Poems from Paintings: A Collaboration
featuring poems by Tess Gallagher inspired from paintings by Josie Gray
Moons’s Rainbow Body
Forbidden to travel by night, you nonetheless arrive at dawn. In Josie’s portrait I attend your birth moment, accomplished in a swirl of greens against a night sky of green. Where did he get you, green moon, and by what permission do you make a birth out of a seeming disintegration?
Like a thumb print on a glass, you hover in daylight, marking the sky with a scar of midnight. Suddenly my body leaps with you into the immensity, so gone the word gone can’t find a mouth to say it. Each moon-lit.
arrival is like a gong without a temple reverberating against an unseen mountain. The spider’s mouth unravels a silken bridge across which the fly belies it ever.
for Josie Gray, March 23, 1924
A blue-black planet, it falls from the chainsaw into rainwater puddled where the earthquake left its shoulders in the driveway, the depression in gravel reminding us we walk on waves, could sink.
The droplet flings itself down, radiates like a jellyfish unfurling its mantle — filtrating, rippling. At its core, a violet eye, magenta-lashed, its milky skirting buoyant.
Josie goes into the house for the camera to take its portrait. The door to beauty always stands open. days later he stares at the photograph until he enters him fully, just a spot of oil, transforming his hand with its paint brush into an instrument of rainbow approximates that begin to pale the original.
Like a satellite moon the eyelet center deeply shines. Planet-Josie revolves over it, the light of his face also entering as he works. Beauty passes through us blackly shuddering, stabilizes its revolution and, against all expectation, begins to rise from undulating shape on his page.
A heart like that at eighty.
Each year AWP (the Association of Writer’s & Writing Programs) selects the best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction written by undergraduate and graduate students in participating creative writing programs within the United States. Unpublished manuscripts are nominated by AWP member programs and AWP judges pick the winners. Eight literary journals from throughout the nation then publish these works, and Artful Dodge joined this group starting with this issue. Here is featured the 2003-2004 AWP Winner for Poetry that was published in Artful Dodge 46/47:
She keeps a rough sack of potatoes in the entry, a trough disguised as dressing table, they squat unseen there, planted before the mirror where we lay our mittens, where she rests her small body on one hand to sigh, then buttons my purse inside my coat.
We pickle vegetables and store them in my bedroom. Jars with swimming greens and reds line the windowsill— chilled from the draft, we spoon them on fried yaitsa each morning. The jars saved for the coldest winter months are window bars, protecting me from the night in our ground floor apartment.
But in the early evening our kitchen is bright as we weigh out heaps of sugar and flour on a scale against a pile of fifty-gram weights. She is cutting apples, blackened with rot. She sugars them for the pirog. And I am by her side only because the oven warms the kitchen, and the night grows too dark to go into.
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