Carol Novack died of lung cancer Thursday at 8:55 pm. She was a genre-defying writer of lyrical and inventive work, imaginative and beautiful. She was a lightning rod who brought together thousands of artists from around the globe in collaboration and exploration as publisher of the groundbreaking Mad Hatters' Review. She was also my good friend, quite irreplaceable.
Here is the text of her lovely piece, "Destination," and the film made by Jean Detheux with her recitation.
(for Jean Detheux)
On the hill, there is an easel holding a painting of a town. You
are always traveling to the town, but whenever you think you’ve arrived,
there is nothing but stones, statutes and indigestible
bread. You return to the painting. You wonder if there’s a detail
you’ve missed, a clue that will help you find the town. You let
your eyes be deceived. They are connected to your heart with its
longing to nest; you are possessed with owning. You lose your
perspective again and again, wanting perspective, you are cursed.
You have come to rest. You think perhaps this is my town or
close enough to the one I was walking towards, at least when the
moon guided me like a mother it seemed to be. I can’t be too
fussy; I will die with dust mites and sand crabs and there will be
no home in death. But now, always now this town is different
from then, at least my memory of soft greens and blues with
gentle angles, or so it seemed, seems. This town is all glare with
acute turns and sonic booms. It won’t hold me, rock me, is neither
mother nor lover. It has so few dimensions for me though it has
dimensions for the neighbors, I suspect. They talk about rules,
have so many they can’t keep track of what’s forbidden. Too many
of them stay indoors for fear of breaking a rule. The chandelier
drops are cameras. They don’t understand. They make more rules.
This town’s windows need insulation in the frigid seasons when
the voices grow colder and louder. Nothing grows and the
kitchen shelves are vacant. One can hear the real estate agents
screaming in their white rooms. One can see their angry shadows
through white curtains. Always white – that is what the
denizens want: a neutered town in which you may disappear
into your shadows. They say that colors invite arrest. They
think they are invisible, the fools. Perhaps they are invisible
and I am the fool.
Here again I have to walk on stones for bread; the bakers don’t
know me. So I will move on. This is not a town, well not mine.
That is my perspective, not this.
He frightened me when he clasped me to him in the night,
when he lowered the volume of his voice to speak of the mirage
of walls and roofs. Not so long ago, he seemed to be my destination.
He was mine and I was his or so it seemed. After an
orgy of mirrors, we sucked and picked at one another’s bones.
Then he strayed into that other woman’s residence and stayed
too long, I took the turn back to where I’d been going, but
couldn’t find it. Pain was my map; I could hardly see clearly.
So I found you hiding in a hedge with thorns, not crying but
chanting, no, singing, singing a lament to your mother; you
crooned, wanting to crawl back into her, so I came and stroked
your head. I remember your hair as soft as dandelion puffs and
you trembled but kept still for a spell entranced you let me
be your home. And then like flotsam, you floated away, you
with your eyes dense with storms. I carried on, tore off my red
dress, taunted you. Who can stay still? Who can remain in homes
with so many rules? you pleaded. I left that town a long time ago,
I answered. At least I thought I did. You looked like a rabbit in a
wolf’s yellow eye. All homes have rules, you said. You said I am
a nomad. I have no choice. You do, I replied, drawing you into
me for the last time, feeling like the rabbit in your jaws. But
was I the wolf? Now I have forgotten your name.
In those towns they lock up the homeless when they remain in
one spot and throw stones at Gypsies. Like snails, the Gypsies
carry their homes on their backs. The denizens say it’s not
right! Everyone must pay taxes and mortgages like us – despite
interest rates. They rape the land we have purchased and pillage
the daughters we have sown and own. Lock them up!
The Gypsies say it is a curse to want to own, a curse to be
possessed. It is a curse to want to possess and be possessed,
a curse to own. You can seek to become the color of any of these
towns with their home teams, but the shade will be unbecoming
and oppressive. You will see!
I try hard not to want but keep gazing at the painting, as if I
had perspective or could learn it. My eyes are connected to my
heart with its longing to nest; I can’t help but let it flutter its
wings and woo my eyes. How foolish. I keep traveling to the
towns, all the same the cursed towns with their statutes and
stones. None is the town I seek.