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A Unique and Powerful Magic

Part the first. (of unknown many)

Attention paid on 9/11/2020:

This may be the darkest timeline,

But there are the most preposterous rays of

Light--like the flowers embossed on a plastic

Lean Cuisine tray, or the turtles embossed on my

Aldi toilet paper. That we have rolls of paper

Soft enough for mass production.

That we use them for such purposes,

That they are in our bathrooms,

That they are in our freezers

That big companies put nature in their budgets,

Unrecognized value added,

Unadvertised bonus features,

Unnoticed art.






I think,


Somebody made that."


My dears.


I wrote you this something, having noticed that the container of the Lean Cuisine I had impulse purchased was undeniably beautiful. I told my friend about it. And about the toilet paper I used to have. Now my paper has a somewhat subtle criss cross pattern...

The expanded part of the text is inspired by the work of Robert Lax, as printed by John Vincent, who I had the pleasure of meeting today. And whose work I have admired and collected, having found it scattered lovingly about our hometown.

Our meeting reminded me of so many lives and loves I've lived before--

  • Screen printing with cut paper shapes at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum with my grammie (imagine my delight to discover that they still offer it!)

  • Enjoying quotes in Mr. Erdeljac's U.S. history class

  • Having t-shirts screenprinted by Team Scum at Gauley Fest

  • Running a vintage brayer from my friend Anjanette over blobs of acrylic for hours on end, for the sheer joy of it, only to have them become major components of my first art exhibition

  • Playing with prompts at a Meow Wolf doodling workshop led by Mikey Rae during my second summer of grad school

  • Highlights art boxes my mom ordered and did with me as a kid. We made mermaid dolls out of seafoam green embroidery thread and tiny clothespins. Another type of unique and powerful magic.

These are parts and sundry.

What is my art? John asked me to bring a few pieces, and I brought mine, but I also brought poems, and class notes, and a photo of myself in high school, dangling off a trailer of kayaks in a gas station service area. I do not have to have made it for it to somehow be mine--not that I'd pass it off as mine.

I brought practice exercises, and scribbles, and all sorts of unprofessional strangeness constructed with my same set of childhood watercolors, with disney princess glitter puffy paint from that selfsame childhood, with ballpoint pen and scraps of paperboard from the back panel of pasta boxes (an excellent, though dubiously archival, surface for gouache).

And it was enough. He gave it credence. Looked at it with an artist's eye.

When he was younger, apparently a teacher told him cows should not be purple.

And he decided he would have to be the football sort instead of the art sort.

To teachers--maybe please allow cows to be purple.

A purple cow is no more preposterous than turtles on toilet paper.

How to react to student's strangenesses?

Love them, if you can. Bear witness. They are not so strange.

As Eilat Glickman, beloved teacher of the ambitiously named and generously offered Middlebury course, Intro to the Universe, puts it: "When you have a big enough sample size, rare things happen all the time."

I met my friend Emily in her class.

The phone call with her, and my pontification in her general direction about commercially manufactured beauty, brought about this poem.

If you can,

Pay attention to your Lean Cuisine containers, folks.

Love, always.


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