I have been pounding on a workbook for writing memoir, trying to nudge, prod, and forcefully shape it into the vision I have of it in my mind. Visions not inspired by light, recreational drugs can be grueling task masters. However, pouring through my own old writings can produce “finds” of which I remember the frenzy of passion-fueled writing more than the actual piece of writing.
Just found this I wrote in 2017 after reading Patti Smith’s M Train.
Yes. That Patti Smith. The Patti Smith. Above: Patti Smith in 1977. Below: Patti Smith in my 2017 brain.
The visceral calm precision and unadorned strength of Patti’s voice slices away years and individual experience as she shares captured words, familiar yet hauntingly sculpted by her tongue. I am young again walking once well-worn paths now drenched in the damp fog of near forgotten memories. I remember noting such nuance. I too have those notebooks, scraps of paper, and expectations shaped by the very same childhood literature. Her recollections overlay my own, a distant, unrelated older sister, more daring yet far more matter of fact than my own timid endeavors.
She meanders through the forest of her memory commenting on personal paths worn smooth by her quirky sojourn’s steps, passing by metaphoric cairns constructed of stones pocketed when paying respect to artists, authors, whose names slip from her lips as easily as those of old friends. Toshiro Mifune, Sylvia Plath, and Frieda Kahlo intermix with William S. Burroughs and Robert Maplethorpe stand on the stage filled the wraiths of artists with whom she has acted in innumerable scenes. Mind and life mingle characters within her story strewn with café coffee, Polaroids, and comforting objects of a simple life such as bedspreads, cans of anchovies, and the individual textures of papers she has known and loved. Specific copies of world class if not commonly known classic literature travel with her throughout her life replacing the friends that someone with a less introspective soul and a far less well traveled mind might have collected along the way.
Anyone who has lived on the edge of art and walked a tightrope of atypical perception must be able to understand the passion and tumult that fuels her life/work and exists inside her along with an insatiable quest for her next cup of coffee and a quiet nook from which to document life. Metaphoric forgetfulness and each singular loss of a precious reminder connects with an absence, a dark rift where someone should be. Pebbles, a moleskin notebook, or the essence of a thing captured in a polaroid image each connote fetish objects holding perfect space and place where even the memory of a memory disappears with age and time’s passage.
Artists are those rare, few souls who see through time and beyond place, who capture the cadence and trajectory of generations, who note, in passing, the quirky bonds of cohorts that wrap around events and psychic rumblings sticky enough to become history. Echoes in urban canyons whip up breezes that flow through mountain passes onto the flatlands of rusted factories and fields of mono-cultured crops.