House of India #90

I fear photography in that it is more than a suggestion. About a girl. About reality. About face and light. It marches backwards without boots. Without feet. Without marching. Cartography, at least, respects boundaries. 

A picture should swirl. Develop new shadows that interfere with the radio. That defy legend or caption. It should return to its business as a picture with a mysterious smile. As pretty as itself. A place that I cannot reach with my eyes open.

If I were to make a map of the neighborhood, I would draw coiled sea serpents in the vacant lots. The waitress, in red, would be kicking a soccer ball past a goalie in yellow. The legend would break from its box and go on for pages. This is the world’s most beautiful map, one traveler confesses, but I am lost. It is useless.

It was never meant to be evidence. The red shirt is actually a white shirt outlined in red crayon. My neighborhood is a place where children and their mothers smile, their arms wide open as if ready for takeoff. A place where the sun can never quite reclaim its symmetry. It grows big yellow thorns. It offers us lemon pie.

Glen Armstrong

3 Questions for Glen

What was your process for creating this work?

I usually settle into a long poem in the fall, waking up, brewing coffee and doing my best to add a page or so before taking on anything else. House of India is one of those poems; "#90" is a section.

What is the significance of the form/genre you chose for this work?

It's a prose poem in four sections, which is, admittedly, kind of arbitrary, a self-assignment. I like how prose poems can step up to the mic as if they have a profound agenda and then just melt down into lyricism as they find / lose their way. For me, a prose poem has potential to satirize the sort of prescriptive, didactic language that I assume most poets find suspect.

What is the significance of this work to you?

The piece as a whole is a hundred-page meditation on an Indian restaurant, its employee, and its patron. Issues of perception -- aesthetic, cultural, phenomenological, you name it -- get explored, but this section explores, in part, how photography tends to be just a bit too sure of itself, how it just might be a prescriptive, didactic visual language.

Glen Armstrong holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. He has three current books of poems: Invisible Histories, The New Vaudeville,and Midsummer. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit, and The Cream City Review.

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