Portrait of the Writer out in Nature
(I envisioned Endangered as an exhibition about our disconnection from nature and the inevitable tragic outcome, a continuation of Seton’s warnings. The invited artists created a variety of responses. Intended for the walls of the Seton Gallery, the show is presented in a series of blog postings. Images and text copyright belong to the individual artists. dlw)
I interviewed visual artists for Endangered, wanting their words as well as their images. But what about also reversing that—asking word artists (poets) to participate including a visual image of their choice? I planned on framing poems and hanging them on the wall interspersed with paintings, drawings, etc. The show I have come up has neither frames nor walls; the poems are still vital to explaining the Endangered concept. I interviewed Renée Gregorio by phone on January 22. After reading the Endangered statement I sent to her, she recalled two published works inspired by walking trails near Jacona, New Mexico.
The poems are a correspondence between her internal state and the environment. Where are we in relation to the environment, she wondered, shocked (as is anyone who is paying attention) at how few years we have left before it is too late to stop the worst of climate change. “We are headed down this really horrible path.” Which is exactly why, in my view, we need poets, painters, teachers and climate visionaries to get at the meaning of truths presented to us by scientists’ statistics.
The disorienting haze of rain.
Rain as a veil.
The river moving beyond the trees.
The refuge of cloud.
On the far riverbank,
carved faces in rock.
When I slept by the wild river,
I felt protected.
It makes me want to protect back.
I saw the gold of early morning light
stretched across a strip of frost
on the boards of a footbridge
half the bridge clear, half frost-laden,
a perfect line dividing the two possibilities
and I cried.
The day of the burial,
So much rain—rain and the hole
Dug in the wrong place.
Certain clouds are only water.
(From The Storm That Tames Us, La Alameda Press, 1999)
The Breath Inside the Breath
This is the season of falling away,
falling back. I hear it in the leaves,
a sound like dying.
This season of brilliant color
muted by cold. I watch as the wind
tears the leaves from their branches.
It is beyond the time I brought dark
into light with hands surrounding me
with their own sort of breath
as if I were an instrument music
could rise up from. No, these days
I read Kabir asking his student:
Tell me, what is God?
And the answer: He is the breath
inside the breath.
I am walking down the road to a stream,
holding nothing in my hands, jumping over sand
to reach a tiny island where water flows
on both sides of me. Here I find comfort;
water diverges directly in front
of my face. I can hear it and touch it
its sound is alive in me.
At this place I find the strength to kneel,
fill my hands with water, and drink.
I come here for refuge and re-claiming what should never
have been lost, this stretch of barrancas I climb
to the top of, find my feet planted
on an earth I never knew anything about.
At the summit I find a worn, ancient footpath
and travel on.
(From Drenched, Fish Drum Press, 2010)