by Glenn Irwin
The breeze came up from out of the woods,
across the creek bed, beneath naked branches,
over earth already softening and caught him
on the hillside with his back to the sun, and there
took advantage of his emptiness
to move through him rather
than around him,
to separate the particles of him
cleanly, to slow their spins
until the spaces between them
whistled, until each particle
trembled, before dispersing him
over the hill —
When All Else Failed
by Jennifer Goldring
I wanted to be avian, to need to fly in order to eat.
I wanted to swoop down, dip the lake and rise;
talons full of fish. Slippery with life and slippery
with death. I’d love the first thing I grasped
I’d land and pin the catch with claws
and rip at the soft belly. Push the indent
of the flailing fish. Now gutted. Liner red
entrails, grey stone of want, yellow bile leaking
and the beautiful cornflower look of the gills.
I’d peck those delicately. Wash of lust
on my beak and sated or perhaps just satisfied
I’d lift again to the sky with a screech cry,
with the pumping of wings and heart in rhythm,
with an awareness of even the most subtle wind.
by Treasure Sheilds Redmond
in 1882 the last colord rump sat
here on this capitol floor. now 3
black women come to clean house; droppd
from america’s lap, weand on fire, teeth
cut on lynch rope. our wheat straw
truth can not be denied. thus saith
the lord: set thine house in order.
Ode to Big Muddy Asian Carp
by Richard Newman
An angler’s hatred for you is instinctive.
You’ve spawned and spread up every confluence,
and here, below the Alton lock and dam,
you litter broken concrete shores by thousands,
yanked from your riverbeds and lined like missiles,
some six-feet long and some the size of loaves.
You all wear the same face: wide-eyed dismay.
Thistles of bones break through your silver skin
while mounds of guts shine in glorious rot.
No gulls swoop down to pick your eyes or innards.
Though you’ve been prized through Chinese dynasties
and sold to Israel as gefilte fish,
no one here will touch your flesh but flies
whose maggots boil between your sun-warmed gills.
Over a hundred feet above your stink
flocks of American white pelicans
caress the currents with their ink-tipped wings.
They pause a moment, studying, then plunge,
a gaudy signature of life in death,
while great blue herons nod to lapping tides.
We brought you here to binge on catfish algae,
but carnage on these banks is your rank triumph,
a florid waste, a drop in the bait bucket
of your relentless population, nudging
out native bluegill, walleye, largemouth bass.
Your silver hoards gleam through our silt waters,
propelled through dams, twisting round each bend
to leap upriver and choke life at the source.
The story of Asian carp is a mixture of beauty and repulsion, of the perseverance of nature, and human intervention that often leads to great misfortune. Through these fish we are confronted with our own nearsightedness, the brutality of our well-intentioned actions, and the state of our current surroundings.
Reading Richard Newman’s poem revealed a structure and mode of communication that set me on a specific path for the design, construction, and installation of this piece. I wanted to cultivate a space to entertain this poem. Siting is an important aspect to reflection, especially of poetry; thus, I created a place of repose. The wooden structures are spare and refined in their presence, on this site by the lake, with their heavy, grounded footings, rectilinear forms with wavelike endings, and far-reaching spires. They offer a moment of rest.
However, once you are seated on the sculpture, the eye of a great fish confronts you. Uncomfortable in scale and proximity, the fish challenge you to seek a way out. Your repose is interrupted. Their eyes direct you to a mailbox, a black metal form, in which one finds Newman’s poem. Intimate, domestic, and distinctly human, the mailbox signifies the man-made elements within the poem, as well as the site itself.
The Last Book
by Kim Lozano
Suppose a bible turns to vapor and condenses
on the ear of a man made of black iron,
a statue of a soldier of the Great Revelation.
The droplets of water fall onto a little plaque
that reads, Of This I’m Afraid,
beside which a fruit tree grows like a wound,
as grotesque as the foot of a crow
growing from the head of a baby.
Suppose there’s no one shuffling in the piazza,
no stalls, no cafés, just the iron man
and a sliced orange, the juice
dripping from the end of his gun.
I was pleased to be offered Kim Lozano’s “The Last Book,” both because its title evocation could be related to a major component of my work as an artist, i.e., alterations of found books to make sculpture, and because several specific references in the poem, to “a statue,” “a little plaque,” “the piazza,” and “the iron man,” could be things able to be included in the installation. The great obstacle for me was in figuring out how to make the box itself. I don’t count cabinet making among my repertoire of skills so I began looking for a box already made, a “found object,” if you will, with the appropriate scale for containing the work’s other elements. In searching for such a box, in antique malls and junk shops, I found the carved wooden hand I ended up using, plus a couple of items of joke taxidermy (a rabbit with deer antlers, a moose head gun rack) I did not. The terror that shimmers inside the poem would not be enhanced by dumbly literal artifacts.
While visiting the special collections library at Washington University in St. Louis, where I teach in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, I noticed a shelf of stacked foam lecterns, used by the library to cradle fragile books brought out for showing. The gray foam resembled stone, so much so that when I posted years ago. This cube structure was large enough to hold the foam lecterns and materially imposing enough to convey something of the dread within Kim Lozano’s poem.
A last question was onto what surface to put the poem? The plaque reference I’d read there on-line a photograph I took of the stacked forms a couple of friends complimented me for this new direction in my sculpture practice. The library staff was amenable to my borrowing some of their lecterns for Poetry of the Wild, and in my studio the carved wooden hand looked appropriately eerie emerging from the ash colored shapes. Still, in what box would I put this tableau? After several weekends spent in fruitless quest for the right container I finally remembered that I had a stainless steel box of my own design sitting in my studio storage room, a leftover from an unrealized project of some 25 drew me to the Sam Fox School’s architecture wood shop, where I found a piece of scrap MDF (medium density fiberboard) shaped vaguely like an obelisk. With a laser router I burned the words of the poem onto the MDF. This architectonic shard leans against the box.
by Julia Gordon-Bramer
I tried to tame the beggar, reign in
his tom-cat journeying blindly off the cliff.
I tried to bind the boundless,
but the wild would rather rattle and stab
half a bloody broken leg into the ground
than to live a day in a cage.