jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Today I am thinking about language, I am being eaten alive by language. By the language of my body--leaning away when what I want is to be closer, moving my shoulder in a way that can be interpreted as the indifference I do not have. By speaking badly--telescoping complex ideas into a short phrase, dense, incomprehensible to anyone who does not know my context, hanging too much weight on each syllable, more than a fragile word or unknowing ear could bear. I make myself stupid.

I am walking through the housing projects that ring my office. Let’s call them by name, here lives a brokenness, warehoused in these grim high-rises, a brokenness more important than how clumsy I am: Vladeck Houses; Smith Houses; Baruch Houses; Lavanburg Homes; Wald Houses; Riis; Gompers; Seward Park; LaGuardia; Rutgers. I am on my way to a homeless shelter for a meeting. When I get there I will wait in the reception area and play with the children there, wiping a nose, combing hair, simple acts that take only a few words, a gentleness of the hands. I feel redeemed, a bit.


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