In February of 1992 I was prepping a lunch break reading in the court yard of U.T. at Austin's School of Architecture. A cultural exchange between Texas and the Netherlands had brought me to U.T. already in 1987. At the time I was working in the multicultural theater world as a designer, dramaturg and actors coach. During that earlier visit I met with the Dean of the Fine Arts Department who introduced me to the chairman of the Drama Department, Coleman Jennings, who invited me to return some day as a guest artist. The Prince Bernhard Foundation enabled me to do so by presenting me with a travel grant.
By the time I made it back to U.T. it was five years later though, and unbeknownst to my host, the literary aspects of the theater had become more interesting to me than design, I had started to write.
Was it coincidence that the graduate student, in charge of making flyers to anounce my presence introduced me as a "Performance Artist" from the Netherlands? Possibly not, after all, I had performed in my own production "Man in Space". Still, the department's history scholar, the late professor emiritus Oscar C. Brockett, knowing he hadn't come across my name in publications, handed me a pile of High Performance magazines. "Take a look at these," he said.
To make a long story shorter, I decided on the spot I would do what was expected of me, I would, if not perform, read my poetry out loud in public. As a guest artist I was welcome at the Fine Arts Departement, at the Drama Department and after a meeting with Marcos Novak, at the time Associate professor at the School of Architecture, there as well.
On that day in February I had started reading the text of my Chicken Lunch Break poem from my Commadore 64, when I noticed from the corner of my eye how a blue blob approached me, and a blue eyed Texan materialized.
"You're working against the wind," he whispered in my ear.
"I know," I looked at the pile of calculator paper at my feet, on which I'd hand written the poetry I recited from my laptop.
"Let's do something about it," he said.
While I continued with my Lunch Break poem he wound the calculator paper around the four palm trees cornering a Roman style pond.
Eating chicken with my hands brings back memories/ in the metro
thoughts of others brush aside my own/ my brain like a station's steady flow of new and old/ my fingers slippery from chicken fat the words are mixed and I get a line down on paper marbled with stains of grease and watercolors/ pictures blend/ my tongue is locked behind the eager lips/ the key I swallowed after I learned to speak/ in refuse mingled with delicacies/ I see at the bakery the pastries he offers on his anniversary/ or was it ours my 21st his 3 rd/ or was it a birthday I forget/ or is it the melting pot the pot au feu the ever-boiling contents of the bowl I carry on my shoulders/ when at ease it looks like fruit my body a fruit-cake/ and otherwise a volcano a factory/ and I the off-key hand/ every other delivering/ and/ all I hear/ are bells somewhere next door/ in my mind/ on the night-table/ someone who needs to say that one singular important thing/ in it goes and then I need to add some/ to delete/ to lengthen/ to offer more or many/ and even the one and only/ the television has no power no use for a plug/ I need my words in print to eat chicken in peace.
Is it silence you hear rather than words/ white not a color you merely perceive through the void against red blue and yellow and all that comes in between/ am I because you see me/hear me/feel me/if so may I be in your mind/can I be in the picture for me I exist because of you your space
The graduate student made photographs
Meaningful? The man who walked into my life and live performance is still at my side.