Cigarette Constellations

By: Avalon Lee

The ink darkens, leeching my energy as I trace an index over the text. A rejection letter from California Institute of the Arts, and best regards. No better than every other art academy who also shelved my portfolio.

The letter lands neatly in the bin. I stalk to my studio.

Fraying daylight displays my museum of oil paint tubes. Void canvasses yearn for a purpose, and palettes suffocate under acrylic stains.

Great art comes from great pain. After all, what is a writer in a happy marriage? A violinist with three square meals? A true artist should not have cancer-free parents, nor live in a middle-class suburb. A true artist can’t afford Prismacolor pencils or moleskin sketchpads.      

Come hither, Misery! Make way for the modern Hephaestus, god of the forge and arts. Abandoned by his own mother because of his deformed feet. Suffering burnt his bones to charcoal, so he shades pottery scenes with his own femur.

 All nine rejection letters singe my cardboard skull, giving my art meaning. Purpose. Each casts coal into the furnace, emboldening my brush strokes. I scavenge for a cigarette and a lighter before setting to work.

A quarter of an hour passes. I kill my smoke. Now, the mirror’s echo shows poetry in sculpture form.

Great art comes from great pain.

Toss away those binoculars, mere mortal. I am the blacksmith of the constellations, so admire my craft with virgin sight. Connect the dots, give them names. Preferably Greek. See the Big Dipper, how it scoops a spoonful of atmosphere, brothlike. The outer star points straight to Polaris, the bellybutton of the heavens.   

Tsk. Orion is missing his buckle. If his lover finds out, she’ll slip arsenic in my ambrosia.

I relight my cigarette, and like a god, burn another star in the sky.