Finally a letter from Henriette! (Read the last one here.)
Thank you for your invitation to visit. I have never been in an obelisk, and ah! the aeons since I last saw an ocean, don’t remind me of them, unless I may count the flat deserts that were sea floors. I stood at the bottom of those oceans and drowned myself in a fire-dry sky. Then, I was much happier. When night came, the stars were very friendly, a school of bio-luminescent fish curious about me in my glass bowl.
I have been very busy since October, when the Christmas season began in Venezuela. I have taken a position in the new Ministry of Supreme Happiness. I’ve enclosed a snapshot of this position: does it o’erwhelm you with exalted felicity? So it intends. The shovel intends to remind you that Chavez now hangs out with the people underground. Not in the grave, but in tunnels. Perhaps you’d like to dig yourself one, to reconnoiter with le President? Reports vary as to whether he is still a bird.
When I die (do odaliques ever get to die?) I will return, not as a bird, but as a wolf.
Don’t tell your friends.
Did you ever think you’d see an odalisque draped in blue, blue of Mary’s color?
Hello to the birds, says wolf, salivating.
love & toilet paper,
Congratulations on your new position! Will you get a day off?
The birds say they know a very fancy song called Peter and the Birds. The birds, assisted by Peter, trap a wolf. The wolf winds up in a zoo.
But don’t worry. I’m no Peter. And in their song, the wolf manages to eat one bird…duck, I think?
Black swan (who most resembles a duck) says he doesn’t remember anything about that.
I asked the birds if odalisques die. Phoenix got very excited and tried to turn my scrapbook into a pyre. The rest of us aren’t sure. Owl points out that we’re art. Black swan believes we are therefore immortal. Hawk suspects we can die, but we’ll be created at another time in a new, more relevant form. Hawk sees no reason why that form couldn’t be a wolf, so that should please you. Crow (did I tell you crow turned into a parrot?) says “all all perishes.” All, I suppose, includes odalisques, and even the impulse towards art.
I can’t find the starlings, not that it matters as they don’t seem to think actual thoughts. They are feeding on and fertilizing some forsaken marsh.
Mary! How’d you wind up with her coat? Sacre Couer! An odalisque, in Mary’s coat?! What’s she wearing? Have you seen her?
Will we see you soon?
And now I have to wait and wait, for another missive from Henriette.
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,