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Prairie Schooner 79.4 (2005) 38-41

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In yet another Language, and: The tragedy of Fallingwater

In yet another language

Gustave Courbet: L'origine du monde (1866)
In yet another language, a common euphemism for giving birth quite
literally means to bring forth or give up to the light. Not to hand over, as

a gift, but to surrender as the defeated may have done in a medieval
game – giving up something sacred. Modernism having done away with

the sacred, the Middle Ages must suffice. Not euphemistically or as a safe
allegory, but as the only way left to illustrate the point. And this is, if

nothing else, where we make an image of the unseen, the primed canvas
on which we see ourselves a priori. Modernism having been condemned

by the Church in 1907, it seems even more appropriate to bring up these
knights in their impractical armor. Courbet said that an abstract object has

no place in the domain of painting. I want to hold him responsible for
every papal edict since 1907, but history gets in the way. Cunt is in itself [End Page 38]

a euphemism to keep us from pointing to the body as we see it, a brief
abstraction to divert us until nothing real seems possible. There are laws

of physics to prevent this. Modern thought has defied them all, and
slipped into the vortex of its own murmur. The hell of it is not being in or

coming out of the spin; it's resisting the temptation to slip again. Which
implies a willingness – like so much of what often passes for accident or

coincidence. In 1866, Gustave Courbet – an anarchist who held his time
hostage with realism – called it quite simply the origin of the universe. [End Page 39]

The tragedy of Fallingwater

Frank Lloyd-Wright: Fallingwater (1936–39)
for Danielle Shrader-Frechette
The tragedy of Fallingwater is not instability by any means. Just look at
the Tower of Pisa: even after repairs, it leans. How brazen, how typical

of us to think we can undo in little more than a decade the labor of eight
hundred years. The best one can (realistically) hope for is that the apple

comes from Eve and not from Newton. The real tragedy of Fallingwater
is not that it wasn't built on the moon, where we abandoned a flying

variation of the original – a fact we're still not honest enough to own up
to. (There was fire in place of rocks, in place of water on the run.) If

there is indeed a tragedy, it isn't that we used to build – in that improbable
lapse between wars – with a sense of permanence that kept us from

seeing how hope always falls short of our modest expectations. We didn't
picture ourselves up against the very thing without which no revolution

is possible. If there were flaws in the system, our eyes were ill equipped
to keep track. But isn't that the nature of language – to speak for the [End Page 40]

eyes? It says as much as it can before it turns into geometry, before we
start to measure our words like the last precious grains of sustenance in

the desert. All land lives on memories of rain, almost exclusively harsh
and volatile rain. Downpour. Squall. Precipitation vs. precipice. If this is

not the fortunate tragedy that marks the flesh of Fallingwater, it explains
tangentially how we live with the consequences of not forgetting enough.

Dionisio D. Martínez, a recipient of Prairie Schooner's Strousse Award, is the author of four poetry collections, including Bad Alchemy and Climbing Back, both from W.W. Norton.



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