Betsy Hotel: Part 2


One of the things I’d planned to do at The Betsy was write a site based poem and spell it out on the sand. The technology was simple—a set of plastic alphabet letters. I’d “wet run” the alphabet during a summer’s visit to Cape May with my friend Devon. I’d expected to use the letters as molds, creating a small 3-D effect. But actually they worked just as nicely as type.
Here is the poem I wrote.

geomancy = science of the sand

a berm
thrown up by winter storms
full of ghosts—

a footprint
filling with salt water

there was the sea
and often
a mild regret
a child’s plastic alphabet
tumbled in the sheets

a refusal
a knothole
an expanse
a wish

what small necessary object
you’d lost (in this case a comb)

fingered coral
white as a head of cauliflower
on the writing desk;
the only visible
part of my skeleton
was my teeth

I was wearing my dress inside out
as if trying
to remember something

the aleph
washed by the third wave

the moon
was bigger then
in my childhood
when it first shot
from earth

the power of self-accumulation

blue pool
in a courtyard
bound by darkness

arriving by taxi
at an odd hour

what you dreamed
who you loved
what enormous
currents bore you

keyless, climbing
the stair—
you beat the tattoo of some as yet
unwritten composition
on my arm

apocalyptic tideline

the ocean
locked and groaning
like a book
with uncut pages

an Atlantis

to build a sand castle

a single continuous line creates the pattern

head of a buddha
in red light
on a rooftop

a large starfish
a green bolide meteor
the sense that
the self
was about to be

letters of each word
slipped through our fingers
in the infinite presence

this was desire
this was also
an avoidance
of the personal story
like all landscape

I wrote it on four sets of color coded index cards—one for narrative, one for facts, others from various notebooks or povs. I had about twenty-five in no particular order. I took a few phrases from the deck and spelled them out in the sand. Willa Kaufman was documenting, taking video and stills.
A variety of unexpected things happened:
1. People walked carefully around the text.
2. I encouraged two little girls to run across it and wreck the text. They gamely ran back and forth, but wouldn’ destroy it.
3. We “borrowed” a tiny little guy from his watchful dad. He was happy to create AND destroy.
4. Two northern European women in bikinis said to Willa: “Please! Take our photograph! You are a professional!” And she obliged.
5. Trying to get waves to erase the text was tricky, and all the plastic letters got carried out and had to be chased more than once.
I had a huge amount of fun. And Willa took a lot more footage of the environment—orchids by the pool, an “apocalyptic tideline”on the floor of my room built out of items in my purse and toiletries bag.
So possibly the project will complete with a short poetry video.
As a final step, I revised the poem and put it in order, using the beach/video experience as a kind of editing process.


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