I was digging through The Awl today and found a poem by Jessica Baran titled, Neversink.
I re-read this poem 3 times before pausing. The relationships between characters and between the initiating art works combined for much more than just the sum of their parts, and the prose style choice for this work seems perfectly matched. This was my first contact with Baran’s work and so I went searching for more.
Jessica is a busy artist. She hosts a site at jessicabaran.com, works as an adjunct lecturer at Washington University in St. Louis, columns as an art writer at Riverfront Times, co-curates the fort gondo poetry series (with poet Jennifer Kronovet) in St. Louis and recently published her second full-length book of poetry titled, Equivalents (Lost Roads Publishers, 2013). Other publications include Baran’s first poetry collection, Remains To Be Used (Apostrophe Books, 2010), a chapbook titled Late and Soon, Getting and Spending (All Along Press, 2011) and inclusion in The Harp & Altar Anthology (Ellipsis Press, 2010), edited by Keith Newton and Eugene Lim.
Baran also has an interview of the artist Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt forthcoming in BOMBlog (BOMB Magazine’s blog) next week, be sure to go check that out. I will update this site with the link when the interview goes live.
Ok, enough preamble. here’s that powerful, ekphrastic poem I promised you.
I am going to tell you who you are. That your voice, claimed as mine, will drown. I wonder about the weight of your voice versus mine. I wonder what it would feel like in my hands. Would it be a suitcase of mirrors or a glass box full of lead? Would it be a sheet on which you painted all of your wrong thoughts—the ones you had candidly in the night, behind your eyes, unuttered as your limbs twitched? It was a dreamless night. All the houses went black. Words are something that can be applied after the fact: the fact of two people crossing the street. The fact of you weaving your hands around my waist. You push your fingers through button holes. Holes sometimes signify the fact that a thing can be lifted and moved. You move me. I speak for you. This is a kind of collaboration. I’ll never know the exact weight of this movement, but I do understand its gravity. Like a grave, it is safe from worms. Like your hair, it looks like a wispy, meaningless alphabet. Like the person crossing the street, I am assigning you and it castaway roles. I am happy with metaphors—I am heavy with them. I am happy to be the drawer in which all of your hard-earned things fit.
after Carlos Reyes, Matt Mullican, and John Smith, on display at the Hessel Museum of Art, March 24 – May 26, 2013. The Center for Curatorial Studies and the Hessel Museum of Art are located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, about 90 miles north of New York City.
Neversink is included here by permission of the author.