Photography by Leeta Harding
From the poetry editor’s desk—
Here we are again, only older. The fall looks original and unique in its ubiquitous death, beautiful even, yet the granular remains borne on the weight of each leaf relenting to the air. A stirring we say because what passes us is ungraspable. The very message of the fall is passing or transition. It tells us to get ready for the dark time. Yet I have been buried in the root cellar since last March and have not emerged from my winter quarters, or hiberra from the Latin. And I am corrupt in my resentments of spring and summer in which we all remained, as we still remain, isolated.
This fall, I took up artwork again after a long sojourn. I needed color. It represents a breaking in me. The physical arts are what I call, practice. Yet one must give oneself over to them, regardless of merit or talent. Malcom Gladwell estimates we need 10,000 hours of practice before achieving mastery of anything. But this doesn’t really count in art, or in hitting a baseball, something else at which I failed. There are 8,760 hours in one solid year. Presumably, at my current rate of practice, I would need to live 800 years until I could approximate the output of Keats, who was only 25 when he died on Halloween. It’s best not to compare.
The first thing I practiced, when I took pigment to paper, was drawing a pine tree. A pine, after all, is only a line, a thing that decides to shoot upright from the landscape to hold up the sky, just as art does. Seems simple. But I had a lot of trouble with beginnings and endings, as I do in life. The pine reminded me that when I got lost, it was only because I had gone on for too long down the same paths or habits. I only needed to make a connector to get out of hibernation. In resisting a pine, I understood it more. For the art or the act of art making contained essentially the birth and death moment, interchangeably, the charged disruption. When I stopped thinking and planning, when whatever I supposed could vanish, when the pine ceased to be, that’s when it struck. The pine became.
So I made next a horse named Gallop, an azalea named Heart, a deconstruction of North Carolina beachscape named Vessel, and my wife’s closed eye, which we called Glom. Between these, I returned to the pine for a connector, a branching. All this from pine, which I named Bison after a friend who saw the bison in it. The roots of pine from Middle English pinen meant “cause to starve” and from Old English pinian meant “to torture, torment, afflict, cause to suffer.” And why? Perhaps because to live is to suffer, to endure. And little lives longer than the pine. Pine also like a longing, a thirst, an admirable loneliness, a separation from the beloved. I recall my pine floors worn by worry at home and the white pine handle of the baseball bat I gripped too tightly in my youth. Full head, empty bat as the saying goes. If you think too much about hitting the baseball, you will never hit it.
Creativity is mostly destruction and certainly not always positive. It requires an escape from safety. However, when it destroys the mindless, habitual, death festering normalcy to which we become addicted, the intrusion of creative force often accompanied by behavioral extinction burst, is transformative.
The pines that burned this summer in the West are still burning. Many have cones that are coated in resin, nearly impermeable to weather or animal, and their shells only melt and break open in fire. The seeds then jettison on the wind and drift after fire has passed through, to germinate on the blackened forest floor, amid the ash and embers.
Special thanks to Amina Adeyola, our first poetry intern here at Parhelion, for helping me put together the selections for this issue.
Too weak to lift the Padre, / they roll his body in, cover him / with a snow cairn.Marion Starling Boyer
But what does it say about the human spirit? and what / Does it say about the need for storytelling? Even there, / Even as they starve or get sent to the isolation cellsBrian Culhane
“We float above ourselves ecstatically.” / “No tense, no personhood, no viewpoint at all.”Anthony Hagen
and in the side mirrors I see myself split / and doubled, a life on either side / of the knife.Clay Matthews
Who will lay a sign / for the unremembered?Judy Melchiorre
What remains / of us when our own vehicles / arrive in some salvage yard / will be picked through without / care, without consequence.Austin Veldman