I had great success in distributing many flyers (15 or so … till I ran out) promoting my January 11th reading in Kalamazoo. And I love wandering the streets … it has been an oddly mild December in Michigan.
The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has a lot that evokes joy and inspiration in me. The most significant work in the museum is William Harnett’s trompe d’loeil, Colossal Luck. But now, and for a limited time only, are also dollhouses. Miniatures are so striking and I especially enjoy the houses that are unpeopled … and it looks as if they left in a hurry. Everything remains alive but alone. This was especially fascinating when I was viewing the blacksmith’s quarters. He and his family would live in the modest cottage above the shop. The seemingly “abandoned” shop and home were eerie and beautiful and fun to think about. The discarded anvil and tattered leather apron; the neatly made beds and set dinner table. Everything was ready for something that would never happen. The building waited on someones who would never appear. The loss that an empty home or room seems to feel is fascinating … the odd feeling of slow, deep sleep breaths and some tortured anticipation is very similar to feelings I can feel and we all can feel. Sometimes you want to be breathing for something waiting in the wings, you want to be anticipating something that will deliver itself to you like the first morning moment: You can still hear and see and feel … you are still here somehow.
I also went through my bookshelves today … there’s nothing like neat bookshelves to me. I also like piles. Once a week or so, those piles of books get higher and higher, they start to look sad, displaced and uncomfortable. That is when I do the old once-over with the books on the shelves, also replacing the ones that are not to their rightful spots. I came across a book by Elizabeth Smart, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. I first came across it as an undergraduate while perusing the stacks of the Library. I read it in the creepy, lonely, and nonsensically dimly lit room in the third floor stacks … I was captivated. I would go on to read this tiny treasure over half a dozen times between my sophomore and senior year of undergrad. It conveys the tale of Elizabeth Smart’s affair / relationship with poet, George Barker who was married to another woman; this is the prime rib of love triangles. Smart’s constant “fits” of sadness and joy spoke to me so deeply. I wasn’t going through anything distantly similar, but there was something familiar in the sentiments she conveyed, the emotion. I think I feel it a lot now … I am going to read this again … today … and then maybe again. This passage inspired a long poem in college …
“I am over-run, jungled in my bed, I am infested with a menagerie of desires: my heart us eaten by a dove, a cat scrambles in the cave of my sex, hounds in my head obey a whipmaster who cries nothing but havoc as the hours test my endurance with an accumulation of tortures. Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic orders” (Smart 26)? *
So with thoughts of miniature blacksmiths and menageries of desires, I bid you goodbye on this beautiful December Wednesday.
* Smart, Elizabeth. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. London: Panther Books, 1985 reprint.