I am trying to get the picture in focus. I am trying. But your love was like cataracts over my eyes—too much exposure to harmful UV rays; call me girl Icarus, flying too close to the sun with foolish optimism. It happened the night your words left me shattered with disillusionment. I was looking at you and the light that looked so much like a boiled potato I wished I could call Richard Brautigan on the phone and tell him I knew what he meant when he wrote that analogy—I needed something familiar and homely to ground me in that room; my thoughts were the thoughts of broken birds that scattered anywhere but here. There I was, looking at you, but not seeing you. You looked soft around the edges, blurred, and un-whole. My eyes kept coming back to the potato on the ceiling, as you kept looking at your feet. I never saw you look so much like a little boy in trouble, and still I couldn’t quite get you in the picture. I think the duality of your nature got the best of you. Maybe your shadow separated from all the lightness of you.
I can’t listen to Elvis and not think about socio-cultural context. His music has the effect of lightening on me, a flash of anger. “Hound Dog” was originally recorded in 1952 by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and sold a couple million copies. Only a four short years later Elvis recorded Big Mama’s hit and sold upwards of 10 million copies. Is the song better? No. But Elvis was white and somehow that made him safer to shake his hips in homes across America while singing the songs of black people in all his mediocrity. I find myself thinking about Elvis because the flash in the pan anger reminds me of you. I cannot see you now without looking at the context of a million little lies. You are fading with each promise that held no conviction. I can’t get lost in a melody of you any more, historical context has taken the joy out of the experience.
**Acrylic painting by Antonio Lee