Poems and Texts

Excerpt from A Century, a novel in progress by Ariel Goldberg

      What decade was it, what president was to blame, what conversation tried to avoid the latest cruelty of language, on signposts and then on lips; how fear or rage was like a knob of volume, depending on the circumstances surrounding the shape of every hour of the life, so the adjustments would turn. It was almost too much to calculate. Both doors of their apartments were open and a group wandered towards Berenice’s studio.

      “What is Berenice doing now?” someone asked to change the subject looking at a grey cloth draped over a table-top experiment. To keep out dust and request guests not to put their drinks down on her obscured diorama. Flood lights stood at the corners of the table as if stakes in the guarded tent.

      This group gathered in the area least prepared for them, clutching odd sized jars that once housed pickles or jam and now held martinis mixed with a fat spoon. How B came to love marbled Formica for its resilience to the sort of moisture from neglected beverages. As the party began E noticed the lack of coasters and imagined the ones she could have if she made it home to raid the supply closet of her forbearers.

      A friend of a friend with a curiosity that did not know the discerning privacy of the person whose studio he wandered in to, peaked under the drooping cloth of her still life. He found a disembodied lamp arm, a stray bulb, an ointment in a metal tube pocked with small dents. A doorstopper perhaps for simulated elevation. A glass bulb filled with water and toothpicks alongside an insect’s wing separated from its whole form. Amplification pending. B still figuring the position for expanded submersion in light as glue dried, overnight. She just patched the puncture in the miniature darkroom she was making for her objects. An equation with gaps. Mid swing to the other side of the equal sign to reverse the operation. B’s contraption was hastily abandoned at the moment she realized she had lost track of time, the door’s buzzer sending its cranky noise.

      Muriel rang with two short then one long push, asking in the long windedness of the final ring does this thing even work or will I have to shout. B had invited her to come over earlier, or right on time, to ease the hours before anyone else showed up.

Ariel Goldberg

Ariel Goldberg‘s publications include The Estrangement Principle (Nightboat Books, 2016) and The Photographer (Roof Books, 2015). Goldberg’s writing has most recently appeared in Afterimage, e-flux, Artforum, and Art in America. Based in New York City, Goldberg has taught writing at Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and The New School. They have been a curator at The Poetry Project, the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, and the Jewish History Museum in Tucson, Arizona. Goldberg’s novel in progress, A Century, explores the intimate worlds of art critic Elizabeth McCausland and photographer Berenice Abbott in the context of the New York Photo League (1936-1951).

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