By Association

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: June 01, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 01, 2018



By Association
By Alexander Guinevere Kern

a poem for Elmer


Listen: I remember everything I see.

Your apartment lives on the inside of my lids.

Like something invented. Novel stuff. See? I'm there right now.

Behind a darkwood door -- its mirror shivers when I slam: Turn of the century toilet and sink. Sleek candles and nine celebrity smiles, a red devil, three cross-stitched hand towels draped like arms under a shelf. Stonehenge of cologne bottles, liquid flames in the artificial light.

Autographs, lithographs, photographs -- reproductions, reflections or talismans of Past?

I am sitting near a document signed by Victoria. I am transformed therefore, into royalty by association. Across the room I see photos hung in frames. Italy, Washington. I see talent. I am talented therefore, by association. To my left Lladro figurines in fragile blues and pinks and creams pose within a cabinet. They are serenely beautiful, and therefore I am beautiful by association. My ego embraces the room, my affection is returned. Like people, this apartment does not mind my admiration. Like Dicken's Dodger, I pick-pocket what I please, image by image.

Your living room window yawns at Washington, exhales bourbon and goat cheese, crackers and laughter. Inhales the backside of buildings, electrical flares, vehicular back-fire, fermenting dusk and city musk. Shade winks at Peeping Tom eyes. In the background, subtle music with a Spanish flair threads notes through our conversations.

Michelle shrieks up the scale. She's Post-Vamp, bloodnails cotton-candy hair and stockings from Satan's drawer. She's high-heel tall, and her purse looks like it used to swim in swamps. Rick is Antiqued Preppy, he thinks his serious glasses impress, but we all know better. Blue-collar Oxford, white-collar mind. He is witty, and therefore I am witty by association. 

You take us to the roof, one floor up, I slip-skate down the black and white tile floor. In the stairwell I admire the glossy wooden banisters. I imagine sliding. The building exudes the odor of a thousand cooked & eaten meals, and history and living. I realize that its walls absorb everything, just as I do. The building has a good memory and knows how to keep its secrets.

When I reach the roof, I tred a stone path and view the city's crown in chiaroscuro, hiding its features in an old showdown between shadow and light. Out of the conflict, shapes rise and fall like graphs. A citygraph you cannot frame and hang inside your apartment. Who would autograph such delirium? But I try to limn it for you here in my simple language.

"She's cold," you say, though no one else notices this. You lead us back to your haven. You lend me your black Gap sweater. I feel witchy in it. It is classy and therefore I am classy by very close association.

You move three candles and wheel over a projector, then stroke the bare wall with foreign images. We are all enthralled. I want to ride snooty camels, splash in elegant fountains, jam my head in stalls of succulent Islamic fruit and skip the cobble streets. I want to recline decadently in Malcolm Forbes' silk boudoir and sip vermouth. I don't even know what vermouth is. My memory grows thirsty, wanting to record the taste.

I slept with Poverty once. I ate peanut butter and popcorn for weeks, I slept in gutters, shelters and parks, I fed at soup kitchen troughs, I was a bad-luck charm nobody wanted. I owned nothing but what I could acquire with my mind. My memory became magnificent, and abundant as a museum. I became rich by association. All I desired I stole, image by image. I will always remember everything I see. No one can take these things away from me.

The District condescends to permit the darkness's descent. Night kneels down to the city, afraid if its intensity, its vigorous importance. The city is dangerous and mysterious, and I am mysterious and dangerous, too. We advance towards the restaurant, puncturing the dark with high voltage banter, comraderie and savoir fare. I hold your home in my head.

Frame by frame, smile by smile, by table, candle, book, I took it all.


A. Guinevere Kern

Copyright May, 1999

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