It has been thirteen years since my book came out.
September 10, 2001 was my pub date, and my first reading had been scheduled for September 12th at Brazos Bookstore in Houston. But then, there had been the horror of September 11th. The world exploded in ways from which we are still feeling the aftershocks. Who could have whined, in the face of that, about the ill-timing of one's book publication?
Thirteen years ago. Could I have imagined where I'd be in thirteen years?
I have now been painting for six years—compulsively, obsessively, joyfully. Now my paintings stand alone. Good luck. You are on your own. Just what I thought when my book went out into the world. Bye-Bye. I wish you well.
Last night, NPR had a southern women's song night. From the next room I heard the refrain that always makes me cry: "Make me an angel, that flies from Montgomery." The years collapsed. My book's working title had been Make Me an Angel. In the final weeks before it went to press, the marketing department at St. Martin's Press told me to "find" another title; they were afraid my book would end up shelved with the angel books. So the title became If Nights Could Talk.
In my mind, Make Me An Angel has always been the title, as it has always been my wish—to be the good bad girl or the bad good girl. It seems this quest has been a lifelong one, the making of my mark on the world, the need to assert my identity, the ambitious drive to express, impress, imprint, implore, plan, plant, process, create something from all that is around me, in me.
Today, my artwork went up on white walls. I remembered a paragraph from that long-ago, once-upon-a-time book—something about casting the shadow of myself on the white walls of my new home.
As I stared at my paintings on the white wall of the gallery, a fellow artist came up to me and said, "How would you describe your work?"
I looked at her, and then looked at my paintings. I ran my mind down the spine of the work before me, looked for its heart beneath the acrylic, rusted nails, scraps of poems--Jack's dog tag! my mother's earring!
It is, I said, about exteriors and interiors.
I am outside as a child, surrounded by overgrown bushes, shadowed by towering oaks, hemmed in by fences.
Then, right here, it is as if a storm has sheared the front off the home and left the interior exposed, wrecked.
Hung above all of these is the altar—within the nail-studded, black varnished wood is a Mardi Gras-costumed magician who leans toward you with a jeweled heart in his hand; on the other side of the wooden piece is a photograph of Miles Davis who holds his face in his hands and stares directly at you. His eyes are deep and still, wondrous and full of music.
This—yes, this—is what my work is all about.