Friday, July 20, 2007

Rhapsody on Somebody Else's Superior Vocabulary, Part 4

Jentel Artist Residency Program
Banner, Wyoming

"My whole novel feels like a salvage operation at this point," I just told a fellow artist here. He was kneeling on the pavement in front of the artists' studios (where I lurk for the wi-fi), disassembling a cast, gone awry, of his own head. It looked like he was pulling out insulation from a head-sized hole punched in a wall. "Polyester resin," he told me. "Very toxic."

And now another wide-eyed urban writer will attempt to say something meaningful and original about the Wyoming landscape, this green valley in the long evening shadow of the Bighorn Mountains, which loom at the southeastern horizon like a megalithic wall, the peaks a series of belvederes, snowy even as we in the valley roast, treading carefully between air-conditioned studio and air-conditioned house, blade-perfect links a buffer between us and the grass that obscures a civilization of snakes. Biking up Lower Piney Creek Road two nights ago I nearly ran over a pair of bull snakes, three and four feet long. I thought they were rattlers, but they had no rattles, no venom-packing jaws, and they were unconcerned with me as I approached, didn't coil or otherwise move apart from the flicking of their little red tongues. On my way back they were gone, but the grasses offered a rattling tattoo, echo of serpentine mimicry.


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