Joanna Fuhrman and Toni Simon

The Ruler of Rusted Knees

THE RULER OF RUSTED KNEES

You were the king of all the abandoned bathtubs  and I was the king of air/ space/ time/ questions unlucky fuzzy key chains and speech.  Were you jealous? Um, sorry (?)  I'm was never  actually kidding. You were the king of all the abandoned bathtubs

and I was the king of air/space/ time/ questions

unlucky fuzzy key chains and speech.

Were you jealous?

Um, sorry (?)

I was never / actually kidding.

thoth3

In the beginning, we made birds chirps translated into the language of broken chairs.

No one exactly understood us, so they called us wise.

This was before the bloody fedoras,

before the arrival of floating leaf territory.

rustedknees4

Try to balance
like an idea,

like a balanced
idea, like the idea

of balance like
an idea balanced

on another idea,
on balanced ideas

on many ideas
balancing.

rustedknees5

Back then—you were
the ruler of plastic wrap,

lost words and
radiators.

I was the ruler
of disobedient vowels,

folded origami-style
guidebooks.

rustedknees6

A man with double eights
in his halo is lucky.

A man without a head and double eights
in his halo is unlucky.

Can a man have a halo without a head?
Can a haloed man be unlucky?

If a man is lucky and unlucky at once,
he is doubly unlucky and doubly lucky.

If you try to be lucky,
you’re unlucky.

If want to be unlucky,
you’re in luck!

thoth7

In the beginning, we didn’t need to be friends with all the parts of ourselves.

It was enough to listen to the wind tear the world to pieces.

Later, the wind swallowed parts of ourselves we had no name for

but missed terribly.

rustedknees8

We had happened in many
different somewheres,

and everywheres,
and were here now.

Like the taste of teeth
is here, or the migrating

space around a loose flag.

rustedkness9

You can be the king
of whatever–the-hell

you believe
you are the king of.

Take light,
for example.

If you whispered to the light,
no one would

say you were
wrong to believe

its flashing was a product
of your will.

Artists’ Statement

In our mixed-media literary project, Egyptian gods, stripped of their context and role, wander various New York City neighborhoods trying to figure out where they belong, how to make sense of what they have lost, and how to get along with one another.

In the first step of our project, Toni Simon constructs three-dimensional, small-scale figurines out of paper, modeled on Egyptian gods. She then paints them with abstract, graphic details. We then take the little gods out into different neighborhoods and take hundreds of photographs of them. We select eight to ten images, which become the basis for a series of poems written by Joanna Fuhrman.

So far, we have created picture/poem serial combinations in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Chinatown, the Reversible Destiny Studio, Red Hook and Gowanus (featured here). Parts of the project have appeared online in paperbag and Talisman and in print in the 100th issue of Hanging Loose.

Toni Simon is a multimedia artist living in Brooklyn. Her illustrated book of prose poetry “Earth After Earth” was published by Lunar Chandelier Press in 2012. Over 80 of her illustrations appear in “Contradicta: Aphorisms” (Green Integer, 2010) by Nick Piombino. She has exhibited her drawings at the Drawing Center and at the AIR Gallery in NYC. http://tonisimonart.blogspot.com

Joanna Fuhrman is the author of four books of poetry, most recently “Pageant” (Alice James Books 2009) and “Moraine” (Hanging Loose Press 2006), as well as the chapbook “The Emotive Function” (Least Weasel Press 2011). She teaches poetry writing at Rutgers University and through Teachers & Writers Collaborative. Other sections of her project with Toni appear online at paperbag and Tailsman and in print in the journal Hanging Loose. For more see: Joannafuhrman.com