[Readings] January 13th | Harper's Magazine
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access

From The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard, edited by Ron Padgett, published in April by the Library of America. Brainard died in 1994.

Mozart is coming out of the machine—real soft—just for company. Like that of a cat, in a room. A bright red Campari and soda sits off to my right, just within arm’s reach. A moment away from the ashtray: a deep blue enameled disk, inlaid with a sliver of white moon and sprinkled with silver specks of something, to represent the stars. All somewhat obscured by three cigarette butts, snuggled up close together⁠—spoon-⁠style—that each say true in tiny blue letters, if you look real close. My left leg, over the arm of the chair, swings back and forth, and back and forth. (Shoes overhead cross room.) Outside my window snow is falling down, against a translucent sky of deep lavender, with a touch of orange, zigzagged along the bottom into a silhouette of black buildings. (The icebox clicks off, and shudders.) And it’s as simple as this, what I want to tell you about: if perhaps not much, everything. Painting the moment for you tonight.