Martha Silano
In Praise of Not Getting

What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence?

Time for the chicken to wander lonely as a road, time


for the full-fledged conniption fit about what’s not

on the fence or the road—not that pink one! The other


pink one! The one with the blue balloon on its rump,

the one she’s grown fond of, used to, the one to grow on,


grown on, drone on, which is what time it is, and what makes it

so special? And he says sparkles, but I say a story I can’t quite


figure out. I say, we need a verb: to art! To take the ho hum mundane,

and sparkle-ize it. Catch my glittery drift? Mine glimmering eye?


As in degree of usefulness.  As in what the eye wants. Like billboards

salivating the dollar burger. Yes, we laughed when we saw the one


about the unibrow, but then we bought the ticket, bought it like the functions

of light and dark—sun equals crops, darkness tucks us into bed—


vs. all things good and bad. And also it’s tidying. Sensing there’s a mess,

making sense of it. Assemblage. Installation. Here, let me


untangle that. There, I unraveled the ball of yarn that guy’s

been twining since 1967. Hiring a maid, a ready-made.


Half the time de-conundruming, the other half

upping the chaos, making the messes, messes of messes,


going, you call that a storm? I’ll show you a storm, blasting

the viewer to Neptune’s 900-mile-an-hour winds. Riddling the regular


with reindeer rivets. Oh, and better make sure it strikes a chord

any Hindu, hay-seed, or Yoruba can grok (grok that?).


But really it’s just arranging, an arrangement, a bunch

of peonies, a couple irises, six long-stemmed roses. Not cut


and dried ones; real ones you put in water. Ungraspable’s

good, too, as in stung like stinging nettle. As in this could be


a dream of eating ants, or this could be eating ants. But how,

you ask, did the Brillo pad scrub its way into a museum



my three year old could’ve built? Read above, where I mention

billboards, degree. What does art guide or guard? A whisper


of irony,  a poke at documentary veracity, absurdity you may

or may not catch.  I should hope it welcomes spies in the house


of serendipity, the calling into question of everything hanging

on every gallery’s walls, but that’s just my Jackson Pollock splatting.


And then there’s wanting to crack the safe, break into that box

because tick-tock the game is locked. As in let me see, am I


seeing this right? It’s a pill, isn’t it? An insect eye? A sort of button

to push? A microcosm? A spaceship, no, yes, one of the 1,500


galaxies in Deep Field North? I knew it! I just knew it! A fertility goddess

walking her dog! Something that used to happen freely (freedom?)


that’s recently been fenced. Something like feedlot confinement, I bet.

Or, no: I know! A subdivision, plans for the Fidalgo Bay Expansion,


complete with where the water will go. A trilobite? Or. She’d had

an identity and lost it. Her identity now orbiting like that 28,000-


km-per-hour glove dropped by a Gemini astronaut, the most dangerous

garment in history. Art is a dangerous garment. Art is the dress


you don’t wear to work. Art’s best kept with the cowboy poetry

boots and the atheist-patterned tights. Don’t want to get art


on your face, either. It might make your neighbor edgy, especially

if you ask him to share his thoughts about the imagination.


Discuss, instead, mowers, whether to go with gas or electric. Ask

to borrow his edger. Ask if it’s time your lawn had more edge. Or.


She’d never been one for solving riddles, but she liked a good joke.

And fences make good neighbors.

Found In Volume 39, No. 06
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  • Martha Silano
Martha Silano
About the Author

Martha Silano is the author of Reckless Lovely and three previous collections, including the winner of the 2010 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize, The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception (Saturnalia Books, 2010); Blue Positive (Steel the Books, 2006); andWhat the Truth Tastes Like (Nightshade, 1999).