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Jonathan Greenhause - "Fire Flowers"

31.01.14

In Japanese, the word for “office” is a character composing
two smaller characters meaning “enclosed space”
and “slumping corpse.”

 

Outside, a soft rain’s falling on what was once the corner deli
but is now an immense pile
of pipes and bricks, chips of cement, and crumpled menus.
I used to eat there with my wife, who’s no longer my wife but rather
someone’s girlfriend. We used to order a plate of cheese fries
and discuss the feasibility of being married,
not knowing we could have more efficiently spent that time
doing something else, like organizing an expedition to the Arctic
or handing out flyers to save the corner deli
from its eventual demolishment.

 

If I turn on the TV set, I’ll no doubt be reminded that today’s not Saturday
and tomorrow’s not Sunday, and whatever I decide to watch
will simply be a way not to think about what I’m not doing.
On these days between the days I’m actually living,
relatives occasionally call to assure themselves I’m still breathing,
telling me small details I could do without, while in their voices’ dark corners
I hear their latent, unfulfilled desires, and part of me
wishes to take their hands and guide them towards the unknown,
but just as I’m reaching out, grazing their invisible skin,
the connection’s cut, breaking them loose into their lonely longing.

 

On my coffee breaks, I muse on the metaphysical consequences
of a slumping corpse in an enclosed space,
and I think how our word for “fireworks” is practical, but in Japanese
it’s literally a “fire flower,” which I find to be inherently more poetic:
“If you look into the sky at this very moment
you may see flowers composed of fire,” and you may see stars
exhaling their last breaths onto a coal canvas,
momentarily warming the vast frozen space.

 

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The Ninth Floor

31.01.14

 

 The Ninth Floor documents a group of addicts who moved into the apartment of a former millionaire in a wealthy neighborhood in downtown Manhattan. Joe Smith, in his mid 60s, allowed a young addict to move into a spare bedroom in his large three-bedroom apartment in hopes of gaining rent. Several years later, a fully addicted Joe no longer had a bedroom and as many as 12 to 15 young addicts stayed at any given time. All electricity and hot water had been turned off and anything valuable had long been sold to feed habits.

 

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