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Ode to Salt


Ode to Salt by Pablo Neruda
 
 
 This salt
in the salt cellar
I once saw in the salt mines.
I know
you won't
believe me
but
it sings
salt sings, the skin
of the salt mines
sings
with a mouth smothered
by the earth.
I shivered in those
solitudes
when I heard
the voice
of
the salt
in the desert.
Near Antofagasta
the nitrous
pampa
resounds:
a
broken
voice,
a mournful
song.

In its caves
the salt moans, mountain
of buried light,
translucent cathedral,
crystal of the sea, oblivion
of the waves.
And then on every table
in the world,
salt,
we see your piquant
powder
sprinkling
vital light
upon
our food.
Preserver
of the ancient
holds of ships,
discoverer
on
the high seas,
earliest
sailor
of the unknown, shifting
byways of the foam.
Dust of the sea, in you
the tongue receives a kiss
from ocean night:
taste imparts to every seasoned
dish your ocean essence;
the smallest,
miniature
wave from the saltcellar
reveals to us
more than domestic whiteness;
in it, we taste finitude.

Pablo Neruda

 
 

Po8

One of my friends/former teachers thinks that I should collect a chapbook worth of my poems to submit to a publisher. He says that he thinks that, given my style and voice, that I should start publishing. This is an immense honor. He said that the editor for the Visualize Verbalize magazing was impressed with my work, and that he knows that a few of the pieces got accepted.

 

I've been working on California poems lately, since the idea pool for the southwest deserts has gone dry. It's been two years since I was last down there, since Doug died. I put that time away because it's a little too painful, and everything was starting to sound the same.

 

I better get cracking, because most chapbooks are published in late April. On the other hand, my m.o. has always been to wait until the last minute. It's better than sex, really.

 

(All poems copyright C. A. Flory, 2008)

 

Lean Bone

 

 My lady is a lean bone.

 

She dashed upon the rocks,

beaten into birth and dripping

with the tides of her mothers

and the coming of the she-seals,

her hair tangled with the pull of kelp

and the bulb-sacks of air that allow them to breathe

the air of this second world.

 

My lady is a clean bone,

stripped of all her supple flesh,

of the woman she once was,

when the song of her lover called challenge

to the other bulls, to siren stars, to God.

 

She lay then, in her innocence,

with the seagulls,

brash and brass in their screams

in the coward’s way when they steal her away,

strip by strip down laughing gullets

before they leave her carelessly

in the wake of her own skin.

 

My lady is a lean bone,

in the lee of worth and the refusal

to see currents that she alone can swim,

to know that the pull of her body

can move the very gravity of the shore.

 

She forgets her song and her soul.

My lady is a lean bone.

Art Bust

So, I had gotten a slot in this year's Art Fling. It was my painting What Questions at the End of the World, a self-portrait I did in December as a response to the events of last summer. It was mainly catharsis about my ex-husband's death, and at the time I was five months into my alotted year of mourning. (I can stop this June, as if grief and mourning can be turned off like a light.) I don't think it's my magmum opus, but it's my style that I'll be painting in for quite some time.

The founders of the Art Fling thought that it would be nice to bring some more modern types of artwork, like abstracts, art noveau, clay sculpture, with different themes other than western art, as it is over in Cody. Cowboys, cattle, horses and the lone coyote dominate the art market, and it's nigh impossible for modern artists and styles to get a foothold over there. It's similar to the environment in Placerville ten years ago, home of Tommy Kincade, and no other budding artist could get a canvas in edgewise unless it were in the "Painter of Light" style. (Dig Joan Didion's comments on Wiki. She is one of my writer heroes.) Thankfully for P'ville and for the work of many wonderful artists, things have changed. Not so for this town, alas.

When I got to the event all of town's usual elite were there, in the same fine evening garb that they always wear, wearing the same spectacles, drinking the same wine. I looked at the wall and my heart sank. Mine was one of only three non-western pieces there.

I left after the live auction started, but my sister was there doing the Vanna White thing on the runway, and reported to me later that I only got one bid. That didn't hurt much, as I had also learned from her that one of the art students at the college whom I most admire said that my painting was her favourite. To be ranked so by a peer is a bigger compliment than getting accepted for the show-auction.

My friend Rachel, a copper lady of twenty-two, said that she learned that the Town Elite only bidded on local artists who they knew would be in galleries, and would not but speculation pieces at all. Sure enough, as bidding progressed, only the recognizable names and the works of recognizable landmarks –Heart Mountain, the Absaroka Range—were bid upon and bought.

This apparently disgusted the auctioneer. After the third painting, one of a gracefull buffalo under a sweeping storm by a little-known artist was hung back up on the wall, he stopped in the middle of the bidding to say: "The artists have a lot of time and effort invested in these works, folks. Please remember that and bid." He paced and shook his head as he said this, but the Elite went on chattering among themselves.

I know that the organization that started the Fling were disappointed too, and I feel my heart ache for them more than anything else. Rachel ended up selling one of her pastels, but only after dropping her minimum by $200. She earned only $70. The work is worth $600. As I said, heartache. 

The next afternoon I was talking to my ceramics teacher, and she said that a lot of the local artists feel bad about the Art Fling too. They realize that the hearts are in the right place, but we need more new people here to appreciate the newer, non-western artists.

For next year I plan on doing a western piece in my style, of course. It's going to be horses sweeping across a plain near dusk. On the right-hand side, just running out of frame will be a horse's rear end. 

That's my commentary.

Get Yo' Shatner On

Bestest. Filk. Ever.

ShatnerBack

There is nothing more to say. You can't resist The Shat.

First Friday

I read at the First Friday poetry/prose reading at the college. I signed up the slot after an older gentleman read a hilariously wry essay on the emotive awfulness of some poetry and memoirs. Eep! It's almost as bad as the time they put me on after someone who read John Donne's A Valediction Forbidding Mouring. You can't quite be taken seriously when going on mic after one of the giants of poetry. 

...However, if they put me after Tennyson I might have looked good. *bah dah chiiiiing!* To many-towered Camelot, my eye.

Here's the poems I read, in no particular order, copyright C.A.F. 2008 and all that jazz:

Thrum

 

Remaining here for a year

at the forty-fifth, I remember:

 

The Farallon Islands are blades

that cut the horizon and wound the sun.

She bleeds a bronze trail

into the water at high-mark tide.

 

Her blood stains the stinking pylons

of the docks into beauty.

Mussels open tiny mouths to swallow

every last honey drip of her.

 

The girls in the surf and the kelp-brown lovers

move to the same rhythm.

The sun breathes in pleasure,

fever-red in her furious dying.

 

Gulls cry with her cries,

beating wings thrumming along with her heart.

The sea lions moan

and crash their supple bodies chest to chest.

 

An old woman bows with the dune-grass

to smile into the dusk.

As she looks she remembers the summers

of her own hot-blood girlhood.

 

The filly legs of the surf-girls

pound the muscle-hard sand.

Their feet know fury,

their innocent bodies already know the sway.

 

Lovers, oblivious to all,

rolling about like seals in the cooling sands.

Hands clasp everywhere,

warm skin to cool grit.

 

I stood on the cliff rejoicing,

my spirit cast in a taut line off the fault.

I was born in a land of rivers and tides

that flow to the west.

 

Living this side of the continental divide

is killing me.

Yosemite Chant

 

Your cold runs from my shoulders,

the night like water,

stars falling from the cedar strings of the earth lodge.

 

They sink deep into the pool of my iris,

so that I may find the constellations of home

with one eye.

 

The other will look forward into the world

that my hands can touch.

 

The ponderosas–my fathers—

sway and breathe dreams,

and the currents of faraway shores into my veins,

so that I will remember

to exhale the tide even under inland skies.

 

Your granite chorus sings to me,

the pale child with yellow hair,

as I listen to my mother’s throaty chant

rise with the curl of smoke from her fire.

 

The stars swallow the trail

as a gift from her earth-cracked hands.

 

I do not share the shade of her skin,

or the jet-and-ashes of her hair,

but I am her daughter,

for the same river-map of the Merced

courses in our wrists and veins.

 

Western child, horizon child,

the reeds beneath me rattle

to remind my bones how to dance.

Chillins

Even though I occasionally dream about children they are not really kid-like. They're generally miniature adults or "nature" spirits in disguise. (That's the best way I can explain them. They are extremely intelligent, ancient, and trying to show me a path through life that my waking consciousness is too dull to notice.) At twenty-seven, almost -eight, I still have never felt any sort of pull toward having children, nor the proverbial ticking of a biological clock. Some children interest me, but only those who are very special. Usually I cannot stand little ones under the age of six, unless their parents are right there for me to hand them off to once they become ---well, more animated is a polite term.

I was walking across campus the other day when I heard a man breathe esctatically into his cell phone: "We're pregnant! Allie told me just last night! I know! Isn't it great!"

I wanted to go over to the guy, slap the phone out of his hand, and revoke his Man Privilages. While I am all for the modern notion of complete partnership in relationships and parenting the  touchy-feely, modern notion of a couple being pregnant is just ridiculous. It's biologically impossible for a human male to be pregnant. She is pregnant, mister, but you are both having a baby. She will go through labor, you will deliver. It's great that you're involved and all mister, but until you help cut the cord, your work is done in regards to the formation of that infant.

I also have an issue with the cute-ification of pregnancy that the media seems to be going ga-ga over lately. "Baby bump" instead of pregnant belly or stomach, calling a woman "preggers" when she's actually pregnant... My response to those words is probably not what they had in mind. Morbidly, I think of "baby bump" as something that small children get when they hit their heads a little to hard crawling under the dining room table. "Preggers" sounds like some spaghetti sauce gone horribly wrong.

What happened with using... you know... actual English words with wonderful, ready-made meanings to describe what is? When did baby-talk babbling become so mainstream? At this rate I expect Anderson Cooper to deliver grave, war-related news with: "Well, the Sunnis woke up wif some boo-boos today after a night of violence-wiolence in the big town of Baghdad. But on a happier note, PM Maliki's wife has a baby bump that indicates she's three months along! All of the nursery goods will be Prada."

A Dweam within a Dweam

I dreamed I had to rescue Ben Affleck from a raging river and five-story waterfall. Post-Gigli Ben Affleck, no less. Argh!

On the other hand it was nice to be "out and about" in nature. My dreams are always startlingly realistic-looking for nature settings when I have them, though they may be skewed a little. For instance, every time I dream about Yellowstone I am driving on a great, figure-eight looped road with stopping places to look at geysers, antique lodges, or potential wolf sightings. What is different is that it's combined with Coloma, California, and instead of rugged road banks and dense lodgepole forests, the roads are lined with lush meadows and zig-zag split-rail fences. The textures of the pines, grass, algae mats, bubbling water and boulders are all very realistic.

Unfortunately this meant that Bennie was very realistic-looking too, and I resisted the urge to slap the man. I settled for foisting him off on some of my elementary school friends, who happened to be wandering by in newly minted adult forms.

Then my dream changed and I was in a nick-nack store with all of these beaded Bohemian scarves, sling bags, and native-made baskets and bracelets. I had a son named Ryder, a little blonde-headed boy with the most serious eyes I've ever seen on a child. I carried him about and had to pause at interval, sitting down on the floor and taking him into my lap, pressing my wrists to his forehead. He kept telling me that he was a raptor and he needed to find his feathers. I could see through the windows that a storm was gathering, the clouds heavy and slate-coloured at the horizon over the brittle lodgepole pines. I wouldn't let him go out into the gathering darkness.

I have no bloody clue what that symbolizes.

Today is a studio day, saturated with art and artists. Since I slept in --sort of-- through the time change it means that half of my day has been carved away already, but I'm also laid-back and ready to get working.

Medium

I woke up this morning with the soundtrack from The Skeleton Dance stuck in my head. What the hell? Still, it's an amazing example of early sound-sync animation, and one of my favourites. I remember the way the church bell rang scared me when I was a child, because it was almost sentient in its movements. Also, when the skeletons combine to frantically run back into the grave before dawn the shape they makes reminds me a little too much of the legend of the Nucklavee.

Strangely though, the sweeping motion the skeletons make with their heads in one place scared me the most, it was so eerie. But as an adult I look at it and think: "Well, that goes against all physics." It's one of the few times that watching something you watched as a child with a new adult perspective that lessens the effect, rather than enhancing it. Contrary though, I find Labyrinth, the original Star Trek and The Princess Bride much more amusing now than I did when I was young, because I see all new levels of meaning in them.

Yesterdays was delightfully eerie and haunted feeling, because a low skirt of grey clouds was rolling over the basin, occasionally weeping rain or misting snow. I wandered about on campus to enjoy the feeling --being inland the air is so dry and when it's wet like that I feel I'm back home-- so I was out for a few hours.

I went to the auditorium/theatre at the college, the NPA. It's rumoured to be haunted, and while some people avoid the area I like it there. Even those I have spoken to who are complete skeptics dislike the building and say that they feel uncomfortable. I went out onto the glossy, dimly lit stage and just stood there for along time, trying to feel anything strange --I didn't-- and looking out over the dark smear of the unlit seating area. Nothing looked back at me but the blank faces of the  red fold-down seats. I felt that I was trespassing a little, becuase the stage is open for singers to practice voice or musicians to practice their aim over an actual venue space. Technically I wasn't supposed to be there, though at most I would have gotten a raised eyebrow from the security staff. 

Interestingly, I had my mental/emotional guards down to see if I could sense anything out of the norm. I was considering leaving when the hairs on the back of my neck pricked up. I knew it wasn't anything ghostly, but I left just the same, wanting to keep my harmless trespass a secret. Sure enough, just as I walked out the stage door a tour group of potential student parents and their guide were walking in from a place I could not have known they were coming from because of the sound-and-sight killing drapes on the fringes of the stage. One of the women gave me a snooty glance as I passed, so I gave her a grin in answer. They never knew I had been there.

Klepto

The art department at the college is a communial place, with a set of people who get to know each other well for several years at a time, and as old students go new ones are happily brought into the fold. For the most part, it's a very relaxed environment. People leave iPods, CDs, cell phones and backpacks just laying about in the studios with no fear of theft during school hours. The teachers, staff and security know who belongs and who does not with a nod and a smile. We all keep an eye out for each other, even down to our silly bits of electronics. Art students speak in a shorthand with one another. If someone comes in with art as an interest or a minor, chances are a few people will scrounge up a few sheets of sketch paper for you and a stick of charcoal so you can sit in on a still life or a model's pose. 

For the most part this easy feeling is passed down from semester to semester, but every now and then a student comes in and things start disapprearing.

For that semester or two you'll hear us "old timers" complaining about having to put a lock on their supply drawer, and the teachers and staff will make classroom-wide pleas for the thefts to stop. The items taken are never very big or expensive --I think we had a PDA stolen once, and it was mysteriously found a week later in the head offices a block away-- but it's the principle of the thing that angers all of us.

The students in the art department like that freedom of sharing. For most things, be it a sculpting tool or a CD, we don't mind people borrowing them as long as they are cleaned and put back where they belong once you're done with them. Hell, even if we're not there and you just need to listen to Pearl Jam or use a #2 brush, please, be our guest. What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine, and do you want to meet at the coffee house later this afternoon, and do you want the last scone? I'm buying.

It just ticks me off no end when some malcontent ruins the feeling. If it's born of mischeviousness or absent-mindedness it doesn't matter. Taking things for keeps is Just Not Done, and you're ruining the system of trust. 

It's doubly hard, because we know from security and our teachers that no one out of place has been there late at night or during the day. The thief is one of our "own," though they do not really belong because of their behaviour. We hate to evict anyone, literally or spiritually, but sometimes we have to, and what's worse, we want to, because of his or her own actions.

Poli-freakin'-tics

Craw. Too many things. Ergo, we shall break it down, Angels style!

Ceramics has taken over my life, and writing has dwindled. I'm sure this is a psycological thing, because whever I get deep into my major I start to backpedal and get interested in something else. I think that on some level I don't wanna grow up. On the other hand, I think that I've found ceramics more appealing lately because it's just a group of artists kicking back and enjoying each other. Though ego is involved in art it is also easier to put it aside than it is for writers, who are promoted by their own ego in a tightly contested field. Artists at least know that we'll starve on art alone, and that always creates a sense of siblingship. Let us all starve together, yay! S'why many artists live in a commune-style, not necessarily out of politic reasons, but because five people can more easily afford a tube of cobalt blue paint than one alone.

My group proposal for creating a Computer Services handbook went through but needs extensive revision. My teammates think that because I'm the document writer they can just kick back on content, and whenever I seek an active critique they just roll out: "it's fine, looking good." Of course, that kind of useless compliment makes me want to go postal. I sent a memo to our director and she had a discussion with us today, not singling anyone out, but I knew that she'd bring up the need for more communication within the group. Now that is politic. I wish I could say it more clearly myself, but I was on the edge of losing my temper. To most I look like a slender doe-eyed dreamer, but when the dukes come out the gloves are off.

Coming up this week:

Art auction --one of my paintings is on the block and I'm nervous as all hell to be judged among my peers.

Ceramics sale --two of our best student ceramacists are having a show and sale next Thursday and have been showing off in the studios all week, keeping the rest of us sufficiently entertained with their bickering.

Photos --of my first successful ceramic cups! I'm so proud.

Naked cowboys on mechanical bulls --just kidding. That actually sounds more hilarious than teh hawt.