Ode to Scal­lop & Solo

The London Magazine - - CONTENTS - Stan­ley Moss

I’m of­fered a Chi­nese scal­lop on a tooth­pick at a Botan­i­cal Gar­dens Hal­lowe’en pump­kins and a hun­dred friendly scare­crows event. Some kids play I am one of the hun­dred. I carve an Assyr­ian face out of a pumpkin. I make faces to make chil­dren laugh: Rus­sian, French, English scare­crow smiles, I pull hand­ker­chief seagulls from my sleeve. Drunk on Ir­ish whiskey, I talk to my­self, ‘Blind trees are in love with the sun, they have green eyes, teach phi­los­o­phy, some are Bud­dhists.’ I tell the bar­keep, ‘If I am born again a bi­valve, I’d rather be a scal­lop than a clam. Give me a ship­wreck on the rocks, sin­gu­lar and nu­mer­ous, please.’ I speak to a kind lady scare­crow, ‘Mary­rose, a scal­lop has a thou­sand eyes in­side its hinged shell, each eye akin to a re­flec­tor te­le­scope, the sort first in­vented by Isaac Newton. This cloudy night, I be­lieve in the Big Bang, but I do not know the rea­son why it hap­pened.’ My old board and hay lady scare­crow is un­dressed by moon­light and the wind.

Truth is, nei­ther scare­crow nor pil­grim, with­out author­ity, I wear a scal­lop shell on my hat, I walk to San­ti­ago and Saint James, then to 8th Street with its five used book­stores

and two the­atres. Out of the blue a stranger says to me, ‘I dis­agree with Os­car Wilde who wrote: art is use­less.’ Stranger, in Paris I used to live where Os­car died, at the Hôtel d’Al­sace on Rue des Beaux Arts. I am full of use­less in­for­ma­tion.

I’m com­fort­able on Wash­ing­ton Square. I step on a handy Ivory soap­box, I speak to passersby, ‘At­ten­tion! I draw your at­ten­tion to the won­ders of the scal­lop’s eye: each eye con­tains a minia­ture mir­ror that re­flects in­com­ing light onto a pair of reti­nas, each of a thou­sand eyes re­flects a dif­fer­ent part of the scal­lop’s sur­round­ings. Each eye like a nov­el­ist or poet, pen­e­trates self.’ Why have I left All Hal­low’s Eve in the Bronx? I raise a single fin­ger like Christ Pan­to­cra­tor, I face my­self like a con­gre­ga­tion, an al­most empty church where the old and shiv­er­ing come to sleep. I put this note in a poor box: ‘A scal­lop swims from preda­tors, it opens and closes rapidly in wa­ter, flies away from starfish and crus­taceans.’

I write I speak aloud to the liv­ing and the dead, to be­gin with – trees liv­ing and pet­ri­fied. Since time’s be­gin­nings and loose ends, osprey dive into the ocean, catch scal­lops in their claws, drop the shells on rock to break them, then de­vour the mirac­u­lous crea­tures that have souls but no hearts. Ig­no­rant,

I’ve of­ten dined on Co­quilles Saint Jac­ques. I just dis­cov­ered the mir­ror in the scal­lop’s eye is made of molecules called guano, crys­tals found in seabird exc­reta. Chameleons use such crys­tals to help them change the color of their skin, that means to me so much cre­ated has noth­ing to do with humanity.

A para­dox, guano crys­tals don’t re­flect light on their own – they are trans­par­ent, but their ar­range­ment turns them to a col­lec­tive mir­ror. I’m on my way to Alabama or Beth­le­hem, I’m game. I hold a scal­lop, a fel­low of in­fi­nite jest. Even­tu­ally the light is com­pletely turned around, like po­etry, it heads back to the front of an eye, it sees what it hadn’t seen be­fore. Like Goya, I mir­ror grotesque re­al­ity. I have no one to thank for the gift of my eyes. My hat is out of fash­ion. I still ask, ‘Who am I?’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.