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  • Taking Down the Bridge, and: Against Giotto, and: The Temporary Ones
  • Corey Van Landingham (bio)

Taking Down the Bridge

Treasure Island is on fire.    Or so it seems, torches smokingthrough the cantilever truss,    hiding even the menwho wield them.    When it is finished, next year,perhaps, carefully dismantled    in roughly the reverse of its creation,58,000 tons of steel will be released    and the new bridge—gleaming white of the future—    will stand alone. But now,almost dusk, which will    be brilliant if the fog bank ever lifts,the old bridge is cut    in two, as if the center, in fact,could not hold, had fallen into    the bay amid the weekday sailboatswith nowhere else to go,    the occasional sea lion glidingby. How quickly    we abandon the past. At Zeitgeist,yesterday, we drank beer outside    and listened to the youth of San Franciscoget everything wrong. You told me    how you would bring old relicsinto the classroom—an antique    shoehorn, ophthalmologist’s lancet,a wine key made of bone—    and tell your students to become [End Page 91] archaeologists, to discover the objects    for the first time, createa use for them, a name, saying    this is what poetry does.“How wrong that now seems,”    you said. “Why must we makeeverything new?”    Hegel understood this, I guess,the demolition of the concrete    as necessary for progress.That Being and Nothing unite    as Becoming. But the earringsthat will one day be made from    the bridge’s picked-apart skeleton—the eager group    at the bench next to uswill wear them beautifully.    And they will reflectnothing, in their conserved rust.    Imagine, I wanted to tell you,what of us, a century from now,    they will haul in to hold—your ancient, hulking cell phone    that could be a paperweight,a time machine,    a device for measuring love. [End Page 92]

Against Giotto

When Kristeva said that, in his depictions of Hell, painting reachesits limit and breaks apart, she meant Giotto knew what he was doing.

Mute the palette in a world made of sin. That the demons must be gray.Satan, of course, devouring the humans, one in each fat hand, hung

like meat in some dark cavern. It makes sense: in Hell light isn’tlight. But shouldn’t art have a little something of deceit?

I wanted the earth adorned, a stylized vase behind Gabriel’skneeling. That flourish in his cloak signifying a swift arrival.

Golden border arabesques. Elongated necks to look a little lesslike us. But Giotto was sturdy architecture, gravity and mass.

In his Lamentation, Mary wears her sadness in heavy folds of drapery.Why give the body weight when the body has such weight?

Every touch, Ruskin writes, is false which does not suggest morethan it represents. Too, each brushstroke. In my dorm-room closet

I represented nothing more than a girl with a penchant for scissors.Each cut suggested—what? To Giotto’s bland Salvation, I preferred

the trappings of Siena, the frivolous, swirling silks. Wretches, like me,sick of their dull bodies. Mary with a knowledge of what it is to be,

for once, dazzling, so I could look at her until I grew tiredof looking. Giotto zoomed in on Mary to give form to grief.

I spent years doing the same to a body on which I wantedto make pain visible. To be like one of the damned. Hell I never

believed in. Mary only in books. In Padua, Giotto painted for a viewerin the center of the room. Every diagonal had her fixed there. Such

purpose. Because it matters where one is standing, when the light hitsthe wall of the chapel, when one forgets the body before it. [End Page 93]

The Temporary Ones

We, citizens of a young state,cross the bird shit–covered sandstone,        file past the watchtower, and, finally,into the cells. That’s why one comesto Alcatraz. To see where history has emptied itself        of the human.

The cells are paintedwhite, mint-green. They hold example belongings        but I want to see beyond the props.Fingering a brochure, I...


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