Yelling at Selfies
Sometimes we look at art. Sometimes art isn’t something you look at. Where is everyone? Everyone is inside Yayoi Kusama’s infinity room.
Everyone pretends they are doing this alone. The room is very small, and we can pretend it isn’t. The exhibition notes outside said something about love. Something no one would disagree with.
Last week my daughter was corralled into a small space for a lockdown at preschool. Teachers told the children there was a wild animal outside. They waited in the observation booth that’s normally used to observe them play. The suspect turned out to be a local who called the police to say, It’s just me chopping wood.
Once you think too much about what a relief is, you are no longer relieved. Who can I publicly declare this to and then turn away from? Everyone. Three friends are listening. Every day is a public day.
What is experience that stays with you, but not as a memory? This is the space of that.
I feel sure. I can feel my posture and am struck that someone wanted to make this space in which I notice my posture. This space wants me to stop and to keep going. We are allowed two minutes.
Susan Sontag says, Unsure of other responses, they take a picture.
I take a picture. I post my selfie and think about the likes. It is not a closeup, which is hard to imagine ever posting again. Selfies seem silly after having a child. Please don’t think I mean that I neglect myself. As a mother, I have never been more self-absorbed. What else is there to not look at?
I feel hostile towards others lately. I don’t want to think too much about it, but I suspect lately means several years. How can I write. Everyone is an audience we post for and don’t want near us. What is it to make anything outside of this space?
Who wants to disagree with love? We ask. And then start arguing.
We can crop each other out of our selfies or at least make each other seem really far away. Yayoi’s mirrors cover us all with polka dots, which the description outside said was unifying. But that is not why we came here.
I’m just like a lot of people, aware of Kusama too many decades into her career. I read a short piece on Kusama’s work on the Tate’s website that uses the phrase, “her feisty attitude.” I look at Twitter and read poets’ complaints about babies on planes.
I keep opening this poem and looking at it each day until there is no difference between what was happening outside of it when I started writing this poem and what is happening now that I can’t finish it. Except four dozen eggs are now in my fridge.
Here I am, outside of the short time I was given inside.
What is the opposite of cracking an egg? This is the space of that.
I thought of the outlines that make us see faces in everything, but it is the interior we spot. Knotted noses on trees, nubby eyes. One mushroom ear blossoming out, not listening to us.
Why would I buy expensive curtains that allow light through?
I was waiting and waiting and waiting, then I stepped out of the line and went home. I wasn’t looking at the others in line, but they all thought Boy is she mad, and I wasn’t.
Tony kept explaining he wrote a portrait with words. That was the point of the poem. What could he explain to us? There was nothing else. We kept looking at it.
Wow, you said. Wow. We sure do the same thing differently.
That moment when something becomes a line because of what has landed on it. But never from what has left it?
Seth says, while he house-sat, he read our writing teacher’s daily notebooks. Years stacked out in the open, and they were so boring.
When my dentist sighs out of stress, I realize I would rather she sigh from boredom.
I kept talking about all of the images in the text, but it was written entirely of things they had said.
In Texas, without winter weather, I would completely lose where I was in the year.
Winter comes, covers the lines, and makes a field
Describing a moment that sticks with me usually means I have not described anything at all, but when I am done, I feel like I could.
Undefined spaces, the joy and lie.
Since there is only one direction to read a story, surely we would get to the climax and know it’s the climax because it is so obvious.
Outside of this line there is the face in the car that was happy to hit me if I took another step in the crosswalk.
Every email ending with Please advise.
No one really walks through fields. They just stand outside of them and look.
Why Describe a Moment When
It is the moment of summer. It is not. The peaches are yelling. It sounds like bright water.
My daughter runs through it in the backyard.
The season to depart as if we are staying right here.
Don’t talk about death! she yells at the breakfast table.
We pretend we can’t find her. We pretend we are going to get her.
We pretend to be dead and flutter.
She discovers how to open all the windows in the house.
She cries in the car seat, asking if she will die one day, too.
My daughter has a cut. It’s pretend. Like everything, it is real.
We buy Band-aids like snacks.
I buy time and unpackage it and see I need to return it.
I keep setting the table with watercolors.
I say I like her painting, and I am not looking at it.
And I mean it.
I am painting myself in. I am so not pretend, I can feel how she feels this hug.
I am adding water to everything.
She keeps adding water to the color.
She says she is making her own color. It is the color of movement.
It has filled the room.
She says, You be a dragon. You be water. I will swim in you. Be dead.
When I know I will never be that good. I haven’t bought the perfect organizing bins.
What should I make a to-do?
One slice and the cheap pool bursts open.
I put air on my list. I receive no pressure from anything.
The look of water. The peaches are yelling. Summer saying something to itself.
The air on my list. I could list more because this is not a room.
This moves like how brightness moves.
Like the massive waterfall we think of as static.
And my daughter is screaming she can’t stand silence.
The moment between hearing a fall in another room
and hearing the cry
is a bright, silent space. You wait and squint and go all at once.
We take a picture in the ER when we know she is okay.
Susan Sontag says a photo is a souvenir and souvenirs refuse experience.
She was just talking about tourists. She was kind of being a snob.
We take our dead phones home. We save her tiny ER bracelet, but that is enough.
She saves garbage and hides it around the house.
The idea of garbage comes from me saying, That’s garbage.
When she was two, everything was something to throw away.
Now she asks where her peanut shells are. Yogurt cups, sticker scraps, twist-ties for bread.
I am always washing things that are not souvenirs.
She saves the pits to grow a tree.
She wants to hear the story about the first time she ate a peach.
The peaches were yelling, we tell her, again.
I’m a tree, blow me over! My daughter poses and screams.
I told my writing teacher once that I don’t like memory.
She snorted. What, like having one?
My daughter walks slowly through gift shops, tapping each souvenir in the shop.
The clerk glaring and bracing and deciding when to step in
and scold me, deciding what is enough.
This poem is a leak, a wind, a fruit stand.
My daughter says when the Band-aid falls off by itself
she will be better, and she is.
CARRIE OEDING is the author of Our List of Solutions (42 Miles Press). Her poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Bennington Review, and Pleaides, among others. She is the recipient of the Rhode Island Council on the Arts’ Fellowship in Poetry and lives in Providence, R.I.