Transcending Medium

Hearing the Work Aloud and Following Narrative Threads

Franz Kafka etching by Jan Hladík

I chose Valerie Fox for Curate This because her work, whether dark or whimsical, is always sparked with surprise and humanity. She has an affinity for randomly encountered things, such as found objects and pieces of text, and with her darting consciousness she finds amazing ways of stitching her chance finds together. A Drexel University professor, poet and fiction writer, blogger, manuscript developer, and artistic collaborator, she continues to dazzle in many realms.

– Lynn Levin, Poet

In these pieces I am trying to follow through more on the narrative threads that I often include in my poems. I am trying to explain more, give more detail. Also, I started to hear the work aloud and think about it as something to be performed.

The pieces involve a lot of free association and twists (which I started to think of almost as events unfolding or being conjured up in a play). I also am starting to realize I may be returning to a style I tried when I was much younger. The voice here feels less like the personae in my poems, and more like someone walking out and starting to talk on a stage. I am fond of meta-fiction (in its many manifestations) and that’s here too. Part of my poetry-writing process involves getting to a place where I trust the voice. A big goal here was to get to that place in work that wasn’t poetry.

Here is my story, magic not included

You see this outline of a person, crouching behind glass in a storefront. It used to be a place selling shirts and ties. Now there are old things and some antiques. Handmade linen baby gown, Depression glass cake plate, silver cigarette case. Her paws want to grab that cake plate and hold onto it.

This storefront is the center of a world. It’s not an alcove. The storefront connects money and food. Let’s say this is about me since it is. The items in the storefront are clues hiding in plain sight, all about me. I thought this was a minor incident and that I’d have trouble remembering it. Or, I thought it was a too troubling incident and I’d have trouble remembering it.

Back then there was a picture in the living room of a ship tossing about in a stormy sea. That’s how I got the idea I was a sea-vessel. I had some musical phrases in my head about that picture. One was like a quote from Marie Antoinette. I was all dissipated.

In the middle of this story I have to back up in my own footprints.

A friend of mine who hated me half the time made up this game. I would be blindfolded and pluck plastic eggs from her basket, known as the Basket of Fortune. The one I usually plucked was purple and turned you into a monkey, no, it just makes you think you are a monkey.

I didn’t like talking on the telephone but was nevertheless always waiting for a call—The Call.

I had this car when I was nineteen that was maroon but everyone called it brown. It came with a postcard attached to the rearview mirror featuring the famous wide-eyed stare of Franz Kafka. Every time I looked in that mirror I saw this haunted and cloudy face. I probably should have discarded that face, but, I had a pretty fair idea that to do this would be wrong. Wrong so you shouldn’t do it like how you aren’t supposed to clip the tag off a mattress or kill a praying mantis.

Poverty may be relative. So may affection. Religion plays an important part in my life. At age ten, it made me keep wanting to look back. Luckily I never turned into salt. I just kept falling over my feet. That’s what head over heels means. But all I really wanted was a live bird.

I kept wanting this specific live bird I never got. I eventually did get a sense of renewal when I decided to let the musical phrases out of my head. I put them on pieces of paper and glued them all over telephone poles, mailboxes, corner fences, and public restroom walls.

Are these the right streets crossing one other or going one way and not the other? I can’t tell, I don’t go back there much. If I get some money I will try to go there.

I am a wrecked ship.

Con Spirito

There was once a girl who liked to sing. She sang about 60% of her waking hours. She loved her violin teacher who had a positive attitude and heart-warming way to say things, like: Pop out your wrist, Imagine you are a deer, If you don’t eat it is okay to skip your practicing, Play music with your friends, Sing out the notes!

Well, the girl doesn’t like to practice playing her violin lately, or yet, or at least a lot, despite it all. But she likes her regal instructor’s advice. She likes being in the middle of things like songs and improv-ing and warming up for the next number.

She has decided to play with eyes closed. She also likes to walk and play at the same time. Yesterday she tried playing and hopping. In her head she imagines lines being drawn between lots of different kinds of notes and some sparks going off.

She doesn’t wish to be the subject of any kind of debate.

There’s this other thing about the girl. When she sees some people, she can see how they will die. How a person will die appears across their forehead in words. If the person has on a hat, the girl cannot read their future. She also cannot read her own future, even if she sees herself in a mirror.

She sees the words with about half of the people she meets. She is informally conducting a study to determine why she sees the futures of some but not others. As far as she can tell, she is more likely to see the words on the faces of strangers.

Once she got on a train and everyone on the train had “train-wreck” written across their faces. At the next stop she got off. She is old enough to take the train by herself, all alone. She puts that into a song.

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