Little Death Machines
So there’s this story. I’m getting an MFA in writing, poetry, New School University in NYC. I’m working in publishing. I’m 100% surrounded by lit; it’s a good life. So one night after class it’s dark and we’re all outside smoking cigarettes, making small talk, doing the pro student thing. Something is bothering me. So duh I ask, “Is poetry necessary?”
That drives them crazy.
My argument was that poetry per se, in the greater world of writing, wasn’t necessary because other forms of writing pretty much took care of it. It was, democratically, a losing argument. I actually had no opinion. It’s one of those things that really doesn’t matter but like two dogs fighting over the only bone within a 100 miles, it matters in the moment, but then it really doesn’t matter at all.
And yet I have the scars to prove that it does, apparently, to someone.
Which leads me to this evening, in the studio, making art, listening to a swanky Latin jazz thingy on the radio and talking to Dory. I’m trying to explain something about the nature of language v. words v. a full color spectrum, it was pretty good too, I was sure of it.
A few days ago in Dory’s studio she told me about an offer she’d made at a party while pointing at a can of Vienna Sausages her boyfriend had given her last Xmas as part of some weirdo holiday gift collection. Her offer was a prize to anyone who’d eat the sausages straight out of the tin.
What was the prize? I asked.
Dunno, she said, I didn’t think anyone would do it.
How about that Spam? I said, pointing at another part of the awesome Xmas holiday gift collection.
So to tonight in the studio I ask her: Do you know what the most dangerous meat is?
Oh hell sorry. ‘Most dangerous’ is a sort of misnomer. It’s more meat product than meat, but the question remains.
Dory considered this a moment then looked at me, part perplexed, part glazed-over.
Hot dogs, I say, it’s hot dogs.
Why are hot dogs so dangerous?
Because you can choke on them. Hot dogs kill more people than any other kind of meat.
It’s because they’re slippery, they’re the slipperiest of meats. Bite a large enough chunk and it’ll just slide down your windpipe and strangle you to death.
Which leads us back to Vienna Sausages. They’re tiny, freakish, oddly packaged and vaguely threatening. Like the Viennese. They have to be. They’re self-loathing. Why else create those pygmy sausages? If American hot dogs kill Americans, it follows that Viennese Sausages kill the Viennese. Res ipsa loquitir.
Also a kind of meat-eating Viennese roulette of the damned, which is pretty much every Viennese citizen’s public duty at least 6 times every Summer. Plus buns. Pygmy buns.
Which again leads to Dory. Dammit but all she wants me to do is sand my paintings down to the bone.
Is sanding my work literally through to the wood panel they’re painted on absolutely necessary?
Yes, she said, yes it is.
I felt like I was in grad school all over again.