Breadcrumb #446

MICHELLE WHITTAKER

The thought of my Grandmother’s death likes to visit
the idea of a Jesus cleaned and dressed after dying

even when the clanging of cymbals or catechisms
against prayer wheels in the brain no longer lay sick.

The thought of an oncologist sketching disorganized nodules
dislikes how sleeplessness does not return the countryside I love

or my family -- who escaped to their own islands
when consuming turned into dire consumption.

The thought of the obeying silence often interrupts
this drinking, this dunderhead, who often masks abdominal pain.

Where I was made born again crawls in-and-out bed --
certain positions seem prone to restless anger.

When loving someone depressed, dying & in self-denial,
deeper the daily routine for creating art -- like a constant

circling around my Grandmother’s bed, who sings
about the imaginary violence of disease,

thinking itself mapless -- or ageless
like a luminary obedience, or the tormented knowing,

when virtue subsumes the blade ready --
soaked clean.

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Breadcrumb #445

REY ARMENTEROS

When I was reading Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, I used mental approximations for oaks and elms every time I ran up against them. I would find "oak" in a sentence, and all I knew was tree. My image for oak then was nothing more than a general tree.

Outside of pine trees and palms, I had little notion of what the different types of trees looked like. I was not aware of their seasonal changes — being from Miami, I only knew one season. Tolkien's rich environment and whatever implied meaning he was driving at was lost on a reader that could never differentiate a maple from an oak.

And yet I love trees! I take notice of them every time they call my attention by a shift of sunlight or by clusters of diverse textures in the distance. I appreciate the grace of branches, and I try to memorize the exact shapes of leaves. I take whatever haphazard details I can recollect back into my studio, and I try to paint the details that remain with me.

But was a branch dark gray or brown? Was there an order of connections that the branch had as it climbed up into the canopy? I could visualize the image, but not every correct element would make it intact. Since I draw and paint from memory, understanding what you had seen earlier provides a greater advantage than merely memorizing random details.

I went to the library one day and found a few books on botany. I took them home to go about studying the categorization of plants with seriousness. I was finally going to acquire some understanding about trees.

However, I immediately ran into walls of scientific jargon. A dry text was what I encountered. Keen specificity were the barbs I had to negotiate. The first book didn't even have a warm introduction to spur me on. Before getting into the good stuff, the general groupings of species and other foundational information was too convoluted for the novice, and forty pages in, I was convinced there was not going to be any "good stuff."

I had given up, but I had not forgotten. In another part of the country, at another library, some years later, quite by accident, I found a how-to book on painting trees. I was flipping through it, convinced it was just another book on artistic technique when I slowly realized what the author was in fact doing. He was classifying the basic types of trees, grouping each one in two-page spreads, explaining through the point of view of a watercolorist what differences to look for in each type.

Enraptured, I took it home, read each spread carefully, took notes, and committed them to memory. His descriptions of what to look for provided me with building blocks. The structures of things were being decoded for me, and I was dreaming up possibilities for how to use them with my own painting techniques. I was taking my work from memory and infusing it with a system.

However, I soon took this basic knowledge and found myself asking questions, wondering why paint trees when we have real trees all over creation? Here's a charming little painting by the symbolist Gustav Klimt I find in an art history book, and the trees look so convincing. But do I want to look at Klimt's lesser known landscapes or see the actual landscape? We assume this is what the trees looked like under such lighting and other conditions. Klimt's simple, clear landscapes are beautiful, but I feel real trees are so much more than the ones that are raised in the mind's fancy with his maneuvers in oil paint.

On the other hand, I could be wrong since I have never seen the actual paintings but only photographic reproductions of them. However, regardless of which tree tickles the mind in a more direct manner, Klimt does provide ideas by the way he composes them, the manner in which he paints them, and the colors which he chooses. And these ideas, if still present to someone who had discovered them in his paintings, would bounce off the actual landscape when the time comes to look at an actual tree. And just like how the painted tree can bring up the visual characteristics of a real tree in your head, the real tree may have a tendency of invoking the tree that was made with nothing but paint marks. I know because I have seen such trees once under the same lighting conditions and immediately thought of Klimt.

And these ideas, if still present to someone who had discovered them in his paintings, would bounce off the actual landscape when the time comes to look at an actual tree.

It is reassuring, but after asking why paint trees, I take a broader view. Why paint anything for that matter? An open doorway within open doorways, a face in the dark?

Here is the glow that rises out of the bedroom at this late hour in the afternoon, and the orange nature of the light is noticed when I step out of the room and find that the orange room frames the blue bathroom like a sky blue rectangle cut into the wall.

I painted this thing a couple of years ago when I was transfixed by the warm and cool tones folding into these rooms. I was recreating the moment from memory. The bedroom is not orange, and the bathroom is not blue; the walls that are merely white were caught in a sunset that turned them into something else. I enjoyed the very idea of this transformation. I painted it with the orange and blue as close as I could remember.

But then, an interesting thing happened. After it was done, I could not help looking at this painting of mine about ephemeral light without acknowledging its quiet purpose lifted and turned into a silent declaration — in my mind, with time, the rectangle of the door in my painting became a long tombstone, and the feeling was now solemn.

And these unexpected ominous overtones brought up a singular beauty that I wasn't going to get from the real situation of the room in particular lighting conditions. I would like to think that my process of roaming through the depths of memory to resurrect this moment provided the bricks that would turn my quiet experience with the room into something different, something the paint discovered, as if in this room that was a part of my home, the paint found an apparition.

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Breadcrumb #444

SENECA BASOALTO

There were fourteen different sighs in my vocabulary, he said, ten times a week. Ten times fourteen is one hundred and forty, and one plus four is five – and five is one of five numbers that doesn’t make me nauseous, like dirty four. How he’d say the number arbitrarily just to watch one of my fourteen sighs gag from my throat.

Plums and arpeggio on his tongue. Plums that were a quarter size of his whole palm. Plums that could fit two at a time inside his mouth. Making me count math like a commoner, or stagger away from him with eyes rolled double on sigh number three. Two sighs for one. Elicit one sigh, get one free.

I learned the hard way to keep individual, inconspicuous, use language to skip pentagrams around dialogue so whomever is trapped on the other side of the conversation hears everything without absorbing anything.

Philip taught me that. He memorized my fourteen different sighs and directed my speech until nothing I said made sense to anyone – not even him three quarters of the time. Not because it didn’t have substance, but because the common person was prone to dragging their train of thought through the surface of every conversation. Anything that contained more than one or two layers of consideration was instinctively dismissed. Even the term “black” when used as a fall fashion trend triggered in me the urgency to remind anyone in my vicinity that before existence itself was created, there was nothingness, and nothingness was black.

I had to wear brown and call it a day.

Of course, this backfired on me later in life when I had four husbands, three friends, two enemies, and zero people who knew what I was talking about, ever. Philip had died. The cat I named after him died. And all I had left were fourteen different sighs that allocated me into maps to create the sum of division.

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Breadcrumb #443

ALICE RIDDELL

We are off,
Ta ra, ta ra
And cheerio,
Good riddance and tickateedoo.

But I feel no cheer
As we turn our backs
On the bakers dozen double
To become Isles of isolation

As we march away in proud defiance
We cause an electric blackout
From mass kettles frantically boiling
To pour tea,
Into self-inflicted wounds.

It’s even changed my tongue
Brexicon has come!
Invading minds and countries
The Empire lives on!

They said it could be hard or soft,
Red, white, blue,
A cherry picked cake to have and to eat   
There is so much texture and colour to how I feel
Granite grievances and alizarin anxieties.

All those gold stars
Dancing circles on a blue square
But we are without partners
In a waltz that has no union

England recedes into itself
As the Tudor rose wilts
I think about my broken country,
As I burn my fingers on blackened crumpets.

I look down and feel my toes slip
A whole country crumbles down some white cliffs
And into a channel that feels like an ocean.

• • •

Breadcrumb #442

DAVID KLASOVSKY

I didn't wanna live anymore but also didn't care much about the fuss and muss of putting an end to it all, like explaining my purchase of rat poison to the clerk in the Ace, nor could i bring myself to contemplate rolling around in pain for an hour or more until my heart gave out. You know. Taking the elevator to the roof, weathering the storm of distant past memories welling up inside you up there on the parapet. Sorting through regrets while your legs spasm and refuse to jump. Many's the romantic that assumes it's easy to just fling yourself off a parapet  or to pull the trigger on a gun pointed at your own head. it aint. If there was just a switch you could throw and be done, i'd have done it. But no. I just lingered on and on glumly, and totally disinterested in life. What a drag. Seeing Dr. Caldwiller's ad in the back of an old Aegis magazine i found (on a park bench outside the Tenement Museum on Broome St) gave me the least little glimmer of hope. I happened to be on my way to the post office, so i said what the heck, and sent in a money order for the requested $15.99. I had forgot all about it 10 business days later when the package arrived, tastefully wrapped in plain brown paper with no return address. Could have been a bomb for all i knew, but given the basically null state of my emotional life at that point the possibility frankly caused me no hesitation whatsoever. I ripped it open. Everybody likes a surprise packet don't they? Well curiousity killed the cat, as the saying goes. Though in this case that's imminently debatable. i liked that the instructions appeared to be handwritten, even though i knew it was just a handwriting font like you can get made of your handwriting for a few bucks on the internet. It lent a homey personal touch. And the graphic of the GREEN FIRE on the box itself once i'd uncovered it was inticing and kinda sexy. Plus i had all the materials on hand, wooden stick matches, a pinch of salt, some hairs of a cat, and by great good fortune i also had the requisite page ripped from the Bible handy. How likely is that? i don't put much store in co-incidences but sometimes there is just no other explanation. In no time at all the silent GREEN FIRE was ablaze in my humble bed/dining room area and surprise surprise it really was cool to the touch just like the ad says. So i walked right into it, with nary a backwards glance. And now here we are the two of us, not best friends by any means but neither of us depressed or suicidal (hallelujah). One thing they do not tell you about is the smell, which is god-awful and clings to everything. We will probably have to get new furniture which is okay cuz all we had was just basically trash taken in off the street and all, but for someone with nice furniture you should be aware of this, and maybe do it outside or cover your stuff with plastic.

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