What is it we see when we’re captured by pictures taken of the sea? Sunny Aegean or Mediterranean fishing village nestled in a cove overlooking a bag of diamonds sparkling in a blue mist, houses cloistered and precipitously layered, seemingly carved into the cliffs by millennia of wind and rain. Tourists line those cliffs and suck those houses in, all their losses willed into a billowing hate of their London, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Rouen. What do we want, what do we yearn for as we stand gazing at the porthole of the frame? To be there, yes, for our lives to be different, better, but also to be lost in the maze of its medieval architecture, hands trailing the cool adobe walls as the aromas of oregano, marjoram, thyme, lavender, of fish frying in garlic, basil, tomatoes and olive oil suffuse us. We want to lose ourselves in those sensual smells, to become part of that place, to throw ourselves down into those glittering shoals, to drown in that crystalline water and have our bodies smashed against the shoreline rocks, our blood bathing the beach, seeping into the sand so that we will never have to leave.
I wore white to the war. I wore it like a lily out in the open under the sun. I wore it like an open robe when the apostles turned away in disbelief. At the blood wounds no openings save for the thorns poking through at the crown, and a ring of gold in each palm. I wore white to the protest and waved a white flag of surrender to confusion, and picked up grey stones and lobbed them…
Overwhelmed by society’s demands,
I ask Grandma:
“Mangie Rose…how do I know that I’m doing the right thing?”
And with a loving smile
She answers gently:
“What is it like to be the orange?
You are sweet, and you are sour
You are loved for one of those, you are hated for the other
The lemon may claim to be your better,
And so may the tangerine and the other citrus fruits
But you have a name almost nothing can rhyme with.”
I’ll use every word
I ever learned
three times over
trying to make something
as certain circumstances
refracting and dispersing
light and water
name fifty shades of blue
in an attempt to
describe the shadow
across your eyes
twilit and troubled
in that city overcast
by tall buildings
and dying men
we are ants with
a pile of sand
and three weeks to live
trying to build
you argue that ants
aren't aiming for beauty
just tunnels and chambers
and a treasury of eggs
I look at the new overpass
just a curve of concrete
point a to point b
and if that were all
I’d be inclined to agree
but there is that span
of bridge, spiderweb
tensile and grace
singing songs of
orange light soaring
over a hundred thousand
cars like ants
in the morning rush
spun out of imagination
and a desire to match
the wisdom of biology
the beauty of wildness
the chance collision
of light and water
into glory risen high
in the face of time
On the hill, there was only one tree splayed against the butter-blue sky. It sprouted from ash, and in the black dust the Silver Man found a shadow with its roots in the soil. The sun stood tall and scorching white at the peak, poised to strike and pull the shaded island down to the dark and greedy flames which lick below the earth, and leave only a tired horse befuddled against the butter-blue.
“I know,” raspy and certain from the ash, beneath the weathered hat. He looked up.
“Those are the bones of a cat,” said the shadow, and pointed to a pile…
Regarding her work, the artist says:
How We Move in the Face of the Hollow Man is part of a series based on the interactions of small silhouettes, and like other images in the series, it dropped into my head and begged to be released. While painting the Hollow Man, I realized the work was my visceral response to the 2016 election and the new president. Unlike other shallow people who walk through our lives, Trump gained power, which inspired me to feel desperate to decipher his motives; to discover his plans. However, investigation yielded only emptiness.
I didn't want the dominant character to resemble the president because he is not alone in his hollowness. Ironically, no matter how earnest we search to understand, being hollow means there is nothing to connect to. Yet rather than destroy them, it is wiser and more compassionate to work to dismantle them-which requires the diligent effort of many people.
Rain, then the last
crickets and the cold
blooming in clouded air
all my mourning
draped, black featherwing
secret things I already knew
soft now, with first rain
the incense of damp earth
washing over me;
descent into winterdark
to the places I already know
the lightless ones
under the over world
where my unborn children
mourn their unbecoming
and haunt, in voices like mine
It occurs to me I’m uncomfortable / not because I do not accept another person’s right to identify as they wish // No, I am irritated that someone else’s right to identify as they wish means I must take a breath / consider my pronoun use / which should not be a big deal should it? / except it must be a big deal because I am irritated feeling the need to conform to someone else’s whims / someone who is not like me / someone who I imagine has a much harder life than I do getting through days / yet here I am / here I am complaining I am put in a position of having to think // Wait, it’s as simple as that / isn’t it? / I’m upset because I am being forced to unlearn
Regarding her work, the artist says:
I’ve always loved art that makes a person think. I try to create art that has multiple meanings, or a meaning that can be interpreted in various ways by different people, because I think artistic expression is a strong reflection of the mind. It has many different facets, unspoken thoughts, and a certain façade that presents itself to the public world. For this piece in particular, I wanted to try and visually depict what nothingness feels like on a human level: a sort of calm fragmentation that is very hard to shake.
down the red river from the mouth of his
throat to just below his chest. His scar, a memory
of humanity, an actuality of his. I pretend a crab
tries to anchor its claws to the outer banks
as the flow, the rapids rush it hopeless; it reaches
for rock, branch, or flesh, though ever drifts farther
away. And further down. And it cobbles
over the thousands of blue, yellow, and green reeds,
which sift through the sand and pebble beneath
the river’s roar. These are his connectors, his veins that once
interviewed and interlocked his heart with his lungs,
to his soul. If this crab— if I could
just grasp and control these leads to life, try to
bring him from the depths, try, as well, to save myself…
he knows rivers as Hughes knew rivers, but he heard
a splash and wake. And he may be, now, speaking of rivers
with Hughes and others. And though He witnessed a human
inevitability, perhaps, just possibly, this scar is, instead,
the beginning, a rough outline, his rendering of the Colorado,
the Rio Grande, or just the aqueduct through California.
Just maybe it’s his story, a symbol
I’ve lost my way. It happens a lot. This old, worn path is muddy and dark again. I’ve been gambling what I don’t have on the kind of odds that just stand there, shivering and glistening in the rain, and won’t come in from the cold. No one is asking me to work and I haven’t been asking for work. There are no stars to read. My inner conversations and correspondences have a steady gait but there’s something in each step that suggests a slight fall. November has seeped in. It thickens the hard drink I’ve hardly stopped drinking.
Midnight. Rain again—it’s always been raining. There are always eyes of rain on window glass, looking in. It’s cold out; must be snow falling higher in the mountains. That’s both a calculation and an imagining. I’m still capable of both, it seems, which is why I’m both terrified and grateful.
Those mountains—there’s likely a wildcat among them prowling around. It must be warm in its luxurious coat. It might be distant kin to the one I killed when I was eighteen, checking my father’s trapline. Or that creature’s family tree may have fallen with its death, or maybe it’s sprung up as a different form of life, one that travels ocean currents or currents of air instead of snowy trails.
Maybe that new life has lost its way too, has found itself at the edge of another world—maybe your world—and doesn’t yet know if it’s welcome. I won’t assume this but maybe you’re lost too. And now there’s something between us that knows a lot about being alone in the neither here nor there. Something that had to change its skin because of what we’d done and who we were. Now it leaves a message, a track in the trackless night, one we can’t read or follow but nonetheless marks a claim.
To make something far grander than yourself, to expand the bounds of experience and mere matter, attach iron bit to iron bit to reel and soar, better than anyone believed of you. Erected at earth’s edge, a cantilevered assemblage of engineered dreams, the great wheel lifts children from their customary plane for a few coins and belief in human progress. With a bright tune masking the mechanical, the wheel advances the clock to the vertigo and vantage of midnight. The world below looks distant and strange, and the children, masters of a vaster circumference.
The trees stand in the rain, full of movement.
The clouded sky lets loose with the sound
of replenishment, the sidewalks dark with it.
Time remains strictly a concept. In spite of that
I feel further behind places I want to be, sense
the end of roads I'll be allowed to know. Still
I remember the strident wonder built into
the smell of an oiled baseball mitt, the glove
taken from a box in a closet when spring arrives.
With luck I'll wake into morning. The world will
unfold all over me as I try for everything again.
Regarding her work, the artist says:
My paintings start out as a visual stream of consciousness. A sleeping brain tends to tell the more interesting stories. I let my mind wander over mixed media and textured canvases to help me find the picture there within. It's like a sleepy conversation minutes before you go to sleep to dream.
Winter, the first skim of ice on my driveway where the tar puckered up to hold for a while the gift of the heavens. "Watch your step," I tell the kids. "Hard surface." Because it can throw you. It can make your innocent feet slip out from under your weight so you land on your backside or worse. In a parking lot at work, a friend lay for half an hour unconscious below the keys dangling in his car door. Nearly frozen when he woke up and drove himself home, the heater on high, the fan too, blowing warmth directly on his face and chest. Not about to stiffen into rigor mortis yet.
Similar thing, the face on a lover, friend, stranger, the contours and wrinkles, the crinkles at the eyes, unmoving, hard surface, the stare as if paralyzed or molded. Seeing this condition, you hesitate before speaking, before stepping closer, knowing that upon contact your unsuspecting feet could fly out beneath you and your heavy mass falling could crack your head, break an elbow, could injure your coccyx, could stimulate the growth of a pilonidal cyst or if you already have one aggravate it so the pain is unreal, so it drains, so you have to see a doctor, have an operation, pray to recover…