Holly Hooper, art teacher WA
ARTIST'S STATEMENT: The blue sky cover the green field just like the blue color satin ribbon, it makes him into himself.
Holly Hooper, art teacher WA
SEE 5/17 POST OF THE DESCRIPTION OF ‘THE BURNING HOUSE JOURNALS’
The night was set ablaze. More specifically my house. I didn’t know what was happening until smoke reached my door. The fire alarms in my building have always been touchy little buggers, going off for no reason just to make sure I was awake at 3 in the morning. I figured that this was just another one of their rude wake up calls. But then the smoke crept beneath my door clinging to the wood flooring and rugs in the apartment. I was too busy writing some sick songs to notice it at first. Strumming the strings of my strat always put me in such a daze. It wasn’t until the smoke tickled my nose that I registered something was happening. It wasn’t until it covered my bedroom floor that I had enough sense in my legs to stand. It wasn’t until it was leaking over the door hinges, dripping into the carpet, that I thought to grab my backpack. I threw the window open and clambered over the fire escape.
And that’s how I ended up standing on the curb, watching what was left of my independence creak and crumble to dusty embers. Several of my neighbors watched the display with me. Most wore pajamas and clutched random items grabbed in a panic. A kid of about 12 flicked the wheels of his worn skateboard while a man that looked to be his brother brushed the soot from a floral hat, which he promptly put on his head. To my left a man and his wife were surveying the damage done to his cracked glasses and her expensive- looking camera. A blaring siren snapped me back to reality. Soon a swarm of helmets and heavy clothing were herding us away from our home and behind a piece of caution tape. They told us to wait there, which I thought seemed pretty obvious. It was more exciting over here. Policemen were asking everyone all sorts of questions and everyone was giving them all kinds of answers. A stout, old man was making a fuss over a wallet he seemed to have lost, as if the police were going to help him find it. I took a breath and shouldered my backpack onto the road. I thought that I might as well see what was left of my quaint little apartment.
It hit me that I hadn’t used this backpack since my high school days. I pulled out the book that we were supposed to read for Mr. Andrew’s class. Too bad I fell asleep one too many times and left Henry Knight forever dangling from his cliff. The red love letter I used as bookmark fell out and sank into a puddle of dirty road-water, which is an accurate representation of what happened when I gave it to Suzie Marx on the last day of junior year. My sketch portfolio came after. I immediately put it aside, who knows what sort of disproportionate nightmares were left in there. I unzipped the front pocket and found the pocket knife I had lost that one time I went camping with the family. Mom had told me to look in my backpack so many times, even though I insisted for the millionth time that it wasn’t there. I stuffed the Opinel into my pants pocket with my wallet and cheap cell phone then dove into the backpack once more. The toy wrist watch caught me by surprise. The day I left my house and moved into the apartment my kid brother had spent half a day looking for a going away present. At the last moment he looked up at me and held up the watch he had won all by himself at the state fair the month before. He told me that if I ever lost it he would have to come and live with me so I wouldn’t forget him. I smiled at the memory.
That had been almost 4 years ago. A pang of guilt hit my chest, crawled up my throat, and pricked at my eyes. I rubbed away the wetness and quickly shoved everything haphazardly into the backpack. I stood up and discreetly made my way past the officers and commotion to the train station. No better time than now to remember just what that little rascal’s face looked like.
SEE 5/17 POST OF THE DESCRIPTION OF ‘THE BURNING HOUSE JOURNALS’
“ I regret the policy, but keep in mind I didn't choose it.”
Note: While I did get inspiration from the objects on Burning house I first had the idea for this piece of writing by researching the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell laws and the over 3,000 veterans,all sacrificing tremendously for their country, 800 deemed critical for operation success, who were discharged under them.
How damn stupid I was. Thinking I was ready for this. I’m not. I’m sitting in a tank. I’m. Sitting. In. A. Tank. Oh, God. They said this would all be different. Free education. Free housing. Free food. People who have to respect you even if you didn’t do jack. We weren’t going to war. We. Were. Not. They said the first one was going to be the end. The end. But this is happening. This is happening right now.
My hands are shaking. I shove them in my pockets. I shouldn’t be here.
Years passed in snapshots.
A red and yellow flag lying trampled on the ground. The sounds of shots and screams scrambling in the air. Cheeks sunken from hunger.
Blisters oozing blood.
Snatching food from the packs of the dead.
A boy staring at me in hatred firing bullet, after bullet, after bullet.
My tent mate never coming back.
Running for miles. Our breath leaving frost hanging in the air.
Flies swarming over dead white eyes.
And then there was you.
You with your crinkling eyes and crooked smile
You with your bad poker face and ever-tapping foot
You rubbing the ends of the felt on your watch when you get nervous, glancing back at me hoping that no one noticed.
You, trembling uncontrollably in my arms, blood still streaked across your hands.
You pressing your lips against mine.
There's already too much. Too much chaos. Confusion. Sickness. Death.
You’re the only thing I had then, maybe all I have now, but I couldn’t think about what it meant.
Until I had to.
Until I was gone.
I was stripped of uniform,.
The captain screamed and spit blood that sprayed across my face.
You shoved a camera into my hands and scrambling, threw me your watch, before he gripped you by the hair and yanked you away.
The angry, mocking ,chanting of fa**ot over and over and over again following me to the bus filled with drunks, AWOLs, and the blank stares of those convicted of manslaughter.
I was forced to go, but still, I left.
December/ 11 / 1946
You're never going to come back.
I'm never going to know why.
I sell newspapers
Like a boy.
I disgust me.
Discharged. The word useless branded, red and bleeding on my forehead.
I bought a house.
Its small. Empty.
Streaked with smoke from fifty cent cigars.
Your camera sits there, dusty.
I’m afraid to look.
I develop the film.
A dog, Velvet, running across a lawn.
You, young grinning with a jack-knife.
You, a ballpoint pen in your hand.
Signing your life away.
A letter on my doorstep.
A cold dry laugh shoves its way out of my throat.
Thousands of us.
Too many to count.
Bodies convulse beside me and fall still.
Their flesh is slippery and cold.
Clouds of wasps swarm over the them , crazed, fighting for blood.
They are stacked in body bags.
Most John Does.
The dead, quickly nothing but a number.
May/ 11/ 1969
Bombs, as common as rain, crashing through the clouds.
Men with cameras, running alongside us.
Occasionally we return.
The flower children hold signs and scream at the White House.
One of them grabs my gun and braids dandelions around the barrel.
Another hands me a bottle of scotch.
I drink it all as they cheer.
One of ours.
Standing in the open.
Watching it all happen.
“Run!” I scream.
His feet are cemented to the ground.
I go to him.
Probably about to die.
Buildings hang sideways in the air.
I tackle him to the ground as the final mortar cracks in structure after structure and a hail of rock and dust hurls itself at my back.
My lungs fill with dirt.
Bandages, red and wet wrapped around my spine.
I feel the back of it.
Grit my teeth,
“Why in hell’s name!”
“ I don’t give a a!”
“ You can’t!”
“ sorry sir.”
“ Yes, ….. yes of course.”
A man leaning over me.
“ Oh God.”
“ You’ve been.”
“ I’m sorry.”
His face in his hands.
“ I’m so so sorry.”
SEE 5/17 POST OF THE DESCRIPTION OF ‘THE BURNING HOUSE JOURNALS'
Ain’t it crazy? How time moves so quickly and the years move by like a speeding train, and people come and go from the chapters of your life, each one a new adventure in and of themselves, their stories just as vivid and true as your own, but to you they are but foreground characters in the epic poem that is your own life. I’m now 85 years old and in these last years I have now come to see these statements to be fact. I’m 85. That means that I have another ten years of life if I’m lucky. If. And to be honest, I don’t much think that I wanna be on this hunk of rock for that much longer. As beautiful as life is, it is far more terrifying than death. Someone once said that death is certain. I’m certain that I could definitely use some certainty in my life.
They never tell you when you’re young that one day your body will just give up on you. That your bones will splinter, that your teeth will fall out, that your face will begin to slide off your skull in folds, and they sure as hell don’t tell you that your parts of you will end up lookin’ like dried figs, and that they swing like pendulums when you walk. Of all things I miss about being young, it’s my 20 year old body.
When I was younger the whole world sat in my lap, docile and tame, ready to be commanded. I was powerful, persuasive, I got my way with things. I remember the way men used to look at me. I was unnobtainable to them, like fruit at the top of a tree I was perfect, but they weren’t tall enough. Now I don’t mean to sound proud or pretentious, but I’m just telling it how it was. I realized at a young age that I could make my way in the man’s world with the sway of my hips and the batting of my eyes. Men are simple as they are proud, and I took advantage of that. And I know all you yippy yuppy feminazis are going’ to give me hell for saying it, but taking advantage of men with sexuality does work, and I ain't implying that women are nothin’ but objects or sex dolls by sayin’ so. In fact, I think it’s what makes us so powerful. When you can sway a room with a shake of your tail,well I’d say that’s a superpower.
Of course, as I got older a new stanza began, and not having an education, I realized I could no longer rely solely on my good looks and feminine charm. That’s when I met my husband. His name was Samuel Walden. Now I’ve had plenty of male suitors in my life, but the only man I ever did love was Sam. I still remember the day I met him. I went to a blues club that was around the corner from my home. On that particular day I was going for the music, but that wouldn’t always be the case. I opened the heavy door and proceeded to survey the room. Though I had gotten older, I still had plenty of eyes following me as I sauntered to the bar. Noting that, I added more sway to my hips, in hopes that I wouldn’t be paying for my drinks that night. I went to the bar and sat myself on one of the pine stools, ordered a coke with rum, and sat back to listen to a tall man sing Crossroads. I was immediately transfixed by him. He had broad shoulders and kind eyes, but that’s not what I was paying attention to. I was lost in his voice. It was deep and rich, and he sang with soul. As I stared, he turned and met my eyes from across the room.
I continued going to that club every night for a year before he finally asked me to dinner. Six months later we were married. It was a simple wedding, Neither of us had any money. We didn’t care.
People who knew’m called Sam the Christ of Blues. Said he coulda been playin’ right up alongside of the greats. I like to think that was true. Wouldn’t have happened, though. Sam was too damn humble. Wouldn’t have liked the attention. He always used to say “I only play for myself and God. And if anyone else cares to take a listen, so be it.” Not that Sam was a religious man by any means, but for someone who had never read a page of the bible in his life, Sam sure talked about God an awful lot.
I don’t remember much about the day that Sam died. Undetermined cause of death. That’s what the coroner said. In life, Sam never did like doctors. I remember the time when he needed a ingrown toenail removed. Wouldn’t let no one touch it. Said he didn’t like the idea of someone cuttin’ into him. I couldn’t bare to let them cut into him for an autopsy. I had him cremated. I couldn’t afford the casket. It’s just as well, he was goin’ in the ground anyhow. I didn’t eat nothin’ for weeks. My Sam was gone. How could I eat when my Sam was gone? I walked about the house in a fog. Drifting aimlessly from room to room, touching Sam’s things. On nights when sleep wouldn’t come, I’d hold his favorite jacket to my face searching for his scent in its folds. Sometimes I thought I could still smell the smoke from the Blues Club in the stitchin’. I can’t bring myself to listen to the blues since Sam died. No one does the music justice the way Sam did.
Sam and I never had no children. We never got around to it, I guess. So now I’m 85 and alone. No one visits. No one calls. No one cares. It’s just as well, I am but a foreground character to their poems. Unimportant to the unwinding plot. I’m 85, and my train is nearly to the station. I can practically see it around the bend. I like to think myself that Sam will be waiting for me at that platform, and that God will be singin’ the blues.
SEE 5/17 POST OF THE DESCRIPTION OF ‘THE BURNING HOUSE JOURNALS'
Everything is happening all over again.
I’m a nine year old trapped in a thick twenty three year old skin.
Burning skin. Eyes that sting. Smoke that’s suffocating my whole body, tearing and ripping through my chest like confetti, drowning me.
Torn clothing. New scars layered over old ones like tissue paper.
A static mind.
And then there’s you. You. Clinging to my left hand like you belong there. Staring back at me with those black beady eyes like I owe you something.
And then there’s him. Fourteen year old ashes coming back to haunt me.
He was softer than you. Kinder.
Maybe that’s why you survived and he didn’t. He’s the first pile of ashes in my two fire story.
My passport brimming with colorful stamps. Ashes. My camera full of abstract memories. Dust. My book, the book on my nightstand. It’s pages probably crumpled in seconds. Thousands of words lost in seconds.
Lost in the fire with the rest of my identity.
But it’s just things. Things! I don’t care about these things. These things don’t hurt me. These things are not the things that will keep me up at night. These things are not what’s going to cling to my memory like a tumor, refusing to go away.
But I’m always going to be on fire.
Everytime I close my eyes they will be burned to a crisp, and when I open them again there might be one second.
One. Blissful. Second.
One second where my skin isn’t melting. One second where ashes aren’t swallowing my lungs. One second where I won’t be consumed.
And then just like that I’ll remember.
And I’ll be the burning girl all over again.
Just. Like. That.
But then there is you. Staring. At. Me. In my left hand.
Like you belong there.
She was fifty one years old. She saw the fire on t.v. She doesn’t like fire. She likes gardening. And her old guitar. And soft things. Like you.
She handed you to me. In her right hand. She put you in my left. She said you belonged there. My tears hit your ears. She grabbed my hands. Hers old. Wrinkled. Defined. Detailed in precision and abstract lines, telling memories from decades ago in callouses and scars. My hands. Blank. Blistering. Burnt.
Fourteen years later. My hands. Scars. Lines. Ashes embedded underneath my fingernails.
You. In my left hand. Like you belong there.
Me. Leaning over her. She’s ten. One year older than I was fourteen years ago. She’s smiling. Bright eyes. Dark hair. She covered in the perfume of smoke. Like me fourteen years ago. Like me a few hours ago. I smile. Faint. Quickly wisping away. But there. And then you were in her left hand.
Like you belonged there.
Courtney used HONY site for inspiration instead of The Burning House
SEE 5/17 POST OF THE DESCRIPTION OF ‘THE BURNING HOUSE JOURNALS' http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/137637977411/im-trying-to-find-the-thing-that-motivates-me-to
“It’s time to get up sweetheart” Her voice like honey. The golden, yellow sun peaks through the crack in my blinds. It is time for New York to awaken. 7:30 a.m. The whispers of the court ring clear in my ear drum. 7:35 a.m. My teeth brushed, Nikes laced, ball in hand I walk out the door waving goodbye to my mother.”You gonna go ‘nd get my house?” “You bet.” The door closes quietly behind me. My jacket shields me from the cool city air as I open the gate through the chain linked fence that borders the basketball court.
7:45 a.m. I pound the ball against the cement, bouncing it from one hand to the other. Starting slowly then gradually getting faster until there is nothing but an orange blur. In front of my knees, behind my back, between my knees; I bounce the ball keeping my chin up. I start to think about everything she has done for me and how I am going to repay her. The long nights, back breaking work, crazy bosses, and all the pain she hid from me but didn’t know I could see.
8:15 a.m. Standing in front of the basket I bring the ball up to one hand. My elbow bends to a 90 degree angle with the ball placed on my finger tips. I take a little jump and let the ball fly. Staring at the back of the rim the ball swooshes through the net. I do this again and again and again. There is no feeling like the feeling of watching the ball go cleanly through the net.
Can I make her dream come true? This question runs circles in my mind. Will I be able to get her that house with different levels?I push myself harder. Letting the ball fly from farther and farther distances. My imaginary opponent is challenging me in ways that I have never been challenged before. He’s better than I am yet, I can always win. He stands there like a dead end. What is it like to hit a dead end? Mom’s hit dead ends before, and it’s my job to make sure that never happens again.
10:30 a.m. As I start home my mind begins to wander. It wanders to the court, to the lights, to that book I still have to read, to my goals, to my chances, and to my reasons. Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves through all this work when everything else in our lives is in pieces? Everything she does is for me. So that maybe one day I can go to college, have a better life. So then maybe one day I can accomplish her dream. Her dream of “having a house where everyone lives on different floors.”