“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours.”—Frederick Buechner
In 1963, Andy Warhol silkscreened thirty back-and-white images of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa onto a canvas. The work was less than perfect. Any t-shirt printer will tell you that Warhol’s squeegee angle was sloppy, his ink application was inconsistent, and his registration was a mess. Since there were thirty “Mona Lisas,” Warhol named the piece Thirty are Better Than One.
“Make it more obscure,” a student says in an undergrad poetry workshop. This after the assignment says be specific, always specific, and avoid abstraction. And cliché.
A couple hours drive outside of Jackson, Mississippi, the Windsor ruins are all that remains of an antebellum home that survived the Civil War only to catch fire in 1890. The fire destroyed the original floor plans, photographs of the house, every brick baked and laid by the injustice of slavery. Even the original name of the plantation home is forgotten; Windsor refers to the sound of the wind passing through the trees and the pillars left to hold up the sky. The only record of the mansion’s appearance is a drawing by a Union officer, sketched while encamped on the grounds.
The downstairs bathroom was the most unique room in our home. Its walls were decoupaged with pages of poetry and fiction by the previous owner. I showed it off whenever friends came to visit—it’s even where my bio pic was taken. Then, the day before leaving for my first MFA residency, it flooded. We had gone to the water park and returned to discover my son had left the upstairs bathroom sink running with the drain plugged. The walls were ruined.