Thursday, March 22, 2012

For Donna Ruff, "10 Dreams..."

10 Dreams of Georgia O’Keeffe

God taps Georgia O’Keeffe on the shoulder. Hard. “Owww!” says Georgia. “What do you want?” “See that mountain over there?” God asks her. “I will make you a deal. If you paint it often enough, I will give it to you.”

Georgia O’Keeffe rolls her dungarees to her knees. Climbs on the back of my ‘34 Indian. Adjusts her goggles. Locks her arms around my waist and says, “Take me to New Mexico, you fool.”

We are camping. Georgia O’Keeffe is inside her tent. She is a young girl. The door flap is open. She is sketching, but I cannot see what it is. She is peering out the flap and she is sketching. The tent is warm and dark and filled with long legs spiders. “I can stay in here forever,” she says.

Georgia O’Keeffe is looking through the hole of a sun-bleached pelvic bone. She sees a woman burning tiny holes through paper. An intricate pattern of hundreds of holes, each singed brown around the pinhole circumference. A laser of white light shines through each hole. Georgia O’Keeffe tells me the woman is Donna Ruff. She tells me to make myself tiny enough to swim through the holes in Donna Ruff’s paper. “With pleasure,” I say. Afterward I am out of breath, but I tell everyone I see to look at

I see Georgia O’Keeffe sitting inside her own cunny. She looks right past me at something that fills her with mystery and wonder. She sketches.

Georgia O’Keeffe stands naked on a sun-baked mesa. The landscape is the same hue as her skin. Georgia O’Keeffe is the ravine in the landscape. She is completely camouflaged except for her white hair and the blue swallowtail butterfly that lights on her mound of Venus.

This one is a recurring dream. I am wearing a Marlon Brando leather jacket. Georgia O’Keeffe wraps her arms tight around my waist. She rests her right cheek against my shoulder. We speed full throttle along the westward highway. “I can feel that,” she tells me. And I can feel the Georgia O’Keeffe’s nipples sparking on my back.

This one is a wet dream. Georgia O’Keeffe calls a studio day. Judy Chicago, Louise Bourgeois, Kara Walker, Petra Press and Donna Ruff are all there. Alfred Stieglitz and D. H. Lawrence show up, too. I see everything as if my back is stuck to the ceiling. I am snapping pictures like crazy but I can’t remember if there is film in the camera.

Louise Bourgeois crawls on all fours looking for spiders in the corners of the floor. Donna Ruff cuts designs in the headlines of the New York Times.

D. H. Lawrence and Stieglitz are wrestling naked, Greco-Mexican style. They wear silver and blue, red and gold masks. They grunt and sweat and roll around on the floor. The auto wind whir of my camera is deafening.

Petra Press is ink stamping talisman icons on every surface: tables, walls, foreheads, the inside of thighs. “To protect us from maniacs,” she says. Kara Walker makes everyone into paper dolls. She projects shadows of our silhouettes on the wall. Our shadows dance a conga line. Judy Chicago arranges the furniture into a triangle and lights shabbos candles.

I am back on the ceiling. I am naked and I wonder if they notice me. My legs spread eagle, my arms stretched out, my back velcroed to the ceiling. “Nothing is less real than realism,” says Georgia O’Keeffe, looking up. She crumples up confusing details of my thoughts and throws them in the trash. I am left with an essence. I have never been harder with desire.

In this dream, Georgia O’Keeffe paints an artichoke. “Peel back the petals,” she tells me. I use my tongue to unfold them petal by petal until the dark living core is left. I cup my lips around the heart of the artichoke to form a seal. My breath comes warm and moist. My tongue so close but always a moment from touching. I have the taste and smell of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art on my face.

This one is really strange. I am a ram’s skull. A ram’s skull with magnificent horns. My eye sockets are hollow, but I see Georgia O’Keeffe. My nose and jaw are gone. My horns rise up and twist and point to the heavens. They span sixty feet, six inches across. I am dead, but I feel strong and virile. Georgia O’Keeffe is painting me.

I see Georgia O’Keeffe inside her own vagina looking out. I know I will not remember this dream. The sex of her art is on my face. She shows me her butterfly. I know I will not remember this dream. She locks her arms around my waist. I feel her press her breasts on my back. I know I will not remember this dream. She burns tiny holes in my skin. I am vectors of light penetrating a dark tent. I see now what she has been sketching.

I wake up. I write.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For Danno and the Librarian,,,,,

Caledonia’s Boxes.

The writer imagines himself writing. At a table. By candlelight. In a small room. In a stone turret. In a castle. At night. The candle is almost burned down. Wax covers the candlestick. He looks up and squints out the arched window. He decides to add a gargoyle, no, make that two small gargoyles to the outside of the window at the corners of the sill. Pats himself on the back. “Nice touch.” He squints out the window into the moonless night forest. Lights flicker with menace through the trees below.

“Goddamn villagers,” he swears.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Bacall. Bacall discovers Caledonia in the ghostly arms of Joseph Cornell. She hurls a furious spell and changes Caledonia to a plant. “Take that, you bitch.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The boxes. Box #1: a bird’s nest, a key whose lock is long forgotten, a little shard of broken mirror. When he looks at this box, he sees his own face inside the box.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Caledonia. Caledonia awakens from a deep sleep into total darkness. She feels him hover above her. She feels the heat of him. She hears his breaths and feels them warm, slow and wet. The ghost of Joey Cornell cups his hand over her mouth and pushes hard. It forms a seal. Caledonia can not scream.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Box #2: two inches of barbed wire from Auschwitz; a button from a sailor’s coat, a buffalo nickel and a corked vial with three dead bees inside. He weeps.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Box #3: little tin milagros; el Corazon burning with ecstatic fear; stories only the tortured oreja can hear and pins of truth to pierce los ojos; love and death in the loins of el toro; and la mujer de arrodillamiento with desperate prayers to find guile in terror and inspiration in constraint.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The ghost. Bacall changes Caledonia to a plant. For all his powers, the ghost of Joseph Cornell can not reverse the spell. But he can do this: he gives Caledonia tiny flowers with a sweet smell and botanical magic to pacify the liver and embroider dreams. Then the ghost of Joseph Cornell presses her flowers and puts them in a box.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The writer looks at Caledonia’s boxes. “They are all I have left.” This one has egg shells, an empty box of matches, and the El Boracho card from a Loteria deck. And this one is unfinished, but is wrapped with a map of Venice singed and burned through in places to show shell casings and a swatch of rich brocade within. He hears commotion, sees light flickering through the trees. The villagers advance with bloody intentions.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The ghost of Joey Cornell cups his hand tight over Caledonia’s mouth. He puts his mouth close to her ear. “Your sex is a box,” he whispers. “It leads to the inner box of your womb. Your mouth is a box. It opens to the box of your mind. Your left fist, clenched to hit me, is a box that flows from the box of your raging heart.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was warm but she was cold. She wore blue flannel pajamas. He ripped the bottoms off and crushed them into a ball. He put the flannel ball in a small compartment of a small box. There were other compartments in this box, the box of the ghost of Joseph Cornell. In one compartment was the head of a doll. A wolf’s tooth in another. He put his hand over her mouth so that she could not scream. He whispered to her about boxes. Then he raped her. She was raped by the ghost of Joseph Cornell.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The ranks of the villagers have swelled to 179. They take up torches and advance through the dark forest against the writer in his imagined turret in his imagined castle. This is a bad story, they shout. You are a bad man, they shout. You use vulgarities in front of children. You equate artistic inspiration with sexual violence. We will stop you from telling this story. They shake their fists.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Caledonia awakes from a dream where she is locked in a box. One side of the box is glass. She sees out. The ghost of Joseph Cornell looks back. She is tiny.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Look at this one carefully. This one shows a lock of hair and a clip-on earring with green emerald chips. And here, see this? It’s the torn corner of an envelope with a cancelled postage stamp. The stamp shows Jacqueline Kennedy and Flannery O’Connor with their arms around Cornell. Their arms are turning into vines, their faces into tree bark. Bacall’s shadow, her arms akimbo, enters the stamp from the lower left corner and spreads to the upper right like a pool of blood.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

No moon, no light, the room in total darkness. Caledonia awakes and feels cold. A curtain rustles. She sits up, pulls the covers to her chin. “Who’s there?” She sees nothing, but feels hot fertile breaths on her face. Your cunt is a box he whispers.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The ranks of the angry villagers have dwindled to, oh, about 17. Their torches are burning down. Many are cold, tired, and hungry. To many, the whole thing seems stupid now, and they just want to go home. And there are others who think: you know, this story is not so bad after all. Kinda reminds me of Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Leda and the Swan, you know, shit like that.

So, if they make a movie out of this, maybe they’ll need extras. And who do you think they’ll sign to play that enigmatic writer in the tower?

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Caledonia disguises herself as Bacall. Her hair waves at the shoulder like Bacall’s hair. Her lower lip is full and red like Bacall’s lip. Her chin and nose and eyebrows taper to points just like Bacall’s, and her face is hidden in half shadow like Bacall’s face is hidden in half shadow. Her voice turns husky, and the deception is complete. She is a dead ringer for Bacall right down to the star burst scar on her mons veneris, the one the ghost of Joseph Cornell so loves to kiss. “Joseph,” she says, “you know how to whistle, don’t you, Joseph?” Her finger curls like a serpent as she beckons him.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
A sepia postcard, cracked and torn, showing a circus sideshow tattooed lady; twigs; a pencil stub; newspaper clippings about fires; seeds.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I am reflected on the mirror inside her box, and so become part of the contents. And from inside the box I tell stories, stories of escape. This story is a box. It is a painted coffin inlaid with pages of illuminated manuscripts. If you listen to my story, carry a concealed poem. To shoot your way out.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Caledonia prays: Help me make boxes in the dead of night. Help me to box the unboxable. Grant my boxes the power to draw blood from this rusted bottlecap of miscarriage, to turn broken glass and yellowed sheet music to screeching lust. To turn despair into inspiration and constraint into art. There. See that shadow? That’s the ghost, the ghost of Joseph Cornell.