Dear The King-
I went to your house last week and this was on the radio in my car:
"The Mississippi Delta is shining like a national guitar.
I am following the river down the highway through the cradle of the Civil War."
But those aren't my words and what's the simile about anyway?
My Delta smells like when you come over the hills from Philadelphia in the evening and roll the car window down and inhale the fertilizer mixed with Malathion, and
you can tell it's summer in Mississippi.
But that's not quite as elegant, so I start over:
My mother claims some friend of hers in college dated you just the least little bit,
"Oh, we didn't think that much of him," she says with that look you'd have to live with her to get.
It probably had something to do with Tupelo and truck driving and behind your ear, that cigarette.
But Mother would never even let us call her "Mom", if you know what I mean.
When I went to Graceland, so many had written messages to you on the retaining walls and the ground, and I found four signed with my own name, but in the end, I just took a picture of my feet by one written on the sidewalk, and I had painted my toenails silver for the occasion.
So, here's my letter to the King of Rock and Roll:
You were always on my mind.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I've been watching art critic Sister Wendy on Vermeer. He lived in a house in Delft with his wife, his mother-in-law, and his eleven children; I knew that, but it never occurred to me that Vermeer painted with the same craving that drives me to the woods to run down trails---the craving for solitude. Vermeer's subjects, placid Dutch women, are bathed in light, and they're all so still. You can almost hear dust motes floating around them in sunlight, they're so still.
I run through the other Dutch painters I know--Rembrandt, Cuyp, Rubens, Mondrian, Hals, de Kooning. I dismiss them as too stiff, too marine, too primary, too cavalier, too expressionist, too just notVermeer. Only one, Adrienne Coortje, captured the light in raspberries and asparagus as Vermeer did with silks and tiled floors. His tiny oils had the same timeless luminescence.
What's more beautiful than light? The light of winter dusk backlighting stark black branches, late afternoon sun stretching out a shadow till it's twice its length, a watch crystal flinging spangles onto a painted wall. If I could only see one thing in my last moment, it might be the flash of sun on water or wood or the hair of someone I loved, or heck, it doesn't even have to be someone I love; Keanu Reeves' or David Beckham's hair would do just fine. What I'm after here is the physical property of beauty. What Vermeer saw when he locked the door against his eleven children and wife and mother-in-law, the peace in which to savor these blessings and the time to watch light shimmering and sparkling in his mind's eye without interruption.