Last night I had the privilege of being part of the Quinto Sol/Sexto Sol, Dissolution and Creation opening held at the South Broadway Cultural Center here in Albuquerque.
The event was organized by Vistas Latinas, and was designed to be: "An art exhibition that will explore the meaning of the year 2012. By understanding our past, we can create the present, and envision the future." It was an amazing night: incredible visual art; a mysterious piece of performance art, music from young musicians (very young!), good food, and of course, poetry reading. Adding to the fun was the welcome addition of a dramatic rainstorm, much-needed after a summer of severe drought.
The idea of including poetry came from one of the exhibit's curators and exhibiting artists, Elaine Soto. And when she invited me to participate along with six other poets (as in, ahem, real poets), I was nervous. I'm a prose writer; when I write poetry it's for fun, journaling, experimentation. I'd never tried writing a poem for an event, and I'd certainly never read a poem in front of an audience larger than my writer's group. It was a challenge for sure, especially given the large theme of the Mayan Calendar and (maybe) the end of the world.
In the end I decided to take the theme into a more personal perspective, hoping that by doing so it could also translate into a universal metaphor of life and death, "dissolution and creation." I wrote:
Waiting for an Orchid to Bloom
Can take days, months; so many other
things can happen while that bud sits
as tight and full as a little bound foot.
Anticipating my own rebirth,
I watch the turning on the stalk,
A secret thing preparing its rotation, sudden and fetal.
Only orchids can make this sharp turning.
Only orchids swerve in answer to the pull of time.
The opening—if ever it comes—will be sudden and unexpected.
My own calendar means nothing to this
green creature poised and placed to follow
the unbreakable rules of feng shui.
My wealth corner is its doom.
It has no choice to leave for better light or conditions.
Instead, it stays where I insist it bring me
luck, or happiness, things it will never understand,
things it answers with stubbornness, shyness, and grief.
Only last week two buds died of blast,
withered and shrinking beneath my impatient
testing and tapping for soundness.
I held the fallen heads between my hands, an ugly tobacco yellow
staining and replacing the creamy greenness
of their first appearance.
Stillborn and hollow, whatever life they had to offer fled.
Now all my future is bound and cast into one
last bundle, one final bud,
that forbidden package sealed and silent,
speaking only to itself.
I wait to weep again.
Tip of the Day: Writing to a pre-set theme can be intimidating. I'm thinking about all those times I've looked through both prose and poetry calls for contests and magazine submissions, and thought, "What would I write??" However, after this particular exercise, I learned that the best way to tackle the project is to start small, bring it home, and not try to cover absolutely everything that comes to mind. Thanks for reading--have a great Labor Day Weekend!