An Overheard Riff
This is the best thing– to be, unexpectedly, and only for a moment, in the presence of great but nameless talent sharing its art for the fun and joy of it, and thus being, ‘though uninvited, part of the fun and joy.
Arriving in Africa
…and bricks in piles; everything seemingly inside out, the finished looking unfinished and the unfinished finished, all openness to the air and sea and light; life in non-stop motion of donkey carts and trucks and motorized tricycles and on dangerous foot darting everywhere back and forth across the road smooth lean boys to and from the beach but no girls; road side shacks of tourist craft commerce but melons and tangerines and vegetables too; hugging the coast road feeling a little further off the beaten track than expected …
At the Prado (How an Atheist Can Be Moved by Christian Art)
The universality is hardly in the narrative content, which is as particular (and ludicrous) as can be imagined, but in the faces- especially the anguished faces, Christ on the cross, his followers witnessing his suffering– and in the light (the mark of mastery is to make the paint seem illuminated from within). Even if you do not believe in its divinity, it speaks life.
Fresh paint speaks of decoration, an invitation that says– this is for you, buy something. Faded paint on plaster speaks of home, not for your looking but someone else’s living. An architecture of poverty, perhaps, but the weathering is beautiful, surface, yes, but real.
De Tanger a Fes par Grand Taxi (or, Possibilities of Violence Unrealized)
Barrel chested men on the crumbling sidewalk speak rapidly to each other in Arabic — Fes, 1500 dirhams– and we’re off, hard on the gas all the way, around the corners and over every hill, honking at donkeys and bikes, scrapping by with an inch to spare, the old Mercedes with no seat belts and cardboard for a rear window, the pleasing memory of how free it felt to ride unrestrained compromised by the image of both of us being launched through the front window into the main street of a rough Berber village, or dismembered amongst the pointillist field of plastic bags (the ubiquitous mark of ‘civilization’). But no, we evade every on-rushing truck and old Massey-Ferguson tractor (built on King Street, maybe, in the factory I watched being knocked down so many years ago?). Around the bend the mountain road is now a highway, a nameless and mostly toothless man on a motorbike promising to lead us to the Riad.
It would have been too cliché to think of “A Distant Episode” all the way, but if money really were everything, why not just kill us, string us up like the goats hanging in front of the cafes or dump us on the hillside somewhere, rejecting the negotiated price in favour of the expediency of taking everything we have? A deeper bond must rule, at least sometimes.
Structure, replicating itself at ever decreasing scales, de-materializing into pure space.
Goya and Violence
Saturn must negate his divinity and become animal, devouring his own sons to hold the throne he will lose anyway; the May second rebels victorious lose on the 3rd. The condemned throws his arms up in protest, in despair, and in disbelief at the pointlessness of it all. But this truth must be forgotten (or must it?) for if there is no resistance, the worst win out (but do they not in any case?).
The Bandaged Whore of Tangier
The observer in me says- I would love to see you throw the fuckin rock that you are brandishing in your bandaged, bleeding hand, to watch it fly along the vector traced by those angry, angry eyes, to strike your tormenter, or, perhaps even better, the plate glass window of this sleazy port-side bar and hear the tremendous crash of glass and curses that would follow. But then the me in me says– perhaps it is a generalized anger that screams out from beneath the dusty skirt you have just hiked up to show the world your dimpled, wrinkled arse and braining one man (me) would be just as good as some specific abuser (From all appearances, you would seemed justified in that position). There is humanity in your capacity to stay defiant.
John The Baptist, Hustler
Whose gaze, cousin of God, your cloak so seductively draped, are you trying to attract?
On Seeing Isabella and Ferdinand’s Tomb
Only one thought– that you both might have discovered the humility that contented you with this pedestrian crypt before you had unleashed the rampages that loosed the blood that fed these golden monstrosities, the altars at which people still pray to a god who told his disciples to discard their worldly goods and follow him.