{p7: ekphrastic on wonder exhibit}


Today’s images are taken from Jennifer Angus’ show, “In The Midnight Garden” from the Wonder exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC, courtesy of photographing poetry sister Sara Lewis Holmes.

I both love and kind of dread our ekphrastic months with the Poetry Sisters. We all have such eclectic tastes, artwork is so subjective, and I’m never sure quite what I think of a sculpture or image until I’m writing about it – which has been kind of an adventure. Lately, though, as I’ve been working to finish a book manuscript and kind of feeling the chill of the winds of change in the country lately, it’s been a struggle to stay on the …er, sunny side, as it were. I’m not actively depressed, but I have pretty much got the gallows humor going on, and …yeah. So, when Sara brought us pictures of a room full of bugs I… Hm. I looked at it. In a way, with its cochineal-washed walls, the exhibit space is gorgeous. The insects themselves are so beautiful, but then I got entangled in the details… details like, the bugs are DEAD. Sure, they were wonderful (perhaps wonder-full?) when alive, but they’re now simply rank on rank of dead bugs, or dead chitinous outer skeletons of bugs, ordered, empty, husks which should have been alive.


And can you believe it, of all the ideas I had? That one stuck.

Somehow, seeing that and the tiny drawers – which reminded me so much of the old card catalogues – made me think of emotions, or how we deal, or don’t deal with them… How, when they’re not alive within us, they become useless, dead things that we just …shuffle around in drawers? I don’t know. I would apologize AGAIN for being the weirdo in the room, but by now we all know this is apparently just who I am.

Asi es la vida.


Because there is no remedy for woe
And lacking physic, panacea, cure,
We package it, with labels, just to show
How fine we are. We can – we will! – endure.
Because life has no cure, save for the grave
(And deathless, sunless, half-life not our aim – )
What can’t be changed, we archive. We, the brave
Recorded, classed, but empty all the same.
Systemized sleight-of-hand is what we use
To keep what matters indexed deep inside.
Chameleons playing shell-games, we excuse
Our hollow places. (Grief? Undignified.)

Why, when this world would gut us, should we leave
Our undefended hearts upon our sleeves?

This, the month when summer school classes are ending, school is resuming, and the last frantic scramble of this and that is taking place, we didn’t all make today’s poetry date, but we’ll see them next month. Meanwhile, don’t miss Liz, Sara, Andi & Tricia’s contributions – which include a video and artist interview – for today.

Additional Poetry Friday contributions are hosted today at A Teaching Life.

5 Replies to “{p7: ekphrastic on wonder exhibit}”

  1. I loved this entire blog post. For the record, I’m reading on Wednesday August 10th. I am feeling the pressure of producing SOMETHING for Friday….and what can I possibly do? I often wonder am I really a poet? I am probably more a fraud….or kinda weird. Right? I so get what you are writing!

    As to the poem. It’s lovely. The thoughts that led to it and it’s written form.

    This line is my favorite: keep what matters indexed deep inside

    As a librarian…old enough to remember little drawers this appeals to me.

    Thank you for bravely persevering and writing through your hesitation. It’s lovely.

  2. Systemized sleight-of-hand is what we use
    To keep what matters indexed deep inside.

    And yet…when we write poetry…or stories…those things indexed deep inside become transformed, somehow, and visible and not dead, but alive—and shared. It’s a miraculous thing, and I’m grateful I have you and my Poetry Sisters to witness to it every month.

  3. What Karen said about your “weirdo” comment. Quit it. Right now.

    I’m savoring your word choice — package, archive, index. All so systematic in an attempt to control life which is anything but. Witness: a room full of the most outrageous example of diversity ever!

  4. I had to log in from Google, Tanita, strange notes above! I read your poem several times, believe (to me) it is endemic of human nature to “hide out” our emotions most of the time, and I love the idea of different drawers. Your imagination gives me pause, but I agree, too. I enjoyed hearing about the process, too.

  5. Wow, I particularly like:

    What can’t be changed, we archive.

    It’s amazing what you came up with in response to a room full of bugs.

    Poets don’t have to (don’t get to?) apologize for being the weirdo in the room. It’s a requirement of the job, which requires a different way of seeing, no? 🙂

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