Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Suicide with Squirtgun in Happy Valley


File:Paul Gauguin 113.jpg

Like the departure of the calved sections of a glacier into the surrounding ice, a sound disengages itself from the others, and the music stops. Day is done for Daffy Duck and Beethoven. The Kreutzer Sonata echoes through the Germanic trees of suburban Appalachia. Out come the Super Soakers. Works of art collude with the apparition of evening. Laocoon and an opossum glide upon pools of reflected light that gather upon the face of the ponds that in six moons will commingle to form the Happy Valley Ice Rink.

While apparition is the instant of illumination and of being touched by something, recording and preserving it is another trick entirely: turning this timeless moment into an aesthetic instant, which is something that has duration. This is no easy task, like trying to keep a firefly's glow in a bottle without the firefly. Through the long sleeping summer nights Happy Valley is ablaze with submerged dreams of such substitutive creations.


The transcending element in works of art is something momentary. Their entrance into time is always a tight squeeze requiring the shoehorn of an "art experience," which fits them into such and such temporal dimensions. To escape these confines they flee in dreams far beyond the boundary dolmen of Happy Valley.

Works of art flower into images, which create instants out of mere moments. Then again, art is like a soft explosion, as when the hero in the Happy Valley Community Summer Theatrical kills himself with a squirtgun while standing under some tremendously dark and emotive trees, as the sadness of the river landscape in the backdrop announces the arrival of dusk in the valley.

The bodies of the low dense trees cease to stand out from the darkening forest beyond, and once again the world disappears behind its false veil of transcendence. A river flows through the forest to where the land opens out into a delta of green and copper sand.

The long day of Happy Valley closes. There is a sigh from inside nature, as all the durations that have unfurled suddenly begin to fold themselves up, like huge petals closing, almost without making any noise. Yet the forest creatures remain alert.

File:Marc-deer at dusk.jpg

The Day of God (Mahana na arua): Paul Gauguin, 1894 (Art Institute of Chicago)
A Small Town at Dusk: Aert van der Neer (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest)
Watergun: photo by Nathaniel Paluga, 2009
A Walk at Dusk: Caspar David Friedrich, c. 1830-35 (Getty Center, Los Angeles)
A spray bottle: photo by Hustvedt, 2008
Peasant Girls Bathing by the Sea at Dusk: Edgar Degas, c. 1875-6 (private collection, Northern Ireland)
Deer at Dusk
: Franz Marc, 1909 (Lennbachhaus. Munich)


Dale said...

Tom, this is great--wow (mouth open, eyes wide). The transcendent always slipping away--never there. And yet, it's that absence, a perpetual yearning with brief glimpses out of it, that makes art whatever it is to us. You know I've had my face crushed in the mud of rhetoric for several years. (No, those are flowers, or they're supposed to be.) The sense of contingency v. transcendence has been struggled over for so long. As a poet, and I don't want to label it, but I have always been curious in how words bring you right up next to something that can't quite be reached. Like the action occurs between the letters and spaces and sounds. That absence, that we'll join, and is irrevocable, seems to permeate everything--but you have to keep both eyes open, and swing if the ball crosses home plate. Anyway, thanks for entertaining these musings, and for leading off with Sir Opossum. Always a delight to bump into familiar company.

TC/BTP said...


In a battle between Sir Opossum and the White Knight Transcendence, my two bits would be on S.O.

But I suppose that would merely be a battle between two kinds of absenting--slinking off and slipping away.

It's said a handful of air may have its uses.

Many thanks, and your face still looks unbespattered and uncrushed to me.