1. Remember reading novels in sixth grade (say, Where the Red Fern Grows) and getting to the part where the author describes forest life or the look of the rickety old shed? And remember skipping those parts? Did you wonder if the teacher would quiz you on those passages? Only she never did, she just oohed and ahhed. Because you can’t ask, “Was it a shed of birch or pine?” So ooh, so ahh, so untested.
2. Every time A. and I see a plastic bag blown up high against a cityscape, preferably wooshed like Marilyn’s dress above a subway grate, if at all possible tossed against a plain brick wall, we always gush with satire: It’s so beauuuutiful! We do this because of the film American Beauty, in which such sentiments are expressed without satire, but within a satirical context, so it’s hard to tell.
3. All my landscapes are internal.
4. I saw American Beauty on the big screen while I was living in L.A. The movie had been described to me so many times that the frames were at once lush and flat.
5. Or perhaps it is just Los Angeles I’m remembering now. Flat and overripe—American beauty but only in a satirical sort of way.
6. In Simulations, Baudrillard writes: Los Angeles is encircled by these “imaginary stations” which feed reality, reality-energy, to a town whose mystery is precisely that it is nothing more than a network of endless, unreal circulation—a town of fabulous proportions, but without space or dimensions. This is one of my favorite descriptions.
7. Baudrillard’s point is that L.A. has achieved the status of the hyperreal. A comfort for those of us whose sojourns there slackened our taste for reality.
8. For a long time I couldn’t describe what it was like to be in Los Angeles.
9. When I think hyperreal, I replicate skylines and horizons inside of me, I feel them right below my ribcage, I sling the nets of them over each new field of vision, superimpose them like a stack of film stills.
10. Hyperreal also makes me think that perhaps there’s something phosphorescent about me—maybe landscapes glow in my gut like alien probes.
11. I’m trying to simulate simultaneity.
12. I’m also trying to be transparent but maybe I’m coming off opaque or phosphorescent.
13. Trick question: a) birch b) pine c) plastic bag d)
14. Whenever we see none of the above, we are convinced more than we should be that that is the answer.
“Describing Description” from LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010). Reprinted with permission from Becca Klaver and Kore Press. Poem also appeared in 27 Rue de Fleurs.
BECCA KLAVER is the author of the poetry collection LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010) and the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost press, 2010). A founding editor of the feminist poetry press Switchback Books, she’s a PhD student in the Literatures in English program at Rutgers University, and holds previous degrees from the University of Southern California and Columbia College Chicago. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY.