CJ outside of our mother's church, 2019
Grandma Hilda, Mexico, 2014
Notes on Terry
My grandfather is like a breath stroke when you swim; up for one breath, and down for another. Except whenever he goes up and down, he submerges and rises for longer strokes of time. I think about, get fixated on, the moments when he’s is down—submerged, withdrawn. Maybe I consider it withdrawn because I cannot see him? Maybe because when he is under, the water washes over any resemblance. The only glimpse of my grandfather that I glean is in the moments the reflection off a small wave become pale and pink; close enough to skin to make me a believer. Yet maybe, in actuality, when he is submerged, when doubt crosses me and becomes of me, he is living another life. He has become water, water-animal, hybrid-human, and at the end of it all, at the end of his stroke, he is truly alive. I wish that I could be less of a rescuer. I wish that I wasn’t wearing red, standing on stilts at the end of the pool with inflatables hugged around both arms trying to peer in. I wish that I didn’t panic and rush to pull my goggles over my eyes. Rush to spit into them and clear out the fog so that in some way, hopefully, I can see clearly. I wish that I didn’t hunch over the water and beckon like a hesitant leap-frog too afraid to make a move. I wish that I could consider him trustworthy and instead sit idly and wait for water-world to become real again. To become ground where rules and obligation and language have a structure and do not get wet and puddle onto the tiled floor. That maybe, if this were to happen, I could pin up my costume and walk around the world with him. I could ask him how he feels about it as if he were an ancient fish that I found buried in the sanded ground. And if this were to happen, he would be pleased. His gills would flap endlessly. And when I bring him to Coney Island, a place that I am just beginning to learn, his gills would flap even more. Maybe this would happen. Or maybe I will always wear red and sit at the edge of the pool slightly afraid of water. Slightly afraid of a temperature that is too mild or too cold. Afraid of incremental differences. Enough to keep me frozen while he marches on, as he strokes forward, one hand in front of the other. He looks back from time to time, lifting his head above the water to see if I am still following. He smiles when he realizes I am. He swims for hours, and even though I am only able to place my toes in the water, I don’t let go of him. I follow the glint of hope in his eyes — the small fraction of desire to show me his kingdom, his Coney Island too.
Madison and Oliver, 2019
Allauch, France, 2014
Annika as Assistant, 2018
Dan, the summer everything was still
Bengall New York, 2015
Notes on my mother
I had stopped writing about my mother for three years. She was, after all, my primary subject for that long. I figured that I had exhausted it. But then I found three negatives at the bottom of an old film binder. The binder was grey and it smelled of fixative and primer. I'm not exactly sure why of primer. They were tucked awkwardly into a plastic sleeve, each separated from one another, indicative of time or scanning prep. I pulled them out and held them up to the light. Two of the photographs were portraits, each with a spot of light directed onto her right eye. And the last was a close up of her forefinger and her thumb. The rim of her hand was lit as if it was a cliff in the Azores. Cliffs I've only heard about from a friend, and at one point seen a photograph of. He told me about them over a spaghetti dinner and smiled as he said, "you should visit." As if I would go alone. As if he would not be joining me. As if I would board a plane and fly eighteen hours to see one thing. I probably would. He said that it's the only place where World meshes with Man. I believe him when he tells me these things because he knows the scientific names of bugs, birds, amphibians, and some types of stone. He told me that the rock in the Azores integrates seamlessly with hundreds of man-made pools that are sprinkled throughout, each with their own shape depending on the shape of the rock. Each with their own entertainment e.g., to sit beside, to be a spectacle of waves cascading around you, to swim in, to look at from your car window, etc. How nice it sounded, I told him. A place where fabricated world meets the real world, and for once, they shake hands. It made me think about my mother, looking at the two portraits I took of her at a time when our relationship was ridged and you could fall off at any moment. Had we just made a pool, I thought to myself. And ideally, the kind you can swim in.