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In Which We Are Reconciled to Other Unfloatable Things

ISSUE:  Spring 2022


Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire. 

—Joan Didion, on the paintings of Thomas Kinkade

With the right sponge and brush, you could
paint these walls to look like marble. In the two-story
foyer, the previous owner left a giant painting 
of southwestern pots. You could float in one 
across the ocean. It’s signed with the fabricated 
American name Chinese factory workers 
were instructed to scribble in the corner. You still need 
to use up your old Thomas Kinkade–print checks. 
On them it’s always dusk or dawn. As in high-end 
real-estate photos, the interior lights are always
on. Oh, how you once hung Monet posters 
in golden plastic frames you had to snap together. 
Too late: The corners were already ripped through 
with thumbtack holes. Of course you’d rather 
be walking by a sun-dappled bank. One in twenty 
Americans owns a Kinkade print. All four 
of his children have the same middle name. 
Always there’s a path winding through 
some snow. You count delivery trucks 
driving cargo up and down your block. There’s no 
vanishing point. Shiny cars are swallowed 
by large garages. You’ve yet to see a neighbor. 
The porticos are grand, like entrances to malls, 
but the columns suggest you live inside a bank. 
At night, light blazes through windows of every
conceivable shape. You hadn’t realized the walls 
are paper-thin. You open and close the checkbook. 
Like prints, the checks are numbered 
in one corner. Always the viewpoint is stalled 
outside an idyllic house. Could this 
insistence of pastel be a joke? A fairy tale 
missing the part where the children 
are lured inside? Painter of Light 
is trademarked. Kinkade stole the title 
from Turner, whose light brushstroked 
over bodies struggling in choppy water. 
The slave ship. Implausibly floating 
on the surface, the victim’s iron-cable chains. 
His sunset is a blaze. Amazon 
sells this print on a shower curtain,
a light switch plate. There are no people 
in Kinkades. Just thatched cabins, docile 
creeks, a curl of chimney smoke. Where 
is thy market now? With one little flick, 
after darkness falls, it’s like you set 
the whole house aflame.



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