Chromatic Maladies VIII, Cara Thayer and Louie Van Patten
It’s not like the movies had promised me it would be likewhen I was a little boy sitting so far on the edgeof the red velvet theater seat in Panama that Dad wouldhave to pull me back from falling off the seat by the back of my t-shirt.It’s not like the black, rabbit hole, cinema screen, as expansiveas the night sky and my imagination. Dad promised that one-dayit’d be mine; not like the Chocolate Factory was promised to Charlie,more like the honey promised to Moses at the end of the Heston film.We watched the Basquiat biopic as if it were my personal forecast.Even when B’s days were grim, New York, in the movie, wasalways sunshine; the sun bounced off the black power suitsand the mirror glass surfaces of its downtown buildings.But NYC life is not like the movies, well, maybe the dirty ones, fakemiddle names, wigs and pit stains in badly lit selfies cleverlycaptioned with Plath lines posed as limericks on matchmakingsmart phone apps by which every pizza boy can become your lunch. The delivery boy’s pickup lines are Sunday school prayers in my ear.He too clicked on the same free porn trailers during college study breaksas if our libidos and the internet were determined to teach us how to beurbanity’s communion wafer, a hot slice on an NY summer nightsaving one body by entering another. The library’s Cheshire lion holds mein his mouth, and I’m all smiles. It’s not like this would ever happenat home where Dalilah, our maid, would call the whole family to feasta holy meal of fried fish, plantains, pineapple soda, and bread pudding. Here there are no mango trees or mango streets but that’s no surprise,such hunger in Jeffrey Wright’s fists when, as a young Basquiat,he grabs the brush for the first time on camera, his hair a prettydread mess, as slanted as the jet black cityscape behind him—Celluloid makes even the most emaciated child look beautiful;the camphor’s golden candle glowed daylight, the camera’s rose filtergave every vision of morning dusk’s apparition. The defined frame,panned, and built my dreamscape with the desire to feed the child, the desireto adopt Jean-Michel. The desire for my own eyes to possess his influenceover viewers nearly sent me blind. A projector’s light burned into my irisand I wept radiation for the world outside the hungry boy’s silver screen.Here, it turns out, steel skyscrapers aren’t as exotic up close.There’s little glamour on my fire escape. It turns out I’m afraid of heightsand just walking up this walk-up knocks the wind out of me. My girlfriendgrew up an Adventist, no TV or movies were allowed in her homeso she saw no point in moving here with me and gave up our baby.Love is the invention of films. Gina is only Basquiat’s girlfriend in the movie,as imagined as the dialogue he speaks into the phone: The city is killing me. I’m alone,we all are, here. Truth mixed in with static echoes on the suicide hotline.I, alone, was born into this world so perhaps its how I must leave it.He dies alone from a heroine overdose, his dreads more tightly knottedthan ever before, this city’s jungle heavy on his head like a crown. Butwho’s to say he should’ve been saved if in death he’s an eternal king?See his children on the auction block for record prices? Well maybe, if not savedfrom this country, then saved from its dream? But then what would’ve been leftfor me to believe before the music crescendoed and we saw his body for the last timeon screen? Before my father spelled out the man’s name for me to write it in my prayers?Before the credits, like shooting stars, rolled across our dark spacious sky?
What other New York luminaries inspire you?
Grace Jones, Shala Monroque, Thelma Golden, Kehinde Wiley, Claude Simard (the gallerist, rest in peace), ASAP Rocky, Zebra Katz, Millana Snow, Joey Bada$$, Tom Silverman, DJ Moma, The Legendary Damon, Peter Gatien, Jordan "Boots" Asher, IB3, Zac Posen, Rigoberto Gonzalez; abrazos to all.Tell us about your ideal dinner party. Who would you invite (let's say you only get to invite 6 people), what would you serve, when would it be, etc....
I love that scene from the Robin Williams classic, "Hook" where he must learn to use his imagination and has to imagine food in order to eat. Robin Williams' character Peter Pan imagines a feast, the feast he imagines is what I'd serve at my ideal dinner party; delicious and colorful fare of the imagination. Here is the scene.What other films influenced your poems?
One of my favorite poetry books is The Cineaste by A. Van Jordan. I fell in love with the poetry of film before I fell in love with the poetry of poetry. Films I love include The Darjeeling Limited, The Color Purple, Lars and the Real Girl, Volver, American Beauty, Cidade de Deus, Estación Central, Pulp Fiction, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Gladiator.What would be your factory name in the world of Andy Warhol?
RexRelloBest song on the Basquiat soundtrack?
Brian Kelly, The Toadies, all cool. But let's be real, it's totally all of Yeezus by Kanye West.
//Darrel Alejandro Holnes is the co-author of PRIME: Poetry & Conversations from Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014, a Panamanian poet and playwright whose poems have been published in the Best American Experimental Writing anthology, Callaloo, The Caribbean Writer, The Potomac, MEADE, Lambda Literary, Assaracus, Weave Magazine, The Feminist Wire, The Paris American, Kweli, featured on the Best American Poetry blog, and elsewhere in print and online. He teaches at Rutgers University and NYU.