Capture Me Turning

Capture Me Turning

You center the frame upon a streetlight,
as if that false star has some sidereal nimbus

capable of dreaming lime fruit & olive oil.
There’s a Tarot book in the mail, and blood in my blue heart.

Oh! I’m too-smiling, squinting in the flash.
We both know strangeness does not equal beauty.

You mistake my dress for Anthropologie.
I mistake myself for an Elena Ferrante character.

One click, and you capture me turning
a key to open gaps between perpetual pasts.

This photo is a message from the dead,
as are all pictures,

eventually.

May, 2016

Image Courtesy of Linnaea Mallette

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10 thoughts on “Capture Me Turning

  1. Hi Josephine:

    There’s an alluring and bewitching ponderousness, a Baudelairean weight and heady perfume to your lines, which, since so much is packed into them, you wisely cut back in apportioning to prevent the dose from being fatal. One senses there are individuals you’d like to poison. Here you are practicing your craft, measuring out and combining ingredients, all necessary, nothing going to waste, trying to find the right recipe.

    I love this line: “There’s a Tarot book in the mail, and blood in my blue heart.”

    Oh, and too true is this! “We both know strangeness does not equal beauty.”

    This entire verse has a dense latent explosive power, with the end-word trailing off like a wick.

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    1. John, hello –

      Oh, there are people I want to poison! Poetry is a lovely form of poison, too, given that it can act across time and space. Of course, poetry can also heal wounds and expand souls and do many good things, too, but sometimes, it just feels good to put a bit of bile in the ink.

      I am not fond of having my picture taken, as may perhaps be clear. Maybe it’s more that I don’t particularly like being seen. It is an interesting (distressing?) thing to be a private person in the heart of the selfie era. Elena Ferrante manages it, my hero(ine)! Emily Dickinson, too, but her era was so different, it is refreshing to know of a contemporary hermit writer.

      The Tarot book line was one of my favorite lines, too, and factual! It has arrived, and was everything I hoped.

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      1. Excellent comment, Josephine. It makes me feel more of an artistic kinship with you. I suspect in us human beings poison and medicine spring from the same source. I suppose the true healer and enlightener if he or she wanted to could also be a formidable curser and crafty poisoner. To know the heights one must also know the depths. To know light one must also know the shadows. One is inextricably linked to the other. I find it fascinating how a small and measured dosage of a substance applied responsibly and with loving-care can soothe and heal, but if the dosage of the same substance is quadrupled and applied in certain other ways, abusively, it can poison and even kill.

        I have total respect for your experiment with anonymity and pseudomyity. It’s planted the idea in my own brain. I wonder how trying that experiment myself I might be released from the assumptions and burdens imposed by appearance and freed up to be more daring and bold creatively. I suppose it’s even more difficult for a woman to free herself up creatively, to be completely herself, in the full and rich complexity of her voice, with so many assumptions and expectations happening under the “male gaze”.

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      2. The anonymity has freed me to be more creative. It is a relief to be in the poetry, not merely producing it to expand myself. I do suggest you give it a try – it doesn’t cost anything, and has been quite a bit of fun!

        I do not know if it is more or less difficult to be one’s true self as a woman. Outside of my writing life, I have chosen fields of study and work that are historically – and currently! – male dominated. I’ve encountered all sorts of sexism, come-ons, and absurd situations as a result, and there were times that I certainly felt more like a sort of living, breathing screen upon which men could project their idea of me. I do think that writing anonymously has allowed me to stop worrying about how what I write will warp someone’s idea of me.

        I agree that “medicine and poison spring from the same source.” Radiation to cure cancer, radiation to kill an entire population. Love that expands, obsession that strangles – same source.

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      3. Hi Josephine: I appreciate your thoughtful choice of words in your responses. You have a refreshing, pregnant way of writing. I find this statement of yours interesting: “It is a relief to be in the poetry, not merely producing it to expand myself.” It is indeed a temptation in this day and age to go over to the side of quantity, churning out words and images, throwing things together, and definitely a challenge to stay on the side of quality. The majority jump up and down, banging on pots and pans, using catches and pitches and hooks to grab attention, and loud and brash and clashing colors, screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” In this multi-media world, most everyone is vying for everyone else’s attention. But if one turns inward and goes to deeper and stranger places within oneself, where the real psychic content is, one often returns to society with less to show for it, maybe even nothing. And if one returns with anything, chances are it will be at first or maybe always misunderstood by the majority. There are places in myself where there is a serious breakdown of language. I’ve lost my voice countless times, and I still lose it. Yet, at the same time, I feel it’s there that any real creative activity begins!

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      4. I’ve also found that the loss of my voice proceeds a new font of creativity. It’s unnerving, because during the times of silence, you must somehow retain the hope and faith that the Muse will return. Knock on wood, but she always has!

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      5. When the Muse is absent, one might still proceed through sheer force of will or willpower. Inspiration isn’t dependable and is fickle, coming and going when it wants. One can drive oneself to despair waiting for it. I’ve learned there’s no shame in simply rolling up one’s sleeves and getting to work. Accidents and mistakes may be used as new points of departure. But make no mistake, I still struggle with all this. I trap myself often and inwardly suffocate through a certain drive and longing for perfection. I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself. The walls close in and I must punch a hole in one of them to breathe again. It happens to me often enough I’ve even become accustomed to it. “Ah, there I’ve done it again: I’ve backed myself into a corner.”

        There are seriously ambiguous moments in creative activity wherein one appears to be hurting and even abusing oneself more than helping oneself and working to set oneself free. It may be that one must actually do a little hurting of oneself to break through a wall or to remove an obstacle. A little blood on the knuckles will certainly not kill one, but one shouldn’t go so far that one bruises and cuts oneself so deeply there may be heavy loss of blood. One must practice ingenuity sometimes, using more one’s mind and wits and finding other means and things at one’s disposal to get around obstacles and continue on one’s journey.

        It’s just like you going pseudonymous, Josephine. I take that in a certain sense to be a survival strategy. It’s a means you are using to help get you through an area you feel is seriously dangerous to your well-being. It’s like wearing a cloak or a dress woven of a special fabric which makes you invisible to the monsters which would otherwise pounce on you and tear you to shreds.

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      6. I can proceed when the Muse is absent for certain types of works. In my experience, a novel is not written only during the minutes of rich inspiration, but in countless months of sheer determination. For poems, though, I feel like a direct connection to the Muse is integral to my process, or at least I need that “spark” when I’m scribbling down the raw material out of which the poem will be built. I’m new to poetry, though, so maybe I will adapt to work without Her, as I did with longer pieces of fiction.

        Agreed! Creation comes with a share of pain for the creator. That and, when things go well, a rush like no other. At least you’ve learned to recognize when you’ve put yourself into a bad state, and know ways of counteracting it. That is a survival skill that I think many artists lack – and pay the price for, in awful ways.

        I like the idea of this persona as a cloak. I’m not fond of the monsters, but surely they can’t see me here!

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      7. Very much enjoying this exchange with you, Josephine. Your own hard fought-for and no doubt earned wisdom gleams out from behind your statements. The monster relation is interesting. I have my own particular monsters lurking in the shadows around me to which I must make myself invisible, or hide, or protect myself somehow. I might say, as a man, a beautiful woman certainly has influence over me. I’m no exception. The physical appearance and charms of a woman are a real power in the world, which in an instant if worked and used in a certain way can turn men into dogs. Nothing new in this. It’s a power which can turn into being a kind of monster to men. The idea of the femme fatale. I think there are monsters which take form in ways particular to us as individuals. Each of us is pursued by not the exact same demons. What doesn’t scare you at all may scare the bejesus out of me, and reduce me to a whimpering idiot. Like kryptonite to Superman, each of us has particular things which instantly on exposure drain our power and make us weak and vulnerable. Different weapons are needed for dealing with different kinds of monsters and demons. Some weapons and methods of dealing are simply ineffective. It’s not likely one is going to take down a dragon with a kitchen knife.

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      8. Beauty can be a form of terrorism. It can be wielded to manipulate. Yet somehow, there is the myth of the sanctity and purity of certain types of beauty. Jessa Crispin takes this on in her book The Dead Ladies Project. The title is a misnomer; the book is not exclusively about dead women, but also dead men, and those of us living and breathing through our fears and the beauty of the world. Worth a read, for sure.

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