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Trinie Dalton and Cristina Toro 


 

Get to the heart of things, don’t wait. Give as much love away as you can, you will lose a lot in this life and things will suck most of the time but once in awhile that pirate booty rains down upon you and you can party to Prince’s Dirty Mind all night and make up for all the sad times. Nothing is guaranteed and life doesn’t owe you jack. You have to strap on that apron and cook yourself dinner every night if you want to eat. There are a lot of people in heaven gazing down upon you but you can’t see them so likely you lament their disappearance and feel deserted on occasion. You might sing or cry about this. But they are up there with their golden glows, making sure you’re not dying in a gutter. But if you are dying in a gutter it’s your own fault and you’ve got no one to blame but your own damn self. Get up out of that gutter and stop being a fool. There are quaint log cabins and cottages in the mountains and by the sea you can rest at for vittles on your traverses across land and time. These are places of worship and solemnity, places you can hang your hat up and kick back by the fire in the fireplace with a hot toddy and not worry about being knifed on a train. Wearing clean underwear is important; always keep clean britches. What if you find love in one of those log cabins and want to reveal your true self to another? You don’t want your true self to be reflected in a worn out union suit and holey socks.

 

 

The hardest part is if you don’t succeed in life, you’re letting your mama down. And your pappy warned you about everything so if you fall in with the devil he told you so. Even in celebrating and bemoaning the miracles and debacles of life, death, love, sorrow, mystery, traditions that should never be broken, lonely rivers and highways, magical places where discoveries are made, serendipity, curses, unbelievable and unforeseen circumstances, there are only five chords on a guitar to describe this comprehensive and wondrous range of experiences. Two of them are minor chords to give it all a tinge of melancholy, and one is a seventh offering optimism through sharp notes. In another era we went door to door caroling, and we fingerpicked songs on porches while wobbling in rocking chairs, and women only got credit for sideline rhythm guitar, but those days are over. In this band, the sisters clearly rule melodies and harmonies and strumming, and AJ’s name is tarnished for his possessive domination over Maybelle and Sara. That said, he gets points for having aggressively collected songs door to door.

Seriously consider where you want to be buried, for we are taught that it is morbid to discuss death but it is permissible to ruminate upon it musically. Seriously consider where to focus your worry, for it is natural to brood and concentrating anxiety into audible expression is appropriate. These hardships freely admitted in song, however, are not dinner conversation so when people visit your house, zip it, paste a smile on that face, and pretend you are not dwelling on your grave or your latest agony. If it is any consolation, here are two secrets: there is no depression in heaven and heaven has a radio that plays nonstop hits. While alive, unfortunately, there is ample desolation particularly related to your concept of home: out in the wide world there are no hiding places, if you leave home you’ll long for it but conversely there is no home, and the weather away from home is unpredictable at best. There are fierce apocalyptic fires, oceanic storms we now call hurricanes, and unspecified problems with air that we’d likely now chalk up to pollution, and jagged rocky cliffs perfect for flinging yourself over. Be wary of those treacherous rocks and feel free to cry about natural tragedies.

And lastly, love is a fickle thing as we all well know, but overthinking this is expected especially if you’re a woman longing for a man. Jealousy is worthless and ineffective, but women with their fragile constitutions are enigmatically compelled to meditate on envy anyway, sometimes idiotically asking ferns or daisies for solutions. Men steal roses from one’s hair, tell you that you’ll never grow old, lie, fool, forsake your love, tie love knots in your chest, ramble and tramp around like hoboes, but somehow it is still ironically pertinent for the innocent one to sing songs begging for repentance, forgiveness, and clemency. Rarely do women seek vindication, but when they do it is vitriolic, making for some of the most heroic songs, in their admiring of single girls, in their insistence that wrongs are righted, in their reminders that their lives are short to solicit immediate appreciation, in their reminders that they have the power to suicide if pushed too far, in their indignant return of your gold watch and chain, in their demand for fifty miles of elbow room, and in their tributes to drunk criminals like John Hardy, whose diminutive size instilled in him an unquenchable desperation so that he shot many with his two guns, and was then visited in prison by the ghosts of the girls he killed, like the one in the red dress who said she wanted him dead.

Stern old bachelors may sing about their satisfactions with being single, guys may pine over having two sweethearts, and men may howl about the unattainability of love, but isn’t it odd that they don’t on occasion wish their women dead? It is perfectly apposite to wish someone you hate to be dead, but likewise it is very un-Christian so if you admit murderous urges, especially in mid-winter, get yourself to a church in the wildwood so you can either hop a gospel ship, gaze upon the cross for redemption, or stand outside in the steeple’s shadow to remind yourself that springtime is coming and that there will once again be sunshine on your soul. 

 

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Trinie Dalton is author/curator of six books, including her most recent Baby Geisha (Two Dollar Radio). She is Faculty Chair of MFA in Writing & Publishing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she is also Core Faculty in the Low Residency MFA in Writing program. 

 

Originally from Puerto Rico, Cristina Toro has been creating and exhibiting her work on a wide scale for over ten years. During this time she has received many honors including a grant from the New York Council for the Arts and a prestigious Painting Fellowship from the New York Foundation of the Arts. She has had exhibitions in New York, Boston, Tokyo, and Mexico, to name a few. Her work is in numerous public and private collections, including that of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina; HPFrance Tokyo; and the US Art in Embassies Program. She lives and works in upstate New York. 

 
Music: "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room," The Carter Family, recorded 1941.
Title Illustration by Trinie Dalton

 

  © Ninth Letter, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

 

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