Melissa Murray is an up and coming artist living and working in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Her works are large scale mixed medium on paper, with concepts focused on the combining of multiple environments in one still image. Selected group exhibitions at the MOSI Museum in Tampa, Florida, the Target Gallery in Alexandria, VA, Chashama in New York, NY and Causey Contemporary, and 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, NY. Solo exhibitions at Fuse Gallery, AdHoc Art and Causey Contemporary and Gallery SAS in Montreal. Her work has been published and/or reviewed in The Wild Magazine, L magazine, The Village Voice, The Montreal Gazette, Juxtapoz Magazine, Beautiful Decay Magazine, Muse Magazine, Big, Red and Shiny and the NY Arts Magazine.
Phillip Lopate describes the shape of Manhattan Island as‘a luxury liner, permanently docked, going nowhere’. This feeling of being tethered to the land, unable to get to sea, was a feature of New York life for much of the twentieth century. New York was an island without a coast. The West Side piers that once welcomed the Lusitania spent most of the twentieth century crumbling or behind barbed wire, while the East Side’s coves and points were cut off from pedestrians by six lanes of the Robert Moses-designed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. It wasn’t much easier to reach the shores of Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx, either: with a few exceptions, they were largely reserved for municipal or industrial use, and easiest to see from the Staten Island Ferry (en route to the borough with the most beaches). Now, slowly, the city is reclaiming its shoreline, with some spectacular results.
This is what the Last Ones left us.
After the Era of Flood and after the Era
of Fire, we creep into the Central Clusters
and rifle through the rubble. From the top
of a cliff, two pink eyes and one pale ear beckon.
The Wordsplitter names the creature
Kangamouse, Male. It is not one of their BeWiths,
which were almost universally furred,
nor a ListenTo, since he makes no sound,
nor is there a mention of Kangamouse
in the Aesop’s Fables found in a Ziplock
in Zone Twelve some twenty years ago.
We still cannot make a Ziplock, but we know
all about Morals—try before you trust and
might makes right. We try to tease one out.
If a “mouse” can make its home in a hole, are we
to understand we will live on without the sun?
If the “kangaroo” keeps its children in a pocket,
is it wise to keep our Gimmes close too though
they wail and steal our food? Perhaps Kangamouse
has something to do with their mysterious notion of “Play”—
a type of waiting for sunset that involved throwing
spheres and grimacing. He may well be yet another
Withholder, since when we press on his button,
like all the other Gods we’ve found and abandoned,
nothing happens. Night makes light we murmur, and look
up at the sky with the face the Last Ones called Hope.
Matthea Harvey is the author of Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004) and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000). Her third book of poems, Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Cirlcle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. Her first children’s book, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel, is forthcoming from Tin House Books. Matthea is a contributing editor to jubilat, Meatpaper and BOMB. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn.
This story was published in collaboration with Significant Objects.
My brother and I could not agree on how to worship the mouse. It was typical of us back then that we could agree that it should be worshipped—that was obvious from the day it arrived in the mail, a gift from our father, who had been in Vietnam for three years, which was one-third of George’s life and one-half of mine, on business more important than his wife and his sons. The last gift had been a green and yellow straw mat, and we agreed that it was, in fact, a prayer-mat, the use of which only became clear with the advent of the mouse. The evening it arrived we knelt in our room in our pajamas in the dark. George had his flashlight out and he shined it on the mouse’s face.
“Great Faaa,” he said. “Mighty Faaa, hear our prayers.” He said the name in a sing-song, high-pitched voice. We had just seen “Day of the Dolphin” the week before. I put my hand on the flashlight and pushed it down, so the little monkey in the mouse’s heart was more plainly illuminated.
“Mr. Peepers,” I said. “Source of the All, forgive our sins! Don’t punish us!”
“What are you doing?” George asked, and our argument began. We quarreled subtly, at first—we still shared the mouse, but prayed differently to it—and then more obviously, stealing Him back and forth, and performing secret worship in the closet or the basement or the pool shed. The violence, when it came, attracted our mother’s attention. “If you can’t share that hideous piece of trash, I’m going to throw it away,” she said, and that night we prayed peacefully, imploring Faaa and Mr. Peepers not to hurt her, but by the morning we were fighting again. “Faaa!” George said to me, sitting on my chest and pummeling my head with the sides of his fists, and I could almost understand how his whole argument could be contained in just the name. I wanted to tell him that there was a monkey in my heart, and a monkey in his heart, and a monkey in everybody’s heart, and there was nothing worse in the world than an unappeased, unworshipped monkey who lived in you and was mad at you. But all I could say was, “Mr. Peepers!”
“Why can’t you two just be good?” our mother asked, and she took up Peepers-Faaa in her hand and threw Him against the wall, breaking off His ear. I cried, but George screamed at her, telling something horrible was going to happen to us because of what she had done, and horrible things did happen to us. She took up the body and flushed it down the toilet, and George said later that it was a miracle of Faaa that it flushed, but that it made sense that He would exercise His magic to get away from our mother, and from me.
I still have the ear.
Chris Adrian is the author of two novels, “Gob’s Grief” and “The Children’s Hospital,” and a collection of short stories, “A Better Angel.”
Adrian Kinloch has been taking photographs since age seven, when his grandfather gave him a 1930s folding-bellows Kodak camera. He grew up in Suffolk, England, and has degrees in visual art and third-world development from Staffordshire University. Adrian currently lives and works in Brooklyn as a graphic designer and photographer. His pictures run regularly in The Brooklyn Paper and have also appeared in New York Magazine, O Magazine, and on BBC.com. He also maintains the photo blog Brit in Brooklyn.