“Behind the mask / Is still a continental appreciation / Of what is fine, rarely appears and when it does is already / Dying on the breeze that brought it to the threshold / Of speech.” from John Ashbery, A Man of Words, 1975
it would happen if
i’m going down
sixth avenue they
need a bae just say
sentiment right cruel
They. Who? Remixed your soul.
A name chopped past MIRAFYN
Then a number, roughly, an age?
A scratch of photos suggesting a girl. You? Too
Old. 24. We bear the weight unnaming
You of living. Who? Leave this place we will find you
Followers who know better, me
Who cannot figure out why
No better, tho I sure as hell feel it
Come to my bones.
“I so want to touch you
To your face, lips,
Can we get acquainted?”
3. Lot of dreams tonight. I curse myself for not waking to sketch them along the way. But last among them:
On the streets of NYC, with Andrew as sort of assistant, photographing the street. Lots of people. Smiles but also secret shooting of the homeless and glamorous at perfect unobserved rest. Anyway, at some vague point we encounter a group of 8 to 10 girls aged 16 to 22 (I intuitively know/guess) and they start to follow us. Flirting at the same time annoying and gadflying. We welcome the attention, the company, the shared energy, but they are a distraction, clogging the sidewalk as we try to navigate through without too much negative juju coming our psychic way.
Andy and I stop at some point to deal with an equipment issue and the sirens swarm, smoking, making my lens change more difficult than it needs to be. One of them, a young brunette all soft lines, most devious bodied, the youngest, most supple bodied, stands in front of me. Me, two feet from her burning Camel Light. The sweet smoke passing between us without burning my eyes. She won’t stop talking; so much more than talking: sexualizing forth, weaponizing, poking me with her untouchable womaness. Clouds me. And I’m trying to change that god damned lens, not let any of her smoke into the camera body. Fuddling with lens caps.
An ash, like a perfect snowflake (it had been snowing now IRL for two days), falls from her cigarette to her dimpled chin and, as if that ash were a universally understood cue, I kiss her lips with such quick aggression that she takes a step back. Unbalanced/shocked. Gives me a moment of much-needed distance.
The hip girls all snicker and chat, one says something to no one: “Oh my god, she’s only 15.” But no harm done. I lock in the wide angle lens and we all move on.
helpless to understand
her dripping wet hair
salmon short shorts dipping
sweets into coffee
one cheek lips the seat of her chair
like a slick, shimmering thing fighting
back toward the sea
her feet form and terror in flats, arc gently lifting
the spirit reaches out across formica, bulk tile, thoughtless
typography, salon perfect designer moms
so beauty is baited, youth a barbed hook
tested on her psalms.