TUNDRA-VENICE: Chapter 3 (Chevac, Alaska — Venice, California)
About COREY STEIN from Sunland, California
The air lives a life that is not ours
to understand; it lives its own blue
windy life that starts overhead and soars
upward, ending nowhere. Looking out of the window, you
see spires and chimneys, rooftops of lead;
you see this: the beginning of a great, damp world
where a roadway, which reared us, heads
to its own premature end. Dawn curls
over the horizon. A mail truck clangs by.
There is no longer anything one can choose
to believe, except that while there’s a bank on the right,
there’s a left one too: blessed news.
JOSEPH BRODSKY, Collected Poems in English, 2000
There is a human fox on the left and the skin of a fox on the right. The sun is roasting both. It’s a curious news that for both of them we don’t know what it is or was inside the skin, who’s the animal. As a stereotype, the woman isn’t less empty than the fox. The two of them are clever at deceiving. Impersonal bodies, blocked by inertia. The sunlight they stored should turn them into a lively and funny pair of bodies. Instead they dry up like motionless images, nothing to dance with. It’s almost impossible for an artist’s mind to give up with the skin obsession; whatever the object they bring to life, they sacrifice their own skin. (Symbolically I mean, like the round, white small host on the tongue of the faithful.) Michelangelo painted his own skinned body on a corner of the Sistine Chapel, Corey Stein paints two foxes, with beads: one supposed to be in California, the other in Alaska, blessed news.
And yet the uncivilized, the wild beast breaks into the scene without permission, so surprised he did it that he didn’t even feel the heath of the sand, nor the fear of the beach population that left him alone, measuring the shore with long steps. Angry, maybe. Perhaps another symbol, the power of a dark spot in the sun. Breathing the air “that is not ours to understand.”
Might one say the Venice building is easier to comprehend? It lives its own wooden life, painted white, sheltered by bars at the windows and locks at the door. That’s the thickest skin. As the artist is taken by the sense of it, the needle slips from her fingers, ending as a blade into her skin. She bleeds but doesn’t cry.