Art Alive! Around the Clock With Red at The Hunter Museum

On September 10, 2015, I had the pleasure of performing the first Art Alive! program at The Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga Tennessee. This is the first of a series of programs that will bring performers into the gallery to share original and devised work created in response to a piece in the Hunter’s collection.

An art historian first speaks about the work, then the live performance is presented, then there is a moderated discussion.

Collaborators include: Hayden Crihfield, Megan Hollenbeck, Hannah Shadrick, and Madeleine Young

Special thanks to: Rachel White, Assistant Curator of Education at The Hunter Museum, Artist and Journalist Tony Mraz for interviewing me in The Pulse, and Rob Winslow for documenting the performance.

The program is presented in three parts below and the text follows.

If you have any questions about the process of creating devised performance, please contact me at kayla.anderson@gmail.com

VIDEO

AROUND THE CLOCK WITH RED TEXT

CRONE

There comes a time.
When Help arrives without asking for it
Despite my protests.

Perhaps it is because
my eyes have darkened
To reflect your own
Not the way a mirror would
But a lake so dark
The shadows dissolve
And become solid
At depths unknown

Are you afraid of me?

Rivers on the backs of my hands
Carry messages from somewhere else
The land of things unseen
So they can’t be real.

The ancient Greeks kept their oracles tucked away
On the very top shelf
Where their prophecies couldn’t reach
The ears of the ones
That still stretch and swell
In the sun

But Everything is clearest at twilight
When the breeze is still
The day birds nestle in their beds
And the night owls rise slowly- ready

In the place between worlds.
The rules are not the same.
The rules are an illusion.

We are all returning home.
Born with everything we need
Only to reject it
Then find our way to it again

My Own Way.

Everything is in it’s right place.

MOTHER

Hold on to it.
Until your grip is so tight;
Fused to it.
Sinking
Absorbed until I am dissolved.

Be everything. Fully.

Home [spotless, meals planned, pantry stocked, everything in it’s right place]

Career [under-eye shadows concealed, clothes pressed, hair smooth, no gray, don’t age, don’t make up your eyes and your lips on the same day, lean in further, prove your worth]

Body [toned, but not bulky, smooth, smooth, everything is smooth, everything in it’s right place]

Partner [don’t check your phone at dinner, look them in the eyes, don’t eat too fast, listen fully, be present, be available, stay interested- stay interesting.]

Children [don’t check your phone at dinner, look them in the eyes, make something they will eat but you won’t feel guilty about feeding them later, listen fully, be present, do the Right Thing.]

Carrying the weight
All to myself
Because I can
I must

Stay
Fused in place.
Suspended.
Fighting
Gravity’s slow and inevitable pull-down.

Burning
Red-Rimmed
Sun-glaring
Straining
To read the fine print

Of the impossible contracts we draft and notarize
For ourselves to sign.

But the moments.
When time stands still
And your eyes are my eyes
Our breath a never ending loop
And we float
Above all of this

This makes all of That worth it.

Maybe.

MAIDEN

The whole world is watching
Every breath is counted
Every split-end logged
Any wrinkles in my skirt are completely
Intentional

Everything is in it’s right place.

Keep one eye on what She is doing
The other on myself

Please don’t See me.
Because I don’t
Know
Feel
No one told me how to…

Just do what you are told.

When I tell it was Nice to meet You
I’m not really sure

The truth is, I don’t know what I want
Because I am sifting through
What everyone else needs.

Expects
Of me.

The idea of me.

Tell me how to…

The truth is
I just want to be with you
See you

Do you want to be with me?
Am I good enough?
Is am i doing this this right?

Holding hands with you
A wink for you
A kiss
A sigh
Everything is for you

The apples of our cheeks are kissed by perpetual morning;
And every sunrise is a new chance to be the person I want to be

I can be anybody.
I will never sit alone.
There is Nothing to lose.

We are all returning home.
Born with everything we need
Only to reject it
Then find our way to it again

In my own way.

Everything is in it’s right place.

Heap

Heap was first performed at Lyre to Lyric in collaboration with Jazzanooga and Christian Collier on 4/19/2015

Heap

I’m not from around here.
The decision to leave was abrupt
But deliberate
Like quitting drinks
Or nicotine
Vices that give you comfort but will kill you faster than you are already dying.

Abandoning the only thing that suspends you in stillness
If only for a moment.

En route from Chicago
To Tennessee
Trailing everything I can shove
In a rented 8×4 foot box
That is slowing down the pace
Of overloaded tires wicking away sleet and ice
Every mile
From There to Here

It rains
The
Whole way
Go
Down.

But.

There is a Shift when you cross over Highway 64.

Like the feeling on your cheeks and the backs of your arms when the dew settles down.
Sudden, palpable, and inevitable
Dew doesn’t need explaining.

Or perhaps the Shift is when the ground,
turns the soles of your shoes
To rust

The place where teeming memories
Are a soaking heap
Of leaning shotgun houses
Tarnished Civil War plaques
Bullets and Arrowheads found in a shallow grave obscured by kudzu.

History too heavy to move.

It rains the whole way go down

The exact location
where the weight in the air
Makes your skin dewy
And holds the scent
of wood-smoke, fresh cut grass, and gasoline
Is debatable.

But when you’re Here, you know.

Somewhere near the speed traps
of Louisville
that are set up to pay for the continuous construction
Of endless concrete clovers
And Jersey walls

At the interchange of Highway 64
Is an unofficial Southern border

Here
I feel it
Unseasonable warmth
December sleet turned rain
Air envelopes me like a damp towel left in the sun
But the hair on my arms is rising

There is a stillness
Suspended in the humidity
The hum of idling engines
And the drawl of Looouuvulll voices

Only for a moment.

It rains the whole way go down

On the wall inside of the trailer,
That holds the stuff worth trailing,
there is a message with the corners of the vowels peeling away:

“This trailer is water resistant, but not waterproof.”

I didn’t realize there was a difference
Until
The letters
The photographs
Stuffed animals with synthetic fur worn down to felt

Artifacts of a life wandered through in no particular order

Are a soggy heap
I still keep
In a mildewed pile at the back of the closet.

Charlie Parker by Jack Kerouac with Jazzanooga and Celebration of Southern Literature

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Kayla Mae Anderson performs a Jack Kerouac poem

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Charlie Parker looked like Buddha.
Charlie Parker who recently died laughing at a juggler on TV
after weeks of strain and sickness
was called the perfect musician
and his expression on his face
was as calm beautiful and profound
as the image of the Buddha
represented in the East — the lidded eyes
the expression that says: all is well.

This was what Charlie Parker said when he played: all is well.
You had the feeling of early-in-the-morning
like a hermit’s joy
or like the perfect cry of some wild gang at a jam session
Charlie burst his lungs to reach the speed of what the speedsters wanted
and what they wanted was his eternal slowdown.
A great musician
and a great creator of forms
that ultimately find expression
in mores and what-have-you.

Musically as important as Beethoven
yet not regarded as such at all
a genteel conductor of string orchestras
in front of which he stood proud and calm
like a leader of music in the great history Worldnight
and wailed his little saxophone
the alto
with piercing, clear lament
in perfect tune and shining harmony
As listeners reacted
without showing it
and began talking
and soon the whole joint is docking and talking
and everybody talking —
and Charlie Parker
whistling them on to the brink of eternity
with his Irish St. Patrick Patootlestick.
And like the holy mists
we blop and we plop
in the waters of slaughter and white meat —
and die
one after one
in Time.
And how sweet a story it is

when you hear Charlie Parker tell it
either on records or at sessions
or at official bits in clubs
(shots in the arm for the wallet).
Gleefully he whistled the perfect horn
anyhow made no difference…
Charlie Parker forgive me.
Forgive me for not answering your eyes.
For not having made an indication
of that which you can devise.
Charlie Parker pray for me.
Pray for me and everybody.

In the Nirvanas of your brain
where you hide —
indulgent and huge —
no longer Charlie Parker
but the secret unsayable Name
that carries with it
merit not-to-be-measured
from here to up down east or west.
Charlie Parker
lay the bane off me
…and everybody.

Kayla @ Jazzanooga/Festival of Southern Lit 4/19/2015

Unpacking

I exit the plane down steps that are so thin I turn my body sideways to keep from slipping. Where I expect to find solid footing, I slide on cracked concrete stained with a film of oil a half an inch thick.

It gives under my weight, and I imagine I am ice skating.

I take a deep breath and the smog fills my lungs and clings to them like cat hair to crushed velvet.

My knuckles, chapped from the record breaking Chicago winter and bleeding from the 20 hours of recycled airplane air, are suddenly dewy and swollen with humidity.

Slung over my shoulders is a North Face backpack filled with gear pulled from an infographic I found on Pinterest.

Before my eyes have a chance to adjust to the high afternoon sun, I am ushered into the back seat of a white minivan with faux-sheep’s fleece seat covers.

The smell of the air freshener reminds me to sit by the window, breath in through the nose, out through the mouth, and rest my cheek on the window I was expecting to feel a bit cooler.

In the winter of my post-graduate discontent, I bought a groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at my neighborhood studio. This would not remain my neighborhood for long, because there is now a specialty pie shop, an Italian restaurant that takes only 20 “resis” per night, three coffee shops that roast their own fairly-traded beans, and a freshly renovated Walgreens that carries craft beer.

This paves the road for the smiling babies nestled in their $1,000 Bugaboo strollers that effortlessly navigate the cracks in the sidewalk which will be fixed by next month because the alderman suddenly cares about how the 2500 block of West Armitage Ave looks.

Yoga was the thing that distracts me from the student loan balance that is not getting any closer to zero. Interest only payments are financed by a desk job where I am under utilized and small-talking my way

through the dull throb in my kidneys from the sitting

and the rhythmic pulse in my temples from the fluorescent bulbs that blink behind the plastic rectangular sheet that is textured to look like glass, but isn’t fooling anybody.

And when you are 21 and you are distracted and you are moving your body and breathing so deeply that you are borderline hallucinating, it is logical to think that you have found your life’s purpose.

So I sign up for the yoga teacher training program.

There’s a payment plan, so it won’t max out my credit card in one fell swoop. Immediately upon certification I will be armed with the knowledge to change lives; to build my following and lead international yoga retreats and curate an instagram collaged with crow poses and downward facing dogs flanked by mountains at sunset and beaches at dawn.

The return on my investment will be 10 fold. I deserve to fulfill my potential and live my purpose.

After a few weeks of teaching, I have regulars.

And after a few more weeks these regulars are starting to ask me about their bodies and to divulge their fears and insecurities with hope in their eyes

and because I have this 200 hour teaching certification I can Advise.

There is an ache deep in my gut that is telling me that I am a fraud

and that bodies and fears and insecurities of other people have nothing to do with me,

that pretending to have The Answer, is wrong.

I need to legitimize myself. So I make the pilgrimage to India.

Pilgrimage is a word normally reserved for those embarking on a spiritual journey to site that is historically sacred to their religion

but I guess it all depends on your intentions.

This Eat, Pray, Love Pilgrimage. This choose-your-own-adventure itinerary to tailor my custom Spiritual Awakening. This is the New Imperialism.

I book an astrology session with a Priest in Varanasi because sometimes even Advisors need Advice.

He lives in the old city, where the streets are narrow and smell like basement. I mindlessly follow the personal guide I was able to hire so cheaply with my American dollar.

I take up so much space.

In India, priests have trimmed mustaches, wear Panama Jack button down shirts, Arizona cargo shorts, and aviator sunglasses.

I sit across across from him at a desk that is a wood-grain that swirls when I relax my eyes.

He pushes his aviators tight on his face as he lights a cigarette and spits a wad of tobacco into a gnarled plastic bottle that has turned his mouth permanently red.

He throws water from a brass bowl in my face and says some words that sound really ancient and important.

He gives me a mantra.

And scrolls it on a piece of paper, stuffs it in a tiny silver capsule too small for his fingers to navigate and unceremoniously seals it with putty that smells like burning tires. He strings it on a brown cord and instructs me to wear it always except for at funerals, during “intercourse”, or menstruation.

It is tucked away somewhere, waiting to be unpacked.

Along with my expectations

And solutions

And everything else that didn’t quite translate upon my return to the snow drifts of Chicago.

Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Altitude Sickness

On a Sunday in January it is 50 degrees and I hike up a mountain called Lookout (because of it’s function in the Civil War) to a bluff called Sunset Rock (because it faces northwest).

I am assured that my boots-that-look-functional-but-are-actually-more-for-aesthetics will be fine. I won’t need more than a sweatshirt. We hike so high that the leaves curl around patches of snow.

The pebbles poke my heels through thin pre-worn soles.

The medium rocks are slippery under no tread.

The large rocks are what David calls ‘light climbing’.

And then the light climbing becomes an ice staircase with falling water frozen mid-spill.

I give in to the shiver migrating up my spine and wrap my hood around my head and pull the strings tight. Which really does Nothing, but it feels like Something.

I emerge on all fours and breathless to a sunbathed plateau with no shadows because we have arrived at the highest point.

There is a woman hanging from ropes attached to a singular hook which is attached to a metal eye drilled directly into the bluff. She is wearing Chaco sandals and pants that you can zip apart to make shorts and she doesn’t need a helmet because there is no point. Her hair is long and tied away from her face. There is no terror in her throat as she takes one hand off of the rope to wave and say hello.

I start to sweat and I remember the hood tied so tightly my chin is tucked inside.

I was not prepared for this.

I don’t sit on the edge of Sunset Rock with my friends. All I can think about was what the wind in my ears would feel like when I fall and if I would feel the air pressure change before my skull shatters into a thousand shards.

Would my ears pop?

Visualizing this gruesome death spirals into a list of the things I haven’t done but mean to.

And the hiking boots in the back of my closet that have been used 5 times in 10 years and have yet to be unpacked.

Because nowhere has felt like Home.

Then Laurel asks a stranger to take a photo. He tells me to smile.

Sometimes when you fake something, it becomes a real something.

And the air is crisp;

The sun is warm;

The view is clear;

And I am dissolved.

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Pre-Teen Cherokee

Below is a piece I played around with at Camp Salondawega 2014. This was Salonathon’s first year hosting an artist’s retreat, and you can bet they will be doing it again next year and I will be there with bells on.

All photos courtesy of the phenomenal Zack Lee.

This is the start of the workings of a one woman show that will possibly feature a dancer sometimes and is about stepping into your power and rites of passage. It sounds vague because it is.

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______________________________________________

The walls are armored in particle-board panels
Each panel bears the same printed, simulated wood-knot
Little eyes looking back at you

There is a deer head mounted on a sagging anchor that missed the stud
And it smells like rubber cement

On the wall with the least surface area,
There is a big screen Zenith television with a tube inside
It buzzes when you turn it on and if you relax your eyes you can see rainbows in between the tiny vertical lines that make up the picture

There is a brown leather sectional couch in the corner
With bronze studs that attach the leather to the frame
And it is smooth on the places where people sit
And lay their heads
And cracked along the edges where the leather is hard and tight
It smells like cigarettes

The carpet is threadbare down the center of hall and in front of the coffee table and in front of the Zenith tube television
Marking the habits of all who have inhabited the space
If you lay on the floor it smells like when you take your vitamins or drink too much coffee.

On the walls there are are dream catchers
A cross with a crying, sleeping Jesus
Hawk feathers
A painting of a Cherokee Chief in the style of a comic book super hero.

The windows are high on the wall, rectangular in the hamburger style way
and are level with the grass.
They slide open sideways
The track is rusted
There are no curtains.

Glowing ashes float by the window
From the burning leaves outside
And the styrofoam cups that burn purple and melt into something that could only be classified as atomic.

This is where the firsts happen
Pricking our index fingers and rubbing the blood together
One night after watching the edited for TV version of The Craft on TNT.
The Marlboro light
That crackles if you suck on the filter hard enough
The kiss that was intimate enough to know that he was drinking vanilla coke
Before you shared the cigarette

And when we realize we don’t know what we are doing, we practice on each other.

Lacey’s basement is a private island
In the 814 area code where the school busses don’t go
Surrounded by 20 acres of Northwestern Pennsylvania forest
Where the trees are dense and old that the ground is always cold
And you can find patches of snow well into April

And if you dig into the loose earth with your thumb, you will find clay
And there is always the sound of running water
And each summer storm leaves a fallen tree
We never found them all.

Lacey and I became friends because of circumstance
Her last name is Aloisio and mine is Anderson
So instead of memorizing that Robert Frost poem in Ms. Montgomery’s class
I got to know her shoulderblades
That moved like wings
As she took dictation

Lacey and I are friends because our birthdays are within 4 days of each other.
Our moms would call each other scrambling the night before the birthday celebration month day so that we wouldn’t bring the same BiLo Halloween cupcakes.
This year she brought chocolate cupcakes with green frosting and an orange plastic pumpkin ring on top
I brought sugar cookies in the shape of a ghost with white sprinkles stuck to the white frosting.
They both tasted the same.

Lacey’s hair is long and always in a ponytail
And the ponytail continues the line that aligns her high cheekbones with the crown of her head and her chin that punctuates the heart shape of her face.
And her eyes are brown like leather and framed by thick horse lashes.
She smells like water

This year we are having a joint birthday party

It is October.
And The Craft is playing 3 times a week on TNT
And this party is more than a birthday celebration
It is a slumber party.
It is a conversion.
Because, tonight, Lacey is going to call the corners and open the portals and all of our burning questions will be answered by the Cherokee spirits.

Lacey is 1/32nd Cherokee on her mother’s side.
She is a spirit of the land
And the clay that is a thumbs length underneath the dried leaves and the dirt
And the water that turns your toes purple in August and and the fallen trees of 100 summer storms
They all speak to her.

Tonight we are evoking the spirits that inhabit the ancient Cherokee burial ground in Lacey’s forest.
It’s existence has been proven because Lacey and I found a spot by the creek where there are arrowheads.
And we dig them up and we glue them to the frame around her full length mirror
Lacey the warrior princess.

Slumber party means that Lacey’s dad leaves $20 on the table and goes somewhere else and doesn’t come back until after we have been long asleep.
We take Lacey’s moped to the Kwik-Fill station for supplies
The burn from where the pipe etched itself into her calf that one time is still scabbing and peeling and scabbing again
So we put on jeans and boots and we tuck the jeans into the boots
She throws me her brother Tony’s leather jacket and I have to roll the sleeves 3 times just to peep my knuckles out
She brushes my bangs out of my face
Grabs a tube of frosted pink lipstick from her dresser
And puts it on, instructs me to go pah
And we are ready to purchase sour cream and cheese ruffles, Heluvagood Original Flavor dip, Classic potato chips, Orville Reddenbacher’s microwave popcorn, little debbie nutty bars, and the huge jar of Snyder’s cheese balls and Vanilla Coke

I always ride on the back of the moped.

I am in charge of the snacks.
Arrange the bowls in order that they would appear in the rainbow
And divvy out the snacks by size and shape and color

Lacey returns from her room with a handle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
A birthday present from Tony.
And I see his jacket slumped over the back of the kitchen chair with the arms rolled up three times
Like an amputee

She asks me what to mix it with
I say vanilla Coke because I saw my mom do that once.

So I get the punch bowl
and mix it, measuring with my eyes and my intuition.
And I forage all of the cups you can’t see through
6- one for each girl
And arrange them in a circle around the punch bowl
Etched with pears and grapes and blossoms
An antique, but not Cherokee

It is Lacey’s job to greet the guests as they arrive. I make plates and give out Sprites. The girls inquire about the bowl, but Lacey says we wait for later.
She is a master of anticipation.

The fruit flies are swarming
And the ice keeps melting
So I add more and swat my hand around the jagged lip of the punch bowl
Like casting a ritual to my ancestors.

The girls just look at me; through me; and will sometimes say “Kayla, right?”

Lacey wants to move the punch bowl and the snacks to the basement, so I do it without instruction.
They are nesting and setting up their ‘areas’ and picking out the order in which to watch Hocus Pocus, Pretty Woman, and The Craft. The Craft has to be last, Lacey says.

I light candles
Yankee Candle’s Pumpkin Spice
Yankee Candle’s Snowflake
And a handful of random dinner candles held up by tarnished antique candelabras
But not Cherokee

Lacey spreads out a blanket that is woven from a bunch of different colored threads so that when you stand far away you see the image of a wolf’s face
I set the punchbowl on his nose
The candles around his head
6 pillows
I take the one from Tony’s bed that is black with white spots where his drool had dried
The rest are perfect squares embroidered with deer motifs
A turkey
One has an arrowhead, for Lacey.

Without prior discussion, Lacey gestures for them to line up in front of the punch bowl and they do without hesitation
I ladle their cups with flat, brown syrup rum water.

She is wearing a roach clip barrette with a hawk feather and leather strips and wooden beads behind her ear.

After Justine, Lauryn, Candice, and Megan have been served, I ladle my glass half full.
We hold our cups gingerly and scoot on our knees to our places. The thing about a group of girls is that each knows her place without anything needing to be said. The transition is always seamless.

The orange glow from the candles’ flames flickers on the wall as the sun sets
And the leaves rustle
And we each, as if on cue, touch our arms to feel the goosebumps rising
No one shivers

We are going to open the portals
And we are going into the woods
To receive the message from the ancient Cherokee spirits

We hold hands
My partners’ are warm and the sweat is cold and our fingers delicately tremble against one another
We are skeletons

We close our eyes and we are breathing together
Lacey chants Earth, Air, Fire, Water until she feels like it’s time to stop
And she asks for the spirits to come forward
And to lead us to the place
Where her Cherokee ancestors are buried

I swear I heard a woman’s voice
Murmuring sounds in a rhythm that makes my spine grow taller

I pinch my my nose shut and finish my cup of rum and vanilla coke. Counting the gulps. 2-3-4-5
My cheeks and tips of my ears are hot
And something that lives dormant and low
Slithers into my chest
I stand on my feet firmly
And my voice is clear
As, to Lacey’s surprise, I tell everyone to go outside.
I smell sweat, and the anticipation, and the cotton candy, and cucumber mist body spray
I have been possessed by the Cherokee warrior princess herself

The porch is slabs of graying pine
There is space between the support beam and the ceiling
That was shimmed once, but the roof still shifts away
There is a stack of firewood that Tony splits
And he huffs out of his nose like a bull
And his cheeks are red
And he is glowing
There are camp chairs bleached by the sun and linked together by spiderwebs
An empty can of Fancy Feast chicken flavor
Sunbleached Bud Light cans
And a rug that is new that simply states “Welcome” with no punctuation

The sky is overcast and it could be dawn or dusk. And the shadows are long and blending into the places where the sun’s rays permeate the low hanging clouds. We could be anywhere.

We breathe together.
Shallow and clavicular
Hands gravitate toward each other but never clasp
A line of virgin offerings

I hold the flashlight in front
Lacey holds court behind me
Pointing out the landmarks
The tree where the warrior princess hung like a leaf after leaving her body
Because the white men wanted to take her as a wife

Normally I would listen and play along
Fulfill role of ‘side kick’
But I am focused
I am joining my sister Cherokee Warrior Princess
And she tells me that I am the only one
That has the potential to be as brave and as noble as her

The Maglight leads us to the circle of six stones
Lacey and I prepped the week before
With moss on the rocks and leaves and twigs strewn about
To make it look like the arrangement has always been there.

We sit
I turn out the light
Lacey pauses just long enough for our eyes to adjust
Water drips from the trees
And, as if Lacey coached them, coyotes howl in the distance
But, having lived in 814 her whole life, she knows that they are more afraid of us than we should be of them.

I want to derail her.

Today is my actual birthday
And she is holding court
These girls don’t even know my name
Or they pretend not to
So that I know my place
On the dried up slobber boy pillow

My mind is a screen
And my mouth is a vessel
And my voice is unwavering
As I begin the tale
Of the Cherokee warrior princess
That would not be taken
And died with honor

I conjure her brown feet walking along the creek
The beads on her tunic rattle
Her braids follow her shoulder blades that glide along her back like wings.

And Lacey transforms
From red faced and flustered
To awe struck
To a sheep

Everyone whispers that they see her
Murmuring vague details about hair like a raven’s
Eyes like a doe
We have all read the same stories.

And we need to be converted

We return in silence
Honoring the threshold that has been crossed
Lacey makes space for me to set my bed up next to her
And she looks into my eyes
And without saying anything
My position has been changed.
And all of the girls call me by name.

The blue Zenith-light flickers on the walls as the credits to The Craft roll over my eyes.
I count all of the names 2-3-4-5
When the screen is black, I slither out of my fraying sleeping bag with Belle on the front post princess-ball transformation.
It is a little too short, and my shoulders peep out.

I collect the cups
And the rainbow bowls
And the antique punch bowl
Stacking them so that I only make one trip
Up the stairs
And to the kitchen

I wash away the vanilla rum syrup
And the radioactive emulsified cheese
And the Cherokee Warrior princess is humming a song
Just behind my ears

The sky turns the color of blue that is difficult to look at without squinting
The dishes are drip drying in the rack
And I fall asleep counting the sounds 2-3-4-5
And everything is still.

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Avril 14th

Sometimes it is Saturday morning and you are flying on autopilot,
And the song comes on,
That accidentally made it’s way onto the playlist,
That you made to get pumped up for packing up your half of the apartment,
While your first boyfriend that was also a roommate,
Is working at the Old Navy on State Street.

The flagship store,
Where the black man,
In the blue suit,
That wheels along a rock-band speaker,
And a microphone,
On a homemade dolly,
Is advertising the End of the World.

He needs to tell you,
That the only way to save yourself,
Is to give it up to Jesus.

He accepts donations,
In a Forever21 Bag,
That has John 3:16,
Printed on the bottom.

When the song is over,
And you are back to Saturday morning.
Like someone dropped you off at home,
But you were sleeping in the car,
And by the time you realize,
They are gone and you didn’t say goodbye.

And while you head is full of static,
Your heart is a sink hole.
Like the one the 8 year old boy fell into on top of Mount Baldy.

Which is still closed for research.

And the orange tape blows,
And the wind carries it away.
And a bird that is flying the same wind,
Catches it.
And makes a nest.

Or eats it.
And maybe the bird doesn’t die this time.
But it will.
Eventually.

Saturday AM Cartoon Special circa 1994

The below was written for and performed at Salonathon: Lex-i-ca series on 7/21/14:

I grew up in rentals.

It was just mom, dad, and me

In a garden apartment in a six unit building banished to the edge of the apartment complex. 911 Georgian Drive Apartment E Danville, IL 61832. I remember this because my mom made me memorize it in case I ever got lost.

Living in the garden apartment meant water beetles scuttling around overflowed drains after summer rain. I especially liked the water beetles because my mother did not.

In winter, when the snow covered the steps to our front door and made a snow bank, I would pretend I was climbing a mountain when I went to start my dads plum ford ranger (never say that the ford ranger is purple because at this time of morning, dad hasn’t had enough coffee to think this is funny).

We were there for so long that we did things that only homeowners would do, like converting the strip of dirt where grass won’t grow into a pansy garden every spring. My dad would try convince my mom to buy perennials, but she always said the same thing. “It doesn’t matter- we won’t be here next year.”

Pansies are her favorite. They are my favorite too because they look like they have faces and I imagine pansies dancing around in ritualistic loops like they do in Fantasia.

I shuck corn on the landing in the summer, and make sure to leave kernels for the water beetles to eat.

In the garden apartment, Saturday mornings are for sleeping in.

This was an unofficial rule because Friday was the unofficial party day for mom and dad and all of their friends.

On July 18th, 1996, my dad turned 30 and his cake was the torso of a naked woman.

They told me it was a golf course, and they laughed and laughed. I was very popular on Friday nights.

Friday nights were the nights I read myself to sleep in the guestroom of whoever’s house we were visiting.

I had to get to sleep early because my internal alarm clock would wake me up at 5:55 am for my unofficial Saturday morning ritual.

One of my first memories is my dad showing me how to make cereal when I was four. I think that this is important enough to be one of my first memories because it was the first thing I could do by myself

except for going to the bathroom.

No one else in daycare was making their own cereal, and this meant that I had something the other kids did not.

I was winning.

The unofficial Saturday morning ritual goes like this:

Wake up 5 mins before the alarm clock goes off.

Watch alarm clock until it goes off. It is a Lion King alarm clock with Simba lounging on top, with paws that are awkward and too large for his body hanging over the clock face.

When it is time to wake up, Simba pops up. Recently, he has been getting stuck, I have to make sure it is still working because even though I asked my dad to fix it, he didn’t look at it long enough to really fix it.

Then I make my bed, which is already a big girl bed because I am advanced for my age. However, it has a collapsible gate on the side because I am so afraid of falling out that I won’t go to sleep unless there is a barrier between me and the floor.

The gate stays on until age 8. The only reason it went away is because my mom accidentally broke it and refused to replace it because was too old to have, what she calls, a ‘baby gate’.

I am still afraid of falling out of bed.

I am 5, so I can’t collapse the gate down by myself, but I make the bed as best I can, spreading the comforter so that the Simba and the Nala with the green and purple fern motif is perfectly smooth and in the very center of the bed.

Then I change into my Lion king pajamas and matching Simba slippers, which are reserved for Saturday mornings only and are not for sleeping.

Now I am ready to go into the kitchen to make cereal. By this time it is almost 6:20, so I need to hurry if I am going to catch the first rerun of Double Dare with Marc Summers.

I get my plastic Lion King bowl and a regular grown up spoon, because plastic spoons are for babies, and I pour my Peanut Butter Captain Crunch and 2% Dean’s Farm Milk into the bowl. (I recently learned that the Captain Crunch Captain is actually a commander because he only has 3 stripes on the cuffs of his uniform instead of four.)

I am not allowed to eat in the living room, so I put my bowl of cereal down in the kitchen and go to the living room to turn on the TV. Around age 6 or so, I revised this routine to make the cereal AFTER the TV is turned on so that I can watch and make cereal AT THE SAME TIME.

At age 6.5, I realize that my parents never wake up when I am eating, so I can just eat in the living room and they will never know.

I sit in the kitchen doorway with my bowl of cereal and grown up spoon so that I can get as close as I can to Double Dare with Marc Summers without breaking the rules. I eat the cereal from top to bottom, crunchy to soggy. I drink the milk. I put my bowl in the sink during a commercial.

I like to start my day with reruns because I already know what happens, and it feels good to be one step ahead of things.

The next show is Legends of the Hidden Temple. Which is not a rerun, so I have no way of knowing what happens (although, I figured out around age 6 or so that Purple Monkeys win about ⅔ of the time.)

I prefer game shows because they are REAL and I can insert myself into whatever those kids are doing.

Only I am doing it better. And I am always winning.

After 8:30 or so, my parents wake up. They perform their own Saturday morning ritual that includes making coffee, speaking softly over a Marlboro light in the kitchen, and making more coffee. Then they would part ways. My mom would usually turn on dryer to get the wrinkles out of the clothes from the day before, and my dad would turn on CNN Morning News.

I secretly loved CNN Morning News. I could have continued my regular scheduled Saturday morning programming on the TV in what was called the “family room” that only guests stayed in.

Sitting next to my dad drinking his coffee and listening to the craggy old men talk about what the other craggy old men on the other side of the world were doing made me feel like I belonged to a secret society. I was an adult because I was watching the news and I was learning the secrets, and, sometimes, my dad would give me some coffee, and I would pretend to like it, but I think he knew I didn’t.

While writing this, I was trying to remember that one episode when Doug and Patti were almost honest with each other about their feelings, or the time my mom yelled at my dad for turning on Ren and Stimpy when we were supposed to be watching CNN Morning News.

As I was googling episode guides, and watching YouTube videos, I realized that the nostalgia for thoughtful and slightly inappropriate cartoons and game shows isn’t what I carried with me into my adult life. When I think about Saturday morning I remember my first decisions, making my own rules, and foraging an agenda my parents had no say in.

Saturday morning is an island, and these beaches are a refuge, and, on these sands, I am always winning.