SANCERRE AND WICKER CHAIRS

You order Perrier in Paris because you can. Because everything else is wrong, but you can manage that one thing. An impossibly old man grips your wrist like he’s drowning. He tells you he once had an American lover. The day takes on carnival proportions.

Screen Shot 2018-09-13 at 5.18.49 PMYou went to Paris to drink Sancerre (even though the French are bored with wine) while sitting in a wicker café chair on the sidewalk. You went to Paris to fall in love, to be seen in that particular light. What was supposed to be a moment suspended, a Mendelssohn overture, is instead an impossibly old man clawing at your arm and leaving marks.

When the rain breaks for five seconds you make a run for it. Coward. Paris is laughing at you. You can’t get close to the Eiffel Tower for the slow snake of tourists. You walk for miles to the Picasso museum only to learn that it’s closed for the next five years. You order a carafe of Sancerre but all the wicker chairs are taken.

You sleep in the fourteenth arrondissement, which sounds romantic, but you dream of work and bills and the singular anxiety of lost luggage. You’re tired in Père Lachaise Cemetery and think of laying down on the polished marble of Edith Piaf’s grave, curling against the crucified Christ.

You order food that comes wrapped in paper so you can eat while walking rather than dine alone.

The locks on the bridge over the Seine — so many that it’s someone’s job to periodically cut them off — are an unsolvable riddle. How is a padlock a romantic gesture and not a scare tactic?

But you are no one’s key, no one’s promise, no one’s lost love.

NOTES ON PROCESS, part 1

A.

My experience as an artist so far has been that I am led down various life paths, often related to the BIG LIFE ISSUES (marriage, career, friendships, family, health scares for myself or those close to me, minor and major tragedies, national and world events) and make art in response to those experiences. The art isn’t really planned beyond “I think I’m OK at writing, so I’ll study that, and since I’ve studied it a bit, I guess that’s my main media” or “I’m sick of words and need to try to express myself through some other art form so maybe I’ll play the ukulele because it only has four strings so how hard can it be?”

In short: Art Reflects Life.

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Members of Pussy Riot perform at Red Square, January 2012. Photo by Denis Sinyakov/Reuters

But now, in my mid-40s, I find myself wondering if the more meaningful creative path might be Life Reflects Art. Wherein the artist would choose an art form and follow that Continue reading

WISH YOU WERE HERE

After deleting 139 photos of my ex, my photo gallery looks like I’ve only ever vacationed by myself. I suppose that’s sort of true: Me leaning casually against Hadrian’s Wall; me at Edith Piaf’s grave; me, in an optical illusion, touching the top of the Temple of Kukulkan as if it’s miniature and I’m a giant.

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I can barely remember feeling hot that day, in Chichen Itza, or motion sick from the bus ride. I recall those details like an itinerary, like a packing list, like a fact that could also be a lie. Like a movie I once saw while sick with the flu that I later, inadvertently, adopted as a series of scenes from my own life. Memory is like that: Fallible, slippery. Continue reading

SOMEWHERE A TOWN IS WAITING FOR YOU TO ARRIVE

I found a folder of 68 photos, from a 2015 trip to Ireland, on a forgotten SD card. Like finding an old role of film, it turned up some treasures and lots of questions. What is this shot even of? What was I feeling on this day? Who was I, three years ago? So this week’s post is a flash fiction on that theme.

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It’s not this town. And you’re glad, though this town is scenic, sprawling along a mineral-gray lake. The banks are mossy and the sky is pale blue and the hill beyond the village is artfully terraced by ancient people who carved civilization from the land with Iron Age tools. Maybe it was Bronze Age. You should know from all the museums but you don’t know. Continue reading

On creativity, growth, and freshman orientation

It’s the time of year when kids go back to school and people on the precipice of adulthood go off the college — some for the first time. This year it seems like everyone I know is the parent of a 17- or 18-year-old who is starting college, so my social media feeds are full of photos of Move In Day(s).

It’s a rite of passage — one of many that I, a person without children, have not been through.

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Move-In Day, 1948 , from University of Mary Washington

Two things: 1) I barely recall being dropped off at college for the first time. I know my mom took me. I remember she had a perm at the time. There’s a photo of us somewhere and I’m wearing cargo pants. She might have been sad to leave me, but that’s not how I remember it.

So the going-off-to-college initiation is likely more impactful for parents, because the teenager’s life up to that point has been nothing but change, nothing but new experiences. It’s been school and life lessons and body morphing. College is of all of that (on steroids) with different scenery and less adult supervision. Continue reading

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Asheville Percussion Festival 2018, photo by Jesse Kitt

Alli Marshall is a poet, fiction writer, and performer. She’s interested in moving writing beyond the page, seeking the golden in the mundane, finding the intersection of art and social justice, and reconnecting with mythology — both ancient and modern.

Learn more about Alli here.

The Eye of Hathor (video)

A performance from this year’s Asheville Percussion Festival. Soundscape by Bonnie Whiting, movement by Brandi Mizilca, words by me. It’s a poem about creative work and women’s work and the intersection of the two: the point at which an artist steps through fear to meet a challenge. (At least that’s what I think it’s about — but it’s totally open to interpretation.)

Video and audio by Joshua Messick, live soundboard audio mix by Steve Beatty and Edward Link at Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville, video editing by Asheville Rhythm.