Lady, do you have a story to tell? Ever since I drove by your place, you’ve been on my mind. It was September fourth somewhere between Ithaca and Bainbridge, maybe around two or three in the afternoon. I saw your small clearing pushing in a circle into the woods, and I took it in all at once like a postcard. If you’d showed it to me like a flash card and asked me, “What did you see?” I’d have answered, “Flowers, overwhelmingly flowers, of every color.” I could hear you maybe say, “Good. What else did you see?” I’d say I saw a beat, tan and cream-colored trailer with rust letting on where water prefers to travel down its sides, and I’d admit that I was struck momentously by the clash between natural beauty and its manmade opposite, the offense of it. And I’d tell you it led me to believe you were beleaguered by offenses.
I pictured an uneducated, gruff husband who enforces your weaknesses, keeps you small, and considers the proliferation of lush and billowing beds of flowers a threat to his manhood; and yet he tolerates it, either out of a played-down love for you or because he needs a cook, among other womanly “duties.” I imagined him out in his big work shed by the woods, working on a ’78 Trans Am restoration project he’s had going for an eternity, could see him out there working and waiting for a buddy of his to come over and help him pull the engine. I could see the buddy drive up in a rusted-out truck, get out, look around, and say, “Oooh, purty.” Then he’d swagger up to the work shed, simultaneously hiking his pants up and tucking his shirt down in them and saying, “Smells like a goddamned perfume factory ‘round here!” Then he’d chuckle. Of course both men would know what’s at stake in that game. The husband would know to growl and say, “Yeah, well, let her plant her stupid flowers, I say. It keeps her off my back.” Then he’d jab his buddy with his elbow, wink and add, “And there’s less lawn I got to mow.” And to that they’d both tip back and roar like Tim Allen doing “Men Are Pigs.”
I saw no swing-set or kids’ toys anywhere on your little circle of land, no evidence of playful young lives anywhere, just a shadow of one, now moved on. I pictured a bright daughter who left home as soon as she could get some money saved up, get a grant or a scholarship for college, and get the hell out of there. As much as she loved the softness of you, it was too soft, too benign, too seemingly unaware or hapless to shield her from her father’s gruffness, meanness, the misfortune of his apparent intellectual and emotional insufficiency. She was embarrassed of the trailer, embarrassed that her father’s work shed was nicer than it, embarrassed for you, and she imagines nothing that could be powerful enough to drag her back to that whole bad scene, not even the flowers. She writes to you, she calls you from college, asks you to visit during spring break, says she’ll pay for the airfare, but you are too small to stand up to your mechanic husband, to tell him he’ll have to fend for himself for a couple of weeks. Or are you too small, Lady?
Perhaps I’ve got it all wrong. Just because your legion of flowers wasn’t quite enough to neutralize the trailer for me, that doesn’t mean they’re not enough for you. Maybe you’re fine wherever you are in the world. Maybe in caring for your millions of flowers, you receive some thing—inner knowing, acceptance, peace, or the like—that you ultimately need internally so that it doesn’t matter what goes on externally. That would certainly explain why every time I sit down to get you down, you have nothing to say, because you have no problem and maybe it’s me who has the problem. Alright. I don’t care who has the problem as long as everything that needs to be revealed gets revealed and the story gets told as it needs to get told. I’ll keep working on it then, and if you have anything to say, I’ll be driving by your place again, or you can just speak to your flowers and I bet you I’ll be able to hear what you say from wherever I happen to be.
kate elizabeth. I found her photos today, find them extraordinary. They make me feel the way I feel after seeing any real, raw, art thing, like I felt after watching “Winter Passing” last night: awed to silence like death, desolate like needing a glass of good bourbon whiskey when all I have is beer and it’s late. I recommend a perusal of her work, certainly for her captions, the most interesting I happen to have seen on Flickr.