New York, New York, 2016
I walk up and down Liberty Street, to and from work, every day, for Time. I can't help but notice, every day, there are a lot of gates and gatekeepers here by the Freedom Tower.
Some keep you in. Some keep you out.
Some let you go one way or another, leaving you with a choice to make.
That’s what freedom is, right? And why not
and why not start here?
... or, stop it right there!
When someone tells me that I have to start here, I get a very different feeling than the feeling I get when I think of starting over again, or making a new start.
Like spring or, I love September, the new school year,
a fresh start, a new beginning, a new day, blue skies.
I have loved poems.
“I love and I hate ask me why”...
I love blue, I don’t know why,
but I know I don’t like green, green denim jeans, a clingy green dress, the green of a uniform, the hi-viz sheen of a vest marked SECURITY. But I love green, the million greens of trees in spring.
I once loved poems.
I once loved poems.
And maybe above all, Hölderlin’s fragment In liebliche Bläue, In lovely blue
and its gates of beauty. But now—and
this is the problem with poems—do gates resemble forest trees, really? The chain link, takes after, the Jersey barrier resembles, the security booth
guarding the gate, opening and closing
the barbed wire
The rhymes of the rhythm, the keys of a keyboard, the ribs of a ribcage,—what poet, what composer, what artist doesn’t like repetition?—even architects, and the rectangular grid of the city, New York, even those grids of three by three pictures, page after page, of the history of types of barbed wire has given me at least a certain kind of pleasure, though I can’t seem to find that book now.
Pleasure: how does that work?
If you want to know how something works you go behind the thing, behind the curtains, the illusion. But what if all you find are more curtains. We had become trapped, in the same routine, I was looking for an opening, a flaw, a crack in her thinking but then Mary suggested I get some more shirts like the blue one I had on and it made me think that I didn’t compliment her on her white blouse, how good, how professional she looked today.
Mary, the blue shirt,—that wasn’t real, that was a picture.
I have to say that I love working with pictures. Cropping, rotating, manipulating horizontal and vertical perspective—just to get the illuminated lengths of two steel struts to come to nearly kiss the upper left-hand corner of the frame. No reason. Just a pleasure in the freedom which is the special suspension of the freedom of the frame and its rules which hold everything in place and, it took me a long time to realize this, it’s not about captivating someone I find on the street in place with the image, but it’s the empathetic power of art that let’s the viewer feel fully that being so held, locked in a compositional grid, suspended between the painted yellow rail and the chain link fence, it’s not your fault.
And this picture makes me think of Framing, and Being Framed. That’s the title of a book of work by Hans Haacke, an artist I studied with. During art school and for a few years after I worked in darkrooms. Then, following the lead of some sculptor friends, I started doing work in construction, carpentry—SoHo carpentry, as we called it—demolition, and one job of moving rocks from the backyard of some Manhattan townhouse down the steps through the basement up into the street and up over the wall of the 20 yard dumpster we rented. Middle of the summer, took a day longer than we estimated, and I felt the labor badly. A couple of months later I was working for a woman, the mother of a friend at school, renovating her house on Long Island. How is he? she asked, picking up some pages of the New York Times that were scattered on the floor but now she was immersed in another article from the Arts & Leisure section and, as I hadn’t heard from my friend since he left for Barcelona a few weeks earlier, I lifted the dust mask back into place and continued sanding.
If you look closely, you can see faces inside this booth:
—but then again, you can say that about anything, can’t you. If you are looking for it, it may appear
an image, projected (from the inside?)
a blurred image projected on a sheet, walking among them,
but not really here, in this world.
In this world.
Of course, I don’t believe in ghosts. Though I really wanted to at two different moments of my life.
And why not? walking among them
see even their names are like ghosts in the wind.
And who are we? What have we become?
Optimistic. Courageous, Undaunted. —I’m getting a chill thinking about it
Any time you wonder who you are loud enough, I find there’ll always be somebody who wants to tell you.
From this body,
give me liberty.
Or give me security.
“Safe and secure.” That just popped into my head, a phrase as natural as “bread and butter,” for example, but now that I look at it for a while it begins to sound odder, feel forced or, did I makes this up, this “safe and secure” (and in just one or two repetitions those quotes could become scare quotes), like “friend” and you trust i before e but look at it a while and even “friend” begins to look a little suspicious.
Give me liberty.
Or give me culture.
The word CULTURE on a fence that elsewhere reads NO TRESPASSING.
The fence keeping in, or out. You choose. That’s what freedom is.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a permanent theater, sometimes a film—the lights, the extras, the cameras on the cranes, those securing the scene and, if you stop to listen for a moment, you might even hear the silent absence a still photograph can capture, that tense moment of hesitation before something terrible happens here below.
And sometimes I feel like I’m not alone.
And sometimes I feel like I’m missing just one piece of the puzzle.
is it you?
You, in there. And me?
When I think about you, I feel disturbed at times. And you, do you ever feel disturbed?
Thinking about you being disturbed makes me feel disturbed
at times. Did I make you feel disturbed by thinking about you? Do not be disturbed. This is me, watching over you, as I pass you by on a New York City street, just looking, like a guardian angel, I'm telling you and I don't want to feel guilty about it, but please, do not be disturbed.
And here’s why:
Children are funny.
Children are funny, how they have no idea what’s important, or dangerous, or against the law.