SPARK is an online art and literary gallery. Every few months, Amy Souza pairs up artists with writers. Your partner sends you an "inspiration piece," and you send one to him/her. Those of you who read the blog know I'm a huge fan of ekphrastic poetry. Did I mention that you have 7-10 days to produce your new piece?! Yowza. Forget perfection. Just write (or paint).
I sent my partner, Virginia artist Judy Zatsick, a poem that's included in my chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone. (My chapbook recently won the Clarinda Harriss Poetry Prize and is coming out for National Poetry Month, but more on that another time.)
Here is the inspiration piece I sent to Judy. Alongside is the companion painting she created for it, "Celadon Spring." Just wow.
The Listening of Plants
On the buffet where she kept her celadon dishes,
Mother placed a vase of pussy willows
hurried out of their branches.
The buds were cat toes walking up a mottled branch,
miniature koalas hanging on their eucalyptus
in a scattered line.
I snapped one off the twig and rolled the bud
on the flats of my thumb and finger,
its smoky gray coat how I imagined koala fur might feel.
I rubbed the willow bud along the bone of my jaw
wanting to know how a plant can wear animal skin.
It was too small, like touching nothing.
I splayed my hand along its curves,
felt the hairs rise in the divot of my palm.
I would have needed a sweater of willow to be satisfied.
Instead I slipped it into my ear. How did I know
a pussy willow was the right shape for the foyer of my ear,
long hall leading to the eardrum and the bones behind?
The bud rested there and I listened,
wanting to hear what it had to say
which was quiet, which was the muted listening of plants.
When I asked Mother to extract a pussy willow
from my ear, I couldn’t explain its presence
how I listened and heard its secret.
And here is the art that Judy sent me to SPARK my inspiration. It's called "Window to Her Soul." Since I crazy, I set myself a poetic challenge, a sestina inspired by the painting. The six repeating words are Oil (Judy's medium), Window, To, Her, Soul, and Words (my medium). You can find sestina rules here.
Window to Her Soul
after Judy Zatsick
Shadow of a blue dress moves like oil
on water. Beyond the window,
I watch the cloud-curve of her spine press into
autumn woods, unaware of me. Her
shoulders rise up and curve, soul
stirring like a river. Her bones are made of words.
Her memories can’t be held by words.
They are slick as oil,
bent out of shape by the wind, rooting her soul
beneath the window-
less ground. Instead, her
mind sees colors. They are memory too.
The ground is on its side, to
blow its colors into the sky. Words
spin in the air. Orange, brown and beech call her,
leaves crisp with cold before they spoil
on the ground, blown against the window.
When she rakes them, it quiets her soul.
She is barefoot and the soles
of her feet press leaves flat, two
eyes underneath her -- two windows
that need no words --
tell her leaf, crunch, smooth. Colors like oils
pressed from tubes she carries with her.
Why do I sit and watch her?
She’s nothing special – just another soul
kept upright by muscle, oxygen -- the blood’s oil.
Should I invite her inside to
share a few words?
Should I open my window?
The leaves kick up again – it’s the wind. Oh,
I know I won’t call her.
If I spoke, the words
would break something, stop her soul’s
press into nature. Maybe I should go too,
walk in the woods, feel my feet on the soil.
Is this the window to my soul,
watching her blue dress fade into
an autumn palette of words, paper and oil?
Happy Poetry Friday, everyone! Our host this week is Danika at Teaching Net. Next week, I'll post more poems by my Northfield Elementary third graders. We're getting ready for their Poets Tea on Friday.