poem18 Jul 2016 07:46 am

Paolo_vetri,_museo,_1875,_03

Queenly robes,
the arms of lovers,
even skin’s soft, elastic grip
she no longer can recall.

Lurching from alley to avenue
she clumps her clumsy way,
murmurs muffled beneath
numberless folds of linen
brittle as uninked papyrus.
She has forgotten words.

Empty,
she is empty,
nothing within
except the heart
missing its metronome.
She does not tick in time
with the rest of the earth’s hours.
Like dream-people, she does not breathe;
the absent sound of inhale and exhale
dizzies her,
makes the world awry.
How could you miss so much
something you’d never really noticed?

This long wandering takes its toll:
she sloughs off wrappings
like a snake its skin,
yet no new supple self
emerges audacious and unblemished
in the wake of loss.
Her denuded brown feet
shrivel, mortified,
flesh laid bare in the most intimate revelation.

Another inch of cloth shreds;
with its end’s unwinding
an amulet for luck in the afterworld
clinks to the pavement.
She hears it
but its music has no meaning;
She doesn’t bend to retrieve it.
It would contain no clue
to what she’s searching for:
her name,
even the most trivial memory—
whether faience beads or carnelians caressed her neck,
a dear friend’s laugh,
the taste of figs,
was there a child?—
something of life,
something of self to hold onto.
Nothing comes.
Her wrappings trail her in the dirt
like the ribbons of a careless dancer.

Fumes of myrrh and cassia rise,
another amulet clinks to the ground,
as she unravels.

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poem11 Jul 2016 08:04 am

800px-Liao_dynasty_stone_dragon_sculpture

Atenlea is a peaceful place,
but still a place of man,
& deep inside, man fears nature’s fury.

So, from the very first distant clamber
they take note.

It starts as a distant murmur of tumbling rocks
that perks ears & lifts heads.
A clatter of rockslide
where no rocks are loose.
Soon it grows into the rumble
of an earthquake or tornado.

Like a field of busy mice suddenly met
by a family of hungry cats, they flee.
Slow & weak
trail behind the scatter of raucous panic.
In minutes Atenlea is left
with those few who cannot run, the left behinds.

Gradually they limp & crawl
to benches that line
the north side of the town square.
Seven humans gathered
to fight fear & meet fate.
They console
& ready themselves for anything.
Anything except what greets them.

The noise & trembling ground
are no work of nature.
They come with the Cobblestone Dragon.
Hard round sections of his being
clatter & rumble & roar
& freely roll within.

His long thick tail follows
as horizontal avalanche
as he walks slowly & deliberately
placing each step carefully
to avoid destroying the city
or the retinue of unhearing creatures
that surround him.

Fully in the town square, he stops.
Seven stare, blinking & unsure,
confused at a dragon with an entourage
as diverse as a fever dream, cleaning
the tracks of the Cobblestone Dragon.

Quietly the dragon speaks.
He asks who & why. Surprised
the seven speak haltingly at first.
But as the strangest town meeting ever
wears on
they find sharing life stories easy.

When they are through, silence falls
until one timid & bent-legged child
asks the dragon for his story.

Silently he ponders
his troubled but welcome existence.
He travels once more
the long road of his past.
He begins where he was conjured,
pieced together from commonest remains.

Suddenly
charged with life
he was born thrashing & roaring.

All fled, even she who birthed him.
He was alone.

Until he met other dragonkind
he didn’t even know
how slow & awkward he was among his kin.

Only with time did he understand
the dignity denied him in creation.
That realization began the quest
to gain what was missing.

On the way he learned that
every dignity, like every face
is unique.

Ages have passed since then
but he finds no rest.
And now
recalling his long & difficult life
he is certain he has no words
to make these humans understand.

His magics
like the stones of his creation
are of the smallest & commonest kind,
but he believes they will suffice.
From within comes a vision
charged with the heat of his desire
& tailored to each who see.

Visions would be enough but he does not stop.
He ignores the drain of his exertions
& reaches within once more.

With a touch
he heals these humans
who have given
to his heart & knowledge.

For a time he rests
but his desire never fails.
His quest resumes
with a slow walk away from the city.
Little has changed
save that his retinue
has increased by seven.

Days after his departure
the populace struggles home
amazed to find Atenlea intact.

The clever among them
find traces of the dragon’s passing.

Eventually, seven are missed.

Conclusions are drawn & stories told.
Throughout the countryside
guards & lookouts are posted.
Those brave enough, are sent to scout
but they find nothing.

In time danger fades & memory grows.

Seven stones are set in the graveyard.
Songs are written.
Tears are cried.

And as years pass
the day’s events become
but one more chapter
in the bloody legend
of the Cobblestone Dragon.

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poem04 Jul 2016 09:12 am

Anton_Seder_Blackberries,_Raspberries,_Goldfinch
the god of deep, dreamless sleep
     the goddess of crisp waking
        the god of cool, morning light

the goddess of salt and sanded waters
    the god of wave-tumbled pebbles
        the goddess of low tide treasures

the god of dappled shade
    the goddess of that breeze in those trees
        the god of the story those winds tell

the goddess of groggy heat
    the god of sweat raised and razing
        the goddess of ice on that skin

the god of bread pulled from the oven
    the goddess of summer-warm blackberries
        the god of the peach trail down your chin

the god of recall
    the goddess of remembrance
        I am alive I am alive I live

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poem27 Jun 2016 09:00 am

Bertall_ill_Les_Cygnes_sauvages2
My son, my sun, fly towards
a moon brighter than cat eyes
peering from the dark, grab
angel wings like a devil
denied so long those delicate,
delicious features.

Clouds will be your sign of royalty,
the crown upon your
heathen brow upheld, as flighty
subjects honk your praise
and name. It was your father’s,
slip into it like a shirt.

Ground left bereft of you will never
kiss your soles again, as you
are blessed. Blue, weighted sky above
will just crack open, an Easter
egg with a yolk of stars and
night to be devoured.

Will you remember your mother up
there when her hair tickles
your back as knotted rope?
When you stretch my dress and flesh
to soar and bones to steer?
Will you, at least, cry for me when it rains?

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poem20 Jun 2016 06:42 am

Wu_Zhen._Twin_Pines._180x111,4_cm._1328._National_Palace_Museum,_Taipei
girlhood maps we drew
pencil forests covering a table
no rivers or cities, just forests
of pine trees stacked arrows on arrows
parallel trunks to ground

you were a duchess and i was a robot
i was an empress and you were an elf
i was a warrior and you were a warrior made of gold

this
is the point in the story where you lose your shine
in college I learn I’m not so smart
age branches us to fond distance

but
you never did
i never did
it never did

instead we were white ghosts in rice-stepped mountains
instead we pulled weeds from the desert

now your daughter is an elf
and a warrior and a map of trees
now

we seek the linchpin of the moon

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poem13 Jun 2016 07:39 am

Lantau_Peak_Starry_Night_2014

 

 Photo by Eddie Yip from Groningen, the Netherlands (夏季銀河東升) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Summer nights slay you. They’re sour-sweet
as cherries, as the blueberries ripening,
so rich you have to wipe them from your chin.
Thick enough with fruit that you must cut them
with a knife. And what is it that you find inside?
Thousands of lights. Stars. Fireflies. Gems
amongst the velvet fur of sky. They spill
like the Milky Way until the darkness is bled dry.

Echo of the white tides, what have you done,
emptying the night like a cut-purse? Will you
weave your spoils into a web to bind the flow
of your long hair? No. You stoop to gather up
the scattered riches, then raise your arms to paint
and populate the sky, spatter the sparks against
the dark, seeding it until it fruits again and all
your treasures drip like diamonds from its chin.

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the arts06 Jun 2016 07:25 am

Update on the Athena mask (see previous posts for the background):

13313744_10154179843729787_1291966842_o

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poem30 May 2016 08:43 am
By Coyau / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12817103

By Coyau / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12817103

Dusk is the hour
when memory pulls strongest,
when twin green tendrils
of hope and despair
snarl my gut
and tug hard.

The day’s dying light
tastes of home,
my lost, soft, twilight world
soaked in all the shades of life
I seek fruitlessly amongst
the beans on my meagre plate.

As you would say,
we came here green and
ignorant of your ways,
lured by a rich siren call of bells,
the brightness of your land
burning in my eyes

like a forest of emeralds,
shiny promises that lied
though we did not know that then:
two innocents trapped by your false splendour
as much as the wolf pit
you found us in.

We clung to our green truth
for as long as we could,
starved until raw beans were offered
then kale, cabbage, the bread of life.
We continued to eat,
to consume your world,

thinking to immerse
your ways within us,
to become one with their enticing shine,
but they washed away our colour
and spat us out
leaving me one alone.

My brother-self withered,
gave up the struggle,
his soul returning
where his body could not.
I took a native mate, trying
to grow myself whole again.

I allowed him to immerse
himself in me, hoping
to become one with your ways.
The town’s hard stone streets
taught me I
will always now walk alone.

They say I lead
a normal life.
Normal for whom?
I have lost my colour,
my world,
my self.

I am faded as pale as you
except at dusk, the hour
when memory pulls hardest,
and fresh green tendrils of despair
grow and snarl
around my gut.

The Suffolk folk tale of the green children of Woolpit apparently dates from the twelfth century. The reapers were out working in the fields around the village, when out of one of the wolf pits emerged two vivid green children, a boy and a girl, their clothes unfamiliar and speaking in an unknown language. At first they wouldn’t eat, but eventually did, beginning with beans and vegetables. After a period of assimilation, including being baptized into the Christian Church, the boy died, but the girl lived on, learnt to speak English, married a local man and moved to King’s Lynn where she purportedly led a normal life.

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poem23 May 2016 08:00 am

450px-Kunsthistorisches_Museum_Vienna_0189

The mummy’s mask speaks
texts from the dead,
an unknown gospel in each cheekbone
a lost play for a forehead
referenced in antiquity, but
its lines only guessed at until now.
The layers peel back;
time peels away.

A laborers’s death,
no money for fancy masks so
the family makes do,
old paper lying around, worthless pages
too worn to scrape clean.
The mourners fold and seal them
layer by layer into a mask.

Unlayered now by new techniques
deeper texts emerge:
a bill of sale, a priest’s grocery list.
A fragment of a fairy tale
at the very edge of the mask,
the ancient paper doubles back on itself,
crafting a tale of doubles and doppelgangers.
In the center, covering the eyes,
a lost night of Scheherazade—
the djinn tricked into…
not a lamp, not a book,
but a mask that travels through time,
reveals its words,
but never quite breaks free.

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artist profile and editorial16 May 2016 08:18 am

IMAG0800

I first saw Eric Bornstein’s masks at a festival more than 20 years ago. He was performing folk tales with a small group of actors playing all of the roles using the masks to portray monsters, gods, heroes, and all of the other mythic gods. The performance was in the kid’s portion of the festival, but I was spell-bound and didn’t want to leave. I chatted with him briefly as he was packing up and discovered he took students. I was primarily a doll maker then, but there is a lot of overlap in techniques and styles between the two so I was excited at the thought of studying with him. But with kids and work and other projects, I wasn’t able to study with him until 2014.

Last fall, I decided to commission one of his masks. I’ve never commissioned a piece of artwork before. He has done a number of beautiful deity masks, including some greek gods that are amazing. He is going to make a goddess inspired by Athena, working words and images collaged into the helmet.

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