June 27, 2010

from faster, faster

When he became an American citizen a black man from Chad renamed himself “Samuel” after Samuel Smith. Now he’s avoiding eating sugar to lose weight. Overheard: considering all the places money goes we should put rock stars on our bills, not Presidents. Put Mick Jagger on the $20. But we want to think of money as clean and so we do. We want to think of California as a place with palm trees. We want to forget that Andy Warhol did a cameo on “The Love Boat” with Andy Griffith and Tom Bosley. At first your blue shirt reminded me of what was absent, then it became what you had once been—a record of how x saw y, my increasing awareness of history. At the Warhol exhibit I thought, “Hot Dog Bean” . . . do they still make that soup? My friends, Starbucks is the new Campbell’s. I was not allowed to take photographs in the gallery but could write as much as I wanted, with the prints of endangered species from the Bank of America Collection reflected in the shine of the gallery’s linoleum floor, and the security guard swiveling on his office chair in the corner keeping an eye on me, the only one in the room to watch, watching the Siberian Tiger(s) and the Grey’s Zebra(s) and the Pine Barrens Tree Frog(s), etc., etc. Hemingway said something like, “just write the next true thing.” When Danny wrote, “I am blessed” on his Facebook wall I wrote, “Fuck being blessed” and he deleted it. We suffer from the misunderstanding that peacemaking is a clean business. We suffer from an inability to imagine what it’s like not to know what we know. Maybe “suffer” is the wrong verb, but when I can’t remember I make forgetting a part of the story. I wrote in my notebook “I saw you standing in the rain” but have no memory of who that “you” is, until I find list after list of why I shouldn’t love you. I read that inertia is one of the strongest forces in the universe. It’s what holds countries and even galaxies together. It’s what kept the two of you together (she said in the third person.) And now, apart.




This poem is looser. It has a trendy bird in it. It’s committed to equity and sadness, more sadness than all the metaphors in the world combined. Sadder than a history book in Texas that says “hoagie” and one on Pennsylvania that says “grinder”—or is it the other way around? More sad than the entirety of the regionalism of history, the politicization of regionalism, the sandwich as metonym and the sentience of rats; sadder than fish that feel pain, chickens that can identify the most aesthetically pleasing face by indicating preference. [Enter beauty.] Now Stephen Hawking warns us not to search for aliens because they are not friendly. John Waters said that camp is dead. John Waters is the new Nietzsche, memoir is the new novel, “so” the new logic. Think back to the first time the words “nature” and “nurture” were set against each other . . . even farther back to the first work of great art born from petty jealousy: it is the trace emotion in all art, like the residue of cocaine on luggage and the trained dogs, the critics, an intermediary body placed between us like language itself to help us see. Once again I defame dogs. I have to tell you, one morning I woke up and understood art. There it was, this thing that wasn’t me but a part of me, wasn’t a building or clothing or furniture or psychology or politics or, or, self-expression. Since that day it’s been quiet in my mind. I drift about the city reading the memoir of Smith and Mapplethorpe, thinking what drew us together was disciplined study—all of us, my loves, scattered about the country eating hoagies and grinders and whatever they serve in Canada, and maybe we’re all sipping lattes at the same time or looking at the same pictures of pelicans dripping in crude oil from the Gulf spill. I confess: I have more interest in spreadsheets than most films. I have dental. So we write, each of us, status updates. If I built a bar—no, I would never build a bar. If I built a coffee shop it would have electrical outlets everywhere.




Outside my window the cicadas are buzzing like fluorescent lights. They are molting, crawling out of their exoskeletons that remain unbroken except where they backed out of themselves, leaving translucent shells attached to tree branches by little barbs. Litter bugs. Beloveds, evolution happens by dumb luck. Our ability to tell time is never completely lost even if we go crazy, and we can understand the minute pauses between words but have not evolved to grasp geologic dimensions. We comprehend only five generations with ours in the middle. I remember when Bill said nothing really depends on white chickens and a red wheelbarrow. Now we buy Apple computers because they curate the world and make it more, more, pleasing. What if “internet” becomes the first reference for “cloud.” When TC said I have a steady heart I wondered if that was a compliment. I do find the Grand Canyon melodramatic and I have a prejudice against mountain ranges in Utah, but I’m resigned to have faith because it’s the better choice. Have faith in having faith, my friends. Morgan sent a text: “I’m back to reading theory, my friend.” I always knew you would move to San Francisco. I left because I didn’t want you to be the dominant sculptor of my life. Do you know the sea is not all that responds to the moon, that even the solid earth rises and falls a foot a day? I want to say don’t cry, Janis, don’t cry. I see you in my mind, heartbroken and strung out. We still love and sing your songs.




Stephanie Balzer is Executive Director of VOICES Community Stories Past and Present, Inc., a nonprofit that mentors Tucson’s youth in the documentary arts. She earned an MFA from The University of Arizona and has published two chapbooks: Revenant, which is available from Kore Press, and Faster, faster, which is available from CUE Editions. Her poems have appeared in journals such as CUE, MidAmerican Review, Chelsea, and Cannibal.

One Response to “STEPHANIE BALZER”

  1. Beth Says:

    Oh, I love reading these, Stephanie.

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