Tuesday, February 21, 2017

and she shouted, "Bravo!"

Girl on the Flying Trapeze, 1936 Julia Thecla

her ethereal and sensuous portrayal of dreams, fairytales, and planetary realms were extraordinary explorations of alternative social orders.
DePaul University Art Museum, describing Julia Thecla 

I watched Wings of Desire the other night on a bed in a dark hotel room for the thousandth time, had forgotten the black and white film turning to color every now and then. We are black and white yet both see color, now and then, but this was after and one of us dreamt (him) and the other knew every word (her). Now and then. The German faces, the wide smile, the tilted head, the closed eyes. There's something spiritual in the library's murmurs, the way the angels walk among books, heads bowed over them. Wings on a bronze statue, a wall that divides Berlin. An angel lays his head on the man's shoulder, yet the man jumps over anyway and the angel screams. The desire for life. The woman on the flying trapeze, how later she shrugs out of her robe, her back, sinuous. The desire for love, to love. Even before I swung above the crowd myself, then, I was told you've an amazing back. I've a memory like a trap. I remember every word. You've an amazing back, he said. Now. Twice I've been told, then and now.

This morning Sophie groaned in her sleep before dawn, and I ran into her while she seized. It was a violent one and I was smacked in the face by one of her arms. I bent over her, gathering the limbs, what flies. I've walked the rope and swung on the trapeze, so many little people below. My back is strong. It never hurts. I don't feel gentle toward the situation in some moments. I don't feel gentle toward her. It's where I leave off and she begins and there's a space there filled with nothing. When I gathered her in my arms, limp now (then), a pieta, I did cry. And cry. And cry. And cry. She was spent and it cost me tears which are, in comparison, nothing.

The dog barked once and a package was thrown through the slot of the front door, made a thump. I left Sophie to go and pick it up, a small but heavy box from Seattle. Inside, a heavy book, The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated by Judith Hemschemeyer. A pink Post-it over the crook of the poet's nose:

Dearest Adorable --
Reach for this
volume when
you most need
to counteract
the crazy.

❤️️  Leslie  xo

Yes, I took it as sign.
The signified and the signifier.

I seem to myself, as in a dream,
An accidental guest in this dreadful body. (Anna Akhmatova)

Several hours later, with no prompt from me, I received a picture of a painting on my phone, a girl on a trapeze, awkward yet strong.

I am thinking of you, she said (Tanya, my friend, not the girl). I asked her (Tanya, not the girl), Who painted this? 

Julia Thecla, Tanya said, I love her. 

Thecla is a forgotten Chicago painter of the 1930s and 1940s, in the school of magical realism. I did not know her.

Magical realism, a literary genre to which I have been drawn (then) -- Marquez, Borgia, Allende -- is also a genre of art, I learn (now). There are details (Sophie's groan, her bed, the seizure, her arms, my back, my tears, her limp body) that are real and then something strange, unbelievable  (the thump, the package, the Akhmatova, the note, the painting, the girl on the trapeze, ), through a hole in the door, via air.

I fly through the air with the greatest of ease


  1. This is poetry.
    You have made poetry of your very life.

  2. The painting is magical. I did not know Theela either, but an glad I do now. Your words, oh, your words. You've painted some magical realism with your words. Hoping for some respite for Sophie, and you.

  3. Spectacular writing. Strong magical (yes) powerful. I feel from this.

  4. Reel is what I typed but feel yes very much so autocorrect as animal. xo

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  6. It does seem sometimes that you really do fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

  7. Your words are one of the few things that bring me comfort right now.

  8. Beautiful writing, really, beautiful. You are just Elizabeth, a so needed gift. I love you, not like the man on the bed, a smaller love that has it's place and is returned, gratefully.

    And I envy you, deeply. I'm sad for that, but confident enough in friendship to tell you, my dear friend, because I know you want to hear.

  9. An amazing back... a strong back... wow...

  10. wow. your writing, your thoughts. magical and powerful. blows my mind.

  11. Ha! It's Tara, on Steve's computer while out of town. xo

  12. Ms. Moon said it and I agree wholeheartedly.

  13. This left my jaw hanging open. Every word. Every image. Every emotion, a hurricane of meaning, of intimacy, of love. All kinds of love. Your life is hard and beautiful and rich. And I can barely fathom the gift we have been given that you are able to share it on such transcendent levels. Your writing is spectacular. I am trying to say how this made me feel and I am failing. But thank you for putting it here. For being naked before us. I am humbled.

  14. art from life. art is life. love to you.

  15. I read this post rubbing my eyes every now and then. At times like this language, our common shared human language fails. There is so much I want to say, but I don't know how to say it. Because there are not words in our common shared language that can match what you have just expressed.

    Greetings from London.



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