Yesterday Bill and I went and got some groceries, and in the checkout line I found this. It was kind of nestled within the candy-bars off to the side, wadded up, and I retrieved it, fascinated as I usually am by something that is tossed aside, used up, and the person who used it now has forgotten it ever existed. The scribbles are beautiful evidence of a function no longer needed, and yet the lines still exist, and you feel a new purpose is being invented, even if no one else is looking. "Cupcake papers" becomes something else entirely. "Hamburger" and "hotdog" roughly marked out are symbols of some dream-state denial, desire moved out of the realm of desire and into cloudy iconography.
I always want poetry not to be poetry, art not to be art. I want it to have some double-meaning that I never figure out. The mystery becomes so blurred you don't know anything by the time you've stopped reading and/or looking. That's what I truly want when I read a story or a poem, or go to an art museum -- that sense of not knowing, or a sort of intended yet completely nonchalant gullibility that blossoms into red-ink "Cottage cheese" scratched out by black ink deliberateness.
Cy Twombly understood. He was always trying to show off how much he knows by scribbling it out like a toddler with a new box of crayons. He seemed to know instinctually that instinct creates wisdom, not the other way around, and when push comes to shove the deliberate eradication of knowledge is also about accepting how elementary it all is: visual art and language merge in his large drawings and paintings like pristine jabberwocky turning into nervous sonnets, and sometimes the other way around. But the non sequiturs become nests of ecstasy, blurry slides into silliness that seem to satirize academic name-dropping while also elevating the urge to be smart by showing how messy and necessary it is.
Don't forget Jean Michel Basquiat as well: he found his way through scribbling out what he wanted to say. merging text and image into pictographs that parody Western Civilization while adding layer upon layer of beauty and freedom to it. His scratches and lines become mathematical and gorgeous, an Egyptian stab at street-gang luxury, rough and tough but somehow uniquely and expansively sensitive.
At the end of the day, that grocery list I stumbled upon has a life like these masterworks. Done from necessity, lists of meaning no one else can decipher, but somehow completely understand. Whoever authored the list I found at Kroger probably does not give a shit about any of this, but still I love looking at what he/she wrote, love the thought of those functional words disappearing behind scribbles, only to live another life because of it.
And a coda: Robert Rauschenberg's erasure of a Willem De Kooning drawing. Take all of that writing and learning and memory and get rid of it, put it in a frame. Worship it that way.