I used to think I was born for big
things. I would be well-known,
admired. Change the world.
But fame is for the dead. Van Gogh,
Once, Francesca Cuzzoni refused to
sing the first aria in Handel’s
opera. Madame, he said, I know you
are a veritable devil, but I would
have you know that I am Beelzebub,
chief of them all.
Handel was either a musical genius
or, if Sir Isaac Newton can be
trusted with anything, unremarkable
save for the elasticity of his
Then Handel took the
soprano by the waist and swore that
he would throw her from the window…
Michelangelo in a
late at night. Picture him by
candlelight, working tendon
from bone, muscle from muscle
as if untwining lengths of
Or Professor von Hagen in a
black leather fedora exchanging
fluids for plastic in the most
splendid parts of the human
lungs laced with purple veins,
translucent sheets of flesh.
Watch bones bend in his hands.
Watch him fashion, form, sculpt, create.
What is art if not tender
revelation? What is art if not
dedicated to love? Look to the
body. Touch it. Run your
fingers over the shapes of it.
Taste it. Smell it.
The ecstasy of an ear drove Van
Gogh to madness, forgetting
hunger and thirst in the sun
with his canvas empty before
When I connect the freckles on
the back of my left shoulder, I
have a Chagall. Aqueous sky.
An anchorless range of
mountains. A tilty, four-layer,
rum chocolate cake.
What is it?
A man, drunk, is dismembered by a
passing train. His wife buys a red
dress, her heart filled with wet
ash. The dress is blue red, cold red.
She licks sugar from her fingers.
The scrape of her shoes on cement
make her think of rats.
She sits in the kitchen with her feet on a stepstool
wearing the same expression she puts on for church.
Sir Isaac Newton heard the opening of the dawn.
Thomas Edison was afraid of the dark.
Lord Carnarvon and his dog died at the precise moment
the power failed in Cairo.
Think of the clipped light caught
in the wife’s kitchen window:
a measure of blue,
a stitch of green,
a ribbon of pink across
the bridge of her nose.
How it comes on swift wings,
such small disturbances of
Traci O. Connor is a novelist, poet, flash-memoir writer, and author of the short story collection, Recipes for Endangered Species (Tarpaulin Sky Press). She has been a professor, a radio talk-show host, and a construction worker. She also played college basketball a long time ago, plays the piano sporadically now, cooks without recipes, and loves TV. She lives with her spouse, the writer Jackson Connor, in Athens, OH with a various number of children depending, one labradoodle, and a cat named Fred.