Thursday, June 22, 2006

For twenty years I applied for a muse, but the waiting list was as long as a phone book. They gave muses to more established writers, who used them up like double-A batteries. I knew one overhyped screenwriter who went through 30 muses. Meanwhile, my work suffered. I wrote sestinas about my therapist. When I finally got the call, I wept.

My muse was named Jim. He had a tattoo of a Mondrian painting on his back. My favorite painting, he said. He then wondered what it would have been like to be Mondrian's muse. Modigliani, Mondrian, whatever. It's time to work! I said.

I hadn't expected my muse to be sporty. Jim lifted weights. He also had his own apartment. It wasn't much. Card table for a desk. Kitchen cabinets bare except for boxes of Shredded Wheats and tubs of protein powder. Then he had this sectional couch. Once a glorious pink, it was now faded, the color of a sick dog's tongue. It's Michiko Kakutani's couch, he said, She gave it to me when I used to be her muse. Critics have muses? I asked. They need us the most, he said.

I saw Jim every morning. I sat on his couch and watched him lift freeweights while sweat beaded on his brow. He'd finish a set, and ask, breathless, Well? Are you inspired?

In 1327, the poet Francisco Petrarch spotted a 19-year-old beauty named Laura in the church of St. Claire and spent the rest of his life addressing his sonnets to Laura. And this was based on one sighting. Perhaps a muse inspires best when absent. I said, Maybe you should be more absent. Sure, he said.

I didn't see him for a week. I sat at the computer without writing a thing. Then I allowed myself into his apartment. He was in the shower. I stood in the kitchen and ate the sugar side of a Shredded Wheat. Jim came out and sat on that couch, a towel wrapped around his waist. I sat next to him.

Well? He asked.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

As if a god.
(And I say it as if, because I am)
the aging Alpha, the oldest Omega. Because
I roll my crushing bulk through puddles
of miniscule worlds, making waves
and hold the wheel that turns the wheels
that are in me. As if these were your eyes
rolling back in my head.
As you were here behind my iris,
the rusted flower that tears me its petals.
Because I am the gnarled root the pistil
grows from and the stamen giving.
As if spring were eternal here.
Because I tried to be in that wrinkled cloud
and be that cloud you believe in,
I’ll hide myself and only sing one finger
into sight for you, to spin the wheel
of stars. Because I am able.
Because the shudder and twitch of weather
makes us withered, makes us whole.
Because we are most
at home in front of flashing boxes,
our homes, boxes within us. As if a shoe
like a leather face, empty by the door.
Because I am that shoe and in it,
omnipotent, and because I am
the one who cannot walk away.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

For a change of pace, here’s The Sofa, a rather chilling little horror film made by a gentleman named Tony Cane-Honeysett in 2001. In a rather Chaplin-meets-Popeye style, the film recounts the Herculean efforts of a chubby Everyman to rid himself of a putrid country-style chesterfield, played with a menacing aplomb not seen since DeNiro in Cape Fear by a simply appalling brown plaid couch with one of those foul little skirts attached to the front. The film’s terrifying impact emerges from the universality of its subject matter: we’ve all encountered at least one couch so dreadfully tacky that it seemed capable of supernatural acts and unspeakable crimes, haven’t we?