A Doll for Throwing88
A Doll for Throwing88
We were ridiculous—me, with my high jinks and hat. Him, with his boredom and drink. I look back now and see buildings so thick that the life I thought I was making then is nothing but interlocking angles and above them, that blot of gray sky I sometimes saw. Underneath is the edge of what wasn’t known then. When I would go. When I would come back. What I would be when.
—from “One Glass Negative”
A Doll for Throwing takes its title from the Bauhaus artist Alma Siedhoff-Buscher’s Wurfpuppe, a flexible and durable woven doll that, if thrown, would land with grace. A ventriloquist is also said to “throw” her voice into a doll that rests on the knee. Mary Jo Bang’s prose poems in this fascinating book create a speaker who had been a part of the Bauhaus school in Germany a century ago and who had also seen the school’s collapse when it was shut by the Nazis in 1933. Since this speaker is not a person but only a construct, she is also equally alive in the present and gives voice to the conditions of both time periods: nostalgia, xenophobia, and political extremism. The life of the Bauhaus photographer Lucia Moholy echoes across these poems—the end of her marriage, the loss of her negatives, and her effort to continue to make work and be known for having made it.
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A MODEL OF A MACHINE
I'll begin by saying that objects can be unintentionally beautiful. Consider the simplicity of three or four self-aligning ball bearings, the economy of a compass.
OF MANNEQUINS AND BUILDING EXTERIORS
Living looks random and barren and formless when you're adamantly busy inventing a now. The past will subtract itself from the new, especially wherever glass is a clean element on the edge of the no-longer-ornamented eave.
I'm a double of myself, one half a doll that was spared,
At the end of the day I never close my eyes. The landscape just is. What good is sighing. There are lines in her face that don't yet exist. The doll's face is breaking,
SELF-PORTRAIT AS A PHOTOGRAPH OF A PLATTER
A platter can embody a wish to be simple. We are who we are. Wir sind. I also speak English. I married a master. I taught him something. I know what I'm doing.
SELF-PORTRAIT WITH OTHERS
Before I moved out, there were five of us: me, my sister, my mother, my brother, and the man who modeled what we were all to think. He said we are nature, like it or not. Sun, clouds, rain, and reeds like those monks used to show their humility back in the Middle Ages. I wonder whether humility gets in the way of ambition? I wanted to travel. The morning my mother said I mustn't, I wanted to stop her mouth and shake her. It felt like taking a step.
THE CHESS SET ON A TABLE BETWEEN TWO CHAIRS
I wanted to be my father: leave, return, leave again saying nothing to no one. My mother: a musician. An orchestra of self-absorption. My brother: a filmmaker who says he wants to reinvent himself. He thinks an American name will make a new man of him. As if a pill dissolved sublingually can make the mouth speak in a manner the mind never knew. We are in a café.
ONE GLASS NEGATIVE
We were ridiculous — me, with my high jinks and hat.
DWELLING IN OUR TIME
Knife to the narrative root, a pillow over the aperture opening, the café narrowing to silk and a single view.
I was working in a bookstore and as an antidote to the twin torment of exhaustion and boredom,
STILL LIFE WITH GLASSES
In the east-west dialogue between objects — i.e., chose
ON THE BALCONY OF THE BUILDING
There's no sleeping now. No morphia dream-pact with night as a needle. We are staying awake and pressing against one another as if whatever is left is all that will ever be. We need one another as if one were on a fragile bough being sawed. I see the trace of a faint scar embedded above your right eyebrow. I knew then what it was to feel. The dying fall.
My hair is held back by a barrette, the tree in the background is green. Out of sight,
My mother was glamorous in a way I knew I never would be. Velvet belt buckle. Mascara lash. Miniature crimson lipstick alive in the pocket of a purse. Her bow mouth was forever being twinned to a tissue. I never would wear that black windowpane see-through blouse, mother-of-pearl buttons tracing the path down her spine.
NEWS OF THE DAY
Everything not in was out and we were the bride and groom in the marriage of this ridiculous day and life is only ever a comic opera. To write lower-
A NUMBERED GRAPH THAT SHOWS HOW EACH PART OF THE BODY WOULD FIT INTO A CHAIR
I was born awake and knowing and time keeps proving this:
THE HUMAN FIGURE IN A DRESS
Naked or not, I'm a costume that moves,
THE SILK AND VELVET CAFÉ
Come over here, she said. It was the façade no self can be without.
OUR GAME. OUR PARTY. OUR WORK.
A fire can be hot flame and black carbon contagion that ends in a smoldering that goes on emitting smoke and warming whatever is near. It was like that in the years when we moved from one place to another.
PORTRAIT IN THE FORM OF EPHEMERA
Three items in an envelope. A photograph of two, four,
PHOTOGRAPH PRINTED WITH HATCH-MARKS OR LINES ACROSS THE PORTRAIT
Some photographs invent a method of fiction, an illogical trying to think differently history. The true aim of archives is:
a complex, relating, narrating voice and rare versions of what happened, actuality of actuality. This requires a plastic mind.
These opposed logics disfigure the true act — the incidental fact that this did exist — morphing the two times into one simultaneous reality where temporality remains to say this:
SELF-PORTRAIT IN THE BATHROOM MIRROR
Some days, everything is a machine, by which I mean remove any outer covering, and you will most likely find component parts: cogs and wheels that whirr just like an artificial heart, a girl in a red cap redacting the sky, fish that look like blimps and fish-like blimps,
Excerpted from "A Doll for Throwing"
Copyright © 2017 Mary Jo Bang.
Excerpted by permission of GRAYWOLF PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
A Model of a Machine 3
Of Mannequins and Building Exteriors 4
Self-Portrait as a Photograph of a Platter 5
Self-Portrait with Others 6
The Chess Set ON A Table between Two Chairs 7
One Glass Negative 8
Dwelling in Our Time 9
Two Nudes 10
Still Life with Glasses 11
On the Balcony of the Building 12
The Mirror 13
News of the Day 15
A Numbered Graph that Shows How Each Part of the Body Would Fit into a Chair 16
The Human Figure in a Dress 17
The Silk and Velvet Café 18
Our Game. Our Party. Our Work. 19
Portrait in the Form of Ephemera 20
Photograph Printed with Hatch-Marks or Lines across the Portrait 21
Self-Portrait in the Bathroom Mirror 22
In the Barren behind the Master's House 23
In this Photograph I Am Untitled 24
The Doll Song 25
Stairway, Seaside 26
The Game of Roles 27
Fragment of a Bride 28
Gesture Dance Diagram 29
In the Street 30
The Head of a Dancer 31
The Transformation Anxiety Dream 32
The Bracelet 33
A Ballet Based on the Number Three 34
The Shattered Marriage 35
Me, a Chronicle 36
The Possessive Form 37
The Illusion of Physicality 38
The Scurrying White Mice Disappear 39
Things to Come 40
You Have to be Uncompromising as You Pass Through 41
She He at the Flower Basket 42
Long-Exposure Photograph of a Man 43
Portrait as Self-Portrait 44
Last Name First First Name Last 45
The Photographer, Berlin 46
The New Objectivity 47
The Icon in the Hands of the Enemy 48
One Photograph of a Rooftop 49
Masters' Houses 51
Tomb in Three Parts 52
The Expression of Emotions 53
Mask Photo 54
An Anatomical Study 56
The Missing Negatives 57
In November We Inched Closer 58
Having Both the present and Future in Mind 59
A Note on Lucia Moholy 65