Seated Nude Speaks Up

Now is the time

I play the game

of let’s pretend

that you’re all here

to draw my face.

At this moment,

before beginning,

I still have hope that you all

will not

randomly cut off

my head.

my hands.

my feet.

Do you mean to perform

these amputations or

is it fear and lack of skill

that leave my multi-copied, uni-facet self

speechless.

unable to grasp a fork;

helpless to walk away

or even cast an angry,

or tired,

or curious glance

back at you.

You,

all diligent charcoal and eraser

perfecting the sine curve

from my armpit

to my breast

as if

it could

divorce

my breath.

Atlanta and the Golden Apples

And now for something fun…a story. For anyone who’s interested in the non-poetic version check Bullfinche’s Mythology, there’s also a brief bit in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Meanwhile read on and enjoy the race:

images

Atlanta and the Golden Apples

Since Meleager killed his uncles (both)
For the sake of your pretty face,
You’ve set aside your silver bow
And traded hunting for the race.
The man who wants you to wive
He must take up the chase.
But what prize to win?
your pretty head, your blushing hide
the land, the cash, the pride
that will dower you.
Ah! but if his grasp this fleet maiden miss?
No blushing bride he’ll own
but pay his debt to Dis.
If only they had the sense to leave well enough alone…
you never wanted this.

Still they’ve come –
stand pawing at the starting line like Phoebus’ horses
primed to haul the weight of day across dawn’s broken rim.
You flash a pitying glance at them
then gird your softer self with iron will
to win –
“What idiots,” you think
“would gamble death for lust?

You set aside your cloak and stand;
slender virgin, lilly pale, in your running dress
fringe grazing your thigh
as you play teasing rabbit
to their panting hounds
but rabbit is swifter than breath
and dogs will die.

Will you stay to watch the executions
By your father duly meted out?
No, you’ve seen enough of death,
The Boar, Meleager and his kin, and now these fools
Who traded life for the chance
To own your glowing skin.

But who is this?  Striding willow light and straight
Across the field like Eros unwinged;
face as gentle, fair, and blue eyes just as bright.
It’s Hippomenes! the boy who, standing at the finish,
Called your foot first across the line.
Now, enchanted by your fluid grace,
He’s come to offer challenge
You see it in his face though he’s still six steps away.
You want desperately to press your soft fingers to his sweet lips, saying:
“Hippomenes – No! My thigh, my breast,
my blushing cheek – no part of me
can be worth this!”

But it’s too late,
The words escape, he taunts:
“What, no trouble for you to outrun
that rack of tortoises?  All clatter and no meat!
I think that I could win you running, as I can,
like Zephyr’s sigh and twice as fleet!”
“Proud as a lion,” you think, admiring.
Still the oracles warning like a tocsin clangs:
“Atlanta, do not marry; it will be your ruin…
and his.”
and so you say:
“I’m ready when you are – Tortoise!”
shaking your head, wondering which pazzo god
has willed this youth to death.

Is he speaking to this god now, eyes up, head tilted
and what is that in his hands?
But now they’ve called the start
And you are running hard out…
but still, he’s managed, somehow
to     catch
you
up!
What’s this he’s flung aside?
glowing golden in the grass –
an apple like a jewel of heaven?
but wait! Now he’s far ahead
and you must panting run to  nip
his heel’s again!
From the laggard’s place you see
his legs are strong,
now closer,
the golden curl against his neck…
his foot strikes the ground
no firmer than a feather.
He flies but you fly faster!
quick, quick!  he casts again –
what now! does he have another?
Your foot falters in consternation and
in fear:
What god’s game is this,
played with magic fruit?
Who is meant to win?
Who is meant to lose?

Ach! Damn, he’s ahead again!
You run,
you run,
you see that he’s begun to lose his wind!
The goal is near; you register the terror on his face
The prayer in his eyes though he’s looking through you,
past – at something else…
his arm
his hand
he drops the final golden treasure
at your feet.
You stop dead
in shock
and then it’s done
in that one
brief intake of breath
he’s beaten death,
and won
the race.
With it comes your hand,
and, unknown to him, your unlucky fate.

But you’re not thinking of that now.
You’re thinking that he’s beautiful;
Strong and slender, perhaps a hands breadth
Taller than you – perhaps, he will make a fine husband?
Together, a matched pair
both swifter and lighter
than air.
Sweaty, your muscles stiff, you hold the unnatural apples in your hands;
gamely hoping they are a blessing…
Hippomenes comes to kiss his prize;
You are tired, his arms are warm.
As you lay your cheek against his own
you hear, for the first time,
the roar of the crowd – they sound
like lions…

poem copyright Bonnie McClellan 2006 first publication in CC Writer 
magazine. Fall 2006.

The Geologists’ Sacrament: The first to become a mineral wins

O SALUTARIS HOSTIA
o
SALVIAMO/SALE/MINERAUX

I would I were a wingéd thing
And these white stones not bruised my feet.
From half sky’s arc this groundscape see;
Like girasoleil and moth at once.
Face then Gomorrah’s candled sun,
And false to God like Mrs. Lot
Turn arbre-form in Halite caught;
Qualcosa utile, quotidienne.
Ground down and lightly sown across
Unrisen flower and fragrant oil;
Then in the mouth of Adam lost
Mineral dust to dust returned.

poem copyright Bonnie McClellan 2009

“The eye comes always ancient to its work, obsessed by its own past and by old and new insinuations of the ear, nose, tongue, fingers, heart, and brain. It functions not as an instrument self-powered and alone, but as a dutiful memeber of a complex and capricious organism.”

– Nelson Goodman from “Languages of Art

This poem is one in a series that I am currently writing that takes it’s inspiration from the rhythms and subject matter of sacred texts varied and sundry. It is also the fruit of my continuing struggle as a poet to reconcile the three languages that jostle for position in my work as I am searching for exactly the right word. This particular piece is inspired by the rhythm of the Latin Hymn “O SALUTARIAS HOSTIA”. The content inspired by conversations had with the Artist, Matthew Broussard and the film director, Michangelo Frammartino about Pythagoras’ four states of being: Human, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. The concept of the observed walk as a transformative experience  is also inspired in part by the work of sculptor Richard Long.

MONTE ROSA or The Picturesque and the Sublime

hayfield in Lombardia with Monte Rosa in the Background made invisible by sunlight.

Paint everything which is not
mountain;
only sky only
the tranquil green of a hayfield
tumbling towards a horizion
ignorant
of what it’s missing.

It is this void, superimposed upon the mountain
which instructs the heart:
Constrict!
There is the possibility of absence.

Bonnie M. McClellan

Monte Rosa

I have lived in Italy for three years now and it never stops being beautiful. The concept of a quotidian and yet extrodinarily beautiful vision continues to fascinate me as did the daily magic of the sky when I lived in Texas.

I wrote this poem parked in the parkinglot of the cemetery of the town of Orino, Italy. The cemetery is along the local road that I drive down on the way to and from my daughter’s daycare in Castello Cabiaglio. I encounter a vision twice a day on this drive: Monte Rosa. The mountain is the wallpaper of my everyday life. Despite the ubiquity of this beauty, I feel an ache in my chest that has the emotional resonance of loss everytime I round the curve in the road that brings the moutain into sight. I’m still working my brain around living with something so beautiful that it hurts to look at.

Listen to the podcast here.

When something extrodinary becomes part of your ordinary.
When something extrodinary becomes part of your ordinary.

Calabrian Chronicles: Caulonia, and so we begin…

The drive in to Caulonia
The drive in to Caulonia

It’s still incredibly beautiful here. I forgot. In the spaces between the rains the sky runs and falls; gathers itself and plunges again towards the sea. Cumulonimbus titans strike their shins on the horizon line as they stumble through the Mediterranean, dead drunk and anxious to reach Ithaca. This is a place where mothers still name their sons Ulysses.

Caulonia under stomy skies.
Caulonia superiore under stomy skies.

The houses are like barnacles on a rock; roof tiles buried in lichen and slathered with concrete where they meet at the crown in an uneasy sea-sick ridge. Below the rust-eaten white iron boundary of the balcony-rail I can see two flaps of a prickly pear struggling out from between two heavy arcs of terracotta.

Morning light on the Ionian Sea
Morning light on the Ionian Sea from Piazza Belvedere

The edge of the sky at dawn over the water is like Montale’s description, a singing strip of metal lath, a kite string straining against the rebounding vault of blue. His was the western sea, the Ligurian coast, a sunset light. Here the Ionian dawn makes eastern music…Jove’s mute mistress writes her name in the sand with a round hoof…IO.

Gioiosa Ionica
Gioiosa Ionica
Looking up at Caulonia from the East.
Looking up at Caulonia Superiore from the East.

Calabrian Chronicles Continued: Serra San Bruno Encora

 

Hillside Serra San Bruno
View from above Serra San Bruno

Every few days there is rain in Serra San Bruno; this is not good for the filming. Most of the movie takes place out of doors where the charcoal burners are working. There is lots of expensive equipment, including a camera that costs as much as two houses which needs to stay clean and dry in an environment full of wood smoke, charcoal, and rain. In sum, this is not an easy combination for getting things done on schedule. Today the wind was so fierce that half the film crew came back black-faced from the charcoal smoke.

White Wood
Papa's Sticky Wood
Matthew Broussard
Matthew Broussard

The structures built by the charcoal burners (or carbonai) are incredible, they look like sculptures by Andy Goldsworthy and seem more beautiful being constructed so of necessity rather than invention. The movements, the decisions, the rhythm of constructing these “scarrazzi” (in english this translates as a ‘charcoal clamp‘ are intuitive for these men. For the film Matthew needs to make some pieces of wood to be used in the construction of the centre of one of the scarrazzi appear very white and as if the bark was trimmed off by hand…so he’s trimming it off by hand with a big machete. The wood is fresh pine and exuding resinous sap, Robin calls it “Papa’s sticky wood” and is very excited to see the capo of the carbonai, Artemio, using a chain saw. In general she likes the men in their black dusted clothes and faces and remembers all of their names: Artemio, Bruno, Zeno, Salvatore.

Scarazzo being built
Scarazzo (or wood clamp) being built

The smell of woodsmoke chases through the town on the tail of the hard wind like the ghost of a warm fire searching for a place to sit down. I am unsure if it’s smoke blown down the long river bed from the charcoal burner’s works or from the cumulative fireplaces of Serra San Bruno, long and narrow; clustered along both sides of the river like Lancelot and Guinevere on either side of Arthur’s sword. Robin and I go out and take our walk in the wind and smoke…amidst the baroque granite landmarks remains the rest of the town, getting on with it’s normal life in the south:

There is a store that sells real fruit and fake flowers, the sales woman inside is wearing her winter coat and a hat, the small heating stove is off, we are the only customers I have seen in this store in a week of passing by the door twice a day. The saleswoman will not take my money, she gives Robin an apple for free. This is Calabria.

Corner in Serra San Bruno
Corner in Serra San Bruno
Side of a house facing the river Serra San Bruno
Side of a house facing the river Serra San Bruno

We keep walking and pass by facades of ridged brick both holding up and falling down, the sad leftovers of Mussolini’s vision, shoving up against both the slender, solid granite posts of the old houses that support gracious granite arcs as well as the concrete walls of apartment blocks made to ward off both earthquake and beauty; battened down with corrugated steel that sends streams of rust enriched rain water down into the flaking plaster of the house next door.

Brick Facades Serra San Bruno
Brick Facades Serra San Bruno

What a place. And next we’ll be going to another paradoxically beautiful and squalourous Calabrian town, Caulonia.

Matthew is anxious to get back to Caulonia because there are many other things that need to be worked on there. On the one hand, it’s been a real break for me, staying in a hotel; there are other people doing the cooking and cleaning and lots of big spaces for Robin to explore as well as lots of new people to make friends with. Still, I think we are all ready to be in a place where we can wake up in the morning, make our own coffee and drink it in bed. So we’re looking forward to being in Caulonia where we can stay in an apartment with a kitchen.

Calabria Chronicles: Serra San Bruno

posto degli carbonai
posto degli carbonai

We made it to Calabria about a month ago. Robin was wonderful on the airplane; she sat on my lap for the whole flight without much wriggling at all, ate chips, drank juice, and looked at the Easy Jet magazine. It happened that there were lots of other kids on the plane and the older ones ran up and down the aisle paying her occasional visits complete with kisses and games of peek-a-boo.

We arrived right on time and Matthew was there about 2 minutes after we walked through the exit door. Robin was very excited and we were all very happy to see each other. We went immediately for a slice of pizza because it was 1:30 by then and we were beyond starving! Then we got chips and hot water to go and packed ourselves into the van.

As we started down the road Robin talked to her dad while I ate a huge orange (one of several that were in the car). This part of Italy is orange country and this is the season for them. People give them away by the sack full and this one was really delicious. I had forgotten what spring looked like. Up north we still had snow in spots and frost on the fields every morning where standing water was dull with ice. Things had just begun to turn that hopeful shade of gray that presages green the week before we left. Here, in the far south, there were lush swaths of green grass poking up around olive trees as big as live oaks. It was a pleasure to see these trees again, two and three hundred years old they dwarf the smaller olive trees of Tuscany and as torqued as the trunks and branches are it is easy to imagine them as more than trees. church in serra san bruno

Bobbie eats cookies
Bobbie eats cookies

In Serra San Bruno Bobbie and I took a walk every day. First we would stop at the piazza which is closest to the hotel. There is a church façade covered in scaffolding, some benches and it is here that we stop for cookies. Then Robin goes up and down the steps of the church, occasionally stepping inside the door where she’s been heard to say (unprompted): “No more church for MY daughter.

The Lion Fountain, Serra San Bruno

Our next stop is the “Lion Fountain” where Bobbie can put her hand in the running water and beep the noses of the lions that are not spitting water. On the way we pass this lyrical baroque church façade carved surprisingly in unlyrical granite. The contrast of the form and the material is pleasantly diverting to the eye.

Baroque Granite, Serra San Bruno

International Poetry Month Submission

In celebration of International Poetry Month, the following poem was submitted by:

Georgianna Krieger

There are small pieces of joy which flutter
through your fingers and
drift about your eyelashes
like windborn cinders, still warm
from the blaze they were born in
yet unable to ignite
even the smallest whisper of a flame

And you forget they are there
because the blizzard is pelting your cheeks,
the wind burns your eyes
your fingers are numb and stinging from the cold
at the same time
even though this cannot be

So, you have forgotten joy,
but the small particles (little bastards)
follow you
just the same

poem copyright 2009 Georgianna Krieger (all rights reserved to the author)

La (Nuova) Fontana a Cannobio

Detail of the New Fountain
Detail of the New Fountain

Here are the pictures  and the story of  the fountain that Matthew carved for the piazza across the lake at Cannobio. We both agree that it looks somewhat like a Baroque Bidet but it matches the Church perfectly! The story below coincides with that which we heard from the Vescovo of the church who kindly allowed us to approach the altar and view the original painting and invited us for the festival in January. The fountain that Matthew made replaces one from the 18th century that was stolen while it was dismounted for a repaving of the piazza that was done in 2004. A photo of the original fountain is below.

The only Image I could find of the original Fountain
The only Image I could find of the original Fountain

The marble that the ‘new’ fountain was carved from is the pink ‘Candoglio’ which is reserved exclusively for the big cathedral in Milan…but, you know, Italian style, somebody knew somebody who could get a piece donated for this church.  Matthew said that it was a pleasure to work with this stone that he would otherwise never have carved.  I should have asked him for a scrap of it for the rock garden on the dashboard of my van. It is really lovely to think that he made something that, even if it’s small, should still be there in 100 years, probably more.  It certainly makes us feel invested in the community.

The story of the Church of the S.S. Pietà in Cannobio and of it’s miraculous relic is as follows:

The Sanctuary of the Most Holy Pietà

The Sanctuary of The Most Holy Pietà, that stands behind the beautiful promenade of Cannobio, was commissioned by San Carlo Borromeo in about 1578 and was built on the site of a pre-existing modest Church.

It was precisely here between the 8th of January and the 27th of February 1522 that a miraculous event took place: in a humble inn, a small painting that depicted the deposition of Christ from the Cross between the Madonna and St. John the Evangelist had “come to life”, blood and tears were coming out of the painting and a fragment of human rib was sticking out from the chest.
Today, the small painting and some blood-soaked clothes belonging to those who witnessed the events, are preserved in a niche in the high altar of the Sanctuary, whereas the Holy Rib is preserved in a reliquary in the Church of San Vittore.

The building has a single nave, with a rectangular apse and an elegant dome, which was the work of the architect Pietro Beretta. The rich internal decorations date back to the 17th and 18th centuries: there are paintings, stucco and polychrome marbles.
The most valuable work is undoubtedly the altarpiece of the high altar. This is an oil on wood, which depicts the Climb to Calvary and was executed around 1540 by the renowned artist Gaudenzio Ferrari. Beneath the presbytery there is a crypt that since 1947 has been the resting place of the deserving Don Silvio Gallotti from Cannobio.

Each year, on the evening of the 8th of January (and in a less evocative manner, also on the Monday of Pentecost), there is a traditional religious ceremony, which brings the “Holy Rib” from the Parish Church of San Vittore to the Sanctuary of the Most Holy Pietà. The holy rib is brought in a procession that is lit up by hundreds of lights placed in the windows of the houses.


The Pocket Gallery reopens with “I’m Happy To See You”

The Pocket Gallery, a contemporary artspace, has reopened with an exhibition by the Italian artist Marzia Gallinaro. This gallery, situated within the two drawers of a renovated screw-tip box, offers contemporary artists an alternative to a traditional, fixed location gallery and the complete ephemera of an internet exhibition.

Marzia’s opening was held at the popular Paduan summer night-spot, Il Chiosco (The Kiosk) on Wednesday evening. The event was well attended, and not only by the friends of the artist and gallery owner and curator, Matthew Broussard. With a sly nod to the idea of a ‘peep show’ small groups of 4 to 6 people filed in to an intimate viewing room to see the more than 100 erotic drawings that Marzia had created for the lower drawer of the gallery while many others hovered around the door craning their necks to try and see over the hunched shoulders of the chosen viewers. In the upper drawer of the gallery the ‘floor’ had been replaced with a magnifying glass marked with centimeters (never ask a carpenter how long 15 cm is). Within the span of a few hours well over 60 people had viewed the works. Four of the drawings were purchased for private collections the night of the opening.

The exhibit will be available for viewing throughout July and August both by appointment within Italy and on the Pocket Gallery website (available July 28th) which can be accessed by clicking on the link located above and to your right. Click below to watch my video of the exhibition opening…

“Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you glad to see me?” With a one-liner Sophie Tucker turns the most intimate of situations into a worldwide cultural icon. Contemporary art often plays with the tension between private and public,exhibiting as “product” the most intimate emotions: a (sometimes) refined variation on the most common marketing ploy of all. Marzia Gallinaro acknowledges this specific aspect of the Pocket Gallery and makes it her own: an art gallery is a public viewing space; but when it’s hidden…?…down there, in your pocket…? It becomes a symmetrical mirror of the tendency of contemporary are to trumpet private sentiment in public. She pokes fun at those who become voyeurs under cover of culture, and who slip into small private places (art galleries?) like pre-teens to peek at dirty pictures. Her nervous line drawing which smacks of graffiti (another public venue for private eroticism) creates a tension well suited to the paranoia (of lots of guys) at having to use a magnifying glass or a ruler… the gallery isn’t the only place where size matters.”

-Matthew Broussard owner and curator of the Pocket Gallery