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Friday, 17 August 2012

Carl Mydans: Trapped


Stairway in rooming house, Washington, D.C.: photo by Carl Mydans, September 1935

Housing block mapped
front and back
by use -- precarious
back porch
for kids, winding
staircase with carpet
in front
for adults
leading down
and out to
busy traffic
boulevard --
the individual living
units cramped --
for the conscious
at all times
of the rent
parents a
solution to being one
hundred percent trapped.

Image, Source: digital file from intermediary roll film

House at 1400 block, Eastern Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by Carl Mydans, December 1935

Narrow street, New Brunswick, New Jersey: photo by Carl Mydans, February 1936

View from living quarters at 730 West Winnebago Street, looking toward alley, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: photo by Carl Mydans, April 1936

Cincinnati, Ohio: photo by Carl Mydans, December 1935

Typical wood frame house, Hamilton County, Ohio: photo by Carl Mydans, December 1935

House exterior on Van Horn Street, Hamilton County, Ohio: photo by Carl Mydans, December 1935

House exterior on Van Horn Street, Hamilton County, Ohio: photo by Carl Mydans, December 1935

Photos by Carl Mydans for U.S. Resettlement Administration from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress


TC said...

The poem is situated not in Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New Jersey or D.C. (the places where Carl Mydans took these pictures), but in the West Side of Chicago; and the "boulevard" referred to is Austin. The Mydans photos capture a certain generic urban architectural look and feel of the period, evoking an uncanny sense of familiarity; though to be fair, at the time, living in that space did not feel like being trapped so much as being home. (Given there was of course nothing, at the time, to which to compare it.)

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Reading this fine poem and its accompanying photos sent me back to when I was an urchin and my family was living in a rundown apartment house above a tavern on the main drag of a wild Raymond, Washington but as you say, Tom, back then “living in that space did not feel like being trapped so much as being home.” Having left Greece at a tender age and without any memories of my childhood here, that small town America was my home. Now, after having lived more than half of my life in my native Greece, I still find myself asking where home is.

J Tranter said...

All those wooden stairs... if there's a fire (when there's a fire) nobody gets out alive. Trapped indeed.
-- John Tranter

Wooden Boy said...

"distinguished by use": there's a sense of those doorways coming to a kind of value - a particular beauty perhaps - with all those human traces worn in.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The Dishes

Here is another thing. She is a painter and her subject is dishes.
The finished canvases go up on the walls inside their house. Dishes, everywhere, more
dishes. She spends hours brushing, thinning, thickening the paint, carefully round
and around. Clean dishes. In ones and twos. With fruit, a few lemons, sent by Suzanne, and a piece of willow branch, the leaves curled and drying. The fruit is cut open. At the sink she holds a pan and swirls it round and around, a pinch of dust at the bottom. Here
she is bumping the nuggets, moving them. She adds more water, swirls again, this time looking for the gold. The dishes are still in the paintings, sparkling with nuggets.
They show off shadows. They are open bellies asking for food.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The World

If she’d only drink enough water
then she could flush out her system.
The one she’s in. Caught up in.
There’s a snowy owl against
the pink mylar. There are ribbons
of branches wound beneath her fingernails
ready to sprout beautiful eggs.
Not from insects. She wants an empty
car to take her to the desert.
Her job will be counting the mileage.
Exposing all the film. All the mountains
will be her friends. Even their spirits.
She’ll fly through the air. Land in the trees.
Her claws will be a brush
for the man’s hair. Like clockwork.
Just like the flowchart.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

Concerning The Map To The Gold

One way would be to follow your nose.
West of course.
Another would be to listen and see
where a sound takes you. It might
be out of your body. It probably
would feel good
and you wouldn’t be hungry.
There might be another sound
waiting for you after the first one.
Go that way.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The Place I’ve Never Lived In

Nebraska, my tennis shoes with no socks.
The porch light is left on, always. The deep ravines
are feathers. McCook. The river. Kearney.
The feathers that are ravines.
McCook, then Kearney. Then Hastings.
Further from the river. The feathers, the sand.
This is where the railroads crossed.
I wish I knew more. Sand-lined river.

Everywhere we lived
my grandfather was lying down flat there.
He was a bear in the Alaskan Wilderness.
He was a salmon.

I wish I knew more. This park.
There’s the lawn mower. It looks like
A small tractor. The utility plant.
There are the unreachable men.
This rich plain. The robins glimmer
on the lawn. In the grass. There are no places
in this history where my grandma doesn’t pretend
nothing has happened. My cousin’s breasts
look just like my grandma’s. I am burning
in the Nebraska sun. I think I feel the prairie.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

“In speaking of what
is Outward and what
is Inward one refers
not to place, but
what is known and what
is Not known.”

Edward Dorn, Way West

Susan Kay Anderson said...

“Then it was teacher did call my name. I stood up real quick.”

Opal Whiteley,
The Fairyland Around Us

Susan Kay Anderson said...

“After that first trout I was alone in there. But I didn't know it until later.”

Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing In America

TC said...

When I look at the picture of the squinty-eyed kid in Raymond, and his backdrop, I think... home is what stands behind us in the photograph.

John, yes, it was more a matter of when than if. Though to children swarming in the back alley behind those rickety steps and porches, starting the occasional small fire was merely one of a variety of destructive options.