17 August 2007

Watch your own self and take care. I am outside, almost one with all of life, in the lion's lair.







Most of the shots above were taken in Richmond. The Love of Jesus Flea Market shot was taken in Midlothian, which is something like a twenty-mile long dead limb extending out of Richmond's southside--vast expanses of cracked pavement, used car dealerships with faded streamers and "Everything Must Go" signs (hasn't it already went, I kept thinking), abandoned warehouses and department stores, and a few scattered churches to...what? I'm not sure. I felt like the place was beyond the purview of such concerns. But then again, maybe religion only makes sense in places like that.

While driving through the non-place, I kept thinking of the "airborne toxic event" in Delillo's novel White Noise, how the undefined toxic cloud hanging over the small town in the novel is the manifestation of Death, the very thing that consumer society is designed (so Delillo's novel seems to suggest) to avoid confronting. Driving through Midlothian, I felt like I was inside of the toxic cloud, passing through the ruins (and possibly the apotheosis) of consumer society. I wondered if other drivers felt that undercurrent of flimsiness, emptiness, passing through and undermining everything.

The oddness of that day hasn't entirely faded since I arrived back in Radford a couple of days ago. I feel like the earth may have shifted a bit on its axis; the sun has been bearing down in a strange, late September way, bathing the empty Family Dollar parking lots and blistered corn fields in an uncanny light. The air feels heavy, asphyxiating, but everything else--myself included--seems as crisp and thin as the dead grass. Just yesterday, a colleague commented on the shift in weather, how he had been imagining antelope crossing the parched yellow field in front of Heth Student Center. No doubt part of my anxiety is due to college classes starting on Monday, but I think it goes deeper than that. In any case, I'm going to go and attempt to get my feet on solid ground. Here are two poems for you to consider.

I feel like I should add this clarification from Karen, who lives in Richmond, to the main post--keep scrolling down for the poems (Josh, I posted the Berman mainly for you to check out). Here's Karen's clarification:

Midlo isn't just a dead limb extending out of Richmond's southside; Midlo is Richmond's southside. There are bits of it that aren't near as dead as where you seemed to be driving. Right after you get off of 195, it's downright lively. Anywho, beyond Richmond geography, I have nothing of interest to say. I'm glad you posted more Richmond photos and I will respond on them and, possibly, the poems when I'm feeling more alert. Fanciful notions are already forming in my mind about the lighting and the green balloon in the second photo.


The Irish Space Program
-- David Berman

The day was hot and it was not cold.
He sat by a stream east of the trees,
the very picture of invisible labor
in the old price ranges of folklore,
like a hermit in a romantic ballad.
I guessed him dreaming of unnoticed things
or unnoticed aspects of noticed things
in that meadow whose fundamental beauty
was commensurate with its uselessness
as was, so often was, the case.
It was the wonderful overgrown field,
ever-redolent of an abandoned stage
where I had written "Death Rents A Flower"
and "Reactions From A Snowbound Academy"
the year before. Finding it occupied
I continued down the shabby road
past the barn that seemed to hide things
not worth finding. There was a waterlogged
tavern door lying flat on its back
in the grass. With a stick I engraved
curse words on the surface of a forest pool.
Oh why should I lie to you! I was desperately
unhappy. I could hardly believe how
uncomfortable my clothes had become.
Was I to return to the wobbling candlelight
of the inn to gamble for nightingales
with west-country earls? These forests
were just voids with bears inside.
I could not have felt more harassed
if it had been raining carrots.
I turned on my heels and headed back,
determined to eject that hermit from
my thinking spot. Hatred came flipping
down my forearms. Any refusal would be met
with super-refusal. It was not for nothing
that I called my hands the Wild Fives.
But upon returning, I found my pastoral arena
depopulated once again. I took a seat and
turned an ear to the birds inside the sky.
So only ten bad minutes had been appended
to my life. Leaves fell in soft corkscrews.
A lone rabbit hopped by.
The day was hot and it was not cold.

Skirt
-- Mark Halliday

The very fact that her skirt swirls
bespeaks something that compels my interest
as if not because the skirt covers her ass and thighs
as if I mean not only because given a chance I’d want
very very much probably to help her take the skirt off
in a fantasy bedroom, but for some more lovely reason
more lovely I mean because more mysterious
when she swirls my head turns on my not-merely-biological neck
to follow the play of shadow in those folds of cloth–

in the swirling there is some meaning that draws me
without specific reference I’m saying to her
somewhere beneath the skirt and what my penis might get to do;

it’s about a flowing quality in life I’m serious
about something flowing like light among branches
on a windy day, the truth or a truth of how
the beauty of our life is like a winding river
under rapid shifting clouds and how the river is change
and change is possibility and our infinity of possibility is
what makes us not just banal dogs wagged by our tails.
There across the crowded room she turns and turns,
her hair swings, her skirt swirls, she doesn’t know
I’m standing here with these deep insights into everything
but if I write it all down with a lovely
swirling of its own she might read it and see
that if I stare at her it is not just the usual but
because I am interesting here alone at the edge of the dance.

4 comments:

Karen said...

Midlo isn't just a dead limb extending out of Richmond's southside; Midlo is Richmond's southside. There are bits of it that aren't near as dead as where you seemed to be driving. Right after you get off of 195, it's downright lively. Anywho, beyond Richmond geography, I have nothing of interest to say. I'm glad you posted more Richmond photos and I will respond on them and, possibly, the poems when I'm feeling more alert. Fanciful notions are already forming in my mind about the lighting and the green balloon in the second photo.

mark burnette said...

Ah...I didn't know that. I took it to be the long stretch of US 60 (Midlothian turnpike) heading out of Richmond. I suppose I had no reason to think that was all of Midlothian, other than it was a long stretch. Of course, another part of Richmond's southside I was in was Manchester Arts district (ArtWorks and PlantZero), which evidently used to be mainly factories. Is that part also Midlothian, or is Midlothian only the west side of town?

mark burnette said...

oh, i should also add, Karen, that i'm a big fan of fanciful notions.

Karen said...

Do balloons go to Heaven? When I was quite young, probably around three and a half years or so, I had a pet balloon. He was green and named "Saxon". His name was written in white across his belly. I dragged him around the house for weeks after he stopped floating. Eventually, I'm sure someone threw him away. Whoever it was, didn't understand the deep bond between a girl and her pet balloon.

Gazing at your second photo, I imagine the sound of a late summer afternoon, the oppresive heat and the insects buzzing combine to make a distinct setting. There's a sense of infinity, or maybe a hope of infinity, in the air. So much of the summer has already passed by, one day blurring with the next. How could it possibly end?

Your photo makes me think of Saxon and forever and also causes me to wonder if balloons go to Heaven? Perhaps they just hang around in empty lots on endless summer afternoons. I don't think that would be too bad, do you?