Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Playing With Dolls
Someone must have said
that a girl stops playing with dolls when she
becomes her own doll.
When she starts dressing and posing herself.
When she acts out scenes.
And when she rises up out of herself
to look back down, to watch
lovers and others, too, play with her
like when she would
lend her favorite doll to her very best friend.
A girl painter once said
that to paint a self-portrait you must,
“...Get rid of the surplus,
the hatred and the excessive love.”
A friend of that painter once wrote
that when the model became
a painter she had risen
on the social scale. When we put
dolls aside and become dolls
we negotiate an ascent
that’s equally dubious.
But that doesn’t matter at all.
All that does matter is the play time.
Play time illuminates
the surplus. The excessive love and hate.
A person playing—
like a painter—can see some
of the real lines, the proportions,
the dynamism of discrete shapes
the colors in light and dark,
the embrace of figure and ground.
I knew a woman
who once shop-lifted a bagel. Later
she painted it rather than eat it.
Bagel became model.
The night the woman told me
about all this she used a doll
to act out the shop-lifting episode.
Later that same night
when I was moving
her arms and legs, she said, “Hey, you’re moving
me like I moved Barbie!
What scene are you trying to act out?”
I work with words. I was quick.
I immediately said that
her theft and exploitation
of the bagel really was just
an artistic sublimation
of her masculinity
and I was just doing directly
what she had to play at.
She punched me then, real damn hard,
but she laughed, too. We kept playing.
Playing is enlightening.
People playing—like a painter—
create portraits. A girl painter
once said that to reach the soul
you must, “...Possess the courage
to look the model in the face.”
Dolls and bagels and lovers.
Painters and real people. Models.
It’s just play. But the courage to look
is real. So is the soul.