Mauve Chiffon, Künstlerroman – Jacob Sponga

So I wanted to be a writer type, like Wyndham Lewis. I solicited Harold Bloom. Louie Armstrong was on and I spent the whole time looking at a Blake engraving on the wall. I think it was from the Gates of Paradise. Harold put me in chiffon. I was like his naiad, or a dryad, and his little peony. Long mauve dresses from the back closet, in the spare bedroom, where the sheets were threadbare and patterned with hawthorns. I was the peony; he was the porpoise. I wanted to be a writer type because that seemed like its own sort of paradise. His house had wainscoting, and I’d never seen a tin ceiling before. He called it coffered and said something about Philomel. This was on the Cape, and at night we’d go out on the verandah and I’d pare my fingernails. I don’t know where I got that from. Yet here I was in New England for the first time, inamorata to this great scholar —I was in love—and I wasn’t making any poetry. So I started writing ballads. In the mornings we ate spiced fish, and I would parse the classifieds. I guess it was just something to do. Until then I had no clue what the hell galoshes were. Hermeneutics fascinated me and I loved Cassavetes flicks. I oversaw the whole house, Victorian angel that I was, from atop the stairwell. Mauve chiffon. But I wanted to be a writer type even while I fed the greyhounds. You see it was grand, with the carpet runners, and cigar smoke in the laquearia, but I felt inexcusably treasonous. I guess it wasn’t what I knew was going on. There was a lovely college village girl named Maribeth, and we’d eat cubanos on curbs and count Cadillacs. We didn’t talk much but I asked her about a lift someday, and then I was in Brooklyn. Harold sent me fanmail, and a periodical. Well, you recuperate, you do, and I got over it, and I found myself in a cold water flat in another place entirely. Things did seem contemporary, and I met a new group who were radicals, and I met a girl named Pock. Nobody had an inch of hair in the right place. So I wasn’t in mauve chiffon, I started wearing a lot of elastane and denim. There was a lot of talk of blowing somebody up, and then Pock gave me V.D. Who knew? And we joined a comedy troupe, and the six of us went downtown on weekends, and messed around with each other. It felt good to be an outsider. I started writing odes like crazy—really long things—but I never finished anything. I thought about chastity, and the state of Montana. Maybe they would bring me peace. Pock took me to her bachelorette party in a warehouse, and I read up on the Restoration. She was marrying a guy called Hieronymus. Nobody got any sleep. I wanted to be an outsider because I knew that I was different. Everybody was a performer of some kind. One time I saw a film you can’t see anymore. Pock wore a cassock, and we watched The Blues Brothers, and she yelled about a Marxist Guyana. It all got to be a little bit much, I guess, because I couldn’t write any of these odes to completion, and it was all a little bit chintzy. Hieronymus and I got to be good friends. The films and the cigarettes were all a bit feigned, and sometimes I felt like I was trying to one up myself. It was nice getting into mysticism, but it was hard getting out. I was getting to be a writer type I guess in a way I didn’t intend. One day Hieronymus was going to Bolivia to get loaded with Russell Brand, and I flew out with him. It was just time for a change of scenery; I was getting sick of the East Coast. Harold was still sending me Milton Monthly, and I was wearing a pair of his trousers when we got off a bus in in Krakow. You recuperate, and you grow, first of all. I didn’t see Pock again, or Hieronymus, and I decided to wander Europe. When I got to Slovenia, I was big on philology and thought maybe I’d become an analyst. I don’t know. It’s hard to be young. Some huge guy on the street in Ljubljana sold me a buckwheat pie, and I thought about Connecticut. The crackling fire in Harold’s house and his lumpy wallet. It was like Walden, or The Pilgrim’s Process. The more I thought about it, the worse things seemed. I decided I would try to pray to God —for here I was stuck in the Balkans—even though I don’t buy that stuff. I was in a hostel and God told me to go to Yasnaya Polyana. There was an icon of Saint Francis on the wall, and he’s always been my favourite. How do you get to Russia? Again in the mornings I ate spiced fish, and I got a dictionary, and I wrote out my own classified, Pelji me v Rusijo, moram zjebat Tolstoja, Take me to Russia, I need to meet Tolstoy. I put a photo of my face with it because I am pretty, and I look like I can make good conversation. I was writing nothing, but I didn’t feel too bad. At least I wasn’t misconstrued. A lady named Marie offered me a jump seat in her truck. The whole way we listened to post-hardcore, and she told me about the Bloc. Later I learned she was actually Quebecois. It doesn’t matter, we got to Yasnaya Polyana, and there he was, Leo Tolstoy. I found him dashing. I want to be a writer type, I said. We ate supper together but he didn’t give me much advice. We talked about the Cossacks, and Wagner, and vermicomposting, which is putting worms to work. It was a dull chat and he put his hand on my thigh. In the morning I saw the sun rising over the hills, and I wrote a little poem at my desk. The whole writer type thing wasn’t working out; the poem wasn’t good. I was listening to The Police. Hedgerows crested at the edge of the grounds and gardeners dawdled in the shade. The sun splayed itself through furrows on my windowsill. Somebody had carved their name in there. I went back to New England later and I took up archival work. I get ahead of what’s behind me. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m working on a novel. I am a worm at work. I mean, I just keep on going. My name is Maude. Here I am.