∀ Art by Khalil Chishtee
¶ Prompt from Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.
The time is 7:56. I mark it because this exercise calls for ten minutes of pre-writing writing, a sort of stretch before the real run. The route I’m taking leads to what Cameron calls “simply sketching,” that is finding, out of five random delightful things, what I really want to write about. But before I can list these, I’ll sketch the thoughts in my mind, the room I’m in, the mood or shift in moods I’m in. And to begin, I would like to say, these exercises are becoming increasingly personal, as in, would anyone else want to read them? I suppose I don’t have to share them. I suppose I don’t have to pass them around. But I would like to keep tabs of them, and not let them sit around on my laptop, on a Word doc, and maybe, for the curious reader, who happens to stumble upon this page, then it can, I don’t know, something. Well, so there, mind sketched: a plethora of second guessing, a slime of “what if you’re reading” coming at me, since after all: the “Schedule” button up there to the right is looking rather pale, a blue thing in san-serif font, so unassuming, the opposite of bold, for all its purposes, the only colored object on this whole WordPress page, except the hovering blue of the “Post” thumbtack on the left hand bar. My mood? Solid, a liter of green tea in me, coursing through me. I bought this Ukrainian brand tea called “Chinese Gunpowder” in a Polish shop in Brooklyn, NY. Now, if that isn’t a hodgepodge, I don’t know what is. Add the fact that I brewed it in a brass kettle made in Texas, and that I poured it in a tall, liter-sized penguin (yes an actual ceramic, glossy penguin, used mostly for serving wine) from Buenos Aires, and pour it into a small tea cup MADE IN CHINA, I suppose some things do come full circle. All the while different versions of “Ave Maria” play on the YouTube tab next to this one — I highly recommend the song, in the Schubert incarnation first, then let the recommended auto-play lull you over a series of silk canopies and wool hammocks, rock-a-bye-baby on the tree top. Where am I? My apartment. That last metaphor? My brother wondered about my capricious and often gratuitous use of metaphors. All I could tell him was they just come to me. Or as Cameron would put it, I simply sketch them. And the ten minutes are up.
Here are five things that “would be interesting to write about”:
1. Itchy body parts.
2. Schubert’s “Ave Maria” saving a person or a dog’s life.
3. A birdsong.
4. A wild west shootout between railroad workers on a strike and a gang of hoodlums hired by the railroad company to “keep the peace.”
5. The floating trash bag that got caught on the air-conditioning units above the buildings across from ours, which I see from my window everyday, simply waving in the wind, always distracting, always caught.
Next, choose a topic; answer what you would write about it; and why you would write about it. “Spend five to ten minutes writing about that. Do not go for Art, capital ‘A,’ or even writing, capital ‘W.’ Think of this, instead, as word play. Do not worry about being deep or sensible or practical. Allow yourself to sketch this in the loosest, roughest terms.”
1 through 3 are things in my immediate surroundings, but of little interest compared with the thing right in front of me, in spite of its distance, so we will go with 5. (4 would be fun, but in five to ten minutes??) And why, why write about this and then post it on the blog, why publish it for the world to see — is anyone seeing — what can this offer? Well, probably nothing. But I’m reminded of a scene from Jodorowsky’s Poesía sin fin: in it we see an artist studio, a sanctuary for creation; one artist in it makes puppets; and anyone is welcome to enter and view his puppets. So with that in mind, this webpage is the sanctuary, the early morning my peace, and you are invited to enter: please take off your shoes at the door as you do.
This bag, about 50, 75, 100 yards away, sometimes hiding sometimes flying, is caught on an air-conditioning unit. Look! It wails silently. It flutters violently. Like those advertising men outside of cellphone repair shops, not the live ones, but the balloon inflatable ones, wiggy wiggy, as they go, this one right here wiggles just the same. It’s been months, well, just long enough that I have forgotten when I first noticed this bag. A trash bag! A trash bag! If I look at it I feel mixed feelings. Sadness for the bag. Pity for the residents who have no idea, or else would have taken it down. Remorse for not taking it down myself, but how would I? And then I look away, like a bad New Yorker. And I keep my eyes on the page, I see the words as they emerge before the blinking of the blinking icon thing that must absolutely have a name but I have never considered this blinking thing — know the one? — right here that serves as the gate of each letter and space, look at it go. And yet all the while, up there, is a real life, palpable, plastic, rubber, black, tar, plastic-plastic, perfectly-usable bag of trash in the sky, shy, catching my attention from the forward peripheral of my vision, it flutters, it wails, and it’s right there, right before me, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it, is there, gawh, I say, and sketch away, away, and then I’m reminded of how I always end things in rhyme, but so did Shakespeare, “hah,” you would say, and the sentence, this one, breaks a rule or two, and then, time is up, up, but the bag: is still there.