31 Days of Art, Day 5: Corrosion

Today’s #31DaysofArt2020 challenge got a little philosophical, even though I, as a rule, am usually not (unless I’ve had a few beers and we’re hanging out around a firepit. I challenge anyone to remain un-philosophical in such a situation.) I started thinking about a theme/narrative I’ve seen pundits repeat multiple times in the past few years, the idea that our system and institutions have somehow “eroded.” And I’ve often thought that framing doesn’t quite hit the mark, so I got all poetical to explain why.

Day 5: Corrosion

Erosion was the word they used, and it was a good one—evocative, eternal, personifying the daily, deadly drip drip drip of the words and thoughts that reached out from the screen to wrap you up, muffle your head. It nagged, as you brewed another cup of coffee. The hot, dark bitterness would slice through the fog for a short while, long enough to get out another sentence, read two more emails.

But it didn’t last as long as it used to, and instead of alert energy, the end of the cup would leave you with granular detritus and the feeling that something could have been done much earlier and now every single action or motion was an uphill battle in a fight in which you were already standing in calf-deep mud on the low ground. Erosion. Like the rain that washed down the denuded hill, piling mud and roots and earth clots against you, burying you deeper and deeper.

Erosion was the beach sand, carted to the shore to make space at the hotel’s edge for those who gathered with bare faces and expensive drinks, not as watered down as they used to be, not as powerful as they could be. The waves would come in, bit by bit, day by day, year by year, eating way bite by sandy bite. Perhaps they would feast one night or two in a larger storm, washing everything away, leaving a narrow strip of dirt until the men came with trucks and loads and sanded over everything, maybe planting a futile strip of ice grass to prevent more erosion.

That’s not this. This is the creeping chemical combination that leaches into the once sturdy framework of the carnival wheel, the abiding onslaught of water and wind as it eats away at iron and steel, subverting the strength of the once indomitable bulwark.

Erosion is a granite rock, a mountain shelf, an encroaching root system, a thousand years of rain, and a final crack and split of a once-mighty boulder. The boulder doesn’t rage against the rain nor the root, nor does the mountain spare a regretful thought for its once-whole profile.

That is erosion.

These are acid pathways of bile that lace themselves through your feed, some of them fed and fractured in the words from one you once called friend. These are images and words ejaculated context-less into the void, landing with sharpened claws and nails into the soft frames, perfectly fertile ground for the grooves and trenches to form between each thread-thin connection. These are soft, stinging whips of hatred and insincere smiles, applied in an afterthought of malice. This is the collection and confusion of pity met with scorn.

Erosion is too soft a word.

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