And Somewhere In The After-Image Winged Creatures Tread Gently On The Soft Ground

The mountainsides—let’s say the sides—depicted bitumen black.
Brown debris and blackened scraps of golden shadow-facets.

The face of the cave—let’s say a cave—gigantic black and slick.
The canopy above it, ashen; floor—a River Styx.

Knives of light can’t part the dark that concentrates the hidden.
I stand before the image with my one good eye, my one good hand—

its bluish veins like subcutaneous creeks;
gaze conjunctively into the blood, the hand becomes a map.

the differences collapse:

body is the starry sky, artifice the spark. The murderer the murdered
and the fugitive the found; the audience, the living-piece performed:

Our hearts are in the darkness, our hearts are in the chest.
Metered to the spheres and set to music.

Questions and Answers

What motivated you to write this poem? What did you find particularly challenging in writing this piece?

This poem was written after a painting titled Hidden Treasures by artist Judith Davidson-Palmer of the Women’s Art Association of Canada. I’m involved in a longstanding ekphrastic collaboration with studio artists of the WAAC, so I’m always alert to works that awaken a poetic response. In this case, it was the dark scale of the painting that sparked me, also the evocative title. With ekphrastic writing I find the challenge in general is to ‘speak to’ the art in a way that’s true, while also ‘speaking out of’ the work in a way that elaborates insight. In this piece, I was aiming to characterize polarity and the prospect of resolution.

This poem “And Somewhere In The After-Image Winged Creatures Tread Gently On The Soft Ground” originally appeared in Science & Canadian Literature. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 221 (Summer 2014): 17.

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