Carla Harryman



passions like cheap jewelry


Masks* on the verge of cuteness:




The learned side of the hovel craved an apron.


Wide unpronounced areas turned away from the button of the starry mantle.


Copy treasure copies treasures.


Horned-rimmed statue wincing among leaves falling.


Twins meet at a line perpendicular to their fame.


A ramp opens where trembling ribbons spit sunshine.


An ear sweeps up Queenie's handkerchief fold.


Handcuffed to the drain.


How many rhizomes dotted the electronic palette?


Braided glass, cotton orb, velvet swipe of toxic marker.


Zigzagging in and out of rib-like thoughts.


Felonies nose their way silently to whiteness.


The tongue levered wide the misty grave at the spot where the fencing had been cut through with a simple pair of pliers.


A puckery substance raised one limb at the site of construction.


When Lucy dropped the glitter on his neck, Hercules vomited sponges.


Something conforming to an imaginary face composed of obvious things: tires, cranks, digital apparatus, algae, plastic bottles, broken glass, weeds.


Small people clawing their way through shut mouth to find reality.


A triangle reveres jettisoned beads noodling round a base of stone.


Waiting for a shibboleth under an archway.


A cat sinks teeth into fluffy neck under the arc of hospital gown lettering.


Mercurial dots conforming to objects of fascination glow in the dark.


The mountain cries polka dots and its tears become printed matter.


Sweatband has stripped of its dignity a Cyrillic tonsil pasted on this empty scaffold.


Crest balanced on footprint.


* These could also be considered captions for hypothetical drawings or instructions for a new kind of masque performance, one that thwarts attempts to reproduce a sixteenth-seventeenth century masque anti-masque binary, absorbing that period's light/dark allegories and symbols onto a mobile surface that performs various morphing and rearranging functions. Perhaps this form of masque would be appropriated for an entirely new genre developed around the concept that young people are taking control of the world without abandoning their playful relationship to and interventions in culture. The genre would simply be called "mask," and would deliberately confuse its noun and verb attributes. Furthermore, the genre would be an indication that commodity culture would be dismantled not through a revolutionary overthrow of commodity culture per se but through activities that conflate what can with what cannot be purchased. The result is an atrophy of distinctions between commodity, style, self-expression, political protest, and absurdist construct. In any case the mask would both reveal content and conceal what must be protected of young people's experiments: a goal of such experimentation might be failure. From failure and other attributes of negative outcomes arise further confusion around the dynamics of exchange. If the habits of many of today's young adults are any indication, one observes that the most common response to such failure would be to give what's left of it to a friend who responds by making light of it, sending it up into the air as a thought balloon. "'That was a mistake,' they laughed." In this projected future of the ascendancy of the mask the young person who makes a contribution to society in the form of a mistake doesn't need to become a volunteer for a philanthropic foundation in order to help the hungry and destitute. Rather she eliminates one cause of starvation: defense systems. The artist from whose work this was derived makes mask-like portraits from things people use to create identities that verge on and undercut cuteness.