20171021

Carey Scott Wilkerson


EXISTENTIALISTS IN LOVE


Two Photographs

1. Taormina, Sicily

Even such was the descent of that ravine,
And on the border of the broken chasm
The infamy of Crete was stretched along,

Who was conceived in the fictitious cow;
And when he us beheld, he bit himself,
Even as one whom anger racks within.
                               —Dante, Inferno, Canto XII


                Behind you, I can see the fountain spill water over seven-terraced marble pools beneath a sculpture of the Minotaur as he appears in six sad lines of Dante: frightened, alone at the black precipice of a ravine. And behind the fountain, with a view of Mt. Etna, Italy’s most active volcano, is our cheap suite on the ground floor of Hotel Villa Paradiso.


2. Dante Park, New York City

                We saw her circling the Revson Fountain one October night in the Plaza at Lincoln Center. I wanted to know whether she had sung Orfeo ed Euridice in Los Angeles. But you had the good sense to ask her for a selfie. Yes, I took the picture but with your iPhone and thus have no record of the sublime Catherine Malfitano in the moment just before she crossed the esplanade into the dark.



Watts Towers, 2005

Bite your lip and take a trip
Though there may be wet road ahead
And you cannot slip so what you wanna do
Just move on up for peace you will find
Into the steeple of beautiful people where there's only one kind
                               —Curtis Mayfield, Move On Up



                Look at us, three hours now, wandering with your skeptical UCLA undergraduates among Sabata Rodia’s curated dreamscapes. We're theorizing in this bone-lattice found-object world rendered in plaster, mesh, ceramic, rebar. We’re talking erasure and context, peering into vanity mirrors split in some minor, forgotten quake; green glass of 7 Up bottles; rail-yard scrap metal from the Pacific-Electric Wilmington line; touching seashells big as palm fronds, opalescent and lurid: an accretion of other men’s daily anarchies fixed in twilit ceremony, drizzled with homemade concrete. Your most promising student asks: But is it art? Your lips do not move, but I hear someone whisper there are no perfect solutions, even in this place where Nuestro Pueblo, our town—like the rockets of naïve 1950s science fiction, with fins, portals, and one fearless pilot—points its spires straight up.



Los Feliz

Los Feliz is an artsy Los Angeles
neighborhood and means "The Happy."


                Because there are no fireflies in Los Angeles we strung faerie lights through pepper trees that summer beside the cedar-wood bungalow in our narrow canyon. The Rossini 78s we found at some Saturday-morning bazaar threaded von Stade’s Cenerentola through the drone of traffic tangled in palms on Franklin Avenue just below. Sheila, the neighbor, claimed the power of crystals could save us from conspiracies, government smog, and urban dreams with disappointing endings. Her boyfriend, Bernard, a contract pilot for the police promised to bless our love from the helicopter’s cockpit during a pre-dawn flyover at four-thousand feet.

                You cooked up a pan of eggplant parm for the actresses living in the Sixth Street loft when they all agreed both to be in my play and not take their clothes off onstage.

                In the farmer’s market dumpster, I found new brushes tied with yarn to unopened jars of shimmering gesso. And I stretched canvas for the triptych you were painting every night downstairs while I only pretended to sleep but instead lay wondering what secret name for fate I might invoke to keep you from leaving and if you knew the stars in Andromeda are always visible from the top of the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier.



Crystal Blue Persuasion

                It started with a polished amethyst in the aloe plant on the window sill above the kitchen sink, we think. Next must have been the pale shard of blue topaz wedged under the stack of old New Yorker magazines. We had canceled the subscription but couldn’t’ bear to throw them away and needed the cartoons in a difficult year, so difficult that in an unguarded moment, I tried to eat three caramel moonstones I found behind our signed photograph of Montserrat Caballé, believing them unwrapped marzipan pralines from Canter’s Deli. In the entire Los Angeles basin, could I have been the only man trying to eat rocks?

                Wednesday night, cherry carnelian under a sofa cushion; Thursday night, a strand of beaded quartz under our bed upstairs, where we did not mind living quirky lives, but agreed this was more quirk than we required. Friday morning at DuPar’s Diner-on-3rd, the crazy neighbors Sheila and Bernard asked if we had noticed the obvious good effects of the emergency exorcism Sheila had performed on our house last weekend while we were away and whether we felt yet the endorphin swell of healing crystal loves?

                That’s how they said it: loves in the plural, as though everyone knew loves were formed over eons in the furnace of the planet. We were ready to draw the line at Sheila’s wild act of breaking and entering when Rhoda Barkhado—the Somali pastry chef, whose sour cream waffles and umber maple syrup had hypnotized the city—arrived at our table in a turquoise sarong wondering aloud Who would dare ask for a day better than this?



Fairy Godmother’s Lament

                I shouldn’t talk about clients this way, but Djamila the Tunisian seamstress, who asked for an infinite supply of fabrics, was found suffocated in her garden of wild cinnamon trees under six tons of lavender charmeuse. Meredith, an up-market estate planner in Pacific Palisades wanted her newborn twins in the best possible college, at which instant Kirabelle and Mathilde vanished from the nursery and materialized in Professor Celeste Rosen’s Women’s Studies seminar at Bryn Mawr. The mother was charged with endangerment and the babies dropped from class for failure to pay the necessary fees. Alexander wanted only money and so, lost all his possessions—everything in his house, including his wife—having turned into stacks of unmarked, non-sequential hundred-dollars bills. Phyllis wanted only to be in love and so, lost all her friends, who could not love her in the same way and who could not bear her long life of betrayed silence. I never learned to say no.

                We scarcely survive our happiness. If I had one wish it would not be for the end of desire’s secret madness or even for a planet of rational, compassionate hearts. Instead, I would ask for some place where magic is just words and the wand, a piece of pine.




Carey Scott Wilkerson is Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Columbus State University. He is the author of numerous plays including Seven Dreams of Falling and opera libretti including Eddie's Stone Song:Odyssey of the First Pasaquoyan; two poetry collections including Threading Stone, short fictions, and a novel forthcoming in late 2018.
 
 
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