Bristle-tipped leaves, teeth of a cold wind. Faded red swastika on the concrete embankment. Symbol stolen from the world below: Caliginous tunnels, veins of underlight (what illuminates the world above). Rock sings. Stone mouths slow-shift with earth’s turns. Who prays to release the spirits chained in red paint? Fire: Crow, red leaf. Fire: Black branch, red eye. Fire: Heart beat, snipers scope.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Above streetlights, passing cars, the last pears. Brown skins hold summer’s water, fire, fire’s emptiness. They’ll fall, one by one, into long grass behind a stone wall, gathered up by the woman who drowned her children to save them from loneliness. No one will eat them.
Lake dust rides the wind to the height of Mt. Whitney. One Henry Ford follows another out of the dust. No redwing, no cattail, no hawk perched on a phone pole. One Henry Ford follows another, thumb out, pretending to be Henry Fonda (as Tom Joad), each one believing he’s the underdog, the one who has given so much to so many. What can his workers possibly want now? He gave all he could give... One Henry Ford follows another, running dust hands over the remnants of the aqueduct that crossed the Mojave. Water, water, to feed the radiant grid; the promise of More. Water, to help light the way for all the Henry Ford’s following one another out of the dark, out of the scattered dust, seeking brilliant form.
Owens Valley, California
A 200 mile aqueduct from the Owens Valley, across the Mojave, to Los Angeles was completed in 1913, beginning its century-long obsessive search for water. As predicted, Owens Lake eventually ran dry. To this day LA still pumps water from the aquifer beneath the valley. The aquifer will eventually go the way of the lake.
1. A creature haunts the cold cellar releases spiders through the floorboards at night. The table lamp casts long shadows across the wall. 2. A local school board allowed Creationism to be taught instead of evolution (God made the earth 6000 years ago, in six days?). There was a lawsuit, thank god. 3. If I could crawl inside the milkweed pod next to the mailbox across the road when the seeds take on the colors of the setting sun... 4. Down the road a man sits on a mower in his front yard, hooked to an oxygen tank, .22 pistol wedged in his belt. Wife left. Daughter far away. Two heart attacks. 5. Two squash-faced dogs wait under the apple tree all day, every day, for the same tractor (the only tractor) to pass. At dusk they leap up, baying, disappear into the tractor’s road dust. 6. And every sunset, hundreds of geese, heading south, white feathers tainted red. A map in the blood.
Endless Mountains, Pennsylvania (near Meshoppen)
(from the photo series “Mental Hospital La Castañeda” by Kati Horna)
Bodies in rags, sprawled on concrete, half in sun, half in shade. The one in the foreground, head on his knees — what has he seen that he cannot speak? Wind all night through missing panes; cellophane cigarette wrapper skipping across creosote flats. Did he feel us beyond the lens, moving frame to frame through this museum, hung between burnt fingers playing an accordion of sand and the much-anticipated announcement of what will save us at last?
Pallant House Gallery Chichester, England
Drops after a hard rain: one and one and one... then, the cry: Who made the world? Who makes the world now? A question, falling through empty space. The emptiness that holds us together. And at the edge of sleep, an answer, far off — Who made the world? Who makes the world now?
Woodstock, New York
Christien Gholson is the author of the novel, A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian, 2011), and On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press, 2006; re-issued by Parthian in the UK, 2011), a work of loosely linked prose poems. His work has appeared in various journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Big Bridge, Ecotone, Hanging Loose Magazine, Lilliput Review, and Poetry Wales, among others. Two long poems have previously appeared here at Mudlark: The Sixth Sense and The Black Edge. Gholson’s take on Beauty & Terror, the paintings of Leonora Carrington, Rimbaud, The Day of the Dead, and many other subjects can be found on his blog: noise & silence.