"Jane and the Channeling of Ambivalent Eels (Homage to Francesca)"
Yes, the photograph. The story has long been handed down in my eel-family, without understanding your fascination. The photograph is a thing that, when we see it on your wall, we take both pride and a prideful eel-revulsion in. Yes, our eel-ancestor enjoys a certain fame, a certain eel-historical relevance, allowing herself to lay curled next to that curled one of your species.
But why is this of interest to you? Do you wonder what both were thinking? Of course, your species sometimes needs to empathize with the pitiable, so perhaps you identify with the sadness your human must have felt, her own misshapen blob next to my ancestor's sinuous beauty? She is so eel-lovely, there in that bowl, next to that odd and bulbous terror.
Of course. We need not speak further. We understand. Such is the truth of culture. You visit our species. Our species visits you.
But oh, what eel-things we endure for this selfish thing that you call your art.
(Drawing based on "Eel Series 1977-8" by Francesca Woodman)
"Although Not a Babylon Sister by Birth, Vera Might Consider Being Adopted (Vera at the Ramada)"
You sing pretty songs as my checking account yawns. You perform an elaborately choreographed gavotte but I think my checking account has her back turned most of the time. Even your finely tailored Italian suit doesn't really do much to turn my checking account's head. But when the CD player in your Lexus starts singing that it's cheap but it's not free, that I'm not what I used to be, and that love's not a game for three, my checking account's ears perk up and she smiles at you.
"Lorraine Not Posing For Pictures"
Off the highway, we wander through woods as you take my picture. You say don't look at the camera, look over at that tree, but my eyes just wander around the woods like a lost bunny. When we look at the pictures later, everything is fuzzy, like there was something just outside the frame soaking up all the details. A nighttime rain makes I-95 a blur outside my window as we return from some southern beach.
"If Only Laundromats Could Be This Imaginary (Vera Not at WashLand)"
"Yeah those are the ones you gotta watch out for" says the big guy cleaning out the big dryers about someone Vera didn't even notice. "You can't be too careful in this day and age". She knows but does not mention the real dangers out there: A mental image of the laundromat man and his personal collection of lost and found women's underwear give her a chill as she finishes her folding and heads next door for a slice of pizza.
"The Things We Do to Pay the Rent (Lena, April)"
I'm looking at an old photograph of myself. In it, I'm visiting someone else's hotel room. It's Cleveland I think. Or maybe Columbus? It's maybe five or six years ago. I won't tell you what I'm doing in the photo, or what went on after the shutter closed. I will say that when I look at this photo, a satisfied smile comes over my face. There's a reason someone has rented the room, and a very different reason for why I'm there. Everything in this life is a transaction in one way or another, the only question is how many of the people involved think they got the better deal.
"Anna on my Couch, Taking a Brief Break from Playing Games"
Anna and I are playing cards out of a deck made of someone else's photographs. There are no numbers or suits written on the cards, so I have trouble telling whether this card is clubs or diamonds, or how many of clubs or diamonds it is. Anna goes out first and tallies up her points, but I'm stuck holding two blurry pictures of odd looking children and a black and white of the Hoover Dam. I have no idea how many points that is.
"Traveling a Midwest Backroad; Alice Takes Photographs"
I'm taking photographs of an Indiana cornfield, with a run-down equipment shed nestled in the back against the woods.
I'm taking photographs of the way light surrenders to the inevitability of November.
I'm taking photographs of the time and place I want to be kissing your shoulder blade.
I'm taking photographs of how, ninety-seven times out of a hundred, people get exactly what they expect.
I'm taking photographs of all of the ways that fog makes my life better.
I'm taking photographs of you.
"Semmes Avenue, Diana in an Imaginary Winter"
Diana watches a video of a girl running through the snow. It might be a video of herself, but that's unclear. It's also not clear who she's running from. Or to. The camera follows her, running after her. It's not clear if she's wanting to get to something, or get away from something, but as the video progresses, it's more and more clear that there's desperation involved. She falls, white snow in her black hair and on her black coat. There are very few edits or cuts. We don't see her face, but the emotion is very clear just from the way she's running. At some point she stops. The camera - that's been following her the whole time - starts slowly circling her, as she starts circling in the opposite direction. Piano music that wishes it had been written by Nick Cave and follows no discernible melody or rhythm plays quietly in the background.
"Farm Living is the Life for Me (Linda in the Parking Garage)"
Linda lives three blocks over from a major televangelical complex where most liberals and all homosexuals go to hell and whose god it is said supports armed insurrection in selected third world countries. The Green Acres episode that Linda is watching is the one where Arnold the Pig's famous abstract painting "Nude at a Filling Station" was banned in Hooterville.
"Taking Stock (Vera After a Night at Kate's, Any Random Tuesday)"
"It's just a waste", she'd said. And I knew, of course, that she was right. I had squandered my time, my talents, and much of my bourbon, and all I really have to show for it is this string of boyfriends and a bunch of notebooks full of silly words. The AC's not working and my bedsheets need washing.
"A Steady Belief in February (Kill Devil Hills Anna)"
It's not about me. It's about porch furniture on concrete porches, overlooking a pool or two, closed for the season but holding tight to memories of swimsuit-clad women lounging here long before I was born. It's about an ice machine that struggles onward, dedicated to the concept that my bourbon is only one of many needs for one of many chills, in spite of February. It's about a cold and deserted evening, no moon, and more stars than you'd've thought possible. It's about everyone who's ever gotten up for whatever middle-of-the-night reason, stumbled out their door to find that angry-mom ocean just a few steps away. It's about the dignity that, no matter who I might have brought back to cabin number five's tired mattress from whichever winter bar that I found both open and comforting, I would always be welcome. It's about the place I need to be.