Bloated gibbous shining with all these chemtrails streaking by and the trails, you could see them through the dark, you could see — I’ll say it — you could see them by the moonlight.
Read somewhere that in the movies you aren’t allowed to just sneeze for no reason. A sneeze in the movies is always causal. Tonight, after the moon, I stay up late reading, a night like all nights, and the lights flicker, twice. The second time they stay off for four seconds. Were I not a night reader I’d be no wiser, only I saw it, so it means something.
Upon waking discover the flickering lights did not mean no tomorrow.
So I drive to Toledo to see Kusama’s Fireflies on the Water, one of her glass-box infinity rooms, colored string lights and water.
I had expected it to be serene and static as the photos everyone posts. I understand now that the posts are
not so much a brag as an attempt at a conveyance of scale, or amplitude. I understand it might even be a way
of avoiding what the room actually is.
They give you one minute inside the room and then open the same door you came in through to tell you that
it’s over. I leave the gallery. I sit in front of a medieval tapestry for a long time without seeing it and feel vague terror at something.
After, I sit in front of a James Nares piece about New York City in September 2011, a year after I came to the
city, long slow pans of people moving in Midtown and Soho and Harlem and everywhere else, like they’re walking on a moving sidewalk, like they’re watching themselves kissing their lovers in their own slow-motion replays of a moment, the ones they’ll spool up on nights spent alone. I keep wondering if I’ll see someone I knew or know, which was often the exact experience of moving through those streets, inside my body, in the film’s real time.
It begins to rain. It means something.
When I entered the room I took three photos quickly, they were good, and then I tried to just be in it. It was barely possible. It made me feel like I was everywhere or anywhere, and thus probably nowhere. The
experience was neither calming nor whimsical, as its photos tend to suggest, but staggering, the impression of an overwhelming and ravenous divine settling on the breast like a heavy tabby. I took more photos. I was breathing shallowly, full of this feeling I’ve grown so wary of with age, a feeling that something important
might be happening to me.
After a while I start to know that I am waiting to see if the film is going to show me myself, and the hubris of
this, I know, is more even than my usual, the kind of hubris, maybe, that moves people to live in New York
City at all.
I don’t see me
I don’t watch the whole thing.
Liana Jahan Imam is an American writer raised in Southeast Michigan and finished in Brooklyn. Her work questions persona, ingrained knowledge, spatial culture, and inheritance. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana, where she taught at the university and the juvenile detention center. Currently based in Detroit, she facilitates writing workshops through area non-profits, hosts a virtual meetup on hybrid poetics, and works on a longform project around familial legacy. Find recent work and more at lianajimam.com.