Wednesday, January 28, 2009


So I got a minute away from my fifth of the apple and hung out in some sunnier climes in the Gulf State of LA. Still the best food on earth (and I don't concede Brooklyn's props -- on *anything*-- easily).

Everything is tasty and everyone is an enabler when it comes to eating, so I just gave up and 'went with the local culture'. I swear I gained about 15 pounds in 3 days. Not a bad way to go.

In addition to the culinary excess, it was great to visit the area again. I hadn't been to the area since FEMA messed up in 2005 (just to jog the memory hole, Katrina did not hit landfall, it was the levee breaking that flooded the area). People are amazingly resilient and the artist community as well as the culture in general is dealing with the inevitable post-traumatic stress of that event. The whole experience gave me food for thought about Americana in general: how we feel separated from 'different' folks near us and how close, and in some ways, unifying an extraordinary collective experience can be. Not trying to romanticize the situation at all, or mitigate the disproportionate number of poor/Black folks affected by the flooding, but just to note the non-visual but no-less substantive relationships between people. Folks seemed more connected somehow. But I'm just a hick from the Northeast and may not know what the deal is. I am a bit romantic though, and do hope this sense of connectedness between communities I felt is, in fact, the case.

Goes to show why, as Sandra Ruiz and I argued in an edition of the journal "women and performance" that policy matters. We focused on art but it is generally the case. I very much hope that the Federal Government will set a tone that trickles down to less divisiveness. Not to negate cultural distinctions -- unique contributions are often worth keeping -- but they don't have to be sources of antagonism to be sources of pride. (Okay, everyone hold hands and sing Kumbaya! I know, I know. Mushy much?)


by Mary Cornish

Everyone knew the water would rise,
but nobody knew how much.
The priest at Santa Croce said, God
will not flood the church.
When the Arno broke its banks,
God entered as a river, let His mark high
above the altar.
He left nothing untouched:
stones, plaster, wood.
You are all my children.
The hem of His garment, which was
the river’s bottom sludge,
swept through Florence, filling cars and cradles,
the eyes of marble statues,
even the Doors of Paradise. And the likeness
of His son’s hands, those pierced palms soaked
with water, began to peel like skin.
The Holy Ghost appeared
as clouds of salted crystals
on the faces of saints, until the intonaco
of their painted bodies stood out from the wall as if
they had been resurrected.

This is what I know of restoration:
in a small room near San Marco,
alone on a wooden stool
nearly every day for a year,
I painted squares of blue on gessoed boards—
cobalt blue with madder rose, viridian,
lamp black—pure pigments and the strained yolk
of an egg, then penciled notes about the powders,

the percentages of each. I never asked
to what end I was doing what I did, and now
I’ll never know. Perhaps there was one square
that matched the mantle of a penitent, the stiff
hair of a donkey’s tail, a river calm beneath a bridge.
I don’t even know what I learned,
except the possibilities of blue, and how God enters.

PS: if I can figure out how to add an audio clip to my own blog, I'll include one of my song "Katrina Blues" on Elliott Sharp's group Terraplane from the album "Secret Life".

No comments: