Portrait of my Mother

Mike Corrao



I would not like to read another Pynchon novel,
especially if it is written by someone else.

Between leaves of grass, I can see a multitude of pastiches,
endlessly complicated, speaking to one another. They begin
to overlap and coagulate into something

indistinguishable and beautiful.

He has decided to create a fictional mother, of whom he will make a portrait.
One which adequately depicts her as she did not live.
Made from a collage of works which she was not comprised of.
“Christ, will you look at that,”

she won’t say. “It looks just like me, doesn’t it?”
and it will not.

“What are the components?”
He says.

“There cannot be any Pynchon. I don’t want to read anymore
He says.

“Is there something more current we can use? Something
that’s more postmodern. Or post postmodern.”

“Is she spiritual?”
A doctor crosses his legs, and he progresses or he promotes
an aggressive kind of eye contact, which is disturbing
and perpetual. Like the left hand of god. The eyes in his palms.
“Is she a spiritual woman?” His mother.

A spiritual woman is a woman who contains or perpetuates spirit.
Does she. She does. Alright then.
What kind of spirit does she contain or perpetuate?
Plenty of it. What kind. All that there is, I guess. ‘other’ then. I suppose so.

“Do you have any magazines in the waiting room?”
He says.

Minoru sweating, Godot has come. He is here now.
She’s nervous that there is no more waiting to be done
and that what has always been proposed offhandedly may now come
to fruition.

He thinks of his mother here.
Someone who has always been imagined and distant,
but who has now come out of the void,
in a time of convenience.
She is here

or she is not.

He has begun to suffer from memories of her.
All fabricated of course. Or
unfabricated, yet containing only fabrications.

Memory is not fake, but everything in it is.
A mise-en-scene has appeared.
Clear and hallucinatory.

A tall stack of newspapers. Ads. Flyers.
Books and ripped pages. Dime novels.
Everything is stacked on the coffee table,
laid out for inventory related purposes.

On the corner where he lives, there are four cameras.
They are all pointed at the same 6 by 6 foot patch
of sidewalk.
They twitch and blink when a pedestrian passes by.
He walks past the cameras and feels grotesque.

They examine his body and he feels grotesque.
He squirms and walks home.

A talk show host analyzes the face of his guest.
There is a movie or an album being promoted.
Likely a movie. Singers are only sometimes
charismatic, and at times not allowed to speak,
only to sing, or play their instrument.

He walks around his apartment.
Ignores the television. Cooks dinner.
Sighs and eats. He remembers that there
are cameras outside. And they can’t see
into his apartment. But he’s still worried
that they are out there.

“I can’t drink water, it’s bad for my acid reflux.”
He says.

He stops drinking water.
There are other things to focus on.
Like creating a portrait of his mother,
which he had temporarily forgotten about.
She was a spiritual woman, he has decided.
and in her own right,
she was a kind of kindred Godot.

in all honesty.

This is just a nice way to say
that she was always a very flaky woman.

And that is okay.

“What kind of woman was she?”
Someone says.

“I think she was like Sophie Calle or.
Someone else maybe.”
He says.

“Whenever she was around, I felt
like she might be up to something.”

“There was an ulterior motive. Or.”
He says.

“It was just the sheer sight of her.
Snaps her fingers,
and I turn into a paranoiac.”
He says.

There is a certain kind of wood that he has been trying to order.
He initially thought that it was a fake name, or a joke.
But, in some aphoristic way, it now seems justified that he make
the collage on novel wood. Or novelwood.

Distributors have spelled it both ways. Like color and colour.
Although in this case, they seem uninterested in that same kind
of american distinction, and more interested in the way that it looks.

He orders a shipment, indeterminately and waits for it to arrive.
Next week.

There is a house filled with sand,
which pours in slowly from a crack in the roof.
The house is underground kind of.
It pours in from a crack in the ceiling


someone, his mother, during her childhood
is forced to sit around in the house
and shovel out all of the sand, as it fills up
and turns into dunes.

This must have had some effect on her.
She’s become less bored.
Or learned much earlier than he did,
That it is not a bad thing to be bored.

She is a woman who will lie down on the couch
and rest if she needs to.
She doesn’t turn on the television and watch talk shows.

He has become engrossed with the host,
who always seems to be staring at his guest,
like a camera, or a man in a window.

“We’ll be right back.”
He says.

After a couple of minutes,
they are right back and the conversation

“You ate a ghost pepper on set?”
He says.

“That I did.”
The guest says.

“How hot was it?”
He says.

“My mouth was on fire.
I was crying and sweating.”
The guest says.

He’s become concerned by a set of problems.
They have fully manifested.

He is no longer so certain that he should be
doing this. That it is okay for him to make
a fake mother. Or a fake person at all.
Characters are okay, but someone so intimate.
There is something so psychoanalytic about it.
He does not want to be a therapist, or to sound
like he’s begging to talk to one. He thinks
that this may be too familial.
It is okay to make characters, but is it okay
when the implication is that they are replacing
real people? Or taking up a place which
could otherwise be taken up by a real person?
He is concerned that he may spark a kind of
political debate, where opinionated people
begin to argue over this mother that he has begun
to make, asking if it’s okay for her to be.

He is concerned about this,
about people who watch other people.
By whatever means.

It is not a matter of being real or fake.
It is about what we may imitate and mimic.
A mime is only allowed to pantomime bodies.
They are not allowed to pantomime real people.

From the kino eye even the mime’s body is grotesque.

He would like to see a mime pretend that they are
walking past a set of four cameras.

He wants to know what kind of way the mime
would walk, or if he would refuse
because it made his body feel grotesque as well.

A stranger may go crazy one day.
Not him of course.
He will not go crazy.
But a stranger may, and go crazy, and
decided to imitate an entire city.

He’ll take an entire city, put cameras all over the place,
in all the hotspots across town.

And he’ll fill the space with a mass of actors who have
all been given a specific character to act out.

They’ll go about their lives, as real people do,
and perform jobs and perform family gatherings,
pretend eat and drink, be merry, all of this.

A stranger then may go crazy and pastiche an
entire city, and he will read an article about it
on Vice. The man will be wearing a balaclava
and a voice modulator will be edited over the
audio and he will think,

“it is not so crazy that I pastiche a portrait
of a mother that I don’t have.”

The television in his apartment has been turned
to face the wall.
He’s trying to stop wasting time watching it.

Nature is not as important as he initially thought.
Everything is synthetic.
It’s being made out of concrete and different plastics.
This is not a horrible thing. It rests in his gut differently,
and he has dreams occasionally
that he is also made of plastic, or
that he is part of the pastiched city,
and has just forgotten.

“I don’t want to be a hassle.”
He says.

“Why is your T.V. facing the wall?”
She says.

“I’m trying to watch less T.V.”
He says.

“You could hide the remote.”
She says.

“I would know where it is still.”
He says.

The floor was always crooked, but now after a couple of years,
when he’s locked into this lease for the next 24 months
or so, the floor has become more noticeably crooked. There
is no longer anything discreet about it.

They look at each other and they both feel as if they are
standing wrong.

“Christ, will you look at that?”
There are a set of four or five red cars all parked in a row.
What are the chances of something like that? Even if it was planned.
Still odd to see. What kind of woman was she? Stern? Not bored?

It all feels unethical and wrong. Strange and wrong.
Purposeless and wrong, I guess.

And the doctor agrees. The doctor says that she must not have been
a spiritual woman. She must not have existed at all.
The doctor asks him what compelled him to create this illusion,
why he would want to pretend.

“It will not look like anything he’s made before.”
One says.

“He doesn’t often make collages. He does other things.
Like watch Youtube videos.”

“It’s not often that he gets up and walks around, or even stretches.”

“What is he trying to assemble? An assemblage? Of course.”

In an apocalyptic manner, he can feel the approach.
Rib cages laid out in the grass, leaving impressions.
There is a pocket where you can see something has been set down.
The meat is gone for the most part, but fibers remain between.
They must be the intercostals, or some matrices that connected
the intercostals to the rib bones. It must be a dear.
With the size being what it is. And the whole thing being where it is.
He thinks about how it got there. If the deer was attacked
by coyotes or if some stranger had seen it out of place and had decided
to drag it uphill and into the tall grass.

This was not what approached. It was proof though.
If the dirt is flesh, then this may be the stigmata.
Divine manifestations of what is to come. That maybe there is a beast
which doesn’t slouch towards Bethlehem, but towards somewhere
less weighed down with signifiers. Like
Waukesha, or Bloomington, or Climax, or Eau Claire. A Midwestern place
that we often don’t think about outside of small talk.

His stomach makes a strange sound and he drives to the hospital.
Montage of sweat and hyperventilation and vomit, constipation.
He’s just hungry. Not malnourished or dying. Go to McDonalds.

Nothing to do with water. They said.

“This was Late Night Tonight. Thanks everyone.”
He says.

It must be rare for a talk show to be cancelled. One as popular as this.
The host could have been bad, in front of or behind the scenes.
He may have been standing in the wrong place, or talking to the wrong people.
Likely to think that letters had been sent in complaining about the way
he stared at guests during the interviews.

The worst possibility is that it had something to do with the portrait.
Someone may have heard about it second hand, and told the host.
The host might have said something like,

“Interesting. That sounds like the type of art I want to see.”

And the word would have gotten around slowly. It’s been awhile now.
And audience members thought the whole mess was unethical
and wanted nothing to do with a host who thought this was okay.

He was fired.


no one cares about the portrait. It doesn’t exist yet.

A fever dream perpetuates.
An existent and being.
“Christ, will you look at that.”

The portrait becomes a theoretical triptych.
It is a compromise he is willing to accept.

Ethical, Unethical, Apathetic.

He outlines the sections in his head
and he mentions them in passing at dinner with friends.

They are interested, also in passing, but then forget
when a physical object never appears in front of them.

Flights to other friends. Airbnb’s. Disconnected cameras.

The triptych
goes on tour.

And he participates from a healthy distance.

This was not his mother.
Left hand of god, it could not of been.

There was no need to look any


Mike Corrao is a young writer working out of Minneapolis. His work has appeared in Entropy, Cleaver, decomP, and more. His first novel will be released by Orson’s Publishing in fall of 2018. Further information can be found at www.mikecorrao.com.