20150428-2575 (fish)

Here's a Macro-fish.  I just re-watched the film of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale, and "micro-fiche" (fish) are on my mind. This Piscatorial Borealis, each staring blue eye like the planet Saturn, looms like a sunset--but an angry, toxic sunset, maybe a thermonuclear sunset.  Little fish in domestic, hospitable aquaria (with waving aquatic plants) are charming.  This florid Gas-giant is an Armageddon dream-killer.

20170527-5430 (cross-section)

This giant tree, cut and abandoned, visually evokes (I wish it didn't) Yoru Iwatani's runaway Pac-Man game, born in Japan in 1980.  The tree, an arboreal Pac-Man, finally stilled in sylvan death, visually re-offers the P-M's massive snapping jaw, re-imagining the endless chomp-chomping of its ravaging, insatiable e-jaws--iconic jaws for our greedy, disaster-capitalist times.  A tree felled is a violation of natural law--like a beheading.

20170610-6085 (shadow)

Shadows mummify us all.  In raking light, skin turns into a pebbled beach, our faces look like tree bark.  High shadow winds through us like the broken staircases in abandoned houses.  We are eaten by shafts of careless, unplanned light.

20171128-2177 (on road)

The dreamy, indolent idea of the open road that leads endlessly to nowhere or anywhere ("dreamer's highway" as Big Crosby calls it in the film Going My Way) is irritatingly compromised by a big truck lodged right in front of you.  It's like a rough menacing open hand that yells "Back off!"  Some years ago, in 2007 I think it was, I published a slim volume of poems called Southwester.  There was a poem in it called "Trucks."  Here is the entire poem: "So many trucks on the 401 / It's like driving down / the main street / of a town that's moving with you."   The only trucks I ever liked in aggregate were the ones in the 1978 Sam Peckinpah film, Convoy, with Kris Krisofferson..

20171018-0991 (leaf)

City leaves, exhausted as d├ęcor, are dying now against the sky.  There is a long dry pause before winter, when the big money snowflakes finally begin to fall, easing the city's hungry heart, muffling its memory.

20171125-9772 (water)

One day there will be no more water at the end of the civic tunnel, the pipeline we thought was everlasting.  He thought about the water’s end, dreamed about the very last drops in the reservoir—two tiny yin-yang amoeba, the little fishes of final moisture.

20171007-0421 (machinery)

Every machine, at its centre, is a deep blue bucket lowered like a bathysphere into the abyss of our desiring minds.  We fancy our machines to be compliant extensions of our unappeasable needs, but each has a howling Moloch face. Each one is Saturn devouring his children.  

20171202-7059 (root)

Roots inch through the city, undermining strip-malls, overturning condos, until, in the end, they tighten into nests--the songs of building.

20130224-88 (support)

All girding is industrial muscle-flexing, all piers, pillars, staunchions, thrust up against a lowering sky, like a strong man heaving his barbells up to heaven.  A pier’s gridding and strapping (see the aerated Eiffel Tower, still breathing through all its iron lungs) is its tendonizing, the corded mapping of the flow of its rusting energies.

20130113-121 (unicycle)

This is a fallen unicycle (throwing a uni-shadow) or, no, perhaps not, perhaps (rather) it’s a (rather) wounded astrolabe, no longer able to read the courses of the winds and the stopgap stars.

20091229-25 (tower)

The pen-nib tops of these two stylo towers—possibly broken off, possibly snapped away—make them a ruin.  All broken, ruined towers are lodged, in our now reorganized memories, as cataclysmic towers, huge cloud-cutting architectural machetes, meanly milled swords of Damocles, no threat now only pain.

20121216-120 (ladder)

Sublunary ladders impress you with what they know, and are extensions of surprise. But the topless ladders of the mind, leaning for support against clouds of unknowing, dissolve every certainty you had, leaving you as skinless as a raindrop.

20100504-174 (moving)

Out the window, things go by in a milky rush. Telephone lines, pulled like violin strings, grow hot as copper while you watch. I cannot leave this world when there is so much left to do.

20120818-16 (construction)

Our stresses fail us. Our struts bend like stalks of wheat. Will we never leave off the construction of intricate, prickly compositions in small spaces? All they do is heat up, like spices ground in a mortar.

20081025-48 (walkway)

Inasmuch as a boardwalk keeps the lake from lapping up the city, it also reconstitutes the city as a cage.  Do we not hate that the parts are not equal to the whole?

20130113-231 (tree)

There's a swimming moon caught in the net of the trees, along with shoals of thrashing stars.

20110909-6 (unicycle)

A unicycle on its side--a Duchampian abandonment--is a glyph of defeated ideals.  Methinks it hath the falling sickness.

20121216-116 (wall)

Every city is a crenellated city.  There was a time when we all knew this, and joyfully strolled atop the city’s walls, keeping the countryside on the left and the cityside on the right.  We were as springy as insects on leaves.  Today there are no boundaries, and we walk the streets in all directions, leaving behind rusty footprints.   

20130113-87 (mountain)

Beyond the city’s rim, outside its residential rings and traffic slots, there is a bald mountain where nobody in the city ever goes. It rises wearily through simmering waves of exhaust, offering itself as the first laic church of extra-metropolitan relations. Nobody ever goes there.

20120817-104 (heart)

Here is the pitted heart of the city, torn like an old tooth--a wisdom tooth--from dry gums, and lifted into the light.  Do you not know the city is leaking wisdom through every excavation?

20100305-7 (boot)

An old boot for Oedipus with his one good leg. "How unsearchable," writes Maurice Maeterlinck, " is the darkness out of which we have just stepped" (not to mention the darkness into which we are about to pass).

20100502-3 (telescope)

Nobody sees the sky in the city, the smoggy stars tangled coldly in the brittle tops of trees, the mattress overclouding that presses us to the sidewalk. Old telescopes are an oblique memorial to the days of vision past.

20100314-22 (luggage)

Such a hulking object to be carried into place like a storm cloud (it's been everywhere)! Here's a poem to the secret handled space, the portable closet: "from the bed of the street / come / came / these clouds / so plumb / it was impossible / not possible the street / had not steered them / impossible." (Jacques Roubaud, in The Form of a City Changes Faster than the Human Heart (Dalkey Archive Press, 2006).

20090722-6 (dialogue)

Here's a tiny weary pilgrim, an urban supplicant, in earnest confrontation with a sidesplitting Sphinx, who, now, in these trivializing days, is an oracle-as-stand-up-comic; she fancies her riddles (the Sphinx is female) to be hilarious: "What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?" Yuk yuk.

20091217-5 (cola)

Well, the venerable old calligraphic flourish is finally getting eaten away by its own acids. What once was Holding Hands is now Letting Go. And as Coke goes, so goes the country.

20100228-226 (carousel)

Zoetrope, Thaumatrope, the blinkered glimpsing that is perception, its doors closing upon us. The screens are bigger now than these dashing slots but we don't see any more. Bring together the Zoe (animal or life) plus the Trope (the turning of things)--as George Horner did in 1834--as you've got yourself a "wheel of life." That's what they called it. Good luck.

20100211-69 (problem)

The city is powered by one gigantic electron, vibrating at its centre. People come to stare at its cyclonic fervor and to listen, in awe, to its transcendent hum.

20100305-1 (cube)

A condo that turns and shifts, pushing and pulling at the behest of its tenants, who are all problem-solvers. Mondrian lived here, and Gerrit Rietveld and Theo Van Doesburg.

20100504-197 (knife)

People lying side by side in the city, in the drawer of dreams, sharpening themselves as they sleep, honed by sunrise to fine clean edges, ready for the brandishing day

20091026-176 (rabbit)

The faucet marks the headwaters of the narrative idea, where water gushes from metal, runs for a while and ceases to run. Pathetic waterfall, smoothly styled so that we might try to forget the small twilight runoff it offers in lieu of the great hard sun-pressure of promise.

20091228-30 (couple)

In the city, a clock is out-of-its-depth in multi-leveled time. Impaired by inaccuracy, it swings in despair with the alternating indecisiveness of a pendulum, taking its shadowy users for a non-representational ride. Robert Louis Stevenson once noted that to live without a clock would be to live forever. But everybody has a clock, and our lives are short

20100228-7 (fan)

In the city, nature appears as a mechanized artifact. This fan is a bent flower, held in a wire-weary bubble of electric fragrance.

20091216-1 (arch)

Many-arched, many-eyed classicism, unfound in the city, plummets into architectural sarcasm. "A very vexed question," wrote Italian Futurist painter Carlo Carra, in 1918, "is that of art getting the uppermost of man."

20091227-18 (traffic)

The cars and trucks that come to the city start healing over at the outskirts, listing more all the time as they head hard for the urban epicentre. It is desire that undoes them, these thin, egg-like skins of metal, growing even more flimsy and diminutive as they are inexorably tied into the knot of immediacy.

20091019-103 (tree)

The tree, using the everywhere ink-wind, brushes itself onto a knobby, towel-like page of city air.

20091019-97 (sun)

The sun over the city is an insect sun, a burning centipede, oaring its way across the sea of firmament. The solar insect's heart is a celestial fire opal, an admirable brooch for the lapel of day, were it not wriggling with legs a million miles long.

20091201-78 (lightbulb)

The lightbulb is a circus tent. The filament is a tightrope act. The artist is a a small Greek column, crumbling in the heat of the expectations we hold for him.

20090722-69 (spring)

One side of this Manichean tree is an inference of spring, while the other side is still a tightly frozen claw. This is an inducement to keep reading from left to right, like any good whacked-out citizen of the western world.

20091014-32 (connect)

These are rusty fields of meaning. They thrust up like powdery, flaking hydro towers; they stretch in neural nets made of streetcar cable, over our heads. They offer a dreamy cognitive membrane that makes your hair stand on end by its very lassitude.

20090812-84 (arrow)

Notice this upsetting verticality on the bias: a failed imperative leaning, like the Pisa Tower, into something weaker, inflected, something more momentary than the loud aspirations of its original thrust. Say a prayer now for resolve.

20091026-66 (brushery)

This is a slow, longlived graffitus, what French writer Francis Ponge calls "age-old brushery" or "high brushery"; this is the cosmic hair of drawing, of scratching, incised upon the stone-cold shoulders of a moist old building.

20100228-222 (tower)

Pylons burnt by blur at their tops, self-cauterized by their epic, over-reaching dreams. On the other hand, the virtual pavilion left behind by their granular un-finish is sweet (see the German, Halla: a temple, a building open on all sides, see Albert Speer's giant flashlight-columns at the Nazi Nuremberg rally of 1934, see architect Rob Krier's open pavilions with tent-flap sides).

20100211-246 (balloon)

I saw a fire on a balloon. It streaked to the ground like a candle. "We must talk about the truly disgusting and, for us, troublesome state of things and we must find a way of defending ourselves" (Theo van Doesburg to Joaquin Torres-Garcia, 1929).

20091216-143 (book)

This curvaceous book--a tablet with type, suitable for a circular library--swings under your eyes, whisks away its message before you can cry out. It says, "Please come visit me in the madhouse sometime next year" (James Lee Byars to Josef Beuys, 1973)

20091216-133 (bc)

What is this biscuit doing out of its box? You could buy these maple cookies once (maybe still can, I haven't bought a cookie in years), but they were generalized maple then, not provincialized. Strange, if all the leaves that fell were stamped with the province they fell in.

20090704-13 (fighter)

I've come to hate all smirking robot, with their tiny, glowing heads and their overwrought limbs. "And so, dear Stefano, I will give you guns. And I will teach you to play extremely complicated wars, where the truth will never be entirely on one side. You will release a lot of energy in your young years...." (Umberto Eco, "Letter to my Son" in Misreadings, Jonathan Cape, 1993, p.125).

20091229-58 (plant)

It's just an idyll thought: it's all about this cranium tree, low-browed and dense, black with boudoir lace sweeping down and under the bare thighs of space.

20100107-86 (guitar)

The wings of the guitar flap in freedom. Its cheeks blow sideways in the wind-tunnel of its own tumult.

20170220-1454 (city)

The weary chessboard of the city; isn't it time to sand it all smooth again? It's all breaking apart anyhow, heaving like your stomach after too much bad food.

20100129-1 (wall)

The Great Wall is a great zipper, gleaming coldly through black satin seas of political time, temporarily fastening together two edges of toothed landscape. Romanian-born American writer Andrei Codrescu writes about "tugging at the big zipper of history, unzipping the Nylon curtain and the leather wall...."
All photographs by Lee Ka-sing
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