Issue 227, Winter 2018
The Gardener’s Scarf
Fruitlessly you wait for the gardener to show up on the red bench where he has promised to meet you after his shift ends. You encountered him in the bathroom at the museum, and you followed him back to his botanical garden, crowded with statuary and obelisks, a thick-enough assortment to make Peggy Guggenheim jealous, if she were alive and peering now through a window at you, who refuse to reciprocate her gaze. Avoidance tactics doom you and determine your fall from competence into a gutter clogged with torn back issues of ONE. The sculptures in the garden have more solidity—more conviviality—than you do, faded ash-blond melancholy man under a sky too pink for its own good, the pink of a wrestling match held in the white palace on the hill, a Women in Love villa, where Oliver Reed and Alan Bates will strip and you will not suffer the children to enter Ken Russell’s kingdom of horniness and assuagements. (Or do I mean asides?) I will seize your assets if you seize mine. The bench is crooked and you despise your own immobility; I speak on your behalf because I am a Sally, a male Sally, or a transmuting Sally without a specific destination on the gender spectrum. Infantine, I stared and stared at the ecclesiastical gardener you too await, the gardener you met in the bathroom at the Byzantine museum—or am I that stranger, too? Your sad-sack retrievals cannot equal the distaste that the no-show gardener feels for your face, so meretriciously and deceptively young you can’t grow a beard. Green is an underrated color—it can include viridian and grass and jade and ocean and tiredness and a near-death experience at four p.m. in a nether city shaped like one or two or three of your dormant orifices.
The boy pulled his lashes because Barbra Streisand told him to pull them. She wanted his vocal prowess—meager—to fall apart. She was tired of being the center of attention in the women’s bathroom, where Eve Arden and company had long ago gathered, against the boy’s will; the boy objected to Eve Arden, as he objected to everything coral, everything not fixed. He wanted to pull out his eyelashes because they intruded—he yearned to differentiate horizontals from verticals, and to overcome the orange semicircle that was his chair as well as his soap opera. He couldn’t communicate his distress to Streisand. The two were facing in opposite directions, as Dorian Gray always faced away from Andy Warhol, or Willa Cather away from Karl Marx. Can you explain the oppositional defiant disorder afflicting Streisand and Cather, Marx and Fanny Brice? “Your elbow presses too firmly into the blue table,” said Eve Arden, before our boy-protagonist was born; he overheard her whispers when he pressed his ear against the damaged, porous shell of lost time, like pressing against the thin wall separating two bedrooms on the MGM set where he auditioned for the death scene in Dorian Gray (the climax, when the débauché surrenders his autonomy and bequeaths it to a work of art). Barbra and the boy-man figurine were talking about tessitura and portamento, how to slide out of your identity into the nearby semblance of red coral—a Murano glass sculpture—resting on a table whose blueness husbanded its own impossibilities, nasal and vaguely labial.