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TALES OF AN ORANGEPEELER

an archive of pleasures, wounds, sublimations
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12.14.03, sunday evening

This morning I wake to the cry of a gull. Shadows ford blinded windows; through red-gold slats, sunlight glisten, as if the world is still wet from last night's ferocious storm. One window's blinds are rolled up and beyond it, dozens of large white birds fly across the azure sky, en route to water.

Still caught in the watery world between dreaming and waking, when the waking world resembles the dreaming world and vice versa, I reshape bird-shadow into human-shadow. Changeling, a red-hooded girl, and selkie open their eyes and whisper. I remember: In Siberian faery tales, gulls relay messages between lovers and guard water spirits. Yet don't think I believe my life a faery tale. There is very little faery-tale glamour to life, or at least mine. At best we live the imminent concerns of faery tales: adversity and transformations and the most important sojourns - those trips through the liminal, from childhood to adulthood, from life into death, etc.

But the passage of the gull's cry and its shadow distracts me throughout the day, even though I have a statistics exam tomorrow morning. I write postcards and letters. I write the lines of nascent poems. I read Angela Carter's tale, "Wolf-Alice," stumbling on this passage:

"In the lapse of time, the trance of being in that exiled place, this girl grew amongst things she could neither name nor perceive. How did she think, how did she feel, this perennial stranger with her furred thoughts and her primal sentience that existed in a flux of shifting impressions; there are no words to describe the way she negotiated the abyss between her dreams, those wakings strange as her sleepings. The wolves have tended her because they knew she was an imperfect wolf; we secluded her in animal privacy out of fear of our imperfection because it showed us what we might have been, and so time passed, although she scarcely knew it. Then she began to bleed."

Then she began to bleed.

A gull cries. There are so many of them, do they migrate during this month and always in that direction, past so many windows toward arctic waters? Then I think of the photographer Diane Arbus - not of her life's work, but of her death, of her own last sojourn, the last violence. After the barbiturates, the slit writs and the interim (short, long, it doesn't matter) in a bathtub, Arbus must have passed into death hazily, foggily, her reality becoming water, the last dream, all the images and noises of the world's subjects submerged and finally drowned.

At one point (so many points) before her death, either in writing or aloud, to a friend or a stranger, Arbus had observed, "There are singular people who appear like metaphors somewhere further out than we do, beckoned, not driven, invited by belief, author and hero of a real dream by which our own courage and cunning are tried and tested; so that we may wonder all over again what is veritable and inevitable and possible and what it is to become whoever we may be."

Oh, Arbus, why do I feel such an affinity for you? Gull-cries echo, even into night. Everywhere fly metaphors, Siberian, photographic, literary, etc., messages transported by chance, veiled by the passage of time and space. The ubiquity would be overwhelming if I was looking for ecstasy or enlightenment, a contrived transcendence of worldly matters, worldly subjects. Neither did Arbus sought transcendence, I suspect, either in photograph or suicide; she was thoroughly invested in the exploration of difference, the peculiar burnings that the evanescent leave behind on paper.

The only thing I gather, during the bemused passage of this day, is that there are wounds to make/heal, peculiarities to nurse. Through these peculiarities of style and perception, I portray the nature of my own difference and the differences of others (imperfect wolves, imperfect humans), bleedings cultivated by painful sentence after sentence.






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