Feature

Artist Writes, No. 4
The Cypress

Pope.L

In this fourth installment of Artist Writes, we present Pope.L’s text “The Cypress.” Part of X-TRA’s Twentieth Anniversary Programming, Artist Writes is a series of commissioned essays and public programs by four contemporary artists who write: A.L. Steiner, Andrea Fraser, Martine Syms, and Pope.L. X-TRA has published their texts serially in Volume 20, with each author presenting a corresponding public event in Los Angeles.

Artist Writes embodies X-TRA’s mission to provide a platform for artists to define their own terms of engagement and to make meaningful contributions to the fields of criticism and theory. Support for this series has been generously provided by the Michael Asher Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Isambard Kingdom Brunel Society of North America, and Pasadena Art Alliance.

–Shana Lutker

 

I am sitting in my 2002 limited edition Eldorado, last of its kind, available in only two colors: red and white, moving glacial through a car wash soap suds obscure the way ahead. I am driving home to see my family.

I am not the kind of character who thinks about himself. I let others do that for me. I prefer one thing after another. People are too oniony. They want the core. Or think they do or think they do. They want the original. The semi-simulac-crumb. I prefer to outsource my reflection, my adoration.

That’s how I get through the alphabet of the journey.

My wife she knew what I was up to. All along she knew. She had to know. She knew what I was doing. All those little conversations. Not that I could have told her. Not that I could have formed the words. I would see her I would see her in the kitchen in her apron and jodhpurs. Honey yellow-orange light pouring through the mullions and I would want to go up to her place my hands around her small waist of plastic and aluminum. But but but then I did not have to. Why? Why? Because she already knew. Right? Later she said that she did not know what was I talking about that there was something I needed to know to do to say to be how could she have known how could she have known? But early on long before everything became itself just after one of our little conversations I installed cameras in the garage and closed-circuit monitors throughout the duplex. Access 24/7. Like a gas station. Like an ATM. Like the courtyard of a penitentiary…

Yes I am finally driving home to see my family. I have not seen them in a long while. How long has it been? Too long. Too long. I have a heart and I am using it. I have a heart and I have a heart and I am using it. I have not used it in a very long time. Too be sure I am not sure I am using it right now. Best practices. I have a wife. I have a son. How long has it been? A while. A while. A bit of a while of a flake of a scent of a while it has been. Maybe a moment. Hope it is a moment maybe a hope probably twelve years probably probably not counting the dust packet in my chordea tendineae it’s been quite a while of a while.

It is as if I was on my way as soon as they left me no no no on my way could not have existed back then but if not then when when only a viscous darkness at first during which they absconded with my future furtive and sick oily between the waters my family slid into the aftermath without me and at first I could not I have seen it I could not I have seen it and it was not supposed to be reticent it was all around me pumiced like teeth the decay the only ray I could not I have seen it why did I not see it…

It is like that that that so I sit here in my sudsing El Dorado last of its kind 2002 moving glacial through the coin-operated Echo-Wash long after my family has absconded suitcase in hand 5-year old boy mitt in tow hand mommy solo. I sit here at this moment bound and awake on my way still in the distance…

Cause cause there must have been something. There must have been something cause cause there must have there must have been something to allay there must have been there must I must have done something to deserve this against against my own love my own sound of of of of of of of of my voice grates self-hatred for which I cannot ferret an answer not then nor the next nor the next nor nor the the the next nor the next day nor the next nor the next nor the next until I said to myself I I I said I said I said: “My name is Mr. Brown-Guy and I am driving home to see my family. I have not seen them in a long while. A long while a long while and I am at this very moment sitting moving glacial through a coin-operated car wash with adjacent 7-Eleven on my way on my way but but but for some reason for some reason I have stopped outside of their immediate physical vicinity and and have been sitting here for several days now my bladder full to almost bursting.”

It all began when it began meaning I have no idea. Meaning the idea of an original this or that is too too oniony. All I know is I had recently married and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I sat around all day on the sofa twisting little pieces of plastic into figure-eights. My wife supported us. My wife supported us. She worked in the cafeteria at the local community college. Every night she came home smelling like the cafeteria. On top of that she would bring the food home. The cast-off food. She would bring it home with her. She would say to me: “They were going to throw it out anyway.”

I would get in a mood. I would get in a mood. I was probably in a mood before she walked in the door. I did not know why I did not know why but but but I would get in a mood in those days I was always getting in a mood. I ate the food but I’d be in a mood while I ate it.

Eventually I got a part-time job as a yoga instructor. Two days a week. It was an ok job but I had no feeling for the chakras. Most times I would turn on the boom box extra extra loud walk out into the hallway and stand next to the water cooler. The yoga studio had a large glass wall that looked out onto the hallway where I was standing. The students could see me out in the hallway standing next to the water cooler.

Pope.L, Heidigger and his Clod, 2018. Five pieces, ink on paper, 3 x 3 in. each. © Pope.L. Courtesy of the artist, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York and Susanne Vielmetter Projects, Los Angeles.

Very soon out of nowhere I had to get another job. Somehow my wife had gotten herself pregnant. It was a miracle. In those days it seemed I spent most of my time standing next to the water cooler. Now I had to find something else that paid better. So I stumbled onto this full-time job selling art supplies. I hated the idea hated it hated it but the next thing I knew I had discovered something: the job brought the me out of me in me. I was actually good at it. People were drawn to me. Naturally drawn to me. Naturally. Naturally I never thought such a thing was impossible. Not the not the part about me being good at it not that not that but but that that there could be something inside me somewhere deep inside which was totally unknown to me. I always saw myself as a book without a cover so I chalked the whole thing up to a fluke and went about my business. And business was good. All the products were in units. Success was a matter of volumes and quotas. A magical language I understood intuitively. I was like a child. I was continually amused that everything came in a tube or a package or a box. I kept telling myself I should I should I should be more interested in what was inside the boxes and tubes. I mean my job was to sell what was inside the boxes and tubes I mean I mean I should have had even the merest merest interest in what was inside the boxes and tubes but but but I was not I definitely truly was not. I tried I tried to be interested. I did. I did. I did but but but—

Truth be told the exterior has always been my real romance. Still still I should have known I should have known right then and there I should have known the detumescence in my enthusiasm was a sign of a greater deeper lack. Eventually, gradually, after a few years, I completely lost interest in the sea of boxes rolling off countless tractor trailers pulling up to endless loading docks…

I started showing up late. To work. Shirt tail dragging. Hang-dog attitude in the break-room. I was late to meetings. I was late going home. I was late to my head. I was always somewhere somewhere. Else. It did not matter where. Sometimes I did not go to work at all. Instead I prowled the park. Napped at movies. Strolled industrial parks. Measured various malls with the breadth of my ass on the many uncomfortable polycarbonate benches busying myself reading cheaply printed sales circulars. Front to back. Back to front. Front to back again. The company began to notice. My wife began to notice. I did not I did not. I could not stop. Yet I could not quit.

One day I left work early. In fact I left right after I arrived. I slipped out through the Sorting Room. That is where they dumped the defective paint. In the middle of the room slightly off-center was a mountain of paint tubes almost to the ceiling. Some were cracked. The liquid dribbled out. Red. Green. Black.

I moved swiftly behind the mountain of paint and crawled through a small door and out into the company parking deck next door. Suddenly the air was cool and perfumed with gasoline.

Truth be told the exterior has always been my real romance. Still still I should have known I should have known right then and there I should have known the detumescence in my enthusiasm was a sign of a greater deeper lack. Eventually, gradually, after a few years, I completely lost interest in the sea of boxes rolling off countless tractor trailers pulling up to endless loading docks…

I started showing up late. To work. Shirt tail dragging. Hang-dog attitude in the break-room. I was late to meetings. I was late going home. I was late to my head. I was always somewhere somewhere. Else. It did not matter where. Sometimes I did not go to work at all. Instead I prowled the park. Napped at movies. Strolled industrial parks. Measured various malls with the breadth of my ass on the many uncomfortable polycarbonate benches busying myself reading cheaply printed sales circulars. Front to back. Back to front. Front to back again. The company began to notice. My wife began to notice. I did not I did not. I could not stop. Yet I could not quit.

One day I left work early. In fact I left right after I arrived. I slipped out through the Sorting Room. That is where they dumped the defective paint. In the middle of the room slightly off-center was a mountain of paint tubes almost to the ceiling. Some were cracked. The liquid dribbled out. Red. Green. Black.

I moved swiftly behind the mountain of paint and crawled through a small door and out into the company parking deck next door. Suddenly the air was cool and perfumed with gasoline.

Down the ramp toward my car I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. I ignored it and kept walking. Then I was right upon it. There was a guy standing there in his pajamas being entertained by some client on his knees face pressed like a gasket securely in the pajama-guy’s crotch.

The pajama-guy looked at me. I looked back. He continued to look at me. He said: “Aren’t you even going to stop?”

“What?” Then, “Huh? What?”
Pause. The client still on his knees continued to work.

“So—you sell art supplies?”

“Like a dozen other guys. In that building.”

“Maybe. Maybe. But they don’t have your look.”

“What’s your deal, mister?”

“The name is Pretty-Girl. Mr. Pretty-Girl to you.”

“Well, I got to be somewhere.”

“No, you don’t. No, you don’t. You’re right where you should be. So—how they treating you over there, in there?”

“Alright.”
“Alright or blight? I’m thinking blight.” “Biz is good but—“
“But you’re flatlining?”

Then he laughed answering his own question.

“Less or more.”

“Makes sense. Makes sense. A fellow like you requires a journey, a challenge, an opportunity…”

“I’m all for the opportunities…”
“Okeydoke then. Here’s my digits. I’ll be in touch.”

He handed me his card, threw back his head and showed his teeth. The client’s face was deep in the folds of the pajamas. I continued down the ramp.

I didn’t hear from Mr. Pretty-Girl for about two months. When I did it was by email. All caps. I don’t know why. It was like reading through a shimmering pane of glass. I had to squint to glean its sense. Like looking at a painting. Eventually I riddled it out and therefore the plan. I was to steal defective paint from the Sort Room and re-package it. Mr. Pretty-Girl would then sell it on the black market. There were risks at both ends of the bargain so the split was 50/50. I wrote back saying yes and by the time I looked up from my computer we had been in business for two months. Business was brisk. And I should have been happy. I should have been happy I should have been been something at least more than I was. The company had no idea what I was up to. I was getting away with it. I should have been happy. I was spending more time at home. My wife was whistling in her jodhpurs. I was a provider. I was a provider. I was a provider. Still still the only something I could feel was an awkward flatness the whole thing a disappointment…

So I upped the ante and without discussing it with Mr. Pretty-Girl, I started making my own product. I continued to use the stolen defective paint from the Sort Room as the base but restricted the colors to white and red. By then I’d re-packaged so much product it was abundantly clear to me that these two colors had a singular elasticity and pigment count far exceeding any of the others. Via my growing contacts, I found a paint forger who helped me hack the base structure and recalibrate the liquid. We rebuilt the paint so it would self-select its environment therefore decreasing the need for base material and increasing the amount of product available for sale. It was the same paint but not the same paint. Even the forger could not tell the difference. The new product was a huge hit. Especially among the Monochromists. It single-handedly spawned a new art sub-genre. Of course eventually Mr. Pretty-Girl found out and we had a few words. A few because I refused to talk to him. My reasoning: he was getting reparationed same as always in fact tons better so what did he care? His reasoning: I was going rogue the product was too too successful and before long it would land us both in jail.

Success wasn’t the only aspect of my life that changed. I who had always claimed a loyal unflinching dedication to one-thing-after-another and therefore rejected anything oniony began to experience a new interiority.

For example I began to withhold my urine while processing the new paint formula. I believed withholding sharpened my mind. Everything had a certain caustic glow. One day I woke up on the floor of the garage in a pool of urine with my wife glaring down at me. But even so I continued the ritual.

Several days later, after dinner, right out of the blue and only minutes before the garden supply store closed I drove out and bought a cypress tree sapling. The cypress tree has never been very attractive. Expressivity has been forced upon it. I saw my first cypress tree in a stuttering black-and-white movie made by Spanish artists in Paris in the early twentieth century. For the longest time I thought the filmmakers had constructed the tree by hand. However on a business trip to Asia for the art supply company I saw one cypress after another after another after another after another lining the side of the road to the airport and it confirmed something for me about how things alphabetized the world.

Later that night I planted the sapling I bought at the garden supply store in the postage-stamp-sized yard fronting our house. The next morning my wife saw the tree. She stood there in her bathrobe of plastic and rubber shaking her head then walked back toward the house stopped and with her back to me said: “Why are you behaving this way? It’s been going on now—”

“My whole life it’s been going on. I just did not know it.”

I paused pointing to the sapling as if I had just discovered it and said: “Widdringtonia Cupressaceae.”

She turned and corrected me saying: “No, actually Chamaecyparis Cupressaceae.”

“How do you figure?”
“It is the loop that squares it. Look at the leaves.”
“If you are so smart how come you keep asking me questions?” “Do you love me?”
“Of course, of course, but not as much as you love me.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”

I tried to explain my reasoning which surprised both of us but no matter what I said it sounded ridiculous still still I could not disavow my enigma and since I could now put a little language to my lostness I kept talking. I figured I figured perhaps perhaps perhaps mistakenly that it would make it would make some kind of sense in some universe somewhere but it did not…

It was happening all around me inside me but I had only the barest inkling. It was much later during the long period of my incarceration that I gandered the origins of my change. The culprit was the new paint formula. But more so it was my stubborn ignorant refusal to wear any gear when processing the batches. At the time, I was very fond of saying: “I want nothing between my skin and the process.” Toward the end, I was processing in nothing but my shoes and socks.

Inadvertently I had discovered a new sensitivity, a new confidence. Whereas before I procrastinated worried panged now I had realized a new consciousness. I did not have to think of others. They would do that for me. I was my own center and fulcrum my own surface paradoxically the Venn diagram of all others. Fact: People simply adored me. It was natural and fated both. People simply adored me. I was a fool not to have seen it sooner. It began with the unexpected success of my art supply job but but somehow somehow somehow I lost my way—but now now now now but now it had returned with a whole new vengeance transparent and true in its only form.

My wife witnessed my transformation from the sidelines. She tried she tried to convince me that my change was not natural. She criticized berated and pleaded with me to quit the business. She claimed she was losing me that she did not understand what I was doing. Why was I destroying myself and our family? It did not make any sense. Her words pulled at my chordae tendineae but I filtered them through my newfound sensitivities and replied: “So the cameras and monitors are not enough for you? Of course you know what I am doing.”

“Explain to me what you are doing. What’s the point?”

“I am the point. I am the point. And you as my family have the unique perspective of sharing me with me.”

“What if I don’t want to share?”
“Well, that that—that would be impossible.”

It was not impossible. I do not know how it was not impossible. I was a provider was I not? Had I not provided the essentials: food, clothes, shelter—myself? In those days I was home almost all the time. Almost all the time. Yes yes true true admittedly my work took me away to the the garage most of the time but still still still I was but a pixel away. The only explanation was that her love for me was so great so deep so tragic she had no choice but to abandon me.

She left a few hours after the cypress tree argument. Suitcase in hand child in mitt. I was outside kneeling watering the sapling. I barely noticed them though they must have walked right by me. I only looked up after the car was already disappearing down the block and around a corner. A week later, I was arrested and jailed eventually tried and imprisoned and that is how I came to the conclusion that it was she it was she who ratted me out to the authorities.

I learned a lot in prison. The first thing I learned was to wait to turn myself into a wafer a sieve for the fist of incarceration. I learned: “Be uncomfortable stay uncomfortable.”

I learned I liked uncomfortable. Every day another beating another rape another stabbing another humiliation. They my perpetrators they thought they were breaking me.

They would say to me: “We are breaking you. We are breaking you.”

They were deluding themselves. And I told them so. Over and over again I told them: “The greatest adoration is in violence and absence.”

While I waited I redoubled my withholding distending my bladder to tumor-like proportions. During the violence yellow liquid gushed from my body onto my perpetrators anointing them celebrating them running them off braying and cursing. Still. Still. Too much of anything can easily become contrived. So after breaking my record: six visits to the infirmary in six months I was a little tiny happy to see him step off the ooze-grey prison bus and onto the courtyard asphalt. Mr. Pretty-Girl Mr. Pretty-Girl Mr. Pretty-Girl strolled across the courtyard asphalt like a prophet returning from the desert. He wore bright pink pajamas bear-claw slippers and a New England Patriots’ baseball cap with an impossibly long brim. Every inmate was a-a-a-a-agog. He looked like some kind of extinction. It had been five years since we last saw each other. We renewed acquaintances as if nothing had transpired. A new business arrangement evolved. While in prison he would grant me protection. No charge. I replied: “No, I have a better idea.”

So I told him. And he gave me that look that look then continued. “I see I see. So you’ll only accept my protection if you can pay me twice the going rate plus interest?

Then he laughed and said: “What’s the catch, Brown-Guy?”

“There are two. First you get paid only if I get out. The second, the second— I’ll tell you later.”

“Why wait? I know what you want.” Pause. Then he continued: “She was the one gave up on you not me.”

I said: “Why is that important?” Then I walked away.

He said: “OK, fine fine fine by me.”

As I walked away he said: “So where you keeping the cash Brown-Guy? I know it’s cash. I know it’s cash. You were too paranoid to do anything else—”

I did not look back. He did not like it.

But he protected me anyway. Everything went back to normal. I continued seeing clients. On my own terms whatever that means. And over the next few years every once in a while Mr. Pretty-Girl would ask about the money where was it was it hidden how much was there always always asking as if it didn’t matter as if it was the farthest merest thing from his idea. He would offer me a repast from the commissary: a single broken yellow cracker smeared with blue gel. He loved it. Conversations with Mr. Pretty-Girl were a lot like those I used to have with my wife. They were relentless and pointless. There was always something in the “ands” or “buts” that could never be articulated. The conversations were priceless. I could see that even then. However, conversations with my wife despite the depth of inarticulateness were far far more painful and endearing. Maybe cause my wife actually meant what she was saying. Ignorance makes all the difference. Mr. Pretty-Girl just wanted a payday. I did not blame him. That was his alphabet. He was entertaining in his own way so so so I let it play out…

Yes I did. I did. I did. I let it play out broken yellow cracker blue gel and all until one day I got a letter. By then I had been in prison eight years and never once received a letter. Chuckling holding the letter by his fingertips Mr. Pretty-Girl brought it to our cell. He could not keep his eyes off of it so I opened the letter in front of him. However it was not a letter. It was a photo. A photo of part of a tree. A close-up of part of a tree and through its branches part of a street. Looking at it for the first time recognition escaped me. I smashed a gob of chewing gum on its back and stuck it to the wall at the foot of my bunk. Every night before falling asleep I looked at it to no avail. It took a year or so before I recognized it.

The tell-tale clue was the view of the street between the branches. I finally realized I was looking at the electric power station across the street from our house. The green prickly shape was the cypress now fully grown. Proportioning out the growth per year over the last nine years I figured it must have been fifty or sixty feet tall. Curiously I did not think who sent me the photo. There was no address on the envelope. Nor did I gander the amount of attention the photo received from Mr. Pretty-Girl. However in retrospect I should have thought of those thoughts or at least been aware but based on what happened next those thoughts were not to be mine because the next phase of my prison sojourn was almost over. I did not know this at the time but it was true.

Part of letting things play out was tasking Mr. Pretty–Girl each morning before breakfast. We would haggle about the price. Back and forth. Forth and back. Back and forth. However once he accepted he had to do it. That was the deal. The assignments ranged from fairly small and innocent, for example, research anything you can find on the last Cadillac Eldorado ever made; to the cruel: destroy all the yellow crackers in the commissary; to the useful: hunt down my family and tell me where they live.

The cypress tree photo had flipped a switch in me. Suddenly suddenly I missed my family. It was a strange feeling. Difficult to describe. I know not where it was located. Was it inside me? Where was that? Impossible. Impossible. Impossible. Somehow it was a feeling an actual feeling in some story somewhere out there somewhere in the universe the only possibility a packet of dust and vacuum. Some story some story incredibly linear and unfazed by things oniony just one thing after another after another such as life and love and planning which was the second thing I learned in prison. I planned the rest of my life as if I saw it seated alongside me right next to me as if I was its passenger. I saw the narrative of things and the spaces between things. I knew exactly what would happen once I left prison. I would allow I would allow my heart strings my chordae tendineae to unfurl unfettered which enabled me to speak this line without hesitation or embarrassment: “I am on the way to see my family. I have not seen them in a long time.”

A month later Mr. Pretty-Girl was released from prison. It was odd him being released before me but that was just as well it suited him perfectly. He always liked to do things first. I watched the ooze grey bus slink out of the penitentiary courtyard and returned to what once was our cell and discovered Mr. Pretty-Girl had taken the photo of the cypress tree and left me a note containing an address.

A month later I too left prison. The ooze grey bus dropped me off right in front of my house. First thing I noticed upon my arrival was the cypress tree ripped out of the ground by its roots which tore at the air as if drowning. A large gaping hole was left in the postage-stamp yard. The trunk and crown of the tree had landed awkwardly on top of the family house. Perched on the now slightly angled tree trunk was my nemesis Mr. Pretty-Girl. He wore lime green pajamas with fur collar, sneakers skinned in armadillo with fat laces and a Philadelphia Eagles baseball cap. I said without preamble: “I see. You found the cash.”

“Yes, yes I did. It took some figuring but—did you find the address?”
“I did.” And then. “Now why don’t you give me the real one?”
“That’s like asking me if I am cheating you.”
“There was ten times more cash under that tree than what I owed you.” “But you owe me everything whereas I only owed you loyalty.”

“Give me the real address and half the money and we’ll call it even.” “No, I don’t think so. Tell you what tell you what—I’ll give you this—

He threw a hefty bundle of green bills into the yawning hole where the cypress once stood. “We’ll call that our new beginning.”

He told me he’d gotten me my job back at the art supply company. We were going to start making the new formula again only now under his tutelage. I was not shocked to hear his proposal or the threat that followed. “If you don’t play ball you’ll never see your family again.”

Then he laughed.
I said: “So you’re going to kill them?”

He laughed again even harder. “I don’t have to kill them to stop you from seeing them. Here’s the address—as I promised.”

He dropped a small piece of paper on the ground between us. Then said: “Brown-Guy, when it comes to your family you are our own nemesis.”

“I do it I do it because—”

“Because you love them. Of course. And I am doing this because I love you. So—see you back here in a few weeks?”

“I can go?”

“Why not? You’ll be back. And to make your sojourn into the desert a bit more pleasant…”

He waved his arm like a game-show host and a blood-red 2002 Cadillac Eldorado the last of its kind rolled up to the curb. One of his clients was driving. The client exited the vehicle held open the driver-side door and beckoned me to enter.

I step out of the Eldorado while it is still moving and face in the direction of the entrance to the coin-operated car wash. The neighborhood is a rough stiff poke-eyed masculinity of a place strewn with junkyards donuts car repair shops empty blots lots slots gray metal telephone poles studded with scarab-like black transformers…

I stroll through a connecting tunnel and emerge inside the 7-Eleven to relieve myself. Because of the urine bloating my bladder my stroll is more of a waddle. I am distracted from my goal by the variety the noise the color the mechanical shudder of the commercial interior of the 7-Eleven its complexity of surface upon surface upon surface the store’s ambience. I grab I grab a Champion’s cup meant for the frozen infamous sludge treat flashing bright flavored metallic sugar amethyst but nix the Slurpee only to fill my cup to the brim overflowing with rich caramel-brown super-liquid just hours brewed melts my skin back black I add flavored creamer to flavored coffee to yellow sweetener to blue sweetener to red to green to brown su-su-su-su-su-su-su-sucrose. My cup my cup properly burdened with the right proper heroic true chemicals I take a sip then another then another and and and my brain toggles turning my eyes up up up to the fluorescents…

I spy a tiny wood-paneled room containing an exhibition of local talent a painting showcase. Primarily landscapes in plastic paint and tempera. Most created with the fingers and mouth. Crude. Lively. Each application of paint an event. Chunks of time. Sculpture even. Dense and obdurate as a stela near a path through a field I find myself walking looking back looking back looking back out if you will out of the painting into the makeshift tiny local gallery the wood-paneled room lit in flat florescent dim…

I continue on the path cross a large field then a ditch filled part-way with soapy water. I pass through a line of trees. I see a white 2002 Eldorado last of its kind idling on the side of the road. I climb in and drive away.

I am driving home to see my family.

And and and the breath leaves my body like a ghost because I have stopped outside their apartment building. And I sit. And I sit. And I sit. And after several days I see my wife and son exit onto the sidewalk. Suddenly I am standing outside the car calling after them but but but for some reason nothing for some reason nothing is coming out of my mouth. They do not hear me. They cannot hear me. So I call again. And again.

I call again they do not hear me so I begin to run. I don’t know why I just do it I begin to run I run toward them. And as I run I urinate simultaneously a stinging flood of warmth the smell of cypress and coffee waft in its weepage. My wife and son stop. Turn and stare. My wife is a ghost. My son my son my son looses his grip from her mitt and comes toward me like a wraith. I stop and he continues toward me.

Pope.L is a visual artist and educator who uses contraries to create artworks in various formats: writing, painting, performance, installation, video, and sculpture. The goals for his work are several: joy, money, and uncertainty—not necessarily in that order. Some of his most recent projects are Brown People Are the Wrens in the Parking Lot, University of Chicago (2017); Flint Water, What Pipeline, Detroit, Michigan (2017); Whisper Campaign, Documenta 14, Athens, Greece, and Kassel, Germany (2017); and Claim, Whitney Biennial, New York City, for which he was awarded the Bucksbaum Prize (2017).

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