The Summer of 2021 found me tanned and studious, legs propping up my laptop by the pool, screen open to a remote class on the history and artistry of graffiti while I let the Grecian sun polarize through my sunglasses. It should have been irritating, being made to study during an astonishing vacation, the first I’d dared to embark on since the pressure cooker of COVID began.
It should have been, but it wasn’t. Instead, I found the course vastly interesting, one of those lessons that adds an asterisk to your eye, noting a new layer of appreciation over the kind of art your vision previously skipped over.
The bold beauty of graffiti feminist pioneer Lady Pink paired with the Agean island like the fine cheese and wine I dined on. Ever since I’ve held them together.
Now, 2023 Winter has me in Rennes, France, a student-filled city that does not dare skimp on the intersection of forsaken architecture and graffiti artwork. The air in Rennes hangs in abundance as time lags between human presence on each alley street. There is just a feeling of vacancy, like you are the only one watching, a sense that you are the sole observer of this cold beauty.
This is what I feel here, and I hope I do the feeling justice.
Rusted Wall Box.
The rusted wall box has no other name but this,
no friends but the crust of itself
and a gray paint that chips into deeper colors.
What do we guard but the empty room of ourselves?
Grown over by vines and teenagers,
a can-string phone line echos in two vacant halls.
Clank me into the vibrations you understand
and maybe you won’t lose me
in the gray-chipped paint that becomes
No matter who levies the last lash of color,
the acrylic blood will pool.
Dripping just off the edges
of the most prolific overwrought signatures,
but who can make a mark without bleeding?
We are remembered for our bloodstains,
not our discarded scabs, not for the wounds we heal over.
Though we never know the difference.
I could imagine myself overwhelmed by the organic splat of rouge
while the rest of the world’s eyes only sees a spring-wound dancer.
That tiny ballerina cradled in the two jointed pieces
of a painted jewelry box, holding the red crystal of solved wounds.
Still, these jewels must stalk somewhere,
so they do.
Framing plywood backboards with colors
that bleed into themselves and stay.
A pierced heart sacrificed for nothing.
I can play all day I am great
& I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t fine.
I am fine. Of course, I am fine.
It’s just this juxtaposition as sinew between my bones
this wanting of nothing more
then for him to hold me in the dark,
to paint over my beige body in his dark colors,
only in the dark where we can hide our faces and feelings
and all the while, I can hold the trauma he gifted me
and I can still hate him.
It’s a decision, every day,
to stand up out of the darkness,
to stop relying on quick fixes,
to grow green over spray-paint stains
to choose yourself over and over,
even if you are the only one.
Words are beautiful, just like his paint was,
I need to borrow their beauty
& maybe together, we can build a more permanent love.
The little prince nuzzles my hair,
white-gold locks that mock the white of his world.
Some aristocrat made him,
but we can’t make our makers,
we can only remake their art.
Repackage their good message, only this time
it is meant for everyone.
Little prince dreams in galaxies,
ones that parade around in billowed colors, soft and primary.
Little prince doesn’t want to challenge you.
Little prince will take your friends and paint them pastel,
any color pleasing to the eye half asleep.
He learned this from his little fox,
that all of us are made from the same array of colors.
Some aristocrat made him,
but he can take his colors and build this world into the softest galaxy.
Little prince curls into my arms
and I can’t mock the way it feels so sweet
to hold someone’s planet and close your eyes,
to fade into someone else’s idea of perfect innocence.
Taking and bending
No rules line this space between
The weight of everyone
Who have found nothing between their fingers
And cruelty rings my ears
Time dulled by the puff and exhale
The big smoke from nothing but the hot air inside, escaping
And I just want to add to my savings.
Startled into 1984 brotherhood,
these hard lines beg
for concrete companions on the pavilion.
Rigid and cold without any contrast
like your spine bends backward
out of open eyelet window.
This attic habitat
and the frigid air that flows,
clinging to the hot puffs of breath
that sail over the street.
Inhale this cold and let go
of what you think is warm.
You don’t need it in backbends
in the broke backs you shape into proverbial mountains.
You aren’t gay, just like
you aren’t completely sold on men, either.
Convince yourself you are flawed in the face
so you can secretly believe you are the face
every fem girl wishes to see in the mirror without guilt.
You aren’t a narcissist because you love yourself,
but maybe you’re that self-pining flower for another reason.
You are filled with contrasting truths
only you can weave together.
Count yourself lucky because you are.
Call your sister. Tell her you love her because it’s true
and imagine she says she doesn’t judge
the mistakes she would never make.
No matter what she really says, you’ll never truly trip,
just break your back into a new window,
tricking a different pipe dream into truth.
Fade to Fuzz.
The men themselves cross their puffed arms at each curved corner.
The French are circles.
It is said in every slopped rock.
They love borders of portal blocks,
straight edges manipulated into hooks.
The green tea bird beaks its water into my cup,
spilling over its own lip to warm into shallow pool.
Do all these things count as something?
Trapped in this charm-edged world,
the Ty Anna ticket will take my coins with the same clink
owned by any jar.
You learn quickly that any destination hangs foreign deceits
before you learn to weave your straight lines into its circles.
To sip and swallow the steaming tea,
their paint-charmed kettle chirps.
Sidestep puff-plump guards on the curve,
and side-eye, the same way Chicago taught you.