April 24th poem

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Artist 

You move to a cold climate and meet an artist on an online dating site.  When he contacts you, his profile is an image of his face squashed against a scanner, so you can't really see what he looks like.  Still, he seems smart and funny, and on the phone you like how his voice is a cross between a public radio announcer and a young Jack Nicholson-- soothing, affable, with an edge of danger.  You meet him at a bakery with good soup and high ceilings, and unsure of what to do with all the space, you read him a passage from the book of Lorrie Moore stories you're re-reading.  He is working as a manny when you meet, and his suite of rooms in a large house in the suburbs overlooks a lake.  Huge paintings he's done line the walls-- angry self-portraits, blurred landscapes.

Years later, you are still friends and living with different people in different states.  Your climate is warmer and greener for more of the year.  Your relationship went down a weird alley and never re-emerged.  Part of you feels that you are still in there, but you would never admit it to your artist friend.  He has won fellowships and had work exhibited in galleries and museums.  It's hard to keep track of all his news.  You video chat with him while he's on fellowship in Berlin.  There is something of the penitent about his space and his haircut, something vulnerable and new.  For a minute, you don't know what to do with yourself again.

You're always planning a collaborative project, but they never take off.  In one, you were to write a script for some sort of cryptic self-help video.  Another was to be a book of his drawings and your words.  The drawings he sends are barely there-- spare black lines curving against a white background.  You write something about feelings in response, but it doesn't suit.  Every few weeks, you speak on the phone, and every once in a while the artist asks if you are angry, if something has happened between you.  No.  What has happened is that you had a baby, now a small child, not yet in school full-time.  Some days you are so tired you can't remember which way to turn the light switch for "on."

You live with a musician who is preparing his exhibit for the electronic music festival.  He translates computer data into audio files, then feeds them into a keyboard.  He tells you about it at length, but your mind glances off the information.  In the background of your mind, you're busy writing, but that's hard to explain.  Your partner is capable of not hearing others when he is concentrating.  He's capable of concentrating every day after work for weeks on end.  Mostly you are tired in the evenings.  One evening, though, you shut yourself in the bedroom to write a poem.  The musician knocks on the door tentatively soon after.  You say, "What!" in the sharpest way possible.e  He needs a shirt because it's cold in his office.  You've just written your first line, and you hold your pen aloft, hovering over the paper, staring into space as he quickly walks in for his shirt and back out again, closing the door behind him.

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