issue 21 :: March 2012

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Photo — Text

Photo—Text (photo-minus-text) is a new, hopefully recurring series of captions written by one person to photos taken by another. There may not be any rational link between the two. The photos might take you on a journey, the words my take you on another.

Photos: Drea Mastromatteo — Texts: Joseph Zitt

STATIONS OF THE DREAM: 1. One eye sees the world. One eye sees beyond. Glazed blue, with no distinction between what would be the iris and what would be white, it projects, reflects, dissects what is in its view and sees which other eyes, once seen, have seen it in return. The seer and the seen combine and all see all that all others can see. Arising from incantations, from shattered pictures, shattered words, the concrete goddess rises. See her now as she sees you. See yourself in her eyes.
2. Here, now, we see all that remains. Where once a scarecrow danced, the wind begs to awaken a crumpled hat, a withered canvas hand. What soft shrapnel remains in his wake tells little. His mute explosion brought little notice, was little heard, harmed no one other than himself. Near the ground, a single name is neatly written, but all context is erased. Was it the name of his god, his love, his nemesis? Was it the name of the scarecrow himself? No one can know. No one can ever know, save the concrete goddess, who looked out upon his arrival and demise. Others see the world through her eyes, yes, but only what she sees now, not what she had seen before. Had she encoded the truth of his existence in the letters upon her wall? We do not know, we who pause to pick up the fragments of a glove, drop them back onto the ground, and move on.
3. More eyes are shaded here. Not scarecrow, not goddess, this one looks out upon all who pass her by, her vision compromised by shaded lenses, by window glass, by the immobility that is her nature, is her fate. We also see her through the window glass, compromised by reflection. What is part of her and what is not? A dress of schoolgirl plaid descends from shoulders otherwise left bare. She may wear a velvet sash. She may wear a black lace mourner’s hat. She may wear a skirt, stockings, shoes, but we cannot tell — our glance, caught immobilized as hers, cannot descend to see. Perhaps that is as it should be, for it allows us to imagine her as a mermaid, fish-like below the apparent sash, the water casting reflections that clash and harmonize with the reflections in the glass. We imagine this, then imagine the goddess, most of her body invisible, too. Was it this vision that caused the scarecrow to explode? Perhaps he dreamed that his canvas flesh, his earth-born straw, once transformed into the air and fire into which he burned, would merge with the mermaids’ water so that, combining all elements, he and they could become one.
4. More silent witnesses. Taller than heaven (from our immobile view, we cannot see how high they grow), they reach above us, above all other realms, then loop around, dive, and rise again from underground, their curves so delicate, so gradual, that they seem straight to casual, impatient eyes. Some bear leaves, but some the wind leaves bare. In this dry autumn, what leaves remain prepare to fall, to land on earth on which grass fades to straw, to land on water, covering there the memory of mermaids, to wait for lightning or exploding men to launch them into fire, into air, where, in the eyes of goddesses, they might be caught by wind and pass (west to east, west to east), as compostable traffic, inexorable as that at which the vision in the velvet sash forever stares.
5. Here, what once were trees lie parallel to earth. From those planks, under the watchful eyes of trees, grow more things that once were trees, things that will be trees. A chair (stuffed with something like straw, breathing as the scarecrow breathed), a tiny desk, pots with tentative hints of plants, rest on the horizontal boards or hang from the vertical. The chair, the desk, the plants, the boards exude a memory of humans. Here, perhaps, a woman (plaid schoolgirl’s dress, velvet sash, a mourner’s hat) once sat, sharing bread and cigarettes with another, but no one is now here. Perhaps she stepped toward traffic and was absorbed into a window. Perhaps she traveled elsewhere, where buildings merge and melt under the goddesses’ eyes, there to search for another, almost human, to learn again the mysteries of a name.
6. Here the sacrifices wait, laid out where once the humans sat and gazed upon the traffic, gazed upon the icons of the mermaid goddess, upon the seemingly immobile shadows cast as signs of passing time by infinite trees. What they themselves had not consumed, they left as tribute to their gods. Holy ones, we bring you nuts and dates. You whom we worship, we bring you what once may have been prawns. Those more sacred than we know, we bring you cigarettes, caffeine, and crusted bread. Take our water bottle, we pray. Take our plastic flame-bringer. We trust that you will not explode, or if you do, will leave there in your wake a sacred name.
7. She stands, surrounded, silent, still. What had seemed to be an open street ends here in a structure of silent white, one tall curved niche on its wall as mute and blocked from entry as the locked red door by its side. No traffic passes here, no wind. No straw blows past with whispers of sacrifice. She looks around at the walls surrounding her. “One, two, three,” she murmurs. “One, two three.” She wonders if she is counting the walls or counting time. She dares not look back. She fears not fire or salt, but another final wall. She fears to move, but fears that if she does not move, her legs might lock in place and fuse, and fears that the four-walled space might fill with water from the sea. She prays that if she is cursed (is blessed?) to swim forever, her body, human for the moment, will awaken, will remember how to breathe.
8. In the aftermath of fire, of flood, we float now, freed from earth, in air grown as substantial now as the waters of the sea. We remember that once we knew words naming “up” and “down”, but those words have lost their meaning now. We float through streets, through buildings, through time now caught as if in silent pools where moments swirl like smoke, like straw, like leaves. We find our words departing us as we understand the things that they name. We say goodbye to “banister,” farewell to “fire escape.” (How odd to think that we once needed a structure through which fire could escape.) We kick against the pliant air, like mermaids, yes, like goddesses, now that we know that to swim is to fly is to soar is to pray. We circle the human structures and emerge to follow the whispers of the infinite trees.
9. This nautilus, this canopy, this hand-hewn spiral which spins around us, around which we spin -- we have forgotten what this is or was. By that forgetting, we are freed. We knock upon the wood and listen to what once were trees. Their tones give forth forgiveness. “Spin around,” they say, “in paths drawn by the golden ratio, in acts drawn by the golden rule. Sing the notes of the calls of the goddesses, and you will learn from their voices, see through their eyes. Once you had hands, and those hands made all this from us. Once again you will have hands, as you move on the paths on which time and space grow, unstoppable as traffic, brash and bold as scarecrows, gentle as the goddesses, as infinite as trees.”
10. And we emerge. And up is again up, and down is again down. We once again have bodies, and are clothed in warmth, in softness, that protects us from the now cold air. We step (yes, we once again have feet) across the wood (our footsteps tapping out the memories of trees), and look into a mirror. “And again I now have hands,” one creature says. Another: “And again I now have eyes.” “Who are we now?” one asks. Yet another: “We are who we always were, destined to become what we must. And yes, for now we are raccoons.” “But who were we then?” “I think I was once a woman on a street.” “I think I was a goddess.” “I think I was a mermaid.” “I think I was a scarecrow, and once I had a name.”
11. We walk together along the wooden path, see steps, and try to remember how they once were used. A trellis rises to our right. To our left, plants grow, not yet trees, taller than we are, shorter than we were. We stand for a moment and hold each other’s hands. Each sees what the others have seen, and memory becomes a vision of a future. “We will climb these steps,” we say together, “impossible as it seems. We will venture out across expanses of close-mowed grass, of asphalt, of concrete, and of stone. We will go to the place where traffic passes, where buildings rise, where scarecrows turn to flame. In the gaze of the patient mermaid goddesses, in the shade of the infinite trees, by the drifting scents of cigarettes, coffee, beans, and bread, we will step there to the place of worship, our hands resting on the shreds of canvas hands. And we will read and speak the sacred name, and we will awaken into another plane of dreams.”
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