Raise up your brush! Brandish your pen!

Sep 14, 2011 by

u r b a n  a p p a l a c h i a

Summers Street, Charleston, W.Va. | Sept. 2011 | click bigger

Should I ever hope for more than a niche audience for WestVirginiaVille, I perhaps should think twice before posting found poems inked onto public walls whose lines include ‘That Turd.’ But that inglorious, rude line is the least part of this curious, well-done public declaration, which intrigues the visitor passing this nook of an abandoned doorway along Summers Street in downtown Charleston, West Virginia. (See the full poem below.)

I am a fan of found poems and literate and semi-literate, but nicely coined, public graffiti. (This gorgeous graffito found on a now disappeared wall in Charleston will be the title of a future recording or chapbook, should I ever get back to making recordings or chapbooks.) Yet it is hazardous, I am well aware, to take enjoyment – and to broadcast – the aesthetic pleasure of such a capable piece of poetry, to take a toke of pleasure from it with a sort of bohemian wink. That would be to ignore whatever hurt lies at the heart of it, whether to the poet or to the people the poet may have harmed and which led a judge, a cop, to brand him (or her) a criminal.

Yet there is a defiant creativity here that, notwithstanding whatever harm was caused, speaks well of the writer who took the time, in the absence of any other available forum, to utter this cri di couer: ‘I am not a criminal!’  Does it evoke a bit of David Merrick, the Elephant Man’s cry, in David Lynch’s 1980 film: “I am not an animal! I am a human being! I … am … a … man!” ? Or will there soon be a comment to this post below from the person(s) wounded in some fashion by whatever actions landed the unknown scribbler in the dock?

Whatever the case, the city – especially medium-small ones like West Virginia’s capital city – rarely talk back to you with such formality and elan from its ignored recesses. So, take a listen to somebody you do not know, but whom you will know at least a tiny bit better when done. And who you may perhaps wonder about. And perhaps – and wasn’t this the point? – to care about the writer’s fate at least a little, even if only to know the story, so you might know whether that flare of caring is warranted. Plus, kudos, props, whatever, to the hooded nighttime writer who accomplishes what all good poets endeavor – to point beyond their own circumstances: Raise up your brush! Brandish that pen!

Maybe not on public property, one might add. Unless that is the page of last resort.

NOTE: The top three lines of the poem, as found below, were cut off in my quickly snapped iPhone photo seen above before my battery died. I have not been back that way for a couple weeks and do not know if the poem still abides in its niche. | Douglas Imbrogno

That girl
That bird
This brick
That turd –

There is a beauty in all things,
of this – I must sing.
Now with this pen, this idea, this wall,
I feel a certain pull, a call —
to identify what should be exalted:
everyone, everything, one and all.

… yet …

That judge
That shop
This man
That cop

Say I am a criminal,
yet this is surely fictional.
Now, with this pen, this idea, this wall,
I do no harm to all —
merely grace this surface with a short
to tell my tale, how petty and small.

… So …

This black
This site
That dark
This night —

Shall serve to cloak this lone hood,
as I surely do no good.
Now with this pen, this idea, this wall,
I feel that familiar pull and start to scrawl.
join me; raise up the brush,  raise up the pen,
and so goes out this one sounding call.


urbanappalachia: ‘The Dreams of Sleeping People…’

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1 Comment

  1. I think he/she is implying that the graffiti is the crime- the reason they call him/her criminal.