Excerpt from Oscar of Between, Part 1A
Inexplicably entering the Imperial War Museum. London. 30.3.07. Sodden gusting air
(outside). Atmospheric twilight of Camouflage Exhibit (inside). Oscar, having quickly walked
by bare-bulb of permanent collection (its secrets intact).
Last time traveled alone: 1992. Amsterdam. Wrote the Van Gogh suite:
“open wound of the ear.”
Now rummaging through satchel for ear-length pencil. On exhibition ticket
scribbling quote from first display case:
“Art alone could screen men and intentions
where natural cover failed.”
British artist and camouflage officer
: neither man,
nor marked with natural cover.
That leaves her with art.
First display case. Dumb-struck. For all her notable difference – this one had eluded
Oscar. This unidentified force. Shaping her life. Thought it had nothing to do – with
her. Until. This moment.
: necessity of.
: lack of.
Oscar at odds.
A troubling bewilderment exiting her body – last grains in hour glass – gasp.
– sixty years to get here –
“At a slant.” Dickenson knew. Glimpses of a narrative’s ghosts. Most a writer can hope for.
Prior to London. It’s her cousin who tells her the story. Farm fields unfurled. Her cousin’s
mom arriving one day. Unexpected.
Oscar. Left alone.
Strips of wallpaper piled up in her crib (pulling at what’s beneath).
Her aunt gets a glimpse.
Fifty-nine years later Oscar gets a glimpse too.
To foil: run over or cross (ground or scent) to confuse the hounds. Oscar. Never taught.
Not her instinct. But her mother adept at.
Oscar. Outside the pack(t).
Renée Sarojini Saklikar
thecanadaproject, a life-long poem chronicle
Excerpt from “18 thing poems (burnish the blast)”
do you carry for yourself, a secret name—
the way a river might—
bounty learnt year by year, province by province:
Saskatchewan, the Yukon,
on the banks of the mighty Fraser
set down and sing a Settler’s Song:
frisson of attachments
courier du bois—
names over landscapes
down streets, mountains—
names flow inside the soft brush of grasses
find the hunt
rocks names wove so tight
—to get at them, toss and crush
sediment of names
Siwash Spring, green and flowering
You bring it back again—trunk of older-elder-alder-fish-fresh-First Names
On the street where you grow
I live and do not know
(branch to petal) your true name
Give this to me, tree,
and I will watch you
all the more
( oh rhythm, not flow. oh rhythm, not flow faux
I see buds on each of your Shiva-arms.
They will come in hundreds, thousands, wrapped—
filial(s) of grey moss (hidden) jewels.
Mother-Father tree, displaying Al Kemi-Alchemy:
water, light, air. At your command, roots
Come wind, the rain. A tree-clock teleology
propels time forward.
the way you work, bit by bit, covert,
An embrace of branches from your helix spine
count: now eight, ten, twelve tributaries—
a swerve and the tallest ones curve
Quiet. Change drops in stealth:
buds push out from grooves, sprockets, the tuber-heads on your arms.
How sly you are,
and I, devotee.
No to interjections. Interject.
No to singing. Signs, instead.
A woman named Oscar! I love! – Now, Renee’s response seems to be from her own already-started project. Doesn’t seem to have that much to do with Oscar … am I missing something? How do you envision the dialogues unfolding?
I can’t wait to hear the conversation begin. I love this idea of writers talking.
The language here is stripped bare, childlike; walks like a newborn animal on stilted and wobbly legs, and yet with absolute purpose; survival is at the forefront. It shouldn’t suprise any writer, I suppose, to find another voice inside themself, wether they hid it there or not. But to recognize and honor that voice, to give it a name, and the space to speak – it gives me the shivers. What will Oscar make of his alter ego i wonder.
Betsy that is fantastic! I was so with you. I felt like I was inside Oscar’s head and it was wonderful to hear her thoughts. I appreciated the shortness and the sweet sadness of the revelations. I think the shortness made them all the more sweet, as if delicate offerings of someone’s inner world. Thank you!
Renee a devotee of trees! As one who has been a devotee of a guru and is now a devotee of nature I found this whole piece delightful. Thank you!
great to see oscar in this new blog form. uncamophlaged. floating in digital land. as always, so intriguing. and that wallpaper! can’t wait for the next installment!!
o-scar – you’ve taught many of us to read under/between/behind/aslant
this is bare real asks to be listened to felt sense so
we can cross the divide
i’m reading this in france – ‘camouflet’ a puff of smoke but the british navy in first world war (as you probably know) called it dazzle-painting
that’s what you do
How rare to find writing online that moves and nourishes me so deeply. Thank you, Betsy, for breaking from the pack(t) and taking us down into the depths beneath this vast cyberrealm of surfaces. Already I’m hooked.
I’m very much enjoying all your comments and want to address, in particular Sonnet’s question about dialogue. I’m still in process about how to describe what I mean in term of “correspondence” and “sparks.” For me it’s about an approach to writing as a quest.
Sometimes it’s apparent (shared topics, images, perspective) but more often it’s about unconventional narrative positions (like betweeness), strategies and underlying questions that drive the narrative.
intriguing how we live at times ‘beside’ one another & sometimes ‘between’ –
our spaces intersecting & co-existing – our experiences as ‘other’ yet
never wholly other – of the same stuff – of the (m)other all of us – as a reader &
writer & woman i love this co-inhabiting of the page/cyberspace
with oscar’s awakening to camouflage – to renee’s awakening to trees – is any
thing/creature other? our co-dependence – subterranean dance together
– intermingling breaths – oxygen carbon dioxide – shared helix –
co-evolving – tree – being part of the mother – earth heart – i hear the art
all the way here in france
I could feel the air in Oscar’s nostrils, over the exhibits. My toes woke up when I read this. It was funny, delightful too… So!
Inspiring poems, dear poets, dear outsiders. “Outside the pack(t)”, it’s easier to observe the pack, isn’t it? Thank you for this fine work.
Betsy – intriguing – camo and existing between dimensions; not to mention the name Oscar. Enjoy it and your featured poets also.
Thanks for a fresh look.
There’s something heartbreaking here. In the language. And you’ve exactly caught what writers know, that strange moment when something speaks for the first time. It reminds me of sitting by the fire with you when you first told me about Oscar, after a walk in the woods. I am like Patricia — it gave me shivers.
Oscar. Between adventure – pursuit – wanderlust. The invitation for others to join the quest of (Oscar’s?) betweeness, narrative, language spoken and un. Personally, I love an adventure. And you always seem to send me on one, dear Betsy.
What lively commenters you are!
It excites me that there is so much recognition in your comments above about that dynamic (often initially terrifying) moment of discovery of another voice inside us as a writer and how, instead of the British dazzle painting used to camouflage war ships – the discovery of that voice (if we can trust it) can dazzle us with its un-rehearsedness; it’s very newness.
This is proving to be an entirely new sensation for me is to publish online. As Arleen writes, I am beginning to experience Oscar floating in digital space. Only thing I can relate it to from previous experience is giving a reading to a large, completely darkened hall in which no one is visible and you have to shift into feeling your listeners/readers in a entirely different way.
I saw this exhibit and had an extremely vague recollection of writing about it for the Globe. What do you know — in fact I did! Lookit here http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/art-of-camouflage/article4094729/
Ok, I am really slow. What voice inside of you? I’m going to read it again!
i’m so reminded of a friend’s ceramic piece, “the dark side of dazzle.” a huge installation, handbuilt clay. photo here: http://www.marilynlysohir.com/daz5.html
the chill of what’s hidden/ revealed/ in plain sight/
(t/here all along.)
how by looking long enough, our eyes transform what we stare at into invisibility.
try staring at stars (star/ing?)
it’s only when we look away, or when something begins to move, that we see its full form.
look away. glance back.
i keep looking away and glancing back at oscar here.
each time, there’s so much more.