A Great Place to Raise Children

I hardly feel anything these days beyond the boredom
that makes it seem only a promotion with a raise could
give a thrill now. I mean there is no such thing as sky
or I mean I don’t know how to turn myself back on.
I mean I drink as much as is reasonable and it does
make things a little more rosy-fingered than they were
when I woke up in this pale pink dress of a gray morning’s
wheatfield. Stillness, of course, has its Andrew Wyeth
retrospectives to recommend it, but I’m in my J. M. W.
Turner and the tornadic sky phase. I spent yesterday
in the company of small children. Small children make
my small daughter so happy. If I look at her sky I can
be a little kite on the wind about it too, but then
her very annoying buddy is in what his mother calls
“a Band-Aid phase,” where sometimes, despite how
there is no injury and no blood, he decides he needs
a Band-Aid and wails in a way that wrecks the air
down to the very molecules until someone runs out
to the mini-van to raid the First-Aid kit and you better
hope there are Snoopies on that unearthed Band-Aid
or there will be no end. I tried to keep my refusal
and disdain of this getting of Band-Aids to myself,
because I know it only seems I can parse the difference
between loving kindness and a spoiled brat. Can you
believe the whole point of orgasms is this? From
the nervous thrill of a kegger on East Campus to
the feathery glitter of this pair of new earrings, it’s all
for the creation of a snot-faced wailing four-year-old
in the ball pit at Going Bonkers? When I have a great
orgasm the sky turns into Turner’s portrait of Parliament
on fire. When I just have an orgasm, I remember
he chose the brightest paints he could find and didn’t care
that they start to fade the moment you brush them on.
Dealers and critics complained, but he wasn’t concerned
about museums a hundred years out, so now you must
try to imagine the riot of storm through the almost
invisible serenity of pastels under glass. I don’t know
what the point is. Perhaps the point is drunk? Or high?
Or—otherwise? Ruskin was the nineteenth century
art critic who loved how Turner blew up the blue sky.
To paraphrase his masterpiece, Modern Painters Vol. 1:
If you must prefer to savor a blue sky, at least notice
there is no monochrome of blue; the painters lie to you.
Ruskin hates lies. He hates the lie of order, the lie
of geometry, the lie of serenity. Does the great Turner
make you feel a chaos the chest of your eye can’t contain?
Well, you wouldn’t do well to stare directly into the sun
either. Well, you know there is an endless sea of sugarcane
fields on the empire’s other horizon. Well, you know
there are fires burning a constellation of islands across
that long night of the Atlantic. A still life is just a portrait
of things a rich man owns coupled up with a lie of meaning.
All those fine landscapes foregrounded with English
gardens and a well-dressed couple on a park bench
are commissioned portraits too of the land the commissioner
calls his own. How is it, Turner asks with each crimson
stroke, that we even abide such pictures, much less pay
to hang them on a wall and gaze in satisfaction at how we own
them? We’d have to have no idea what a feeling was to take
such pleasure. We’d have to think we exist for the sake
of something else altogether. Well, I have a feeling, I have
an idea, I know a pleasure. Fuck the sky, I say. Burn it down.