May 16, 2011
TAGS: Al Jolson, ambition, Bing Crosby, buttercups, carpet, cities, claw, clover, condom, Eddie Cantor, Grandmother, home, House, Lithuanian, loss, lullaby, Memory, Music, scratch, silk. wallpaper, songs, staircase, Waterbury, Writing
Very very nice. A texture like silk wallpaper through the whole thing. It reminds me of being a kid and tracing the patterns in some arcane wallpaper with my eyes, trying to find exactly where the pattern repeats. Just perfect.
I love how the song gets folded into your thinking and your thinking into the song, until what you’re repeating is part imagination and part culture. Beautiful, Matthew.
Thinking about our conversation on time, knots. I think that’s what I’m trying to do when it comes down to it: tie memory up in a knot around things. Real things. Empire couches. Houses. I like your “knot” metaphor. It’s something I don’t have a satisfactory answer for: what happens when you untie the knots? I hope the things, places in the world don’t just unravel. Maybe it’s like untying a grocery bag where the knot ends, but there’s something inside it all, after all, that gave it weight. Wow. That was an awful metaphor for remembering things past. Sorry, Proust, you win, bro.
That’s what I liked about learning the etymology of denouement, actually. The unraveling of a knot of a life or a story. It’s a got a terrifying, loose beauty to it.
But anyway, when things unravel it doesn’t mean that there isn’t still part of the knot there – stubborn kinks, frayed edges, and whatnot. The memory of a knot, the ability to fit back into itself if forced… I don’t know.
I don’t tie my grocery bags though?
Reading your work is like encountering an old house with peeling paint–or wallpaper, I guess–there is the sense of layers stripped and pasted. There’s a richness, and your refrains here are like shadows cast over all. Their recurring is lovely and haunting. You’re so good at infusing a place with feelings unnamed and multiple. Your pieces seem to build a world.
[…] That life: Protestant, angst ridden, middleclass, unbloodied; it seems more fictive to me than the serial adventures of John Carter of Mars or King Kull of Atlantis. But this world: Catholic, poor, sanguinary. World because I did not know until I had left it that there was anything past the twenty-eight square miles of dead machine shops and storefront brick facade that could possibly matter. World: where the patient, sullen people of my grandfather’s time envied and hoped and hid their fears on the front stoops of shambling threefamilies. They left roses to run weed, choking the street lights by their long, haughty necks. Jars of nails. Stolen gas pipe for fences. Whiskey on the low shelves. The black crucifix. Even when I was a boy, you could see the lines where they hung their laundry out to dry in the chemical air, pierced only by siren and engine whir until the mournful equinox of the churchbells rose and remembered them to the God who bled. World, His World, because He watched them busy themselves with blood and He bled among them: hands ground to nubs in the pressgears; the accidental cooking of human skin in the brass foundries; old J— Z—, the landlord with the broken nose; the tenants he hung over the back porches while his son watched, learned; Z—, the brick shithouse Albanian who locked the doors and beat a dozen men nearly to death in the old Brooklyn Cafe; M— A— (La Mano Nera, the Black Hand man), who lent my grandfather money and whispered and grinned with him and walked the little girls down to St. Lucy’s; the little girls at Our Lady’s, scrubbed, hairbrushed, fidgeting serenely in their mantillas and white gloves as the hard men put on their killing faces and led the Virgin downtown on a painted float. The hard men. The killing faces. The Virgin where she belonged. And all of them old and broken and longed for and dead enough when I came up in the world, in dead e… […]
[…] to Cahersiveen, stop. Find the moor. My mother knows the name for it in Gaelic. My grandfather, who learned his hard, gutteral English in Willimantic, Connecticut, never knew a different name for it. Those are my people, more so than […]
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