Open Letter to Patti Smith, Day 6
What are your obsessions Patti Smith? I always ask artists that when I interview them–what question they return to over and over, what story they’ve written or painted or sung again and again. It’s a good way to locate the engine of someone else’s art practice. It’s a good way to reassure myself that I’m not the only one stuck on the same story, who keeps asking the same questions cause none of the answers so far feel quite right.
I think I’ve shed most of what barnacled that young girl’s skin, albeit at a relatively glacial pace. I have a voice now. I’m learning to be okay with taking up space. If you know to ask the right question, I can even tell you some truth about myself.
But still, I am constantly pacing my interior, searching out each corner’s own dusty corner, uncovering some new piece of a story I have to un-tell myself.
I mean there are things like a father not telling his daughter he loves her, ever–even as he lays dying, even as she has to figure out how to touch his penis to help him pee cause he’s too frail to maneuver it himself, even as she feels herself at the mercy of so much tenderness. Add that new grief to the old griefs and, to put it elegantly, that shit will fuck you up.
So you find that corner where that story’s gone to hide and if you can’t un-tell it, you can bring it into the light, look at it till you can see how there could be another ending, or stare at it so hard with eyes lasered by sorrow that it just burns to dust.
No, that’s not what happens. I’m not a superhero, after all. But I can bring it into the light, the way they tell you to take the band-aid off and expose a wound to air. The New York Times says, “Exposing a wound to the air so it can breathe is a terrible mistake, experts say, because it creates a dry environment that promotes cell death.”
But isn’t that what I want? For that terrible story and the terrible way I feel carrying it around inside of me to die? So I drag these things into the light over and over and over and each time, they wither a little, each time the bruise becomes a little less tender to the touch. As for the scars, there’s a story I can tell you about that.