Where mystery fell marching to
our exile, we lifted its mass
from the ditch to hold
it behind our coats, our lips,
to wrap our bodies
around its form,
Faces may deceive, but the back
Between us, a single question
loops a mute refrain.
Inspired by the work of Magdalena Abakanowicz. The title of this post comes from some of the figures that she created.
I guess the weight of it all is what keeps us longing for some hour of grace, she said. The subject was an idea that one of us was floating, of a truth big enough to shatter the ends of us whole again. We were tired, but she said we would lose the fight if we knew what was before us. Then a strong wind blew, and we were lost again, only now we knew this better than we had before.
Now we’re getting somewhere, she rasped, and we looked up again, hoping she would elaborate, but she was doubled over, laughing through her tears.
Near the end, you explained that something strange was happening. You had grown accustomed to a powerful presence. One day, without explanation, it left. What followed had more force but no face. You called it sound.
Later, people wondered if you were letting go or just beginning something new. But even when a body means to hold, so much of what happens slips through.
Before you left, you painted reminders. You pulled us into its rough color. You said, listen.
Inspired by the sound paintings of Anne Truitt.
Your aim was an art that would not behave as art. While dying, you made your untitled rope piece, layering industrial latex like paint over string and wire suspended from the ceiling. It resembled a decimated fishing net after a storm, or the work of an overworked spider gone mad. You welcomed unseen others into a shadowy space, inviting us to attend to what crawled, flickered, and flashed. You did not specify how long to look, or where. How is it possible, we wondered, to feel so in the way in a mostly empty room?
Touch, you said, and meant it. Who could do that now, with all the insurance? Come in, you said. But try another door. You left it to us to find it. There are other openings, you said, and more hollow spaces than we were accustomed to noticing.
What do you know? One skeptic asked and you said Nothing.
Inspired by the art of Eva Hesse, and by Mignon Nixon’s article “Eva Hesse Retrospective: A Note on Milieu,” (Spring 2003 in October).
In love with an unknown intimate briefly glimpsed, the stranger moved so steadily towards the source of longing that he became transparent with time. Suspended in its liquid, the desert salts of his waking form dissolved in her waters until he knew himself at once known in the shadow of the apocalyptic cherub.
I am surveyed, he admitted, but it was good to be untethered from the demand to be any sort of self in any of the atomic cities, to join the games with no winners, to keep company instead with a chorus of loss, its abundant ache seeded in the silence of this elsewhere when the voices that will be heard choose themselves.
Inspired by various morning readings, including Thomas Merton by way of Richard Rohr. Italicized phrases above come from Thomas Merton’s “Day of the Stranger,” first published in The Hudson Review, summer 1967.
Reflections of the unseen.
To revise knowing itself, inverting worlds without end, you passed your liquid form easily between solid and mythic, seen and unseen, sacred and profane, in constant devotion.
First there was the Word, and you transformed what they took as given into what was not yet understood, with such deft agility that you were forbidden to teach. You continued invisibly to your invisible audience, understanding that your censors didn’t know how to look.
You saw no Eve, only Ave, and in her humility, no mortification, only the merit of a queen reigning over wisdom, co-creator with creation, who became a bird when needed for the purpose of the miracle.
You watched her fool the imagists, passing their censorious eyes by assuming the appearance of a vessel, passive and waiting for another will to be done, and you put a pen in her hand, beheld wisdom running from the fonts at her feet, made her dean of the house of intellect, reigning over the archangels, the non-humans, the insignificant wonders everywhere.
Inspired by the life and work of Juana Inés de la Cruz whose legacy defies categorization, except as representative of one of the most brilliant visionaries in recorded history.
To listen through soil is to be reminded of the inadequacy of words for sound, the curious choral cacophony of those out-of-sight creatures so easily out of mind, the soundtracks of springtail, of mellifluent moles mirroring the melodies of mice amid mesh of mycelium; these reverberating roots a revelation, calling a body back to unknowing. This is what the birds are turning their heads to listen for, plainchant of these porous depths, resounding.
Inspired by Ute Eberle’s recent Knowable Magazine article about the emerging field of soil bioacoustics, which some prefer to call biotremology or ecoacoustics.
If loving begins in recognition, then practice reading one another is an essential beginning, and a sincere effort demands that some limits be placed on noise. One of the effects of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is to turn down the static so the neural signals––of, say, the smell of another’s body, or a distress cry––can come in clearly, which calls to mind some old questions about trees falling in the forest, and the health of forests and one another. If a cry happens and no one hears, what are we? Any loving observer, beholding another’s vivid hues, exquisite detail of sparkling eyes, wonder of resting face, music of laughter––will tell you, mystery. Only mystery.
Loosely inspired by Bob Holmes’ recent Knowable Magazine article, “Oxytocin’s effects aren’t just about love.”
What ephemeral forms may expose.
Along the shores of a great lake, often without witness, a northern wind shapes and erases forms in ice and sand. There is a moment when they hold. To bear witness is to be reminded of the pairing of reverence and suddenness, of beauty unexpected because it is so rarely seen, and this because it just as quickly goes, swallowed by the same hand that lifted the veil. Is this a force of time and weather, or their temporary pause? ––as if to call into question all descriptors, all limits, to fit the beholder with a set of melting wings.
Inspired by the photography of Joshua Nowicki.
Consider a cornucopic mind,
tumbling out into its own
while gestational stars
assemble before first light
in light of other known principles
––challenge, adaptation, change,
and how these forms grow by
call and response, into what will
persist when life is threatened,
and then try to hold some
stable notion of time.
is the reference?