Exposure

 

She recycles abandoned poetry lines on old cinema marquees. Decrepit buildings enjoy second looks as people slow down to read the poignancy leaning up against drugstores. Letters to past loves, snapshots of sweat-inducing memories, diary of coffee-fueled dreaming. She attaches her messages under the dead of night when nobody watches, between a cache of “reco” lightbulb hoods where once chasing-lights shone for the people of main street. They are drawn as a reverse constellation—canvas of white and markings dark as amber. This is her way to paint the stars, in a maze of sky writings, stretching west where old gunslingers waited the long plain nights.

Morning is usually the time for revelations. Her reflections are read in letters wrinkled as tobacco leaves on the marquee boards crackled like an ancient face. The passersby's finally see her words, thread by thread, in the currency of glancing and parting. For some, they stop and dance across the tile where they used to wear suede shoes. Their theater a soiled fortress for former motives, but oh those night songs, those shoe songs, in the pulse pouring her dead poetry down the defunct neon onto travertine.

On a few main streets, there may be a missing beat, a sleeping sub-text. Where the urban remains of sign cabinets survive in a building’s fascia, she replaces their log lines. Faded lettering for Alka-Seltzer and Palmolive become Absent Promises, or American Parable. The passersby's nod. Sometimes her work is left up for days or weeks at a time. The plastic letters sun-melt against the wall before being torn away by Santa Ana winds. Then only the town librarians say they can still see the stain of it.

Catherine Moore