Missing #3

Kathy Vargas, Missing #3, 1992

On my run I saw a dead owl lying in the crease of the road; she was pressed beneath the lip where the curb and the asphalt meet. I thought, 'This dead owl must be an omen.' I've always wanted to be a diviner, knocking dusty bones together or sifting through the sticky innards of a bird to articulate my fate. As a diviner I could read the micro parts of life (bone, feather, liver) to understand something about the macro parts of life (love, health, fortune). But to be a diviner you have to kill mystery; you have to dissect and disembowel her; you have to snuff that which is weighted and full of breath and flight. I'm jealous of those birds who tuck the future between the folds of each feather...but am I willing to pluck them dry to read the secrets tattooed on their wrinkled skin? No. I think maybe it's best to let mystery fly.

Empress of the Blues

Romare Bearden, Empress of the Blues, 1974

She is the empress with the cumulus breasts and the Tennessee hips that sway and weep with the drum beat. A drop of sweat drips down her lip, a salty blue pearl that catches the shadow. She salutes the pops and the trills darting through the rising smoke. The warm rush and fiery bite of the trumpets weld her a rubied crown. She is the empress of the blues. But even still there is some sad honey sleep in her voice. Do you hear the alpha and the omega in that one sweet honey note? Taste the soul in her song like licorice melting on your tongue. And while you listen still, she builds her throne with f# minor armrests and a four quarter beat back, a seat of gilded b flats and a foot stool sewn from down beats. Royal constructions by the empress of the blues.

Death and the Maiden (Happy Halloween!)

Egon Schiele, Death and the Maiden, 1915

Soak your feet in the blood and the ash. You belong here. Buried in this soil is your mother’s silver webbed hair, her moth paper skin, her toes spongey and black, curled like seashells from years shrouded in a post-mortem slumber. Her ancient breath sleeps and then wakes, weaving itself as a thin thread, sewing together the crusted layers of ice and earth. If you dig deep enough your seeking fingers will melt into this grave of memories, this hearth of bones.

We Are All Setting Suns

Jenny Morgan, We Are All Setting Suns, 2010

There is a millstone women wear that's been forged by a history of violation. When I sit in the kitchen and read about the boundaries of women's bodies being smothered and snuffed out (rape, disfigurement, mutilation, and abortion) I notice the cushions of flesh around my hips and thighs begin to loosen and slack until they flap against my chair. I feel my torso soften and melt like the day old butter that's been sitting on the counter for too long. I see my womb collapse into a sopping red dish rag that drips bloodied into the cracked, gray tile below. Eventually my transformation is complete--my body dissolves into its billions of particles, floating through the kitchen like clouds of spilled flour. It seems that to be weightless in the air and formless in the ground is safer than walking beleaguered atop the earth. And so we come to the greatest sin of mankind:

To erase the boundaries of a woman's body until she is nothing more than the cloud of flour used to bake your bread.

Above The Fjord

Above the Fjord, Amy Cutler, 2010

My two sisters and I were born in the icy air above the fjord. Like the mermaids swimming in the black-green waters below, our bodies are bilingual. Our bellies and breasts whisper in soothing tones of velvet and plum while our hips and heels boom with the force of an avalanche. We have traded in crescent moon thighs and pomegranate knees for a foundation of craggy rock and slate gray cliff. An old farmer in the valley squints up at us and chuckles to his companion, "Look at those old women--those old goats above the fjord. " "No," we echo back, "we are not old goats. We are the mountains who carry the old goats on our backs." My two sisters and I speak of a womanhood that is born from flesh and stone, one that is both fecund and fierce. We hang our colored flags through the hills, joyfully declaring our presence in swaths of blood red and nursery blue.

Dancing On A Very Small Island

Brian Kershisnik, Dancing on a Very Small Island, 2007

If you ever invite me to dance on a very small island with you, I will say "Yes, of course, I thought you would never ask!" Our feet will greet the spongy earth with toes eager to kiss the grass and pebbled mud. We will hold hands a little bit sticky with sweat because that's what happens when you swing so boldly through song. A fisherman on his boat will laugh, "Dance like Matisse!" and then snap in approval as we link our nimble fingers and weave our jaunty limbs. We will skip around the edge of the island with velvet peach feet and black rubber boots, waking the sleeping worms below. It is only a matter of time and we slip--our dance is baptized, awash in Prussian blue. What a joy and surprise to dance on a very small island with you!

Nude With Oranges

Henri Matisse, Nude With Oranges, 1951

The night before the big decision, did Eve endure a restless sleep? Did she dream that soft, fat oranges toppled onto her head, their sticky juices gluing her eyelashes together? Did she dream that Adam put an orange peel in his mouth so that when he smiled he looked like a monkey? I wonder if she fashioned the waxy orange leaves to cover her nakedness, embarrassed in the same way we get embarrassed when we dream about showing up to class in our underwear. Did she toss and turn on a bed of citrus, certain that whatever decision she made the following morning would change the arch of humankind forever? Did she want to crawl inside of an orange, cushioned by its pulpy flesh, and melt into the soft pillows of sweet instead of facing the inquiring snake? Did she wonder if she could better attain salvation curled inside the heart of an orange than she could toiling outside of Eden?

Roaring Garden

Eva Wylie, Roaring Garden, 2008

When I feel like a prayer has hit the ceiling and fallen clumsily back onto my head, I try to remember that the universe is not cold and black metaled. It is not stained opaque by indifference or despair (as some existentialists would have you believe). No, the universe is full of spark and crimson fire. Stars and sun and hot molten planets explode like autumn, searing their laced, leafy veins into the ether.  When I feel like my vision is choked, I try to remember that the universe is not stillborn and breathless. It is an eruption of blushing sex and flush creation. It is birth, transcendence and expansion. It is a roaring garden that sows my becoming.

Hope II

Gustav Klimt, Hope, II, 1907-08

I lean back in bed with my leg draped across my knee. I inhale, wide eyed, at the thought that within my body lies infinite abundance. Inside this corporeal encasement--ever subject to scrapes and breaks and potent death--live the seeds of eternity. As any spiritual text worth its salt will tell you: inviting abundance into our lives is a matter of prayer. First is the prayer of two bodies merged: arms reaching, eyes closed, a breath, a declaration. Nine months pass and then comes the prayer of new bodies birthed. Sons and daughters slip like fish from beneath kaleidoscope robes, emerging into the world with arms reaching, eyes closed, a breath, a declaration. And so it goes that our variegated life line cuts unapologetic through a universe flecked gold and green, carving an eternal familial fissure into the speckled space. Our lineage now and forever embedded like jewels humming within the silent cosmos. Ever present in this cycle, from conception to death to beyond, is the prayer of all bodies blessed: An invocation over the human form. A celestial consecration. A Mother uttering gratitude for the manifestation of Her boundlessness. Arms reaching. Eyes closed. A breath. A declaration.

Ekphrasis: Poetry Confronting Art

Ekphrasis: Poetry confronting art.

About a year ago, I started a blog called A Paper Moth. It was a space for me to write poetic, emotional responses to works of art that I liked. In an effort to streamline and simplify, I've decided to put A Paper Moth to sleep and continue writing ekphrasis here at Bottari. Really, who doesn't like one stop shopping? Before I wax any more poetic, I will first repost all of my previous ekphrasis entries here. I wrote this one for CHB on his birthday last January:

Marc Chagall, Birthday, 1915

What is it to love you? It is my tongue pressing a small piece of strawberry cake to the roof of my mouth (to extend the pleasure of a sweet and fleeting moment). It is my nose inhaling perfumed and gold flecked flowers while my hand grips dripping root and displaced earth. It is my body/your body stretching, bending, twisting as we try to reach needs both spoken and silent. It is the hue of mourning as marked in your ash complexion and my black taffeta dress (with folds crisp enough to hold our past pains and hopes-not-realized). It is my foot over foot over foot stumbling as I try to meet your lips oh so very close almost there. To love you is to labor, to exhale between tensions, to push forward, now floating. It is a celebration (a birthday) for in you I am reborn. For through this we are transformed.