Sunday, June 19, 2011

a broken window

a broken window,
a water-stained cardboard box,
up pointing sideways

Walking down the alley between the courthouse and the square, my eye gets caught by the word "up" and the arrow pointing not up but sideways, in the direction I am walking. I stop and stare for a long time. A broken window in an alley, not so surprising. A piece of a cardboard box used to seal the broken window, not unusual. But there is something intriguing about the whole scene. The circular pattern of the break in the shatterproof glass suggests a rock thrown at the window. To what purpose? A prank, an attempt at entry? Rather than repair the window, someone taped a piece of cardboard over the glass. The function of a window is to let light in and allow a view out, but now the light and the view are blocked. From the rain stains on the cardboard, it appears that the window has been broken for a long time. Perhaps the room behind the window is a storage room and no one cares about a view of the alley or natural light. The usual function of a box is a container, an empty hole to be filled, but this box has been flattened, its emptiness collapsed and its surface converted to a different purpose. The function of the word "up" and the arrow gives notice of how the box should be properly oriented. Now the arrow points sideways and the word "up" is lying on its side. But no one cares whether a box converted to a cover is properly oriented. The whole picture looks like something you might see in a museum of modern art, the elegant brown scrawl of the rain stain, the radiating lines of shattered glass and the ambiguity of the word "up."

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