A Random Image

Archive for December, 2010

 
|| December 26, 2010 || 1:02 am || Comments (20) ||

Mathias used to get in trouble for not writing ‘properly’. His first-grade teacher upbraided him consistently for drawing stovepipe hats onto his ohs, for making his tees grab hold of a clutch of balloons, for mother birds dropping worms into the gaping maws of vees. The alphabet became a vibrant host of characters under his hand over and over again, just as it had ever since he was three or thereabouts.

Finally I wrote her a terse little missive

Please stop stomping all over Mathias’ creativity, for God’s sake.

in an even more authoritative hand than her own bitchy little flowery notes to my kid. There was a conference. I won. The details of that victory are unimportant.

Last year, when we staged an Epic Superior Invasion of New York City as a long-scrimped-for Christmas surprise for the children, we were delighted to find that there was a Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA. Tim Burton is Mathias’  absolute hero in the creative maelstrom department. We wandered the exhibit and at one point Mathias stood in front of a piece mounted in the hallway, studying it intently. He took half a dozen pictures of this one thing alone. When I moved in closer behind him, wondering what he was focusing so much of his energy on, my insides smiled large.

It was a desk blotter covered with a myriad of fanciful creatures, elaborate scribbles and letters made into all manner of things. Characters of the characters, if you will. Mathias’ own brand of genius was vindicated. The details of that victory are important.

drawring

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Every year I address a slew of Christmas cards to friends and family. This is time-consuming, but I love it and therefore I put in the effort. When the children got old enough to join in, I put a pen in their hand and asked them to sign alongside mine and Maxim’s names. Mathias was just a tiny thing when he asked to be included, with an inability to yet write his name but completely capable of putting his own personality onto those cards. It took extra time, but I dug in and put my patience into overdrive (no mean feat, I assure you) so that Mathias could contribute.

The older he got, the more involved his card signing got, so that I had to abandon our loose assembly line where the five of us ringed the table, the children and Maxim with their pens ready while I oversaw the process of  cards staying paired with their respective envelopes. There was a four-person correspondence line and Mathias had his own separate time with which to carefully pen his name and a wild imagining or two. Nobody got frustrated that way, and the youngest got to indulge the creative impulse that seems to be his constant and unwavering companion.

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Every year for as long as I can remember, I’ve found my Christmas cards in the off season. I get some really lovely cards at extremely discounted rates this way. I found this year’s sometime in March, I think. They were the finest ones I’ve ever purchased, made of beautiful heavy stock with a glossy photo of stretched across four accordion-folded panels. The picture featured four of the gorgeous Neapolitan angels that grace the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Christmas tree each year. The inside verse read, ‘…there is joy in the presence of the angels… Luke 15:10′ and included a description of the angels and their history.

By the time Mathias finished with the cards, they were significantly more spicy. One featured a googly-eyed Santa with a speech balloon declaring it a ‘Merry Crunkmas’. I thought my favorite one must be the one where he edited the aforementioned scripture to read, ‘…there is joy in the presence of the angels….AND PANCAKES.’ until I saw the very last one I was sliding into an envelope. It was to my parents.

victim of joy

I hope you are a victim of joy in the coming year. I hope joy wraps itself around you, rucks up your skirt and manhandles you like it has quietly desired you for a long time and finally decided to unleash the full force of itself on you.

And I hope it feeds you pancakes in the morning.

Diving into the Wreck

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

// Adrienne Rich