You are reading Fiddleblack #2
North the stones are white but glitter black: graveled teeth after a wreck. South the rocks are red, day sky so clear we once saw Venus, proven at dusk behind the worshipping coyotes. The cliffs rise vermilion as we have seen, cascading into scenery-green.
You said it’s not my decision.
Yes it was not. It was always yours. I counted slowly to eight, not for melodrama but to lick the length of flight: sheer two thousand feet. Beehive State a topography of excess: height, heat, hue, salt, fossil, powder. Tourist superlatives; however, we live here. Erosion. Spiral Jetty, on your canvas, at the top left: how you orient the unnavigable. Mine, for grounding, tattooed on my ankle.
God if God were no clutch at the throat.
God if love meant sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.
God if chimay. Chimay if chimay.
I think today
while I waved my arms at
my son lost his
front tooth. I hear it rattling in the glass.
Chimay if chimay. One Hundreds Day.
“Strange to hear you so clear last night. The mystery of glass fiber. Would love to see you, I think, when you come, hear you better and longer, my oldest friend. You summon memories I hoard deep, between the muscle and bone, early things I wish to keep intact. If you live in a childhood home grown up, icons crack with reiteration. When we were in second grade we sat high in my grandma’s backyard locust, attending the godly view, biting transparent apples. Baby starlings in the t-poles. Your mother had been dying your entire life. To me the tree was undiminished although by now I too have lost precious things.
Our hometown will be hot today: ten o’clock and that sage-gray pallor over the landscape. My husband showed me the work of a painter named Stewart the year we married. He comprehends the hot blue tone that washes every plane of the Great Basin, beautiful and bleak, too subtle to love until experience annihilates name.
Becomes the color of timeless.
My ivory tower has windows to the west. I repeat the word “Oquirrh” to myself, its Paiute whisper, over and over Oquirhh and Oquirrh. The west mountains alter, flat to deep to blue to black in the moving sunlight.”
When you come for an hour between sessions at the old chapel you tell me I have not changed. I was always incomprehensible, even in the joyful tree. You ask me why I am compelled to make myself unhappy. Happiness, you say, comes from within. It’s an attitude. You are happy with your husband in Montana, your four daughters and two sons. You sound like a John Denver cover.
You have drawn such pain from this landscape you return a meek apparition. You tell me not to write about you.
Because I won’t get it right (this means unfaithaffirming).
anyway my friend pain is not art, or we would all be in a goddamn gallery
or freshman anthology
anyway I do not think I am unhappy
I stand with my husband, The Artist, in New York. We stand before the Small View of Delft. He is angry that I have not come until two when I said eleven. I am still learning time and distance here. Because we know how our bitterness can erupt in galleries we do not speak.
We breathe carefully before Vermeer. We breathe together, careful. The Dutch bricks are whitewashed at the street level. We are informed by the placard that a woman is obscured by revision. Two children play on the portico, backs to the viewer.
Our two oldest, with us, wear small berets and carry sketchbooks. They complain that they cannot draw Vermeer. I take them to the cannibal poles in the African Wing. Their heads and shoulders huddle. Their pencils scratch the wirebound paper.
Their father stays behind to venerate The Artist in His Studio.
A woman in the African Wing offers a loud monologue to her companion. “When people wear black,” she expounds, “not just artists, but people—when you begin to see people everywhere wearing black, it’s indicative of a social shift. It’s a sign of introspection. Black indicates a moving away from social interaction, from a sense of community. It can be positive to a point but may signify a dangerous solipsistic trend.”
My son whispers up to me: “Not everyone is wearing black. Just you.”
Margery Kempe loves Jesus.
Margery Kempe loves Jesus!
Margery Kempe LOVES Jesus.
Margery + Jesus
Jesus + Margery
check yes if you love me, Jesus
___ yes ___ no
Woman, Jesus is long since dead!
(And, what was to be
Done with the incorrigible advance of abundance?
I imagine he loved me over
and above, under between his wish that I were
Wife not friend
woman not head
did not said
When he took me he
drew me down like hunger
like he’d never eaten,
I told The Artist that I would be flayed under the eye of that damn Jan Vermeer. Brief as a glance, a celluloid catch, arrested flash, a one-frame delete, a pause, a snatch. Whiff of a vampire. Angle toward a woman unready, stripped of her composition, the second she forgot, preoccupied, (in)coherence of between. Her, not playing woman, therefore erotically, essential, (whatever that is). His was no glance: it’s a compressed epoch, a look that strips a woman to helpless and almighty, pitching her rage even as she quivers, down, bound, spread open ecstatic and murderous under pretty pretty peach, flames for eyes paint for sleeves fury in the small balance in her hands Heaven and Hell on the wall above her.
It seems a quiet gesture but a Vermeer is a rape fantasy. A man has no business having an eye like that
My husband calls this one “Woman Weighing Air.”
Sometimes he gets it right but he has no idea.
And he is livid because he is The Artist and I have asked him no questions about Vermeer.
Galleries frighten us because our signifiers converge
sometimes at eleven
sometimes at two
Eight years of drought in the kingdom of Brigham, who
wouldn’t give a flyspeck
For a feminine opinion
Karin Anderson has a Ph.D. in creative writing and poststructuralist theory from the University of Utah. She is a Professor of English at Utah Valley University where she was previously Department Chair and is currently a member of the creative writing faculty. Her writing has appeared in Sunstone, Dialogue, Western Humanities Review, Quarter After Eight, Saranac Review, American Literary Review, and in anthologies with Signature Books and University Readers.