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Gunn & Sawyers – August 2012

Gregory Gunn and Seth Sawyers traded art and words. Seth shared this photo, “Blizzard, Charles Street, Baltimore,” with Gregory:

In response, Gregory wrote this poem:

No One Else
In the hibernal streets
of Baltimore, Maryland,
I make my not-so-merry plans
for getting over your leave-taking.
Tortuous in my congested head,
I plough through innumerable means
of trying to run away & keep them quiet,
but all logic was futile & went
Friends keep pace with me,
however I may as well walk alone
for emotions come flooding back to you.                               
Who other than you,
who above anyone else?
There’s no one I appreciated more.
You will have been gone
for some time now where parting roads
diverge, a segregation including
a modicum of pride bearing,
where woodlands pine, where waters crawl
in an eminent dichotomy of insufferable
sky & all our correspondences
shall intersect.
Maybe in an intricate lacework
of high-rises between 4th
&  5th abstractions I shall amble, lining
up tracks in freshly fallen snow in
the loving surveillance
of no heart in particular, so near
and yet, to a larger degree,
so remote. I have no inkling
of any idea.
Visualize, if you will, whenever                      
you reach your destination,
I’ll return before three high-ball
glasses are empty and that
favourite chair of yours is no longer
occupied in our timeworn tavern;
you’ll divulge nothing new either,
no, not a fraction of a veiled
voice to requite.
Everything will be just the same.
                                 I’ll be solitary
once more pent-up in remembrance
with little to report, looking at
rush hour traffic while dreaming
of footsteps in the Baltimore snow.

* * * * *

Gregory shared this poem with Seth:

This Athenian Site

A vast ivory marble colonnade:
its columns are ashen like birch trunks,
or like Grecian pillars in the sea,
infused in a glaucous mist that drapes
aqueous, from the emerald Sargasso-
laden olive trees stemming out
dappled urns. The early evening twists
through the interlaced gates as though
it had slumbered amid the fragrant
foliage until the meagre meandering
of the west breeze had aroused it. Haze
enwraps the spacious grove which
nestles the trees, the ivory pilastrade,
its antiquated pillars, graven obelisks;
and this enclosed portico maintains
everything in a few fleeting moments
of your breathing. You shall have respite
in this site as you drink wine and imbibe
the words of Plato. Rest awhile waiting.
I’ll meet you here tomorrow.

In response, Seth wrote this short essay:

A Top Ten

The rankings are in. Please forgive me.

10. The Yosemite Valley. See? That I’ve put this valley of towering dream-rock, this high blue of the Sierra Nevada sky in this position should say something. Pretty obnoxious.

9. Downtown Oslo, at night, on the frigid day that our new president was inaugurated. At a place called Andy’s Piano Bar, we met a lady from Tanzania who was happier about that giant of a day than we were. Two pints of mediocre beer cost $24. We had two rounds. Jeez.

8. Rome. The whole thing. Not even top five. Wow. And that place is stunning. They call it the Eternal City. So big and so great that we skipped the Coliseum. Can you believe that? The whole city is golden-brown, endless scooters, and just-under-the-surface sex. I don’t regret paying too much for those tickets to the soccer game.

7. These hot springs, captured in geometrically shaped pools in a fern-rimmed valley high in the Chilean Andes. That sounds terribly obnoxious, just typing that. We sat, swam, soaked for hours. We saw hawks. We hiked up a volcano, stared down into its steaming mouth. Sulfur, cinders, ash. We saw no one the whole day. It could have been the moon. I would go back. Still, it’s only number seven. Again, I’m sorry.

6. The proper Irish pub, in this little town called Kilkenny, where we met some guys who did animation work, with whom we drank pints of Guinness until four in the morning. The full Irish breakfast I ordered the next morning went almost entirely uneaten.

5. Las Vegas? No. Salt Lake City? Not really. Portland? Perhaps. Philadelphia? Maybe, though it’s too similar to my town. DC? Too anxious. Austin? Sure. Arcata, California? Now we’re talking. Pittsburgh, circa 1987, with mom and dad and Jake and Ryan, Pirates games and then the hotel’s waterslide until they kicked us out? Without a doubt.

4. Also: the Manhattan skyline, the first time I saw it, from a dirty bus, with two of my best friends. I had something like $25 in my pocket. Seattle, for 48 hours and a wedding. San Francisco, with fog and red wine and pizza and a copy of Howl, bought from City Lights, in my back pocket.

3. A little restaurant in Venice, across the table from a very pretty girl, a roasted branzino on the plate in front of me, before that some shared gnocchi, the best bottle of white wine I’ve ever had, and I don’t even like wine all that much. Afterwards, a shot of tart liqueur, on the house. After that, outside, a scoop of gelato. After that, long-exposure shots on the canals. After that, a single sheet, entangled legs, the little hotel room’s windows wide open to shouts from the narrow street. This is number three on my list. Nuts.

2. The American West and how it’s like stuffing a half of a lemon in your mouth. Baked and sulfured eastern Wyoming, rust-red Utah, the redwoods, Highway One’s long ribbon of easy California, tacos on the coast, dripping moss in the green northwest corner where it never stops raining, where I could see myself going, and staying, and getting a little lost.

1. What if I told you that the snow-swept countryside of northern Norway, the coast near San Diego, summertime Kansas thunderstorms that look like dark translucent blinds pulled down from the sky, that none of those even make this list? That the Shenandoah Valley, all rolling green and easy brown, just missed the cut? The Spanish plains, the old bullring in Sevilla, the mist-wrapped jungles of the forgotten little reggae island called Dominica? London? None of those are number one. Because there’s Athens, so old and at the heart of so much of what I like about being alive in 2012 that it feels like looking way out to the edge of the universe, to the ancient bang that is what we were so many years ago. And not Athens itself, really, but a very specific part of it. It’s on the Acropolis, down the hill from the Parthenon. It’s called the Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus. Do you like amphitheaters? I do, of course. I like the idea of a permanent space, outside, that’s for the doing of art. I even like the bad ones, the crummy ones, the ugly ones, the ruined ones. This one is all ruins. It was built 500 years before the time of Christ. It’s almost gone now, but the stage remains, built much later by the Romans, and it gives you an idea of where those comedies and those tragedies happened. But some of the seats remain, the rows of concentric stone benches. That pretty girl, the one from the restaurant in Venice, sat on one, and though it was hot enough for lizards, hot enough to turn skin red, she let me take her picture. There was no one else there. The theater was ours. The only sound was my sandaled feet, her sandaled feet, quietly slap-slapping up those ruined steps, down them, awkward because our strides are longer than theirs, easy because I was at home then, am at home now, with that forgotten place, just the two of us, all the really famous stuff up the hill, just out of sight.

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