Sunday, September 18, 2005

Losers weepers, part one

This morning I rode my bike out to Cousins Island (there is a bridge) to look for a power plant whose blinking smokestacks Hilary and I used to see across Casco Bay, looking out the kitchen window of our old apartment. The ride was long (for me), about 16 miles each way, and on it I saw many things: country clubs, yacht clubs, other cyclists, antique BMWs and Benzes representing all shades of brown and silver, tree-lined avenues light-tunneling like mini-Hellbrunner Allees to estates unseen, Koyaanisqatsi-caliber pylons stringing transmission lines down overgrown lanes of sumac, two Episcopal churches (one Romanesque revival, one of modern design), and, stuck onto a rusting polygonal lamppost, a silvery and rhinestoned plastic tiara whose nubbly whorls embellished the words “Happy Birthday.”

I slowed but didn’t stop as I passed the tiara, looking just long enough for its image to recall, as from some recessed chamber in which sunbleached and crumbling artifacts are laid aside for preservation against further decay, a memory-shape of childhood, an inner composition of color and desire traced from some elementary school or birthday party tableau and lifted away to allow the actual event to pass into oblivion, recording only the particular form of curiosity and expectation it had occasioned. But alas! this inner composition, whose design had bared itself all at once, began to denature in the white light of waking presence, and each desperate attempt to name the specific content of its arcs and piping retrieved an image more generic and dim, the half-grasped truth of my childhood dissolving forever under the phantomic substitution of the tiara’s glittering afterimage.

P.S. I remember now that Hilary included the power plant island in a painting from a couple of years ago, “Women’s Ways of Killing.” The house with the power-plant views is included, too, rendered from three perspectives. (Our apartment was on the prismatic top floor. Hilary’s studio was a tiny room on the second floor. The window’s lit up in the painting, and the little thing you can see on the sill is a miniature Eiffel Tower, a friendly and generous gesture toward a certain notion of painting.) I include an image of the painting below, along with one of “Permanent Readiness,” another painting from 2003. (Both images have been rather crudely cropped, though not by Hilary or me!!)




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