Monday, August 22, 2011


For me, the following is sheer poetry. I do not know, could never know, do not want to know, what it might be for you. You are the audience. You have no meaning here.

— Tim Barrus
Tim, if you wanted to say a sentence or two or contribute an image, I would include it.  Unless it would get me arrested, of course.  Just a thought.  No obligation.
--- Prairie Mary
One of the unique characteristics of the brain is that it’s so willing to work with evidence that doesn’t really add up, that it just adds up what it’s got.  Which means it’s frequently wrong.  Like that experiment where a man sees a rabbit on his lawn, walks towards it, sees that it’s a crumpled piece of paper, gets closer and finally sees that it’s sunlight coming through the leaves of a tree.  Animate> inanimate> illusion.  Except that often the gradient goes the other way:  a glimpse> a thing> a person.   In fact, they call that art.
The success of the strategy depends as much as the “receiver” as the composer.  The more references and associations in the person reading or watching or listening, the richer will be the person’s internal construct.
I’ve been sorting papers I’d meant to file.  Just running them under my eyes creates a narrative about the context in which I work.  Art Durkhee starts a comment with what he claims is a cliché.  (I don’t know — I don’t have any context.)  The cliche´is “the difference between pornography and erotica is the lighting.”  Out of my own experience, I take this to mean that if the lighting is blunt, flat, and bright enough to see everything (including appendicitis scars, acne and birthmarks) that’s more likely to be pornography.  Anyway, cheaper to make.  If the lighting moves, shows only parts, is startling, makes you strain to figure it out, it’s more artistic and therefore erotica.  That is, the difference between a commercial product and an artistic statement is control of the level of ambiguity.
But maybe this is just a conceit.  Maybe it’s just laziness on the part of the artist to throw up a few suggestive elements and make the observer work out what it’s all about.  How do you know?  You don’t.  That’s part of the incompleteness, too.
Pushing for closure is partly what draws us through the plot of a mystery, though some books will end with a shrug, throwing hands up, who knows?  We see it as a child’s preoccupation:  what really happened and how did it end?  Much of what we call the yearning for transparency is simply to resolve the issues so we can leave them, not so we can do something about what we see.  But there is always a contingent that says, you don’t need to know.  You cannot fix it.  It can’t be fixed.  That’s just the way it is.  Which point of view is the more moral?  Ambiguous.  Sometimes zeal to reform is worse than the original offense.  Scouring prevents natural healing.
The hypnogogic state is the one also called “drifting off to sleep.”  Vague visions waft through the head as though gauze scarves blown on the wind.  Scraps from the day: something overheard, a glimpse of a bare shoulder, the smell of someone’s t-shirt left on a chair, an intention neglected — what are you thinking right now?  If you were a poet, it might be a poem.  If you were a cook, it might be a recipe.
This is the opposite of the “outlines for how to write a book” I kept running across in my pile of tear-outs and down-loads.  The outlines are very definite: you MUST have this and you’ve GOT to have that (three crises in the rising action until the resolving climax is reached).  This sequence is taught from junior high onwards and informs ever so many LA written tales.  I myself taught that way: a paragraph with a sentence of introduction and assertion, three pieces of vivid evidence, and an insight.  The end with a bow on it.
The lives — the REAL lives — of my students were not like that and sometimes I would see rambling free-associations that twisted and turned like a burnt snake, totally ungraspable at first.  Those were the real writers.  They never get published.  Maybe it’s just as well, considering the consequences that might follow.

--- Mary Scriver

Heavy in Your Arms: Unplugging Orpheus
I’ve been asked to unplug Orpheus. I have just unplugged my end of it from Internet life support.
The request to me to unplug it was made by a kid. A kid in a lot of fucking trouble. I do not give a flying fuck what anyone in the audience believes. I don’t know you. And I do not owe you anything. I owe him.
There are places in the book where he’s not only there, but so is his family.
It’s not about Mary. It’s not about me. It’s not about us as writers. It’s not about us as people, either. Because it’s not about US. It stretches past us so significantly, no amount of my writing books in one lifetime could express a single molecule of it. Let us go to pop culture. Or what is it you understand. What symbols and representations do I have to construct for you to understand that real people exist and they’re flawed and they’re in agony a lot and they get sick and they love and they make love. What does anyone have to do to tell you that these things are real.
It’s called indifference. You are indifferent. You are.
It’s not my job to move you. It’s not my lot in life. It’s not even my job to know you.
This is what Mary and I share. And we share it no matter if we agree or disagree or blow bubbles at the moon. It’s not madness we share.
We are not indifferent.
I was a heavy heart to carry
My beloved was weighed down
My arms around his neck
My fingers laced to crown.
I was a heavy heart to carry
My feet dragged across ground
And he took me to the river
Where he slowly let me drown
My love has concrete feet
My love’s an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles 
Over the waterfall
I’m so heavy, heavy
Heavy in your arms
I’m so heavy, heavy
Heavy in your arms
And is it worth the wait 
All this killing time?
Are you strong enough to stand
Protecting both your heart and mine?
Who is the betrayer?
Who’s the killer in the crowd?
The one who creeps in corridors
And doesn’t make a sound
My love has concrete feet
My love’s an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles 
Over the waterfall
My love has concrete feet
My love’s an iron ball
Wrapped around your ankles 
Over the waterfall

I’m so heavy, heavy
Heavy in your arms
I’m so heavy, heavy
So heavy in your arms
This will be my last confession
I love you never felt like any blessing 
Whispering like it’s a secret 
Only to condemn the one who hears it
With a heavy heart
Heavy heavy i’m so heavy in your arms
(i’m so) Heavy heavy i’m so heavy in your arms
(i’m so) Heavy heavy i’m so heavy in your arms
(i’m so) Heavy heavy i’m so heavy in your arms
I was a heavy heart to carry
my beloved was weighed down
My arms around his neck
My fingers laced to crown
I was a heavy heart to carry
But he never let me down
When he had me in his arms
My feet never touched the ground
I’m so heavy, heavy in your arms.
Heavy, i’m so heavy in your arms.

--- Florence and the Machine
I do not owe anyone an explanation.
The very idea that someone could be irreparably hurt by the publication of that book makes me want to vomit.
Am I angry with Mary.
Get a life.
Have I stopped speaking to Mary.
Go fuck yourselves.
It’s not about Mary. And it’s not about me.
It’s not about a book. It’s about a life.
I’m not going to expose any more people to any more hurt. And people would be hurt.
That is how it works. In your indifferent culture. Stories are power. And proximity to power can hurt.
Even writing this makes me demented. It’s wasting my time explaining anything to you. People I do not know or want to know. Oh, he’s so militant and nasty.
You have no fucking idea.
One kid could be hurt. It’s all I need. Done deal.
Art will survive.
When I needed him to be there for me, he was. I had been left empty and wounded. He never wavered. He would not waver now.
To expose him to a public that is as stupid and vindictive as it is is not something I can do when the kid has asked me not to. His reasons are valid. Case closed.
We both have work to do, Mary and I. And we will do it.
That’s what really scares you. Not that you get to think of us as annoying or crazy.
But that we will do what we do and we will keep doing it. Art is not about the brain to me. That is not how I make it and I do make it. Art is not my sunlight through the tree.
It’s blood and bone. It’s testicles and guts. It’s war and survival. I have a heavy heart to carry but he never let me down. When he had me in his arms my feet never touched the ground. I’m so heavy. So heavy in his arms. 

— tim barrus

1 comment:

Art Durkee said...

I certainly empathize with the need to protect people who might turn up in our art. I do my best to not make things obvious or hurtful, when that happens—since the story I might tell about my own past sex life, say, is my story, even though other people are part of that story, I might, say, disguise their contributions to protect their privacy.

At the same time, I feel sad at the potential ending of a vibrant, life-affirming project.

I said in that same essay bout pornography and erotica that I can't find it in my heart to judge as bad anything that brings more life, love, and joy into the world. The downward spiral of sucking black hole negativity, hate, fear, and suffering is what I don't support, and do my best not to contribute to. So I'm anti-entropy. So bidding goodbye to a project that brought more life and light into the world, even if its contents were not always pretty, is a loss.