Sunday, January 3, 2010

Of Age and Ideas



I will be 35 in 17 days. This has been on my mind for several days now. Not necessarily because I dread it, but I'm really trying to reflect on what that means, what I should be at that age.

Once again, I am drawn to W. Of the many photographs of him, there is only one at the age of 35. There is also a steel engraving of him at that age, from a photograph that has been lost. But this portrait is all we have of the 35 year old W.

Here is what Walt Whitman's friend, Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, called this particular photograph: "The Christ likeness." He went on to describe it as the "moment this carpenter too became seer. . . and he saw and knew the Spirit of God." Bucke believed that "something of this spiritual elevation can still be seen" in this photo.

The year is 1854, the photographer is unknown

Here I am, now, on the edge of 35.

You are probably asking yourself, "What does he see?"

Well, can't you see it in my eyes? Upward and outward... the future...

When I look at this picture of myself, those black eyes, I am reminded of the immortal words of Quint himself:

"Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn't even seem to be livin'... 'til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then... ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin'. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin' and your hollerin' those sharks come in and... they rip you to pieces."


I am still laboring over the gallery show I was invited to participate in. I received an email from the curator with the following information and questions:

"We will be installing on Monday, February 1 and Tuesday, February 2, 2010, beginning at 10:00 am. We would like to get all the work in on Monday and will use Tuesday to finish the actual installation.

At this point, we need the following information from you:

1. I have been told that you will be exhibiting a video, but I know nothing else about it. I need to know the title, running time, the price (including a 20% commission for Philadelphia Sculptors in the event of a sale.)

2. Delivery: What time will you be able to deliver your work?

3. Installation: You will need to bring all your own equipment. Do you know how you plan to exhibit this? Will the monitor be on the wall or on a pedestal or table? Are there other special installation requirements that we should know about? Please let us know so we can plan accordingly.

Members of 3rd Street Gallery will gallery-sit, but we are responsible for the receptions. We will have a First Friday reception from 5 - 9 pm on Friday, February 5. We will also have an artists' reception on Sunday, February 7 from 1:00 - 4:00 pm. Please let me know if you are available to help with either reception.

The show will be up through 5 pm on Sunday, February 28. We will need to take it down that evening."

At this point, I still don't know what I am going to submit... Wondering if I should pull out of the show... I have ideas, but the conditions right now are not suitable for execution.

At a loss... It's made me quiet.

I will try an idea within the next few days. Consider it a last ditch effort.

Here is the inspiration:



Sauntering the pavement or riding the country by-road, faces!
Faces of friendship, precision, caution, suavity, ideality,
The spiritual-prescient face, the always welcome common benevolent face,
The face of the singing of music, the grand faces of natural lawyers
and judges broad at the back-top,
The faces of hunters and fishers bulged at the brows, the shaved
blanch'd faces of orthodox citizens,
The pure, extravagant, yearning, questioning artist's face,
The ugly face of some beautiful soul, the handsome detested or
despised face,
The sacred faces of infants, the illuminated face of the mother of
many children,
The face of an amour, the face of veneration,
The face as of a dream, the face of an immobile rock,
The face withdrawn of its good and bad, a castrated face,
A wild hawk, his wings clipp'd by the clipper,
A stallion that yielded at last to the thongs and knife of the gelder.

Sauntering the pavement thus, or crossing the ceaseless ferry, faces
and faces and faces,
I see them and complain not, and am content with all.


Do you suppose I could be content with all if I thought them their
own finale?

This now is too lamentable a face for a man,
Some abject louse asking leave to be, cringing for it,
Some milk-nosed maggot blessing what lets it wrig to its hole.

This face is a dog's snout sniffing for garbage,
Snakes nest in that mouth, I hear the sibilant threat.

This face is a haze more chill than the arctic sea,
Its sleepy and wobbling icebergs crunch as they go.

This is a face of bitter herbs, this an emetic, they need no label,
And more of the drug-shelf, laudanum, caoutchouc, or hog's-lard.

This face is an epilepsy, its wordless tongue gives out the unearthly cry,
Its veins down the neck distend, its eyes roll till they show
nothing but their whites,
Its teeth grit, the palms of the hands are cut by the turn'd-in nails,
The man falls struggling and foaming to the ground, while he
speculates well.

This face is bitten by vermin and worms,
And this is some murderer's knife with a half-pull'd scabbard.

This face owes to the sexton his dismalest fee,
An unceasing death-bell tolls there.


Features of my equals would you trick me with your creas'd and
cadaverous march?
Well, you cannot trick me.

I see your rounded never-erased flow,
I see 'neath the rims of your haggard and mean disguises.

Splay and twist as you like, poke with the tangling fores of fishes or rats,
You'll be unmuzzled, you certainly will.

I saw the face of the most smear'd and slobbering idiot they had at
the asylum,
And I knew for my consolation what they knew not,
I knew of the agents that emptied and broke my brother,
The same wait to clear the rubbish from the fallen tenement,
And I shall look again in a score or two of ages,
And I shall meet the real landlord perfect and unharm'd, every inch
as good as myself.


The Lord advances, and yet advances,
Always the shadow in front, always the reach'd hand bringing up the

Out of this face emerge banners and horses--O superb! I see what is coming,
I see the high pioneer-caps, see staves of runners clearing the way,
I hear victorious drums.

This face is a life-boat,
This is the face commanding and bearded, it asks no odds of the rest,
This face is flavor'd fruit ready for eating,
This face of a healthy honest boy is the programme of all good.

These faces bear testimony slumbering or awake,
They show their descent from the Master himself.

Off the word I have spoken I except not one--red, white, black, are
all deific,
In each house is the ovum, it comes forth after a thousand years.

Spots or cracks at the windows do not disturb me,
Tall and sufficient stand behind and make signs to me,
I read the promise and patiently wait.

This is a full-grown lily's face,
She speaks to the limber-hipp'd man near the garden pickets,
Come here she blushingly cries, Come nigh to me limber-hipp'd man,
Stand at my side till I lean as high as I can upon you,
Fill me with albescent honey, bend down to me,
Rub to me with your chafing beard, rub to my breast and shoulders.


The old face of the mother of many children,
Whist! I am fully content.

Lull'd and late is the smoke of the First-day morning,
It hangs low over the rows of trees by the fences,
It hangs thin by the sassafras and wild-cherry and cat-brier under them.

I saw the rich ladies in full dress at the soiree,
I heard what the singers were singing so long,
Heard who sprang in crimson youth from the white froth and the water-blue.

Behold a woman!
She looks out from her quaker cap, her face is clearer and more
beautiful than the sky.

She sits in an armchair under the shaded porch of the farmhouse,
The sun just shines on her old white head.

Her ample gown is of cream-hued linen,
Her grandsons raised the flax, and her grand-daughters spun it with
the distaff and the wheel.

The melodious character of the earth,
The finish beyond which philosophy cannot go and does not wish to go,
The justified mother of men.


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