Friday, October 2, 2009

From Panama to Chicago, Ali Lawrence Contemplates Belonging and Nakedness

Ali Lawrence, author of Anatomic (Small Desk Press 2008) is presently traveling through Panama, "collecting data," "doing field research," and "writing." Ali is also corresponding with visual artist Susie Fuller in preparation for the collaborative exhibit "Where Do I Belong?," which opens at the Bellavista Gallery in Chicago on October 16th. Ali and Susie's work will address the theme of "city/rural and nowhere."

Last April, Ali read her poetry at Amnesia in San Francisco along with other contributors to the Bang Out Reading Series. The night's topic was "Naked." Here's the piece Ali read:

“I Used to Sleep Naked Beside You” by Ali Lawrence

A transparency of clouds rests against a knot of city buildings. The bridge suspended midday gives the illusion of connectedness, and simultaneously, of space. I feel all of a sudden a sense of cinema. It’s the very moment of the day where architecture is broader than the ocean, making the world a series of unfamiliar shapes. The man next to me in a white car is smoking with all the windows rolled up. I remember how you slid my grandmother’s ring off my finger and found one of your own to wear it on. The man’s fingers are around the cigarette so loosely I think he might eventually catch on fire. I feel hot and the weather has finally gone to winter.

From the shore of another day I watch the lights turn off and on according to the path of the sun. I think about lighting a candle or going to a psychic. I look for clues to you everywhere. I find an old tank top I’ve kept buried in my drawer that is all white thread, no smell, or you, or anything at all. Your torso: muscles, holes, and cotton.

I try pressing my face against a particular technology meant to draw us closer. Flattened into a science, the room empties and leaves you there. There is falling sky behind your eyes and all over your skin. I have never seen that before, I can’t explain, but it’s as though you are the rain, dust, wind, and middle of the night. Not a monster, just without horizon. Your body a hollow full of sound, like an earthquake, a tight weave of bones and ghosts.

I watched the sun set into a jagged west tonight. It lowered over the planet and split in two. It’s reflection in flames against a house made mostly of glass, and here out in space it’s all edges and numbers and birds and sky. The ocean swallowed the temperature, my sunglass lens, and I cannot remember if we were ever the rooftop, or park, or the balcony, or dusk, or the bus stopping, or even the backseat of your father’s car. I cannot remember the shape of your legs and how your hands are now someone else’s altogether. If when it rained I was standing there, some version of a stranger, crafting a lifetime out of skin and habit. That even with the glare in my eyes, I still saw you look away. An entire population of shadows at your back.

And in the bask of fiction and memories, I can no longer recognize facts versus imitations. I reach into the center of all our words and find only the sounds we never made. If not for the seasons you might have been right beside me separated by windows and clothes and then into each morning you came running. I mapped into an atlas the lines on our skin, and then I thought I heard you say that absence makes the heart a supernova and I just knew all over again.

Copyright © 2009, Ali Lawrence

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