Time and Attention

When the veil thins.

A lit match in the dark and a family museum in flames. Removed of these objects to ground us, we start slipping from our assigned roles. Without the grain of a dated photograph, who will draw the borders between what happened half a century ago and what is in our midst, right now? At a certain age, it doesn’t matter; it’s all here again. 

As the veil thins, she sees. The past was always right here, but it was too much for us to hold and still go on with the living. She’s releasing the burden now, and vision returns. Time to call the names of the ones no longer here and be moved by the volume of their answers. 

In the end, we become our grandmothers, caring for our mothers, forgetting who is who as we walk in and out of one another’s dreams. Now, with the smoke in our eyes, we are singing.

***

Inspired by consideration of this announcement of Rea Tajiri’s film Wisdom Gone Wild, exploring themes of collective memory.

Nobody Here

First lessons in suspension.

We hardly knew it­––or ourselves––when we flooded the spaces we entered with memory so completely that to move was to be removed from our weight in invented immersion. What carried us was luminous and dense and had no word we knew. If someone were to ask us what it was, we would say Nothing, but no such questions came, because when we removed ourselves from our weight, we became no one.

Oranges

Scent of a horizon.

There can be no contradiction between paired images, only connection, and so little that is true will conform to the expectations of available language. There is a certain sadness that smells of oranges––or nectarines? and it holds a horizon inside itself, complete with sunrises and sunsets that only one at a time may witness. The challenge is how awe wants company to verify its origin, as something other than madness. Lacking any, a witness is burdened with a weight that denies its own release.

Disappearing Acts

Shifts in attention.

She knew something shifted when the plot no longer held her interest. Its pretense of coherent motivation rang false. She shifted her attentions then, to the way the nameless organisms within us would respond to the movements of forces outside, including other nameless organisms. Sometimes they were more vegetable than people, more tree than people, more bird. The stimulus mattered so much less than the effect. Yes, she would think, as she watched them. I know this lonely crowd. Then she knit herself a yarn cocoon. The yarn was the same color as her background. When her work was done, she disappeared. What is memory? Only forgetting, like a poem made by the act of erasure.

***

Inspired by the writing of Nathalie Saurrate and the art of Bea Camacho.

Painting Time

Lights over water.

Of all your characters, you were most interested in Time, the fifth elemental substance latent in all things. You aimed to chronicle its flow by detailing refractions of brilliance on the river and its bridge, one forever changing and the other reaching toward permanence. You noted symbols in the shadows where one overlapped the other: the river, the bridge, their people; the hope of construction and the tragedy of collapse; the continuance of water and this incomplete permanence in concert with all forms, its eye a chorus.

***

Inspired by the work of Ivo Andrić (1892-1975), whose birthday is today.

What Gives

Sighting vessels.

The animal nation waits in the forked branch, scanning the forest floor where we pause to witness the spectacle of ordinary time. Turning to page next, the passage becomes our hibernating dream. Remember when we knew it, our sticky hands clasped and spinning until we fell? This when there was no difference between our center of gravity and our mother’s insistence, out, out!

Now memory, this temple of endless night, shines on dislocated abundance. One of the ships passes. Whose is that? Someone says. We watch. It isn’t ours, but a complicated creature, endowed with a sighing rhythm all its own, and multitudes.

One among us cannot help themselves. They gasp in recognition, and no one can see the thing in the trees anymore. A branch cracks nearby, and then another––like matchsticks, like the tiny bones of our once and future wings.

Barefoot Museum

A hall of dream artifacts.

A basket, a wheel, a shield. A barefoot artist enters. Some ceremony begins, an incantation. A spectacular lizard climbs a tree. Whose eyes have looked through these masks?

Do you have any neutral artifacts? Someone asks, but there are none.

The left side of an angel rests on a table: a single wing, once attached. Someone has painted it recently. It is drying. Nearby, the artist draws the anatomy of a seraph, hollow bones radiating from the spine and feathers like fingers, and maybe this is what you came to see, this simple diagram in pencil––down to earth, a practical rendering in painstaking detail, affirming something that otherwise seems to move in and out of spaces like shadow or the morning fog or your next breath.

The Arch Listener

Artist as audience for the song of the world.

You are drawn to archways, those portals between worlds. You are drawn to the other ones like distant kin, and you sing us into them, always ending with the choral line, remember who you are.

When asked what you are doing, you say trying. Trying how? Like a witch, like a cat, like a fisher––cast, hunt, pull. You say, some have an agenda. But I am something else.

You mean to remember us back to the songlines we forgot. When you hear the world singing, you recognize the call. Pen in hand, you respond.

***

Inspired by the great American playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, and an excellent article by Michael Paulson about the artist in today’s New York Times.

Transference

What we carried when we were listening.

The cities of our arrival, abundant with unknowns, wonders––offered moment by moment possibilities for our annihilation and station after station for our becoming. There was so little we knew, and now we knew it. Knowing we lacked the words, we opened ourselves in these new cities. We became vessels carrying music and walked forward, holding.

Until when? Someone asked. Until the rhythm invites us. What rhythm? said another, and it was time.

The Long Return

Reading bones.

The bone-readers tell a story: how the ancestor of all four-limbed creatures took its first steps on dry land. Here’s another: one day, one of the descendants of those long dwelling on land decided it was time to return. What followed were those familiar-looking progeny: whales, dolphins, porpoises, who seem to hold a certain invitation in their gaze, their play near boats and shores, and we can’t help our awe when we see them, calling Look!

Looking long, some of the bone readers speculate that the swelling in our chests, our voices, our eyes at these encounters is perhaps the product of one part primal memory and another of a longing to believe––that it is possible for someone long adapted to those acres beyond the spectral surfaces that once meant certain death, who has somehow adjusted the senses to account for the cacophony of what batted and chirped, rustled and warbled; rattled in the grasses and the winds––to still hear the call of a migrating pod thousands of miles away and think: home.

***

Inspired by the opening passage in Amber Dance’s article “The Evolution of Whales from Land to Sea.” The italicized phrase above is from this passage.