All work Copyright Pathway Publications, Notumbo Publications, 1980-2014, All Rights Reserved
Old, the way it hangs from cliff tops,
No questions remain – its grip is strong.
And no great storm, no decade’s drought,
Or millennial winds will take its measure
Against gravity, time, the forgotten moment.
The last to let go its grip will remain unnamed.
How many seeds fall on less-than-fertile ground?
How many centuries pass between the arrival of each species
That savor its fruit? One thing provides
For another, each seeks shelter in each,
The tale of one being holds the legend
Of another, slow in telling.
Age comes not from enormous stature,
Nor ego in the face of the pressures of time.
It comes with patience, no worries this year’s
Seed falls on fallow ground, nor drought
In the valley below a harbinger of all Fears
If fears could penetrate such dense design.
Sempivirens may tower, but from valley’s floor,
While these stand low against desert escarpments,
To peer across time and clouds from heights
Beyond the reach of human squalor, beyond
Even the rapacious bludgeon of greed and profit.
These alone stand against failure, patience their singular hope.
Walk among their arms and treasure such small things
May stand in stead of history’s mad rush,
Hold strong to shifting earth and ideals,
Give much, hold only enough, and float with time,
That river of slow and sure demands,
On wind-blown peaks, in the grip of age’s rich rewards.
It’s small needle pointing one day ahead,
It’s bitter seed may lie in wait till bird or mammal take
It’s hard shell on journeys not far from place,
To very far in time. Even the sand below the shade
Has little notion of Chronos’ respect granted these.
To stand small and mighty, within Time’s embrace,
To live longer, and reap thin air and thinner skin,
To hold steady in winds that sway mountains, and
Never yield. Never pass judgment, never tender
Petty regrets to the sky’s sweet rain. This way,
Live beyond mortal time, carried deep inside that story
Caught by outstretched limbs, whose cones erupt hope
For the next ten thousand years.
Act 1: Of Birds and Blood – A Prose Poem
Scene: She drops her glass after being startled by a bird’s shrill call. Time suspends, or more correctly, slows. The glass in its decent barely tilts, there being enough liquid to keep the glass’s center of gravity perpendicular to the surface waiting below. As the moment of impact arrives, the glass has only just begun to tilt, and thus, strikes the paving stones upon one edge of the bottom of the glass, emitting a sharp rejoinder to the call of the bird across the plaza where the outdoor café is set. It shatters in slow motion, shards spraying mostly in the direction opposite of the edge that initially struck the ground. Several shards make their slow way across several feet of space and enter into the unprotected flesh of the leg of a woman seated at an adjoining table, along with a small portion of the alcohol previously contained by the glass. The woman who dropped the glass, also in slow motion, turns first toward the dropping glass, and then, toward the woman whose leg has now been penetrated by the shards, and whose slowly erupting cry seems to mimic that of the bird whose own cry had precipitated this series of events.
As the dropper of the glass turns to meet the cry of the other woman, she begins to rise from her chair and turn her body toward the position of the woman whose leg has been assaulted by the broken glass. She speaks through the slowing of time in a voice at once apologetic and disturbed, while the woman whose leg is now slowly leaking blood of a red so startling in contrast to her white skin that an elderly man, at that same instant walking on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the plaza, sees that scarlet moment and remembers what it looked like when his own son was struck by a bullet while out hunting with several friends, said bullet coming through the trees from the direction of another hunting party his own party could not see, as they could not see his own. The red never stopped, not even in slow motion, and he held his son’s life as it fell into the white snow, and now, walking opposite the café on a fine sunny day with no snow but only a few white clouds and a pair of red heels on a woman a half-block ahead, blood again becomes the focal point. He thinks, but doesn’t it always come back to that? To blood, and accidents, ancient enmities and modern thoughtlessness?
The woman whose leg is now bleeding bends to reach out to her leg and with her hand try and stop the blood but as her hand encounters her own leg, it also encounters the still-stuck glass shards and now bleeds of its own. Another cry very much like the bird of moments before escapes her in a pained response. All is momentary though slow and expanding chaos, and before anyone can do another thing in response to this unfolding moment, the instigational bird takes wing, and is gone.
Meditations on a Blue Room and a Blank Canvas
It seemed the right time to begin a new piece. I decided this time to use a heavy cold press paper, very rough surface. Unlike smoother paper, or canvas, the rough surface seems to hold open the possibility of additional dimensions. Not a big piece, maybe eighteen by sixteen. I think it may be likely to spill off the edges, but I’m willing to face that when it shows itself to me.
I find myself staring at this new, waiting surface. It seems infinite – no line, no color as yet – and therefore a puzzle. Where do you begin when faced with infinite potential – at the edge, the middle, with field, or line, or volume? What color chooses to be first, and thereby guide each following color? Just as the surface of this page was infinite, before my words emerged. See, here, too, the first choice limits the second choice, which in turn limits each following choice.
It begs the question: is art only the sum of all choices made? Or, is the art not in the result at all, but in the first two choices made to bring it into the world? I look at Van Gogh’s painting of the bedroom he slept in in Arles, those blue walls, and feel their power so directly I cannot help but feel they were his first choice. They surrounded him, held his pain in check, perhaps only a short while, and that was enough to guide his palette.
And that bed! Like an orange ship pushing through an ocean beneath his own Starry Night, it was the inevitable result. It is illuminated from within, energized by the sleeper it held so carefully, and light through that window may be dusk, or dawn, yet clearly in between dark and light, the world outside therefore ambiguous, bearing little threat. This was his sanctuary, even in the midst of madness: here, he could dream free of the storms.
But he might have done anything, that day, when he made this perfect expression of limitless walls. He may have thought, “red, today,” and made instead a kitchen whose pale blue table held fruit, and the red cabinet against the wall would hold all his rage. All his work, given away. What did he need money for, anyway? He would only squander it on more paint, canvas, brushes. Sunflowers. Another Starry, Starry Night. But his first choices created inevitability, set him on a clear path forward, making the results a deep well that change all who behold it’s wonder.
Not, mind you, that I think I compete with Van Gogh. But I have come to recognize that I have something in common with him, as with every artist. I must start with nothing, and everything, all at once. And then, I choose – this, not that. And from that choice, the infinite is cut in half, is no longer without boundary. Each choice I make after merely further divides infinity. This is a product of the same elemental foundations as time itself. Time is not linear, it creates division, even if it does so in apparent regularity. Art as well is also non-linear, and so creates division.
But art, through this divisible product, and which contains object, form, color, texture, also contains idea, and boundary, and story.
So for this piece, I am feeling slightly yellow, with low light and long shadow. This seems to suggest curvature, which evolves into a deep canyon of violet. Hmm. Well, that seems to preclude this mid-range earth tone. But it also seems to invite an eye, oh, female, yes, is she red-headed? Her dress flares in the slight breeze coming off the left side of the paper. There is a remnant of a storm, the air is clear, but cool. How did her hand get into that position? No, no room for a dog, perhaps a fawn, yes, OK, so, what’s next?
Places I Long For – Prose Poem
I find myself drawn to those shadowy places, inside the caves formed by old redwoods, into damp hollows that seldom see the sun. When I was young, I made myself at home in those places in Midwestern fields where deer had lain, swirling the grasses with their dreams. I would lie there for hours, imagining the heat they shared under summer stars. Or, on rainy days in an unused corner of the long white porch, I would lay beneath blankets hung as a tent, waiting for the future to arrive.
Then there were the willows overhanging the creeks I played in, marveling at the mottled light, searching for the birds I could hear somewhere above me. Without much ado, I can be that small boy, skipping and running through fields, swinging from limbs firm and coarse, and sailing on raging torrents in those small creeks that, upon looking back, I would find myself, either sinking and splashing, or holding hard to the mast, the islands on the horizon and me, wondering if growing up would be as great as these particular moments.
Starfish Mid-Wife – A Prose Poem
You have a blockage, the doctor told me. See, he said, pointing at the screen, the scan parsing my flesh into digital hash, there, he said, and quite a large one, too. We must go in, he said, like I am an ancient cave holding mysterious objects long rumored and deeply desired by hardy and imaginative adventurers in white coats. We have to shatter it, break it down, drain it, extract it, capture it and free it from your embrace. Your pain, he said, is a sign of how much accretion has swollen it’s boundaries beyond what the cave of your body can hope to manage. It’s become a stalactite longing for its counterpart, refusing to drain down the underground rivers that dream us into being. It must come out, thus, we must go spelunking after it.
I am to be penetrated then, the female aspect of my existence now more than mere Jungian theorem, the Red Book a battle plan for the assault on the vault of my being. Tubes shall extend, camera crew in tow, the deep and arduous journey will commence. Despite this being the cave of myself, I will be the last to see the footage, to view the great jewel they promise to return to the light of day. I have wondered what a woman experiences when something outside enters, parts the sea within, shares ownership temporarily with another, nine minutes or nine months, all that matters is something intrudes, then departs. Yet I will sleep through this particular intrusion, dreaming of perfect rivers, waterfalls framed by eternal rainbows, and wake, one hopes, to an absence, my treasure plundered, extracted as ore to be later purified into subtler elements, in exchange for peace, for a body with more of me and less of this audacious intruder. I will sleep again a normal sleep, dream I have evolved from man to woman to starfish, and finally as an elemental being, residing in the upper atmosphere of a distant gas giant, where the occasional passing comet offers me a sideways glimpse of a galaxy outside myself, momentarily intersecting, then passing on to realms I have no knowledge of, no use for, but whose existence might one day reach back and cause me to wonder at my own presence in the cosmos.
There’s no other way, the doctor tells me, and I nod with sagacious affect, ready for the transition into my other possible selves. I pause momentarily to consider my role, his role, what each brings to this interstitial dance about to commence. Are you my midwife, I ask? And you, he asks, are you ready to be born?
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