Photographing downtown today with a class of refugees (DRC, Afghanistan, Myanmar) I grew embarrassed by how much pedestrian space in Denver appears to be privately owned and aggressively policed; on in any case that was the bluster. We’d find ourselves on an empty square — maybe some tables, umbrellas, a small lunch crowd — something ’80s-style brutalist, with grand Romanian squares of empty protecting private erections. I’d tell my students to work on shots of converging lines, shots that isolate a color, shots of things that frighten them. Instantly, restless uniforms bore down on us: “no please, no photograph. This is private, please stop. You cannot.” More than likely refugees themselves, regardless of where they were born. Each time I bristled and each time I talked myself back down, albeit gradually. They were doing their jobs, we were doing our jobs; none of us were in charge of anything.
It’s Harvard Square in sun and the kids are back in town. I walk
about making words with my mouth: Jjsh…jjsh…jshandelier.
All the crazy old guys are reading the New York Review of Books
while their dentures clack like plastic chandeliers.
I am rendered extra-terrestrial by a panama hat, and I am proud
to note that pedestrians fear me, my top-heavy person dangerous as a loose chandelier.
If I’d attended better schools, would those I love be turning blue?
Would their mausoleums be many-tiered, would their funeral homes be chandeliered?
The drunks and I relish the sun at 11 am:
we got girls packed into little skirts, and beers; we don’t need no chandeliers.
Blue braces the pink sky at both ends; that’s where all the action is.
Let’s spend our whole nights, lives, eons underneath that big fucking chandelier!
— A poem written in collaboration with Shafer Hall, originally published in Snow Monkey v7 n1
“Colfax slid by, one of those commercial clusterfucks that predate the Eisenhower highways. Nothing on the street, ‘the longest in the west,’ is or was ever fashionable in a way you’d recognize on the coasts. The bars run from ironically dingy to legitimately sordid as you drive west from Capitol Hill and a series of cut-rate motels appear, cluster, and then dominate the roadsides: Big Bunny, White Swan, Westway. Then there’s a big mall and a couple of breastaurants and then nil: scrub. The mountains signal the introduction of the non-human world. They’re covered with sun as I come in. They are aurous. Then as soon as the sprawl peters out it recommences: a couple of car dealerships and a Staples and you’re in Golden. You switch to Route 6, then left and halfway up Ingenuity Peak (not very high) and you can see the sanatorium from the road.
“There are under a dozen buildings, most of them circular, window-filled, the best with views of the urban meander beneath the hill. It’s the kind of place you can’t look at long without imagining the way it used to be, the white-clad consumptives in mustaches and parasols, shuffling among pavilions, stealing their last kisses in the tunnels they had to use in winter, remarking on one another’s high color.”
— from The Things I Dream, a book in progress
“To write anything you have to let go & descend floatily & yet at vast speed through terraced self-awareness, layer by layer, directly into a canyon wider at the top narrower deep down….” the process described, by M John Harrison