Carol Novack



On the hill, there is an easel holding a painting of a town. You are always traveling to the town, but whenever you think you've arrived, there is nothing but stones, statutes and indigestible bread. You return to the painting. You wonder if there's a detail you've missed, a clue that will help you find the town. You let your eyes be deceived. They are connected to your heart with its longing to nest; you are possessed with owning. You lose your perspective again and again, wanting perspective, you are cursed.


You have come to rest. You think perhaps this is my town or close enough to the one I was walking towards, at least when the moon guided me like a mother it seemed to be. I can't be too fussy; I will die with dust mites and sand crabs and there will be no home in death. But now, always now this town is different from then, at least my memory of soft greens and blues with gentle angles, or so it seemed, seems. This town is all glare with acute turns and sonic booms. It won't hold me, rock me, is neither mother nor lover. It has so few dimensions for me though it has dimensions for the neighbors, I suspect. They talk about rules, have so many they can't keep track of what's forbidden. Too many of them stay indoors for fear of breaking a rule. The chandelier drops are cameras. They don't understand. They make more rules.

This town's windows need insulation in the frigid seasons when the voices grow colder and louder. Nothing grows and the kitchen shelves are vacant. One can hear the real estate agents screaming in their white rooms. One can see their angry shadows through white curtains. Always white—that is what the denizens want: a neutered town in which you may disappear into your shadows. They say that colors invite arrest. They think they are invisible, the fools. Perhaps they are invisible and I am the fool.

Here again I have to walk on stones for bread; the bakers don't know me. So I will move on. This is not a town, well not mine. That is my perspective, not this.


He frightened me when he clasped me to him in the night, when he lowered the volume of his voice to speak of the mirage of walls and roofs. Not so long ago, he seemed to be my destination. He was mine and I was his or so it seemed. After an orgy of mirrors, we sucked and picked at one another's bones. Then he strayed into that other woman's residence and stayed too long, I took the turn back to where I'd been going, but couldn't find it. Pain was my map; I could hardly see clearly.

So I found you hiding in a hedge with thorns, not crying but chanting, no, singing, singing a lament to your mother; you crooned, wanting to crawl back into her, so I came and stroked your head. I remember your hair as soft as dandelion puffs and you trembled but kept still for a spell entranced you let me be your home. And then like flotsam, you floated away, you with your eyes dense with storms. I carried on, tore off my red dress, taunted you. Who can stay still? Who can remain in homes with so many rules? you pleaded. I left that town a long time ago, I answered. At least I thought I did. You looked like a rabbit in a wolf's yellow eye. All homes have rules, you said. You said I am a nomad. I have no choice. You do, I replied, drawing you into me for the last time, feeling like the rabbit in your jaws. But was I the wolf? Now I have forgotten your name.


In those towns they lock up the homeless when they remain in one spot and throw stones at Gypsies. Like snails, the Gypsies carry their homes on their backs. The denizens say it's not right! Everyone must pay taxes and mortgages like us—despite interest rates. They rape the land we have purchased and pillage the daughters we have sown and own. Lock them up!

The Gypsies say it is a curse to want to own, a curse to be possessed. It is a curse to want to possess and be possessed, a curse to own. You can seek to become the color of any of these towns with their home teams, but the shade will be unbecoming and oppressive. You will see!

I try hard not to want but keep gazing at the painting, as if I had perspective or could learn it. My eyes are connected to my heart with its longing to nest; I can't help but let it flutter its wings and woo my eyes. How foolish. I keep traveling to the towns, all the same the cursed towns with their statutes and stones. None is the town I seek.



For me, either a word or an image jumpstarts a creation, sometimes a work of art. I extracted the first image (an actual painting by Magritte, I believe) and a few ensuing lines from an unfinished novel I'd abandoned many years ago. "Now" was the time to understand what I may not have understood then and complete the journey of reverie.