Michael Dwayne Smith

Changing Landscapes

“There are eyes everywhere.  No blind spot left.  What shall we dream of when everything becomes visible?  We’ll dream of being blind.”  –Paul Virilio

Move away from the picturesque.
Hand the twentieth century back to its resistors
of urbanization.

City sprawl, with its fizzing white bulbs and dense
violet sky, its Mondrian of telephone wire and all night
signs of neon salvation, expands from a view
on small, concrete-laced hills.

Camera eyes frame outskirts, two-story stucco
hives, where gasoline-stained drones sit on folding chairs,
mingle on spray-painted streets.

junkies, taggers, raggedy housedresses
stepping past sleepy Mexican food wagons, mindless.
Fail to investigate shifts in landscape.  They wade into rapid,
do not reinterpret topography.

This, where insects click against shop glass.  Tire rubber, oils
mix in complacent trails of cigarette smoke.

Color and form and tension.

What is natural?
What is developed?

Environment encases focus.
Vernacular disappears, leaving locations behind like
blunted seasons, returning over
several years, a document of individual dwellings,
a survivor of passage.  Facets, fumes, theatrical nighttimes.
Dark, disoriented business.  Fragments experienced in spaces.

What is public?
What is private?

Memory, decaying rolls of film.  Images,
whimsical murder seen through a rain-streaked taxi window.
Life always the unrealized day.
Working class, a footnote.

Millionaire entrepreneurs
and ex-mayors expose the new freedom: it is isolation.
Privilege makes no exceptions.

Sharp, candid photographs of wealthy women in extravagant
homes.  Over-saturated, viscous tones.
Models of opulence.
Rare glimpses.

The world strives to be elite.  Its characters struggle to be
ostentatious.  Poverty is not contrast, only stark.

Poor is hollow-eyed grays and browns
brushed layer over layer, a country of landscapes reduced
to one inevitable impasto,
wads of fossilized idea
stuck on a canvas of long forgetting.

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