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Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 5

February 8, 2008 7 comments

After Andy Goldsworthy’s
Sweet chestnut green horn
continuous spiral
each leaf laid in the fold of another
stitched with thorns

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton
9 August 1987

   Thorn-pinned, the leaf horn
Sang of silences to trees,
   Praising blossom-blow,

   Calling green-lit morn
And me. Song was meant to please
   Yet to let me know

   He who made the horn
Played to pluck me from my tree.
   The carrion crow,

   Creaky as a worn
Hinge, cawed as the canopy
   Quaked and let me go.

   His limbs are hawthorn
Flowers, white, a bed of ease.
   Mine are melting snow.

   Now that dreams are shorn
And heartwood betrayed by leaves,
   Only grief may grow:

   Better never born
Or dead than severed from trees—
   Breathless in barrow.

by Marly Youmans

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Body Beautiful

February 7, 2008 4 comments

I have become my bones.
I wear my skin
like a shield of leaves,
like wing cases. I am safe
here at my core.

My mother grooms herself.
She turns and turns before mirrors,
buffing the peach, the downy,
the over-ripe as if
you can hide behind beauty forever.

My father watches apples
falling in October. No-one
will gather them now.
He dreams the old dream
of fruit that lies unharvested.

My lover drinks. His eyes
burn at me across
the beaker’s rim. ‘What
is the nature of this journey
that she needs no flesh, no comfort?’

I have become my bones.
They are a cage for the dust
that is my element.
I diminish. It is cold
here at my core.

by Dick Jones

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Encounter

February 6, 2008 1 comment

Lost Magic

February 5, 2008 1 comment

As a kid I went through a phase when I was obsessed with magic. My most successful trick was a small water jug that had a secret compartment. In performance, I’d dramatically empty the jug to the last drop. Then I’d wave a wand over it. Miraculously, water would pour out of the secret compartment.

I performed the trick at my sister’s second grade birthday party, as Luigi The Great, dressed in a pair of my mom’s leather boots that stretched past my knees and a black cape. The necromancer chic was topped off with generous amounts of hair spray.

That first performance was brilliant; I had that crowd of seven year olds in my ten-year-old palm. They couldn’t believe I could produce water out of nothing through magical incantations. I even had a volunteer from the audience step forward and tap the jar according to my secret instructions. For that brief moment, I had power no one else had. I could create water.

The following year the crowd was not only older but apparently had grown wiser too. Only I still had the same set of tricks. This time I had to tell the kid in the back who claimed I had a secret compartment to shut up because he was ruining the show for everyone else. Then, as I continued the show, the resident skeptic crawled underneath the table, discovered the secret compartment, and declared the jug a fraud. I stood there wishing I really did have the power to make him disappear. But the damage was done. This wasn’t magic, the kids realized. These were tricks.

I never wore Luigi’s cape and boots again, but the fascination with magic never went away. If anything, the knowledge that magic doesn’t exist just increases the hope that it does. A couple years after my failed magic show, the new kid from Toronto introduced my friends and me to Dungeons & Dragons. We were hooked. You couldn’t buy any of this stuff in Mexico, where I grew up, so we diligently photocopied his books of spells and encyclopedia of monsters, got them lovingly spiral-bound and cared for them as if they really were archaic tomes filled with powerful runes. We couldn’t buy the special 20-sided, 8-sided and 12-sided dice either, so the quiet kid from Uruguay set out to make some from clay. The third batch wasn’t bad. Then we went to the Indian market in Coyoacán and bought leather pouches that tied with a drawstring for our dice. As far as I’m concerned, that pouch of dice and the barely legible photocopied folio I kept in my backpack wherever I went were pure magic, a portal to another world.

It was only much later, on a visit to a bookstore in the US, that I realized there were all sorts of packaged adventures you could buy: maps and characters and quests already created for you. Looking at those books full of bright graphics, I could feel the magic fade away. This wasn’t the world we had breathed into being, through hour after hour of impassioned and impromptu story telling. True, our world wasn’t as slick, our hand-drawn maps weren’t as precise, our creatures not as fiercely alive as the ones snarling on the shiny pages. But it was… real. It’s vagueness was its mystery — was its magic. If necessity is the mother of invention, scarcity is the father of imagination.

As the real world competed for our interest, eventually we gave up on the magic and dragons. In the ascension to adulthood we jettison our sense of wonder one parcel at a time, the balloonist throwing just enough sandbags overboard to gain altitude.

by Stephen W. Searfoss

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Otherworld

February 4, 2008 5 comments
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Speaking in Sulphur

February 1, 2008 2 comments

Frances reopens her book and lives
take up where she left them
on both sides of the valley in her lap.
The life of the book is them under her,
under the pages, and whatever they say
about themselves they say in her voice,
and will wear what she sees for them.
What she says for herself is the voice
she never met, and last month people
she never knew in Oklahoma
said she had her grandmother’s voice.
As strange for her to be speaking in Sulphur,
as for them to hear that ghost voice
after fifty years. Lives behind her
have been reading through her life
and ours, not just in Oklahoma, but here
through an acre of air and invisible thousands
of recollections and swallow-building gnats.
These things must be rewritten and reread.
It is so hard to know who we are saying.

by Allan Peterson

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EVP

January 30, 2008 2 comments

following my night in a ‘haunted’ hearse

The waveform charts an ambiguous sound
recorded at 4am. A rise and fall amid the fuzz —
I admit there is interference. The engineer cuts
with the click of a mouse, isolating the event.
Confined to the studio, I am surrounded by terms,
Aux1, D-verb, 12 TalkBck. He tweaks the dials
with an arrow-hand, manipulates the trim, sailing
a sea of 5.1 for a whisper in a storm. A siren
sings the briefest song, two syllables on repeat
rolling across my ear’s taut drum. I am stranded
in this peculiar ship. Bent in devotion, closer
to the speakers, submitting my cheek for the slap.
The engineer says he is amplifying with 120db
of extra gain. I have been shanghaied again
behind polished glass, a space filled with shady
language. Just one clear word from the nebula,
some colour to this white noise. Stuck on a loop,
a listening trap, drawn late into the night. Death
works like this, stealing strips of life, feeding on
the prying mind. The engineer looks up, says
it is all Greek to him, charging extra for his time.
But the hint of one word is breaking me down.
My wife keeps txting me home.

by Nathan Curnow

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(audio includes the “ambiguous sound” heard in the hearse)

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