"The Sonosopher" is the tentative title of a full-length, feature documentary film that is currently in production. This film will document the life and creative works of poet, polyartist, sonosopher, scholar, teacher, mentor...Alex Caldiero. The documentary and this blog are a portion of a greater, ongoing effort to record, document, and archive Alex's life and works.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Unpublished review: Memory Sees in Slices

photo by Don LaVange. original at


This collaborative event at the Surface, Back Alley Gallery, is what Robyn Hitchcock would call a "Victorian squid . . . It's greasy and hot, when you've had lots then you'll want more." On an evening in late May, at the end of the first really hot day of the season, a small crowd filters down an alley off Second West and into what was once a house.

Mixed-media paintings and drawings by Alison Marie Perreault on the walls. A huge compartmentalized mural, for instance, called “Doll House.” Tenement dolls. Not a pretty picture -- except as abstracted in a viewer
=s eye and slashed across by a sharp blade of sunlight. “God in the Bedroom,” a grim-faced naked man standing inside a door and looking past a woman curled into a fetal position on a bed. “Sunday,” a naked woman stretched out brazenly in the foreground, hand in a tub of popcorn, and in the background, through a door, a tiny man sitting stiffly at a table, reading a newspaper.

The crowd of maybe 50 sits in four tight-fitting sections of chairs arranged for a performance that will circle the room. Alex Caldiero appears in a door, his black shirt open at the neck, his black hair and beard trimmed short. He sways, uncertain, on the threshold. With his right hand, he bangs a drum tucked under his left arm, developing a slow rhythm. He stumbles, slumps. He is unable to enter the room. He fights to continue the simple rhythm. And then it’s over. He enters. He stands in front of “Doll House” and reads from a sheaf of white paper in a worn black binder.

“Reads” isn't verb enough. Caldiero whispers. He moans. Shouts. Hums. Chants. Spits. Grimaces. Dances. He does hold his binder in front of him. He does read its script. But he performs a physical, bodily transubstantiation. Words become flesh. “Remembering is a kind of dreaming / (speaking is a kind of bleeding) / forgetting is a second death.”

“Audiobiography,” the poet announces, his face to the east wall. He slaps his face. Then again, and again. A chilling sound. Remembered violence is a second death as well. He turns to the room's center with a smile and shuffles a practiced soft-shoe step and throws out his arms and smiles even more concertedly.

“I write my pain and the words have no feeling,” Caldiero says in his strong bass voice. The touch of a Brooklyn accent. And the hint of Sicilian herbs.

Holding a flat, single-skinned drum close to his mouth, standing in front of “God in the Bedroom” so that his face and the desolate face of the naked standing man repeat and reinforce their separate sorrows, Caldiero keens a repeating mantra: “I've got poison in my brain. . . . poison in my brain.” The words are distorted and amplified by the vibrating drumhead. Can he leave this self-reinforcing loop? Is this the song that never ends?

Moving to the north wall (thank god for movement), Caldiero stands before the long youthful leg of the small-breasted woman whose man reads the Sunday paper in the next room. “When he / no longer drinks / at her breast / When she / no longer sips / at his mouth / The sun / does not / come.”

There are lovers in the audience. And ex-lovers. Multiple lines cross the room. Tensions from the past and from the future. “And this was not the food,” Caldiero intones, “after which you never hunger. Oh, Jesus, it was the food after which you were hungrier than ever before.”

His strong face glistens with sweat. He looks up. He relaxes and in a sweet voice recites a love poem: "Your hair / is a labyrinth / I can never hope / to get out of... / This is the beginning of a / love poem. / I'll just leave it at that."

The audience relaxes too. Caldiero lifts his forehead, arching his dark eyebrows, then he brings all his face’s flesh together in two concentrated creases above his nose. “If I get close,” he says, “the mark on your forehead begins to resemble the face of a man screaming. / If I get real close, the open mouth begins to resemble a mark on the forehead of a woman turning into the head of the man I'm getting closer and closer to. / The colors are so livid” he shouts, “they spill.”

Silence. I look at the mottled wall between the paintings, at the blind west window, at the windowed door, knob absent, covered from the outside with a box addressed to someone in the Czech Republic.

Caldiero’s voice, calmer now, takes up a story. “I ran from my death,” he says, “I built walls / between me & my death - / I went thru doors, / bolted them behind me . . .And when I had / locked the final door / behind me . . . There was my death / waiting for me all / the while sitting on / an easy-chair - / It looked at me / and said, / ‘Just testing. / Just testing.’"

A cricket lends its voice to the performance. The blade of light withdraws from the “Doll House.” Caldiero sits and drums and recites: “One morning you and I and everyone will wake up and love will have been re-invented. . . . [We’ll] live in houses with no doors, no windows, no walls, floors or ceilings -- better than any wilderness.” He drums feverishly. He rolls wild ecstatic eyes to the absent sky. He shouts nonsense between drumbeats. He reaches a climax and suddenly falls silent. “The mechanic,” he says quietly, “is through. Now we can make love again.”

1 comment:

Grabloid said...

Again...amazing post, Scott! I really enjoyed reading it, I hope you keep posting stuff like this...