Dale Houstman


Found & Manipulated Text

It’s not the problem, it’s how you deal with it!

I had one (and only one) request of you; to be honest, or even to pretend to honesty; not to praise me or to bury me, but to talk to me as if I were your lover. I mentioned this from the beginning and I repeated it until I was sick of my own voice coming at me from the dark. I told you over and over that I would comply to all your demands if you granted me my one wish. I never begged for a grant (of money or celebrity) though you dangled beer money in front of my face like a dried carrot; nor did I ask you to ever kiss me. Once (in my weakness) I may have asked you for help, but did you think your innuendoes were useful? They only served to alienate my affections, and (if you can recall) in my first letter (written while I was drunk) I asked you to talk gently to the others, and not necessarily to me. I was willing to stand off to one side, admiring the way they adored you. Mine was a simple expectation which you first complicated and then failed to meet. A penny for every failure and I would be a wealthy man. I would own your ardor like a natural resource.

Why am I so adamant about these ephemeral demands? My strange behavior began when I was seven, and in the twenty-three years since I have had dozens of living situations, hundreds of “lifestyles” (more or less in an attempt to throw you off my trail) and I was never asked to leave any of them. One month after entering each situation it was my policy to inquire of landlords, neighbors, local merchants, policemen, etc. if anything in my behavior bothered them. I have lived with family, friends and even enemies in a struggle to comprehend you, and have had acquaintances with a thousand nearby strangers, all of whom responded to my question with “no problem, everything is fine.” I was informed I was an asset to the area. A sort of “good citizen” without papers. Then along comes the 90s with its bedevilment of innuendoes and lies and grotesque betrayals by family, friends and even enemies. I fell out of love and into the fire. The fire was composed of icicles.

Stars frozen against the blue wall.

A short while ago a local art dealer informed me (via innuendo of course) that I should have worked within the system, that he planned to be around for a long time and so made it a point to understand and be understood by the system. Honestly, I didn’t comprehend his angry certainties and asked him if he could comfortably work with a system that deemed it acceptable to place surveillance cameras in the living spaces of harmless eccentrics, or the merely discontent, or the tired. He said “yes” and I drifted away, saddened and frightened by his solidity of purpose. Years later this art pusher still patrols his street corner and I am the one who is disappearing. Safe art sells safety…

All of this energy that flows through morality and powers control while you know the real problems grow unabated down below, gathering strength through their secrecy. The world is about to crack from the pressure beneath. At night, I can hear the floorboards creak and I wonder if it is this upward push of the forgotten mass, or just a man coming to repair the camera at last?

I have my problems and I never said I was right but for all your preening over resources and opportunity you remain a complacent woman, and when others attempt to shoot only you in your naked glory standing in line at the teller’s cage, they miss and blow away the others who stand about you, counting out flies as coins into their daughters’ pretty mouths.

And though I work against you, I work for you. And I know you don’t get that. And your incomprehension (although enervating) somehow reassures me that I am saying something worth saying. I promise not to say it again.

My promise still stands: to fight the battles about to arise, although not on your schedule and not necessarily on your side. This has been but a mere introduction and exercise in preparation for an even grander level of slyness and slippery escapes. I am sorry we could not work together.

My butterflies are monarchs, reigning kings of truth and freedom.