherwise)
Lovers! Do not fling your carefully embroidered coat beneath the feet of your beloved! His beauty is appallingly evident but
you’ve pretty plumage, too. Keep the coat. There is a field littered with the stones that struck the sky’s tarnished mirror. The cracks in its mirror are trees. When you walk that field, wrap your coat close. It will startle the landscape with a mis-stroke of color. Tenderly, tenderly it will open (like an undergarment) for whomever watches, waits (tending what sure fire?) for you to come home.