Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In Memoriam: Composer Charles Bestor

VCCA has recently learned of the death of composer Charles Bestor who died in on January 16, 2016 at the age of 92.

A graduate of Swarthmore (Phi Beta Kappa), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Charles held a doctorate from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Charles also studied with Paul Hindemith at Yale University and Vincent Persichetti and Peter Menin at the Juilliard School and independently, with Vladimir Ussachevsky. He served in the Navy during World War II.

Charles began his teaching career at the Juilliard School in 1958. Acting as the Julliard Orchestra manager he accompanied the orchestra on their State Department sponsored European tour, joined by his wife, Ann and their three sons. He then moved on to the University of Colorado at Boulder and from there he became the dean of the music school at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon and head of music at the University of Alabama and the University of Utah where he received commissions from the Utah Symphony and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

In 1977 the family moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, Ann Bestor's hometown where Charles became head of the music and dance department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. It was here that Charles would really assume the role of composer.

In addition to VCCA, where he was in residence 13 times between 1987 and 2006, Charles had residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ragdale and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland). At the time of his death he was working on a double CD set of his music entitled "The Summing Up" (available on Albany Records).


Charles also collaborated with visual artist and VCCA Fellow Barbara Cornett and the lighting designer John Wade on the installations “Cycles and Time” and “The River's Flow”, both commissioned by Randolph College’s Maier Museum of American Art in Lynchburg, “Into the Labyrinth”, commissioned by the Fine Arts Center of the Virginia Museum in Lynchburg and “The Unfound Door”, commissioned by the College Music Society. His collaboration with Sherry Healy, “Pathways” from the “Dream Spell Series” was installed at the Chicago International Art Expo at Navy Pier.

After his wife died in 1999, Charles set up the
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Endowment Fund through the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust to honor her and their 47-year union. Charles leaves their six children: Charles and Geoff, both of Washington D.C., Phill of Pittsburgh, Leslie Ann of Amherst, MA, Wendy of Taiwan, and Simsbury, CT, and Jenner of Amherst, MA. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Charles’s family and wide circle of students and friends

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

NEA-Supported Writer Anna Stull Speaks about her Experiences in Iraq

A medically retired Captain in the Army Nurse Corps, writer Anna Stull came to VCCA on a fellowship funded by the NEA supporting military veteran artists. Anna is writing a memoir of her experiences deployed to Abu Ghraib Prison in 2006 and as Saddam Hussein’s nurse while detailed to the Iraqi High Tribunal Court during the Al-Anfal Trial.

Anna began writing soon after her return from Iraq as a form of therapy. Over the course of three years as she wrote, she gained clarity about what she had been through. Once she realized, it’s okay; I’m okay, as opposed to, I’m still wounded, she felt able to move into a more didactic mind frame and begin writing in a serious way about her experiences. “In the beginning, I was nervous about putting anything in print that had anything to do with my co-workers,” she says. “And then I realized, I’m not writing about them; it’s my story and I’m writing about events. I figured out a way that makes it possible for me to address what I need to address and not make it punitive.“

Raised in a liberal academic family, Anna seems an unlikely person to join the armed forces, although she’d had a variety of physically challenging, often dangerous jobs: EMT, wild land firefighter and ski patrol member. But saddled with debt from nursing school at UNC, Chapel Hill and with a kindergartener to support (whom she would be separated from for 20 months while she was deployed), the military offered a good solution. “I wasn’t excited about nursing when I graduated; I’d always had jobs that were out of doors and I felt very strongly that regardless of political affiliation, our service people deserve good healthcare. I did my clinicals at Duke and learned good critical thinking skills. I like to think that had some benefit beyond direct patient care. I thought maybe I could handle, possibly even, a leadership role. I don’t even know how to explain it—there was a calling.”

As if Iraq weren’t enough of a challenging experience, before being deployed there, Anna was sent to New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina as part of an emergency medical team. She was there for three months. On Halloween, she learned she would be stationed at Abu Ghraib. Before deploying, Anna was sent to Wisconsin for preparatory detainee healthcare training. The instructors were part of a reserve group; they’d never been deployed and had no experience with corrections. “It was the most ridiculous training I’ve ever had in my entire life. They basically taught us that we were going to be shanked to death with a pencil and to never ever have a pen in your hand. There was just a half a day of language instruction with 450 people in a huge auditorium learning to say, Hello, are you in pain? My name is…and then they put us on a plane and we went to Iraq. I was like, okay our patient population primarily speaks Arabic; you’ve given us half a day. We’re going into an internment facility that is fraught with problems, not only the atrocities that happened in 2003, but since 1968, the facility has functioned as a torture house for up to a half a million people under the Ba’athist regime. We didn’t get any history lessons, there was no explanation of what the facilities looked like, what to expect…nothing. I wasn’t scared as much as I was very aware of how ill prepared we were and that all panned out. You know when people say I really hate being right? Yeah, that was one of those times.”

At Abu Ghraib, 12,000 detainees were housed in tents. There were enormous Eureka tents that held 500, all the way down to small tents, which held ten men. Your threat level determined where you’d end up. “For the first three months, my job wasn’t in the ER. I was out in the camps as the diabetes nurse. Out of the total patient population there were probably 70 patients spread out over 240 acres. So, every morning I would go with all my gear to see patients. The guys would wait in line, pushing themselves up against the fence so I could give them their insulin shots.” Chain link fences separated her from the men. Everyone inside the camp was surrounded by 12' concrete Jersey Barriers. Beyond this was the 20’ external Abu Ghraib wall.

“Over the course of three months I got to know the patient population very well, in conditions quite different from those inside the ward. There was one man—I’m not sure to what lengths I would go to find if he’s still alive. He was a retired Boeing engineer. He had a degree from Oxford and a Master’s in engineering from a U.S. university. He knew everything about Seattle; we could exchange landmarks. I knew this was a legitimate individual. He spoke French, Arabic, English. He was a businessman; his family was fairly affluent; he was Sunni.

“When we invaded in 2003, he returned to Iraq. He claimed a rival businessman turned him in as a gun dealer to get him out of the way. His record said he was an informant and there was something about arms or guns. Something about his storefronts being used for something, but why they got him and no one else in his family… no one’s story matched up. What matched up is he spoke French and he’d been all over the world. We discussed Moscow and he was able to describe my favorite metro station to a T. Okay, so maybe he saw it on the Internet and remembered that one picture, or, yes, maybe he was there with Boeing, looking at some aviation equipment, which sounds more plausible. As his health declined, he became angrier and angrier. He had already been there for three years with no charges and that I know for a fact. No charges. He was just continually being held. The angrier he got, the more strikes against him were showing up in the system and I kept saying, You’ve got to be careful; you’re starting to look really bad. And he’s like: ‘I don’t care anymore.’ And then the second to the last time I saw him, he was completely beat up. A 68-year old man. I asked him who did it to him and he said, ‘Does it matter who did this? It doesn’t matter anymore.’ And it just killed me. And whether or not he was an arm’s dealer or had anything to do with the insurgency, if a foreign force came to the United States of America, we would all be standing up doing the exact same thing. The last I heard he was touting religious fundamentalism. One of the things we did wrong was putting 500 Sunnis in a tent together and 500 Shia in another. All it did was polarize the civil war. Abu Ghraib is the birthplace of Isis, it’s a throw back to the Ba’athist Sunni party whose members were all incarcerated there without being charged in horrible conditions—that’s the womb of Isis right there.”

At Abu Ghraib, Anna also took care of young children. There were 100 kids under the age of 14 being detained. Under the Rules of Engagement, the Marine Corps could scoop up everyone within 1,000 meters of an IED attack and this included children. The only place to take them was Abu Ghraib, so entire families were there, though they were segregated and hadn’t seen each other in years. The children would surround Anna: “Tell my Dad I said Hi”, they’d cry or, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” In August 2006 they were moved to Camp Cropper, a high value detainee facility. Built by Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root using millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, it was a state of the art facility with huge locking doors, cells, catwalks and towers. “Here, for one hour a day Monday through Friday the children went to a tent for school taught by captured women, so maybe a mother was there, maybe not. And a lot of the matriarchs there were Saddam’s sisters, nieces, cousins—50% of the women at Camp Cropper were his kin.”

Moving into the ER took her away from a lot of these personal interactions. “The beauty of the ER is you start your shift and end your shift. What happens in between doesn’t tend to happen the next day. You don’t see the same people. Three things happen: your patient is discharged, they die, or they’re admitted into the hospital where they’re placed in an intermediate care ward. Those folks had up to 40 people for weeks, the same people. That’s where issues started to build.

“Torture was hard. It still existed, and don’t ever think it didn’t. I cared for people who’d been tortured all the time. The C.I.A. may never waterboard again, but they’ll find something different. And those subordinate units that aren’t scrutinized as closely (Delta Force, the SEALS, psychology units), they absolutely continued until the day we left. And there’s an acceptable element within Iraq and other Arabic countries that torture’s part of the fabric of the society, even though 99% don’t want it. A lot of times they’d have somebody in custody, the U.S. would be there, they’d allow the Iraqi police or army to torture the person. If they didn’t die, but came within death, they packaged them up and sent them to us. I had a note on my clipboard that said: Fresh trauma is normal. Fresh trauma is someone who’s been shot, or been in an IED explosion and have been brought straight to you. Like that’s normal, that’s understandable. We called the torture victims “recycled trauma”. The trauma happened and then somehow they’re recycled through the system and when they finally got to us, it was never normal. Arms would be broken at terrible angles, but the injuries would be a week old. You’d have to amputate at that point. We were giving a very high level of medical care, but we were not rehabilitating anybody. So the best way to give this person an opportunity to live was not rehabilitate in a case like that. It was an amputation.”

After Saddam was captured he was never in the same location for two nights in a row. They moved him around the country for three years. It was the only way to keep him alive. It was when he came to Camp Cropper that Anna first encountered him.

Four months later Anna was picked to go to the Iraqi High Tribunal Court during the Al-Anfal Trial. Saddam had already been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death, but with the Al-Anfahl trial, the charge was genocide pertaining to the gassing of tens of thousands of Kurds, and so vastly more important. “Being part of the emergency medical crew is a rotating assignment. My first tour was two and a half weeks, and then subsequently, I got asked back. I was the only nurse given this honor, but it’s hard to say that being assigned to a trial where they executed somebody was one of the highlights of my deployment because I’m not sure I believe in the death penalty.

“Saddam Hussein and I never said one word to each other. He was charming, jovial, manipulative and scary. All the things required for a dictator. I watched him deal with younger soldiers. He was good at mind games; that's for sure. It's why the Army had to rotate his security detachment every three months, or less.”

Following her experiences at Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper, Anna wanted to figure out how to get people thinking about how we can work better in the future. “One of the things that I have always felt is that active duty military medical support should not be doing EPW (Enemy Prisoner of War) health care for extended periods of time. There’s a conflict of interest in the primal reason you’re doing both. Healthcare is to help people. The military’s foundation is the elimination of an enemy or threat. When you got the two of those together for a lengthy period of time it became hard for good people to look at the person restrained on the bed who had just killed three U.S. soldiers, as a patient deserving of care anymore. In armed conflict, EPWs who need health care and the detainee facility itself should be moved out of the theater as far as possible.

“Furthermore, there needs to be security and those security teams need to have special training in corrections. It should not be a standard infantry unit. Once at Abu Ghraib, we had an infantry unit move in and in a six-week period probably 18 detainees lost eyes. The nonlethal “donkey balls” used during any kind of riot or suppression were designed to knock someone down when aimed at the body, but the infantry is trained to kill, and so aim shots at the head, resulting in blindings. This completely undermined medicine’s approach to the three things that take absolute critical precedence: Life, limb and eyesight.”

Anna is advocating for the U.N. to put together teams, which have no affiliation in a particular conflict, that are trained culturally, ethically and competently in delivering healthcare to Enemy Prisoners of War.

When Anna returned from Iraq, she had problems sleeping and also with patient care. Taking blood, or doing anything where she felt she was hurting someone became nearly impossible. With her six years commission obligation running out, she put together a package to re-branch into civil affairs with the intention of developing a wellness transition team composed of doctors, nurses and medics that would be part of the provincial reconstruction. The members of the medical team would be culturally competent and able to speak the language. They would go into the community and teach the Imam and other community members how to deal with healthcare emergencies, public health issues, trauma, childbirth, mental health, etc. The Pentagon approved the proposal and Anna received orders to go to Afghanistan for 15 months. Six weeks before, she was due to leave, she broke her leg severely. The break didn’t heal properly and she had been measured for a prosthesis at Walter Reed. Following a third and final surgery, which successfully saved her leg, she was dosed with the wrong anesthesia along with nine other people, which caused serious damage from which she is only now recovering.

Despite all she has been through, Anna remains remarkably positive and sunny. Rather than bringing her down and paralyzing her, her experiences have galvanized her into action. Upon leaving the military, Anna returned to school to get her M. A. in Emergency Management. “I would have liked to get an M.F.A., but you can’t put food on the table with that.” After receiving her degree, Anna began working at the U.S. Geological Survey as an Emergency Manager writing policy for the Department of Interior.

Being at VCCA has “Offered me safety and the ability to do something I’ve wanted to do for ages, namely spread out all my materials.” Anna gestures to the walls of her studio all four of which are covered with photographs and text. “For a variety of reasons, I haven’t had the luxury of doing this before. It’s enabled me to organize my thoughts and narrative.

“With this experience at VCCA, I realize I haven’t had much time to heal or focus on healing. I have gone from one burning fire to the next burning fire. And I knew it, but I didn’t feel it, but now I’m here and I feel it. And I’m like, okay, things can be different. They really can. The other Fellows are thoughtful and intelligent, and fun, and deeply engrossed in their work, and it’s really interesting being around them.

“This has been by far, the highlight of the last six years. Being here is so much more than putting stuff up on a wall. It gave me validity. If this organization that has such a fabulous reputation—if they believe in me, then I have the self-confidence to go do the residency. It gave me the strength to tell my family I was leaving, the strength to tell work that they would have to do without me. I have not taken any time off to do this before—that’s my own fault.  Now, I see that I need to.”

Friday, July 15, 2016

Gwenessa Lam Explores Memory and Perception

Visual artist Gwenessa Lam explores what triggers memory and the nature of perception. She is also interested in how disaster images are made and disseminated. Having worked on a series that dealt with Syria and the Arab Spring, she wanted to do something that is closer to home. Quite literally. 

“House fires are something everyone is exposed to no matter where you live," she says. " "They’re often neglected in relation to larger issues, like a terrorist bombing, but if it happens to you, or someone you know, the effects can be as devastating. House fires are both ubiquitous and yet highly personal events. They make you think about what constitutes home and what happens when it’s taken away—how very much more significant it becomes.”

Gwenessa spent the majority of her eight-week residency working on just one painting. She works in oil and her technique is laborious: she slowly builds up her image through successive layers of glazes that must be applied when the surface is wet. This means she has a limited window of time when she can work. Being on a residency for an extended period without interruption is vital to her process. “When I’m at home, things get in the way so I am constantly having to reactivate the medium because I’ve left it too long.” Gwenessa uses an extended medium that allows her about 24 hours, nevertheless, after two hours, the surface gets tacky and she has to reactivate it. “If I keep it wet, I can keep it going.” She has to adjust her recipe depending on where she is. Fortunately, Virginia’s humidity extends her window a bit longer than at home in more arid Calgary.

Gwenessa works from photographs, altering the images to create a negative version of the original to disrupt the way we look at normalized images. “I manipulate the photograph through filters and Photoshop, it’s still black and white, but I invert it and amplify things. For me, this is important in two ways. This particular fire is a night scene so normally it would all be black, but when you invert it, the black areas become white and the white becomes black. Initially, I was more interested in the fire as being light and hot. If you ever see a night fire, it draws you in—but I wanted to see what would happen if you reversed it. Normally, light is seen as life-giving; think of all the mythologies of fire, it’s the source of heat and energy and how we cook, but then in a different context, like a house fire, it’s very destructive. When you make it black it’s almost a psychological flip in one’s mind. So in some ways the blackness—it still could be like smoke so it’s ephemeral, but to me, the blackness is a psychological internal solidification that happens by making that choice to make it black.” The inversion is not only optically interesting, but it creates confusion. Is it fire or is it smoke? It’s hard to tell and if it’s both, where does one begin and the other end? The smoke is an effect of the fire, but maybe it’s going out, or maybe it’s just beginning? There’s uncertainty. At what point of the emergency are we at?

At first, Gwenessa’s palette looks like monochrome black and white, but almost immediately you see a distinct pink cast to the painting. This adds a lovely soft aura that’s startling, eliciting, on the one hand, an emotional response akin to a kind of dreamy nostalgia, and on the other, bafflement at how weirdly at odds it is to the catastrophic image depicted. This effect is only enhanced by the refined delicacy of Gwenessa’s approach. She depicts the hard edges and nebulous shapes with perfect veracity and an overall restraint. The end result is a painting that is mysterious, and as beautiful as it is haunting.

Gwenessa uses the pink as a reference to the type of source image she’s painting from. “I’m conveying that the print [she's made from the original photograph] itself has an aberration—it’s not color corrected—sometimes you’ll have a cheap printer which will have a pink tone. I like to include those little hiccups as part of the palette to create an image that has a distant imprint of its source, like a patina. It looks like its black and white, but you’re not quite sure, and the effect will remind you of something. That’s part of the interest I have in perception in terms of recognizing the image, locating the source, but also in the way we experience it through the color. So one ongoing investigation in the work has been this interest in lightness and darkness, but also the idea of the imprint of an experience. A manifestation of this is the shadow and in in this case, it’s the idea of what survives after a disaster. Even the idea of the smoke and the fire as a type of ephemeral shadow as well.”

The inverted image also achieves a kind of solarization effect. It’s as if she’s captured the scene lit fleetingly by a great flash of light that has crystalized the moment of disaster.

For her subject matter, Gwenessa tries to find actual house fires because she wants to reference actual events, but it’s quite hard to find them. By the time a news crew arrives at the scene, the house is usually too far-gone. Of the images she has found, Gwenessa has had to sift through to make sure they weren’t intentionally set by the fire department for training purposes. But these also interest her. “Trying to understand which are real and which aren’t has led me down a rabbit hole thinking about the reliability of these images. What is the source imagery? How is it disseminated?”

She was able to verify the one she was working on at VCCA is an actual house fire that occurred in Wainfleet, Ontario. But she has been tracking another one for the past year and has found no clear provenance. “It’s so strange because it’s such a popular image; it’s been re-appropriated so many times that its context has been emptied out. I figured out it’s on a meme generator website and in the last three months, the number of images, or websites that have been re-appropriating it are multiplying. Before I arrived, a couple of weeks ago, it was up to 700. People are using these images like clip art for things like home insurance websites, but also some of them are accompanying online blogs or narratives that have nothing to do with the specific house, or even a fire. I’ve found it on amateur news blogs that are reporting on a real fire, just not this one. If you read the news story closely, it won’t actually ever say this is the image of the fire. But to look at it superficially, you would think it was. That made me really think about the truth-value in the things that we see. We’re always looking at things online or even in the newspaper and thinking it’s suspect, but it became much more clear. And the fact people are doing it so boldly is so interesting.”

There’s a serendipity that comes into play Gwenessa’s process. For instance, the two figures on the bottom left of the painting were a discovery, made when she inverted the image. She didn’t see them in the original because of the darkness. Their proximity and seeming disinterest in the conflagration going on just beside them is peculiar. At first Gwenessa suspected that maybe the fire was intentionally set. But she has verified that it is real and they are firemen whose aspect and position are somewhat distorted. Between them is another unlikely vignette, what appears to be a horse or cow calmly grazing. Because it was a poor quality image to begin with, it could have been just a weird formation, but to Gwenessa, this ambiguous blur registered as a pastoral scene and she wanted to depict it as she saw it, shaped by what she personally projected onto the image.

Nowadays, it’s hard to shock people because everything is out there easily accessible. Maybe because a house fire has a quotidian quality—we are all at risk—it resonates so deeply with us. It’s interesting that Gwenessa achieves a reaction of fear, or at least foreboding, in the viewer using such quiet means. She is trying to understand what one’s engagement with the images is. “We all are exposed to disturbing events whether they be personal or external and how to respond to them. I’m trying to work through a romanticization or a dwelling in things. There’s enough atrocity and disaster around us. How do we work through all that and arrive at something generative. The reality is that those events and that feeling will always be there; it’s an experience that we have to acknowledge. It’s been really productive being here talking about this idea very loosely with other artists and writers dealing with similar subject matter, but in different contexts. Whether it’s PTSD or larger, global issues. I’ve found this through line to those points of difficulty and how to see something else in that disturbance and it’s almost like a slow simmer that strikes a chord because it’s such a slow and painful process as opposed to something that’s immediate and abrasive.”

In addition to VCCA, Gwenessa has had residencies at the Banff Center, the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. She particularly values interdisciplinary residencies. “I cannot control or determine who’s here, but something almost magical occurs in the way things fall in, there’s a kinship in the type of work we’re all doing—it’s very different in terms of medium and approach, but I’ve had really great conversations with other Fellows and it becomes a larger conversation about the creative process, which I often find when you’re in a really specific space. I had never been to this region before and I value being geographically in a different place because it makes me think from a larger perspective.” Gwenessa likes the fact that a large number of Fellows return to VCCA and the mix is regional, national and international. And then there's the productivity: “A day here is like a month when I’m at home; I am so much more productive.”


Monday, July 11, 2016

Guest Blog: Repost from s [r] blog – The Online Literary Magazine at Arizona State University by Barbara Crooker

First, let me tell you about the room I don’t have, the one at home. I’m the mother of a son with autism, now 32, and my work space is a corner of the dining room, where I can be at the computer and still see the short bus when it arrives. My “desk” is a book bag, highly portable. My actual books are in book cases scattered throughout the house. And my work day is fragmented, too—we have to provide transportation for him now that he’s out of school, plus there are household tasks, doctor appointments, trips to the gym. . . .I’ve got a yard full of perennials and a vegetable garden, which need my attention. My work day is also rife with interruptions—the doorbell, the phone, my beloved husband wandering in to read me items from the newspaper (which I’ve already read). And there are the other parts of caregiving: making up med sets, running a behavior modification program, cooking gluten and dairy-free meals; in general, I “run” things— But I also try to engage in the written word, even if it’s just reading, every day. I find it a small miracle that I’ve actually written anything at all, even though at this point I’ve published close to 900 poems. . . . 
So, every eighteen months, I try to go away to a colony, specifically The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts http://www.vcca.com/main/index.php, in Amherst, VA. It’s competitive; I don’t always get in, plus sometimes there are things “in real life” that make getting away impossible. But right now, here I am, in sweet Virginia, on a May morning; paradise restored. It’s nothing fancy; the studios are basic, austere, even, in a repurposed dairy farm. I believe my room formerly housed cows. The outside is cinder block; the floors are poured cement. But there’s a twin bed (you can sleep in your studio, but I prefer to walk back to the residence at night); a “distressed” (many writers have put butt to chair here) but comfortable leather arm chair and ottoman; a large desk, big enough to hold my printer, laptop, slant desk, and then some; two small tables; a book case; and two lamps. And four big windows with a view of the hedgerow, the dirt road that winds through the campus, a meadow of wild grasses and daisies, and the Blue Ridge Mountains stretching beyond.
 Lately, I’ve been reading blogs about “how to keep going after the MFA,” which leave me puzzled. We’re writers; writers write. Or they construct manuscripts, which is going to be my primary task here, to put, not as Coleridge said, “Best words, best order” (his definition of a poem), but “best poem, best order” for two book length manuscripts. If I finish these projects, I plan to take a look at where the poems that don’t fit in either of these manuscripts are going, what the themes are, etc., with an eye to another book down the road. And I’d like to write some new poems, as well.
All these days, stretching out before me. It’s amazing, when you take food prep (planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning up afterward) out of the equation how many hours there are in a day. I could hardly wait to get here. I roll up my sleeves and begin.
Here’s a poem I wrote after a previous residency: 
WRITERS’ COLONY 
Wrapping up a residency, new work done,
car packed with poems, computer, books.
There’s a bluebird on the tree limb over my head,
white belly, orange throat, blue back.
His only job is to be beautiful.
For weeks here, there’s been nothing but work,
no jobs or families or domestic duties, not a pan
to wash or a meal to prepare. We have reverted
to childhood, trade items from our lunchboxes.
Play Truth or Dare at night. Put on plays,
read each other stories. On warm days,
we sit in the sun and drink lemonade.
No one tells us to clean up our rooms or our prose.
We write more and more. Whole forests have died
for our work. Each day, we are closer to capturing
beauty, though it flies out of reach.
I’d like to sit here forever, on the Pasternak bench,
and try to decide which is lovelier, the pink
dogwood or the white, write a few
more lines, watch the high white clouds scroll
on a brilliant blue sky, stay until
the sticky little leaves unfurl
to an audience of waving hands.
I’d like to sit here,
until the cows come home,
or Mother calls us in.
published in New Works Review, 2004