Outsider Artist (Prosish!)


Outsider Artist

She said, “but you are from New York.”

He didn’t say anything, though his sharpie continued
to squeak: long stroke, short short/
short short again–maybe, she thought,
shading in–which brought with it
a deepening stench of acetone that he was probably not even smelling
since he usually breathed though his mouth, drawing–

short short stench stench LONG LONG–
but which she certainly smelled, only—
and now she had to be fair, it was really too sweet
to be called stench–

It was a smell in fact that made her feel almost blue
at the edges–not like the sharpie, which, this time, was a horrible
navy–but the teal of remembered nights, Fridays
when their folks would actually drive them somewhere, and
the minute they crossed the bridge her Dad would stop, her mom complain–
gasoline never the same in the City–they talked of price and lines,
but for her it was all about
exhaust–the smell of Jersey, vaporized spill and not
just taxi–

“So,” she said, “you can’t be from New York City and be
an outsider artist.”

“It’s just,” she clumped over to the window
since he still refused to look up, “a nonstarter,”

and the street poured in even through the couple of inches she pushed
with a sunlike-hum, a more-more roar, warming
her inner arms–

and he said (squeak squeak), “so what, if live
in New York?”

“City,” she added.

“City, he said, still staring
into the page.

“All what,” she said.

Then, slowly, he began to laugh, big,
his eyes as he stood from the steno pad throwing
green-gold flecks into the air
of all the inner drawings he could already feel
pushing against his finger tips,
and he flipped the page back as if the paper were just
one more set of his long, soft bangs, and shook each pant’s leg in its turn
as if his limbs too were part of that
pad (paper wasn’t important,
he’d been explaining for months),
“exactly,” he said–

And she, hating him who knew everything–everything he ever wanted to know
or didn’t care, said, “so?”

And he, smirking, said, “so, Watts.”

Only he said Watts not ‘what’, and she knew that was important
but not why, so kept her face blank as she could so he would not know
her not knowing–

and he said (so know-it-all)–”Watt’s Towers, to be precise, which is the absolute greatest outsider art installation ever built in this country and is what I think about all day, every day–and if that doesn’t make me an outsider artist–”

“You sleep all day,” she said.

“Same difference,” he grinned.

Yes, I know this is not a real poem!  It is broken into lines, but is really prose I have just written thinking about a novel I have been working on (off and on) for a bit.  I am linking it to Lolamouse’s prompt on visionary art With Real Toads.  It is my 16th writing–and I’ll call it a poem for these purposes–for April, 2015 National Poetry Month.  (I have a couple in progress that I may post late!)

Lolamouse posts cool pictures of visionary art from the Baltimore Museum, but I have gone with Watts Towers, by Simon Rodia, a great visionary artist, who built these very cool towers in his little yard.  The picture is courtesy of LA County Museum of Art,  and is supposed to be available for free use. 

So sorry to be late with commenting!  Good luck to all doing Napowrimo!  I’ll be around! 

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11 Comments on “Outsider Artist (Prosish!)”

  1. I love this…a little New York snobbery… lol Fun piece

  2. Jim Says:

    Susie and I are the laties (up late people) from Houston, outsiders to NYC. But I like NYC, I just don’t go there enough. Mine is very late and I think not a real poem. Yours will pass my muster.

    Is there really such a thing as Outsider Art? If so my ambition might be to go back to school, learn how to do art and sing, and become an outsider artist/busker.

    I like your story, to me it is prose poem. But what do I know, I am not a real poet, only one who loves to write poems.
    And I learned today.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha. You are always kind, Jim. I always think of “outsider art” as being very like visionary art in that it is often made by people who are quite driven by artistic things but are not part of the central art community; often naive artists–or that’s another term, I think. That’s always been my kind of definition of it–but I don’t know how standard it is. I have been writing a novel called outsider art for some time, and I have a little song I started working on yesterday but I don’t know if I’ll get it together during this month! k.

      On Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 1:07 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  3. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    You must be a master of prose rhythms — which is where all the good prose writers say it’s at — because this sure reads like a real poem to me! (As well as a self-contained short short story, or maybe sketch.)

  4. Prose or poetry.. sometimes there is no real difference, I once heard it’s what the librarian decides that counts.. I think snobbery exist in all places.. could we ever avoid feeling a little better I wonder.

  5. hedgewitch Says:

    These sorts of discussions are always full of heavy freight–between two people, I mean. Here there is so much more going on about being outside of something than just observations about creative schools or forms–it’s abut intrinsic separation, how the Other is always mysteriously the Other, and how that attracts and isolates and infuriates us in about equal proportions–or so I read, but that could just be my personal slant talking. This was a smooth read, k, despite the length.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      In the book, it’s actually a brother and sister, and of course, a lot is going on, but after I wrote it last night, took out more extraneous bits that related to bigger story–it was just so long.

      I have another one probably for your prompt if I can remember it–I’m afraid I had to get to work, and I seem to have forgotten some, but hopefully can recover as the day goes on. k.

      On Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 9:59 AM, ManicDDaily wrote:


  6. Kerry O'Connor Says:

    This is a lovely teaser to a much longer tale. Thanks for sharing, karin.

  7. lolamouse Says:

    This was such an interesting and fun read! The dialogue sounded real and it flowed easily. Prose poem? Poetic prose? Who knows, but I like it! Let us know when the book is complete-I’d love to read more and thanks for participating!

  8. Mama Zen Says:

    I can totally relate to and feel her envy fueled irritation with his certainty. This is excellent, K.

  9. M Says:

    stellar. want to read more. Watts Tower is about an hour from me, but (shamefully) I haven’t been.

    Almost 3/5 of the way there! ~

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