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Jaime Shearn Coan



There are un-current vistas roamed again and again, and there are heart-shades that cover them, distance them from now. Like the masking film Rubylith used in screen-printing: a guide for how to see later.


Afternoons in the printing studio, hoping for artistic inspiration, settling for the richness of the process, the procedure marked out by the hands, changing shape every week. Things grow in obvious ways and there are sharp smells and chemicals that stain. Squeegees spread thin the ink that becomes image.


We set up scenery in our minds and think it is indestructible.


This morning, through a crack in my first floor window, I catch the grey-day coolness of San Francisco. I look out of these eyes from a past place; I am perched on a fire escape, looking out at lemon trees and clouds, tall houses, morning glory purpling everywhere, salt on the tongue. An old love is rooted in my mind, stuck there sparkling like a trick birthday candle that refuses to be blown out. The fact that I mainly remember sun on those mornings is a signal towards distrust.


The struggle to see in reverse never quite perfected.


To expose a screen using Rubylith, you remove the top layer (a shiny deep red), with an Exacto knife. You peel back the color where you want the ink to sink through, and leave red-stained the areas that will not absorb. You are creating a ghost print, a negative that comes to life one color at a time. To do this, it is necessary to change the way you look, to let your eyes relax until they see around rather than through; the space rather than the object.


It depends on the light.


Two figures on the fire escape: I am leaning back between the legs of another, his elbow on my shoulder, the sun flushing my face. We are still there, I say, which is why, when I see him these days, I stumble. How could we be here—in lamplight, no hands on shoulders or sun, speaking in starts and stops, holding our selves tenderly—when we are still there, looking out into perfect blue, hearing the buzz of bees as they visit the vines that twist around us.


Eyes sting, eyelids stutter, stutter—colors collect at cheekbone, readying to make falls.

This paper, too, is marked with the effort of removal.

Jaime Shearn Coan

Jaime Shearn Coan teaches literature and writing at the City College of New York, leads creative writing workshops with LGBTQ at-risk youth through the New York Writers Coalition. She is at work on a novel, Touching the Lighthouse, and lives in Brooklyn.

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