Pat Steir, Beautiful Italian Painting (detail), 1982, oil on canvas.
I have to sneak off soon with my camera, when it’s dark, to take those pictures of buildings I’ve been promising myself. I can see them now, blurred of course, because of the lack of light, but definitely there. You see, I have at the back of my mind a photograph I took from the car, that time in Chicago. The print is grey, of a skyscraper, and all you can see is the passage of the lights. I say “passage” because it looks as though I fell, in a curved sort of way, while pressing the shutter release. This is of course not what happened, no, the car in fact was moving one way and I perhaps leaning another.
I don’t know at the moment what I did with those negatives but that’s always happening, it was five years ago. Not that I hadn’t remembered that particular photograph before, but it came and went as they do, didn’t stick until quite recently. And it’s there.
I was disappointed when I got the prints at the time. That too happens often, it’s only after a while that they seem to lodge themselves inside of me and mean something different.
On the farm where I was brought up … I feel it’s important to mention, if not make a point of this fact. I always attempt, whatever anyone says, to give an indication of where I come from. Not that it does any good, well, what can you say?
But there is an interesting point to do with the farm; it exists for me now like a story. I didn’t take photographs then but I read a lot. It’s like the way you can become absorbed in someone else’s life, in a book, but you weren’t actually there, you were reading, as though watching. Well that’s a bit like how I feel or felt, the last time I thought about it.
I keep imagining Brian in front of those buildings at night. I can have two distinct ideas in my head and then suddenly the damn things get mixed up. Superimposed so that I no longer know whether they started separately or together. Neither can I remember what it was last night that was so important, so relevant to all this.
I just have too many thoughts to fit in while I’m up. Not just thoughts but also: certain things noticed with the eyes and recalled as
feelings I wasn’t aware I’d had,
a sense of importance hovering
around barely remembered
What happens is that when I’m lying down in the dark, these things rise up and whizz past. It exhausts me.
Brian said, “I pass out. When I think those thoughts … the way the world is … the relatedness. I am here lifting my cup (as though being watched, it’s very paranoid), someone is doing something somewhere else; all these things, I can see. Can hold the structure, refined, complete, in my head.
I pass out.
It’s too big, too informed. I think it, but it dispenses with me. I pass out. I pass out.” Brian said.
Guy was talking to Emily as I listened to Brian, I overheard bits. “He dreams … you know, compare it with his life … as we do.” (Did I overhear this?) “He leaves in the morning with them … he lives with his dreams.”
At The Party: Photographs
1. To the left of the frame is a bed with Guy sitting on its edge, he is small and dark with a beard. His limbs are neatly folded, elbows against his body, one hand supporting the other arm as he holds his cigarette close to his face. To his right an open door, the only source of light, there Brian stands. He appears to be without bones, his movements dictated by something more erratic, elastic, quicker to dissolve. He leans against the door frame, his shoulder to the right, his hip to the left.
(Photographically, when the only light source is behind a figure, there is a tendency for the outline to burn off, blurr.)
2. At the bottom of the stairs, beneath gas and electricity meters, a tall dark boy is being bitten by a short blond boy. Both have beards. The tall boy’s body is stooped in painful response. “No … please … I can’t breathe … you’re biting too hard … I can’t breathe. Stop … please.”
The blond boy stops although not in response to the plea, flicks his head back, his eyes closed, mouth open. Blood on his teeth, not from the neck, no, he must have been sucking, his gums, it must be from his gums.
3. Emily, Brian, and I are talking when some boy walks up. “Why does everyone have beards?”
“Because I look better with one” Brian answers, the question having more to do with him than either of us, giggles and nods towards Guy “well, he thinks I do anyway.”
“But I can’t.”
“Oh I’m sure you can” Brian confirms the possibility as he examines the chin.
“But I can leave it days and it doesn’t look like yours.”
“Mine’s two weeks old, I hardly have anything after two days, I’m sure you could grow one.”
People look around a lot during parties, after such a scan the three of us are left as before.
“Was I alright?” Brian asked anxiously, “I didn’t know what was going on, what he wanted, did I say the right things?”
“Yes, yes … of course. It’s always difficult …”