A Poet of Chance
She was calling for me when I least expected it. Lurking in the hands of an unknown benefactor as she lay in wait, choosing the right moment for her will to collide with my heart.
It was an unusually cold Miami night in the winter of November 2011. My wife, Cindy and I, had been invited to a party thrown by Ferrari at the iconic 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage.
As we traversed up the winding ramps, eyeing the red Ferrari’s of years gone by, we did not know who or what we would find at the top. Greeting us was a gentleman in a fine tailored suit.
He reached into a cloverleaf box and pulled out a gorgeous flame red scarf, handing one to Cindy and one to me. She was warm, soft, cultured and alive! She whispered her name in my ear “Rosettaaah” and caught me off guard. Who was this new muse? This lady in red? This whispering scarf?
Her name was Rosetta Scarf and she held the code to a new aesthetic, a new path, a new way to see. Here was a random encounter with a bold color; an opportunity to work with a new kind of poet- a Poet of Chance. One that knows how the winds of synchronicity blow.
The next day Rosetta decided to accompany me around the graffiti soaked streets of Wynwood and over the next few years, Rosetta would make an appearance whenever she found a subject worthy of her poetry. She became a poet of chance the minute she took flight and fashioned herself into a whirling dervish of bold, arrogant, flowing color.
She punctuated the visual landscape with spontaneous outbursts of improvisation and soared above mediocrity like a Miles Davis solo.
We became inseparable. She became the yin to my yang, the color to my monochrome, the circumference to my circle. With my new found friend we boarded a ship to Europe. The days passed and her moods shifted.
One moment she was alive and elated, and the next she would be melancholy and detached. And so I asked “what is troubling you, my dear?” and she replied “Don’t you know Robin, even red gets blue.” I was beginning to realize she was a deeper red than I thought.
Disembarking in France her blood mood turned into red rage and she took the head off an Aphrodite statue in the ancient city of Senlis outside of Paris. Escape was in order and we leftvitement for the shores of England where my history awaited her.
We took a ride out to Newark Castle where she had the audacity to obscure the very window from which King John saw his very last English landscape before he shuffled off this mortal coil on October 19th in the year of our Lord 1216.
She wasn’t done then either. She refused to let go. She insisted that she accompany me to my old neighborhood where I had grown up in Nottingham, where the playing fields wore the memory of a thousand soccer games, a hundred fist fights and sloppy stolen kisses behind the bike sheds. She was jealous, I could just feel it. She caught a fierce wind and tried to score an epic goal from outside the box, only to find that the wind carried her up onto the crossbar where she performed a grand jete’ to win my heart back.
She then ventured into a spiraling case of social climbing that found her scaling the ramparts of Wollaton Hall, seat of the famed Willoughby family and landed her precocious charisma into the heart of British aristocracy. She had arrived as a rose faced interloper and left as the Duchess of Red Windsor. There was no stopping her. If the Queen herself had knocked at her door, she would have been ready with the most beautiful curtsy that any courtesan had ever given. She had become unknowable to me. I couldn’t reach her in her stratospheric social condition. The walls for entry were too high. She had left me, or so I thought, for the Duke of Devonshire.
How could I compete with the owner of Chatsworth House; he of utmost personage in England? Will her heart be stolen from me forever?
What to do? She had stolen my soul, left my heart in tatters and left me for the pinnacle of society. There was only one thing to do and that was to get on the dog and bone and call up this Duke of Devonshire chappie and challenge him to a duel for the hand of Rosetta.
We met upon the shores of Wastwater, England’s deepest lake. Our weapons of choice: Flintlock pistol for the Duke, whilst I unfurled my longbow. The Duke smirked at the site of the longbow. But little did he know I was a son of Nottingham and had been given the world’s most famous archer’s name at birth . In my wanderings I had come to know the temperamental winds that shifted and shaped the.selves along the screes and valleys of Wastwater.
The Duke fancied himself a great shot and through his arrogance had negotiated that we walk 20 steps away from each other instead of the customary 10. So a distance of 60 feet now was 120 feet. He hadn’t done his homework. Silly boy.
Back to back. We stepped away from each other into the arms of fate. My mind was quiet. The winds of Wastwater whispered their knowledge to me. “Two yards to the left and one yard above will skewer him right in the heart”. We reached 19 steps but the Duke had already turned. His pistol was lined up against my back and he fired! The bullet pierced my right shoulder and a fire of agony shook me to the ground. He reloaded and started his champion’s walk toward me with a grimace of shocking nonchalance. Gone now were the whispers of Wastwater’s winds. I was on the ground with my longbow twisted beneath me. Alas, was the end nigh? Was the party over? My death a mere footnote in the travails and battles of an aristocratic ignoble living out his family motto “Never be second”.
Where heroes exist of course there is a possibility that I may have tucked my switchblade inside my boot. Or I may have been able to access my arrow that lies just out of reach and grabbed it and planted it in the eye of my unsuspecting nemesis. But that only happens to Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood. It doesn’t happen in real life. What happens in real life is that the Duke stepped up to me and without hesitation aimed the pistol at my heart and pulled the trigger and left me for dead. He had conquered his prey. He had won the day. He had out thought his opponent with malice aforethought. He was victorious.
…or so he thought. What he hadn’t taken into consideration were Rosetta’s lingering feelings of compassion for her lower caste ex and she had secretly replaced his spare bullet with a blank. As arrogant men often do, he had assumed too much too soon and my death upon the shores of Wastwater deemed a second look unnecessary. Silly boy. The Duke had walked away and ordered his valet to pull up his Rolls Royce Phantom. Whilst playing dead had met my immediate needs, I was also now in a position of languishing surprise, and the shores of Wastwater it should be known, are home to many small boulders. I picked up a good one, shaped like an angry hornet and hurled it with all strength toward the windscreen of the passing Rolls. It met its mark and the windscreen shattered into a thousand lovely pieces and in the ensuing confusion the valet missed his u-turn upon the narrow lanes of Wasdale and the Rolls plunged sixty feet off a narrow cliff and disappeared into the icy waters of England’s deepest lake. No more Duke. No more valet. No more competition for the heart of my beloved….or so I thought.
In the immediate aftermath, Rosetta came to my rescue and twisted herself into a blood soaked tourniquet. Her repentance was real but everything else about her, apart from her color, had changed. She insisted we depart for America. She ditched the English aristocracy like a red-hot potato. She shook open the doors of Modernism and entered the new world with an enthusiasm that took my breath away. She was not only a gracious social butterfly but a fashionable tastemaker to boot. She became enamored of architect Frank Gehry and painter/ sculptor, Frank Stella, whilst learning the ropes of high modernism from the likes of Philip Johnson and his mentor Mies van der Rohe. These were epic men in the throes of inventing the future of civilization and they all one by one fell in love with her. Johnson even built a piece of architecture based on her philosophy of “spontaneous creation” and it took the shape of a Frank Stella sculpture and is known as “Da Monsta”. It sits on the grounds of Johnson’s glass house estate and of course is painted red; a symbol of his undying love for her….which for a gay man such as Philip Johnson was quite a stretch…but it mattered not. She had a sexual fervor to her that transcended both gender and sexuality. She was HOT, HOT, HOT. She was utterly irresistible. She threw herself high above the Glass House itself, in a poetry of movement that suggested Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao and for one moment, there was the story of 20th century architecture in one place and in one photograph. The strict rectilinear geometry of the International style toying with the flowing winds of deconstructivism. Opposites do indeed attract! This was not enough for Rosetta. She had to get to that other glass house; the original, the best: Farnsworth House by Mies van de Rohe himself. In a fit of brazen opportunism she got on the phone and called up the National Trust and begged them to let her in. They did. She soared above Farnsworth House
Whilst entrancing the indomitable director Maurice Parrish with a cute wink and a nod of grace which allowed her to …languish mellifluously on the inside, taking up space upon Mies’s original Barcelona couch.
God she looked good! She had reinvented herself as a modern maverick. A lady of taste and style. She was pleased to introduce herself as a scarf of substance, too. The measure of her charisma was in uncharted territory. There was not a soul she could not entrance, not a man or a woman, a King or a Queen. Not a devil in high places or an angel in disguise. She had everyone’s number and we all knew it.
She couldn’t sit still. She had a restless heart and a need to be around great beauty, great art and in particular, great sculpture. She forced my hand and drew me into a scheme to invade Storm King Art Center; the greatest of all sculpture parks on 500 acres in the Hudson Valley, an hour north of Manhattan. She had become enamored of Alexander Liberman, Maya Lin, Henry Moore and Daniel Buren and was certain that she, too, belonged there.
She had no filter. She just assumed that she belonged amongst the greats. So she went for it and pulled me along for the ride….and what a ride it was! She lacked not for chutzpah and she took off on a wild hunting spree, spreading herself hither and thither in a fit of ecstatic creative release. She was red rapture incarnate.
She took this as an opportunity and in a shamanic convulsion managed to perch herself atop said podium for one sixtieth of a second and secured herself as a momentary sculptural installation amidst the grandeur of Storm King.
This she knew was her apogee. Her arrival at the top of the mountain. Her place at the right hand of God. It was also a place she could only come down from, for she was no enlightened avatar of the ages. She had no right to be there. It was just a glimpse. A little shaft of light of what it felt like to be….perfected.
And so it proved. Gone was her unquenchable enthusiasm. Gone was her vital charisma. Gone was her self. A downward spiral ensued. A storm surrounded her that was impenetrable. She was desperate.
She was out on a limb, so I took her to see a psychiatrist who offered her prozac and she gobbled them up in a pathological drama that left her adrift from reality.
I tried to console her.. to teach her meditation…to reveal herself to herself….but she would have none of it. She cocooned herself off even from her closest friends. She would disappear for months investigating her own long night of the soul.
She could not find the light. She was looking for the cracks but there was only darkness, and beyond the darkness was only more and deeper darkness. A void. A chasm. A nightmare.
Her whole world had turned upside down. There were monsters down in the deep. They were grotesque and belligerent and rabid and cruel. She was no match for their ferocity and she fell into their cages and she howled with the heaving pain of abandonment. Where now was the grace of the gods? Where now the guiding hand of fate?
Where now the spontaneous creations of yesteryear?
I witnessed her fall from a position of incredulity. I just could not come to terms with the force of her self-sabotage. She had lost her way. She had lost her essence. She was beyond the point of no return. She had hung herself out to dry and crucified herself upon the altar of misery. Even her very redness began to fade. And what was Rosetta without that? She was a plain old Jane of a scarf with no prospects – a girl determined to get to the bottom and stay there.
One day, I couldn’t find her anywhere. I checked the garage, the back garden, the attic and the basement. She was nowhere to be seen. I checked the wardrobe and the cubby hole under the stairs, the pantry and the dog house, the garden shed and the nearby woodlands. For one brief moment I thought I saw her perched on the wall next to the woodpile but it was just a mirage. No sign of her. No note left behind. No trace. She was gone girl.
I phoned the police to file a missing scarf report. Inspector Thoroughgood asked me for a brief description. Height: 7’4’’: Weight; about half a pound: Race; red: Eye color: Red: Clothing last seen in: ‘She’s a scarf, inspector”. He was not enjoying my tone and I didn’t think he was taking me seriously, But serious he was and the next thing I know my phone is beeping with an Amber alert. RED SCARF LAST SEEN IN FORD ESCAPE, TAG NUMBER QRS 157. She had been kidnapped! O crikey me..!! This was way outside my comfort zone. I jumped into our Mini and zipped off down to the Police station. Half way into town, out of the left corner of my eye…I saw her looking out the rear window! If there was one thing about Rosetta…it was that she was instantly recognizable wherever she went and somehow she must have slithered her way into the back seat, opened the window and trapped herself in between the window and the roof of the car, until several feet of her were trailing in the wind like an airport wind sock. She was trying to escape from the escape!
Houdini himself would have been proud of her next move as she caught the bough of a low hanging tree and pulled herself up heroically leaving the escape in the dust. She was a true escape artist….a red scarf to be entranced by, to be moved by, to be loved by.
I tried to catch her but a sudden gust of wind swept her away. She was gone.
She was a love letter to the poetry of chance, a femme fatale toying with the seeming randomness of destiny. She went where the wind blew and took me along for the ride until the hands of fate tore us apart. I hope she returns to me one day as I have so many unanswered questions;
Where did she go?
Did she go on a Shamanic trek to Peru? Did she wash up on a beach?
Did someone run away with her?
Did she get caught on a balcony?
Did she go off to paradise with a billionaire? Did she burn in a fire??
Only to be resurrected as an eagle?
Rosetta, Rosetta where for art thou, Rosetta.