In Praise of Not Getting
What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence?
Time for the chicken to wander lonely as a road, time
for the full-fledged conniption fit about what’s not
on the fence or the road—not that pink one! The other
pink one! The one with the blue balloon on its rump,
the one she’s grown fond of, used to, the one to grow on,
grown on, drone on, which is what time it is, and what makes it
so special? And he says sparkles, but I say a story I can’t quite
figure out. I say, we need a verb: to art! To take the ho hum mundane,
and sparkle-ize it. Catch my glittery drift? Mine glimmering eye?
As in degree of usefulness. As in what the eye wants. Like billboards
salivating the dollar burger. Yes, we laughed when we saw the one
about the unibrow, but then we bought the ticket, bought it like the functions
of light and dark—sun equals crops, darkness tucks us into bed—
vs. all things good and bad. And also it’s tidying. Sensing there’s a mess,
making sense of it. Assemblage. Installation. Here, let me
untangle that. There, I unraveled the ball of yarn that guy’s
been twining since 1967. Hiring a maid, a ready-made.
Half the time de-conundruming, the other half
upping the chaos, making the messes, messes of messes,
going, you call that a storm? I’ll show you a storm, blasting
the viewer to Neptune’s 900-mile-an-hour winds. Riddling the regular
with reindeer rivets. Oh, and better make sure it strikes a chord
any Hindu, hay-seed, or Yoruba can grok (grok that?).
But really it’s just arranging, an arrangement, a bunch
of peonies, a couple irises, six long-stemmed roses. Not cut
and dried ones; real ones you put in water. Ungraspable’s
good, too, as in stung like stinging nettle. As in this could be
a dream of eating ants, or this could be eating ants. But how,
you ask, did the Brillo pad scrub its way into a museum
my three year old could’ve built? Read above, where I mention
billboards, degree. What does art guide or guard? A whisper
of irony, a poke at documentary veracity, absurdity you may
or may not catch. I should hope it welcomes spies in the house
of serendipity, the calling into question of everything hanging
on every gallery’s walls, but that’s just my Jackson Pollock splatting.
And then there’s wanting to crack the safe, break into that box
because tick-tock the game is locked. As in let me see, am I
seeing this right? It’s a pill, isn’t it? An insect eye? A sort of button
to push? A microcosm? A spaceship, no, yes, one of the 1,500
galaxies in Deep Field North? I knew it! I just knew it! A fertility goddess
walking her dog! Something that used to happen freely (freedom?)
that’s recently been fenced. Something like feedlot confinement, I bet.
Or, no: I know! A subdivision, plans for the Fidalgo Bay Expansion,
complete with where the water will go. A trilobite? Or. She’d had
an identity and lost it. Her identity now orbiting like that 28,000-
km-per-hour glove dropped by a Gemini astronaut, the most dangerous
garment in history. Art is a dangerous garment. Art is the dress
you don’t wear to work. Art’s best kept with the cowboy poetry
boots and the atheist-patterned tights. Don’t want to get art
on your face, either. It might make your neighbor edgy, especially
if you ask him to share his thoughts about the imagination.
Discuss, instead, mowers, whether to go with gas or electric. Ask
to borrow his edger. Ask if it’s time your lawn had more edge. Or.
She’d never been one for solving riddles, but she liked a good joke.
And fences make good neighbors.