Please click twice on the thumbnail of this painting by St. Louis Surrealist Andrew Torch that he made for the 2006 Poetry Scores Art Invitational dedicated to Blind Cat Black. The painting is titled I am living in the drawer of a fifty-year-old witch and has some finely wrought and nuanced detail that repays close study.
I'm not sure I'm doing any favors to an avowedly Surrealist painting to subject it to rational analysis. I will say I like the way the photograph turned out, with a snippet of fine china in the frame. The poem Blind Cat Black has a whack Aunt Sadness drinking alcohol in the attic and embroidering. When I sea this tea cup in the context of a painting about that poem, then the tea cup belongs to Aunt Sadness, or to the fifty-year-old witch; same thing, maybe.
Andy was meditating upon (and drew his title from) the first section of the poem. It has a certain notorious jarring piece of language, none other than the N-word. Blind Cat Black was written in Turkish by Ece Ayhan and translated into English by Murat Nemet-Nejat. In a previous post, I presented Murat's explanation for choosing this controversial and, in most usages, offensive word in his translation.
Here is the entire section of the poem:
The Nigger in the Photograph
Accursed. The curse which with its curving unsheathed letter will never leave me alone, which I take everywhere, my invisible dog, the curse. Who can be friends with me? Who? It is rumored that I carry that monk's blood, and with a relentless agitation I run here and there, barefoot, and on my tiny chin a big beauty spot, I am known with my covered beauty still. Like the stain in the curve of the letter U.
Flower. I began my adventures as a flower vender. Flowers and children bedecking a string, dry petals. But how I was under a spell those days. Because of a little fairy's curse, I couldn't be looked at. Light Maltese fevers run in empty lots in summer evenings. And endless hallucinations full of clowns run in ruins. Then a stone arched passage. I am living in the drawer of a fifty-year-old witch, nailed. Am I really? One can not tell what season it is, and I am cold. Curved like the letter U.
... I went to Jerusalem in that exile of the flower venders and got settled in the town clock... But to remember these things, I don't want to remember them... It had run out, the money I had saved selling flowers... This far away from Smyrna, I was pawned. Let this be the nigger in the negative of a photograph from me, will you receive it one day? I had taken it while learning Hebrew with my invisible dog inside a Jewess. Lonely and terrible. Under a huge tree which had shed its leaves, barely touching a chair.
It is not out of pity, but I am worried it won't pass. The curve of the letter U.
- By Ece Ayhan, translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat
And here is this part of the poem scored by Flatrock and Pops Farrar. Flatrock is the name I bestowed upon a trio of gifted musicians who improvised together every day playing homemade instruments (harps, drums, mbiras) in a cabin built on an abandoned hippie commune by that name in Middle Tennessee. Pops and I stopped there on a roadtrip and inadvertently embarked upon this score. Thanks Jerry, Leah, and John, wherever you are.
"The nigger in the photograph"
(Pops Farrar, Flatrock)
Our score to Blind Cat Black is in print and is available in independent shops in St. Louis and through us directly.