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The Excitable Artist, Once A Small Town Boy, Reacts To A Negative Review Of His Sculptured Cucumber, Installed (An Excerpt)


by John Riley


. . . they used to make pickles there so try to imagine—if a man with no sight can imagine—thousands of cucumbers everywhere you look and the houses with mothers who live inside their smiles, smiles I never understood and was content with not understanding because the not-knowing opened my eyes to the need to not-know, the not-knowing that means I am never blind the way you are blind to how one speaks for a world that vanished when the pickle plant closed; if you did not insist on knowing you could imagine growing up where knotty green cucumbers grew so fast in summer you had to pick them every day; where the women worked into the night stroking and cleaning and tenderly preparing the cucumbers for pickling, rows of women working in consistent motion; consider the symmetry, and if you could see that picture in the eye between your eyes, the eye in the center of your forehead that apparently you are not blessed with, the eye that sees, then perhaps even someone as dull as you would understand why my mother, who is no artist and is old now but still full of vinegar, says when she sees my work she can smell the green you never forget, the green you can smell with your eyes, a green that never leaves and you see everywhere you look, even when you move away to live among concrete and car horns and people with only two eyes shuffling blindly beneath a forgettable sky, and she, my old mother, who can no longer think of the earth without seeing a waiting grave, says my work makes her want to run naked across the fields where once acres and acres of cucumbers grew but are now empty, empty as the full eyes of a man who only sees what he thinks he knows.
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