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Tell me how
It feels to be dead
For 20 years now
So far apart?
I have told every memory
I have of you and now they are only words
Is there nothing left?
Why are only somber thoughts here with me tonight
That I am not out, that I am not among the living
That I might stare into the wall and not see it.
Why is there so little to say
Is it that easy to forget and let darkness be darkness and silence be silence?
Why is this so uninteresting to me
That I might make a life like yours into a poem and not even make it good?
I don’t think there is any grace
There is no miracle in the sand between your toes
Maybe there is nothing sadder than the tone of my voice
Because it is so unlike yours
You would have been calm and gentle and comforting
And made even death seem like the back porch
And that is the grace that is not in the goodbye
And that is why you knew you were dying
And still didn’t say goodbye
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Started on a new piece today which I am very excited about. Got Jeff, our new professor to stand beside this almost finished piece I was working on this past week. It needs to be installed in a public space and needs to have the empty spaces filled with an ephemeral material but I am excited about the prospects for this new exploration.
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We were asked to write a bio in the voice of Vasari. I wrote Chapter One: Tybee.
A place deposits parts of itself within the mind that linger on after houses are demolished, blackberry bushes are uprooted and long after a man has traveled west and yearns to return home. How best can one count what a land has made of a man? The architecture and landscaping are not within themselves important, though they are often recreated within the mind. What last longest are impressions, idealizations, content that is untrue after being retold to oneself but this is where the artist is born. Maybe what is untrue is created into truth or maybe the most insecure moments are sewn into the security of forms that hold within them a representation that is at once visible, shareable, destroyable or real. To know anything of man, to know anything of the artist one must linger longest in the stories he tells and doesn’t tell often.
Consider Tybee Island in the 1980’s as the scene for this first story. Anthony Faris was not born here, the long history of his ancestors does not take root here, this place was chosen by his grandparents and no one remains here, no deed, nothing passed down but that’s the vocabulary of the contemporary family, choice and abandonment. When a person remembers nothing more of their family history than what is around them, as if it appeared and was always as such, then a place can take on the significance mirroring the narrative of knowing a land with sweat and work and death in ten years as if it were a hundred. Anthony was raised by his mother alone, his mother and his grandparents alone two blocks by foot from the ocean. His grandmother walked fast and her house was not far from the duplex in which he grew.
To speak of Tybee in the 1980’s a narrator must say that there was a grocery store and a laundry mat and a school that was empty and a church and a bridge leading to the city. Tybee had once been connected to the faraway lands of America by the train but long before Anthony was born the tracks had been uprooted and paved over. A highway that crossed the country, US 80, once began or ended on Tybee and moved westward to California but now the highway was cut and moved so there was no one road that lead a traveler without delay to the far away ocean away from this ocean. The Island was connected to the world by a bridge beside another bridge that was suspended without a middle over the river. This is what it is to speak of the place and time in which Anthony first formed memories and considered the world as an Island.
Maybe birth order allows a child to grow to become an artist, Anthony was the youngest of three, or maybe it stems from owning nothing or from an education or from a question that was never answered to a person’s satisfaction. Maybe it has something to do with wander. The duplex at the end of the dirt road where Anthony grew lay beside the woods and Anthony would look out the door when the raccoons came at night to push over the trashcans and feast. There was a nest built in the wreath his mother kept out yearlong where baby birds hatched and learned how to fly, eyes were watching from the peep hole, surely Anthony’s mother was holding him up with the strength of her arms to watch. There were the turtle eggs that were buried on the front door step on Mother’s day discovered by the children getting out of the car on returning from Church. There was the story of the six foot diamondback rattle snake killed down the road, six feet was twice the height of the boy listening to the story, a giant, this lasts. And there were the tadpoles that were born in the park after the rains, and they grew large and were thick as honey as the sun came out and dried the puddles and left the squirming bodies to shape the land.
There were things more complicated than the simple world of growing up in a quiet place but Anthony did not know them. His mother worked as a Janitor one year at a school and then was hired as a teacher the next, the children slept in one room and there was loneliness and hardship but this was unknown. Dylan was hit by a car and Anthony saw a still body along the pavement and the screaming mother followed by a screaming sister running down the road but what is this to a child? There was the death of Mr. Burns who Anthony spoke to instead of the children during recess but what is this to a child? There is fence that does not have a man speaking across it to a child. There is a shell of a child’s body that is damaged in the brain and there is no more hide and seek, there are no more blackberry’s on the bushes. This is what the child knows. This is the complicated world pushing the peace of place out of the world, it is the bridge leading to the city, it is the empty wreath with birds no more.
The ocean is the last refuge of healing, the salt covers the skin and the child can be a child once more. There is a time when this Island and this water can contain the grandmother and grandfather and mother and sister and brother and disease may exist and death but not to this family, not to those most loved. The quiet Island is the confidence allowed to children who for now are children, fostering some faith and some peace that may outlast darkness or be the guide stone for returning. Elizabeth made Anthony a ring from the stem of a weed and tied it into a knot around his finger. Anthony returned home and hid it beneath a white chair, safe from the vacuum and any eyes. And this, of all things, is the beginning of leaving and the beginning of the next story because it is the first time someone loves you that is not made too by blood or history. A choice to create love is like a choice to create art, it is no choice at all but it seems like one when the past is flattened and meaning is shaped by minds that cannot fathom the feeling of a world without creation, or without love. This time has passed and now, these things are the only ones that can be truly remembered.
I have a new site that I am updating weekly, mfaresearch@tumblr. I will continue to update this site as well with my own words and photographs once I get my camera back.
Last week was a great week, visits with Des and Bryan and my friends, dinner with professor and arguments about the South and then a visit to ATL with my family. I am home now and hoping that my body might allow the ideas I have to form in some way into something beautiful.
We do not fear the river
as we should or as we may
It inspires nothing of the wander
that it would
if we were swept away
Had long dreams last night about my grandfather. He is dead now but in my dream he was close to death and I would look into his room or through his window to see if he had passed. What a strange dream. I also recall flying in a plane- a small engine plane and knowing that there was a fear of crashing but it didn’t seem like it would.
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The door frame and the broken window
Speak of man
Because man has built them and man has forgotten them
In speaking to a professor today I realized one thing so sudden I had to say it aloud. We were speaking of age and he said “why do we ignore the elderly, as if we would not become them one day.” And I sat there thinking and I considered my role in this society and how it was bolstered not by those before me or those after me but by my contemporaries, how I shared the most comfort with those my own age- the same issues, the same history, the same cultural recognition.. and I thought about how we relate most to those who we are going through the same issues and have gone through these issues with and I thought about growing old and I thought about how the old loose their contemporaries to death and then there they are, surrounded only by their families and those who came after- those who were not there at marriages and births and through wars and those who were not there to know them when they were young and those who did not live the life they had and in my mind I considered how at different times in our lives we may loose our parents and grandparents and we may loose those older then us but when we begin to loose our contemporaries we find ourselves the keepers of our own story and we understand that the story of those who came after us with be the next story that is told.
Thought today would be a great day but turns out that it was alright with long sections that were not so great. Think all my disconnections and dissatisfactions come from knowing that I am wasting the day but not stopping the waste. Guess there is power in knowing and power in making more from the days that follow because you have to catch up.
Talked earlier in class about Michelangelo and his biographer – thought for a while while we were talking about the role of the artist, the role of genius, the role of the divine in the story of creation.
Jodeco is shaking his paws right now and his eyes are fluttering back and forth as he dreams. Think I’m going to get to bed too and maybe Friday will be something much more promising than today. Goodnight.
As you might consider a belief
As you might consider relief
As you might consider a poem that begins
With rhyming words because they sound good together
I am good with words
And I am damn decent as a man
I raised my dog since he was four weeks old
Waking every four hours to bottle feed him and hoping that
He would survive and I didn’t love him as much I love him now
There was a day when he ate a few yards of carpet and I was calling the vet at home and I sat beside him hoping that he would make it through the night and
There was the day that he was almost hit on Valentines day and
I love him, and he is loyal and good and I love him
And he reminds me of the strength of love when he won’t behave and let someone else walk him and he acts like a baby even though he is 65 pounds and strong
Because he wants my hand at the end of his leash and I am there.
That I am honest
And I would tell you about finding David dying
On his blue sheets and visiting him at the hospice
And he would rise up and say that he wanted to leave and
I would say “maybe later”.. and I would secretly hope that death
Might find him and that peace may find him and find me
Because I am selfish and it did, for him, but not me..
And there was the day that the parents of a kid down the road got murdered
And the gunshots were loud as firecrackers and
David’s wife who is deaf was waving and smiling at me
And I ushered her in the house
And bent my body in two as I ran down the road looking to see if I could help
Someone live, but I could not
Consider that there is something maybe repressed inside me
That I do not know about that may be more honest than I know
That is waiting for love to reveal to reveal like the day to reveal
Like the only things that happen are not price points at Bi-lo
Or street signs or train tracks or lists I make and art I create and the heart
That breaks when I think of CP
God may have neglected me but he did one thing for me
He sent down a blizzard and snow down across the North Georgia Mountains
And boxed me in the house for one week after CP died and if there would not have been that box and if there had not been that week I might have died too because my body was nothing more than a broken piece of a world that was godless and meaningless and loveless, and I thank God for the weather and Desmal for calling me each day and my mother for running me a warm bath
I sat down to write a love poem
Something pretty with the language of lovers
Because I still consider love
I consider it enough to still imagine long nights
That I do not know
And I consider it enough
To believe it might be enough to shake the darkness and believe
That maybe all the darkness that is death, all the darkness that suffering
All the neglect and silence and broken bodies are the shape of a
Love that does not consider itself first
So it is the last thing to be revealed
After all else has been considered
At the end of an argument I had with my mother one day, years ago, she said to me “remember to listen when you ask how someone is doing before you walk away.”
I consider mostly in the late of night the implications of the day, and most of all the implications of decisions and of values. I see so often or maybe I project some vision of the many young people I come across, noticing a reliance on their technology in lieu of a reliance or connection with their fellow man. I notice petty childish concerns and petty priorities and think of my uncle who listened and asked questions when I was young. Maturity and age, they are not always linked, often leads me to notice the difference in values but not judge, thinking this is a stage and there is hope always, that a group of people who sign a petition to ask the WH to build a death star might one day use the power of numbers and empathy to petition for an end to poverty, end to injustice.
I don’t feel some great necessity to preach or make a poster of the values I inherit, they are often clear and in progress, inspired by my friends and family and ancestors I hope to make proud. I feel that the great action to change is lack of neglect.
I notice so often that I am not speaking the same language and it is important to make clear where I stand, listen yes, but some things are non-negotiable at this time. The most non-negotiable aspects of my life are hopes and considerations for better communication, education, ideas to see and experience the world. I wish not to believe that it is impossible to touch each student with art- no doubt it is difficult but any teaching statement I ever write will include something I learned from Swainsboro, that things are not impossible, if it didn’t work then there must be another method if you believe in it.
I fear the absolutes. I think the oxford American magazine is good but I feel often that they strive for a civilized south that neglects the true south that is still evolving. It is not enough to project a vision if it is not wholly honest but it is nice, I guess to do something than nothing. I do not wish to complain about it. I have eased in my age to take some things as they are, imperfect, but remain hopeful. Maybe one day the full passion of the way I might live might surface but for now I am listening. I am often haunted without knowing why by the darkness of man, the insecurities of man and women, the shallow and broken parts that just seem to continue on without noticing but maybe they do notice and maybe there is redemption at the end of every story that ends without force or too early.
The Stillmoreroots are maybe the greatest value I know because it has never been fully realized or fully formed or fully dictated to be one thing. It is the south or the art or the life or story I love most to listen to because as the children grow, as the paints are laid out, as the walk begins around the backyard or the food is served there is a beginning that I recognize as an uninhibited exhibition that I don’t need to write every thing down or be morose over the broken parts of an individual or society or history, values are most true when tested and ironically enough, when allowed to be and when you find yourself among those you were meant to be around. This includes family and this includes friends that you have somehow found out of the great mystery of time and space. It is a wonder and this wonder allows the values, the faith, the action to seem seamless in the story you find yourself within one day or another.
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I know you are,
But what am I
Long lives the immortal
To hold tight
To something as comforting
As a mother holding a child
And saying that it will be
So good a word can only be trusted
For as long as the mother lives
And so do we
To not to be
What action of the mind
Can further the suffering of the soul
Than to look so far back and to know
So far ahead that we will be listening no more
At great length
Comes to repeat one thing
The living who have lived and known loss
Can know, that a smell from our grandmother’s house
Will haunt us
And our children will take this odor
Of hardwood floors and dog hair and dust that has not settled yet
And think of us, one day
This is the way that my hand dots I’s and curls c’s
That is indistinguishable from my ancestors
And this is the same question that was answered by each
That they have never shared with me
If I pray long enough then maybe
They will give me some clue longer
Than a scent I forgot I still recognized
I chance, no more to know
Of what pride or simple fortune
Might allow me to honor such a place
Beneath the stars or in my lover’s heart
Or beneath warm covers with windows for walls
With faith that I will wake or if not
That maybe there is more in the less I know
And Hamlet holds
Eternally a skull
Pushed darkly in the shadow
Of his finger, held so tightly
And as a child I distinctly
Heard him say
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