From Something Solid: The E Sequence (Ecstasy)


 The Painter

The compact red book I ran around with:
Crowley’s Book of the Law. I was goaded
into knowledge that a reckoning was at hand.
An archetypal Goddess had manifested as
a tactile reality in my life. An image had been
seared into my mind; a painting called The Vessel;
it was hers, & yet I was a married man. The only
path forward that tempestuous autumn of ‘01 was to
cheat. The book laid down a gauntlet of what
it meant to act in the world with a genuine sense
of destiny; to be a man who had the mettle to be
a real force of nature. She knew, my wife, that I
had been possessed, & that winds were blowing
me in a new direction, towards the forbidden.

I had, it seemed to me, no choice. The night I
spent with the painter, in a studio in PAFA, I
discovered what it meant to have a hinge to
true will about matters of the heart. She kept
paintings there, of Dionysus & Apollo, & she
would make me a myth, too. We shared red
wine that had the effect of being blood between
us; our chalice was the air, the sound of water
pipes late at night in an old building, darkened
corridors meant to hold only us, bathrooms
which could be used as portal-ways into starry
worlds. As I gathered steam, I felt the book
hover in the air as well, a piece of text writ in
boiling blood, pummeling towards spring.

The Studio

 The vista which then opened was one I never
could’ve anticipated in the Nineties— the PAFA
campus was set as a series of jeweled buildings
smack in the center of Center City Philadelphia,
a few blocks from City Hall. Mary was then still
in enough good standing to maintain her own
studio on campus. I had to sign in as a guest on
the ground floor every time I visited. The room
was a large rectangle, & the elongated back wall
was one big window, looking out on the western
progression of Cherry Street, towards Broad. Until
Mary & Abby, I had no fixed notions of painting;
now, I dived in with the frisson of one let loose in
a wonderland. Everything about Mary was magical
to me, & the canvases arrayed around the studio,
largely male nudes, recumbent or not, plugged into
Mary’s fascination with classical mythology, & made
a case for Mary as a Don Juana, a seducer of men.
Heady stuff, & often Mary’s tales were about men
who had posed for her. Vertiginous, but I was on
the verge, nonetheless, of a full-on love affair, maybe
marriage, to a women powerful enough to be called
a Creatrix, a female goddess in the world, & I knew
it. Sleeping with Mary meant something it never could
with others; rather than a mere palliative, if you could
get her to put out in the studio, you were plugging into
a mythological web, glistening & intricate, stitching
yourself, possibly, into history, & the come was in color

Riot Grrrl
Prize partridge around Media, Mary was also a bad
seed or rebel par excellence. She doped & fucked her
way in divergent directions; got dropped into hospitals;
rode with her assumed husband on a motorbike;
in the parlance of the times, granting complete credulity
to her tales, a wilder riot grrrl never drew breath.
What mattered to me was whether I had her or not.
This remained variable, as Abby also appeared, & both
of us caught viable action on the side. One night
she arrived by cab to Logan Square, in frilly dress,
hair in a bun. I grabbed her & fucked her on the floor,
& that (somehow) was it— marriage consummated. Even if Mary
never really got tired of moaning about my drug
shortages— Klonopins, Ritalin. Couldn’t love be enough?
The only one who ever drove me into delirium fits
with jealousy, Mary was. She was adept at being
a little lost sheep, for anyone (curator or not) to salvage
& rescue, if I had displeased her even for a night.
The only one who ever made me weep from pure
obsessive anguish, so that so much of my life became
dramatic, I might as well have been back with the Outlaw
Playwrights. I knew now how to evaluate compositions,
the quirks of colorations, what the Renaissance taught
us about body-soul unity; more importantly, for me, I
knew what body-soul unity meant when an individual
falls in love. I cannot say, the only one I was ever in
love with; but the deepest sense ever was, of love running
in red blood through my veins, out of my pores, into her.


 Maybe its because October nights on the East
Coast can still be sultry; it was still reasonably
early, 10:30; us three in our usual semi-stupefied
lethargy got a rush of energy, decided to take a walk
over to Fresh Grocer at 40th & Walnut, get some
grub, often in short supply at 4325. I got French bread,
Mary got vegetables for stir fry, for Abby too, &
as we walked home what awaited us was little
we didn’t want. We were too stoned to be self-
consciously anything, but you can bet we were
stared at, with our symmetrical features, sculpted
cheekbones, & yet West Philly had glitter all over it
because everybody hit the street simultaneously,
we walked, levitated with everyone, & everyone levitated with us—
the house party a few nights later was beyond
levitational. Every young painter in Philly crowded
into the lived-in, yellow lit kitchen to do whiskey
shots, & drove a bunch of points home about how
the city was now working together, firing off on all
cylinders at once, even as Mary abstained, as usual,
from alcohol, which took her nervous system & trashed
it. The painters were obliging about the poet’s participation,
as laughter ricocheted into the grassy backyard area,
with its rusty fence, small concrete plots, placing us
in a city space with real green in it, even as trees
began to yellow, & as the warm weather held.
When the door to Mary’s room shut an hour later,
we took the starlight in with us, painted & owned it.

Live Forever
We had it then— not just the embedded depth
of soul love, but glamour right on the ground,
as the formation formed by which Mary & I spent
all of our nights together. Our route— West
Philly to Logan Square & back— took two
disparate locales, made them whole, out of
a sense that they were meant to be wed, just
as we were; Logan Square with its sleek, modish
urbanity, West Philly with its rusticity, climbing
ivy, plus the obvious inversion of a well-worn
media cliché against it. By New Years Eve, 2003,
there was so much gaiety in the air, we’d pierced
a hole in the obdurate, obtrusive surface of human
life, to find ourselves in a tropical paradise—
I relate to it, now, as a clear demonstration that
Heaven on Earth happens. In Abby, we had a soul
sister; in the large co-op twin on Baltimore Ave.,
a safe haven; my flat in Logan Square created
a different, representatively recent kind of stage;
all were playgrounds where the dope, pills, every
thing else was shared by all, as all of our bodies
were for each other & no one else. The profound
ecstasy of that New Years was that a bunch of
artistic misfits found ways & means of being
completely at home in the world, against constraints
that needn’t have been there, with a serene sense
of what it might mean to live forever. We were
right, then & there, to be who we were, & we knew it