Monday, June 05, 2006

Reading Mary's Vultures

When I'm in the midst of a studio surge, essay ideas often gestate for months. Jotted notes and fragmented Word documents evidence my intention to write, but I find it difficult to commit. Reading, by contrast, remains an essential activity during these periods and, curiously, poetry often trumps prose, perhaps because it is more like visual art, more open and sensuous.

I've recently been enjoying collections of Mary Oliver and Czeslaw Milosz. Much of Oliver's work compliments my own. Reading her poems, I feel a reciprocated embrace; she often channels a wonderful existential experience. Frankly, if I could get away with submitting "Vultures" as my artist statement, I'd happily do so!
Vultures

Like large dark
lazy
butterflies they sweep over
the glades looking
for death,
to eat it,
to make it vanish,
to make of it the miracle:
resurrection. No one
knows how many
they are who daily
minister so to the grassy
miles, no one
counts how many bodies
they discover
and descend to, demonstrating
each time the earth’s
appetite, the unending
waterfalls of change.
No one
moreover,
wants to ponder it,
how it will be
to feel the blood cool,
shapeliness dissolve.
Locked into
the blaze of our own bodies
we watch them
wheeling and drifting, we
honor them and we
loathe them,
however wise the doctrine,
however magnificent the cycles,
however ultimately sweet
the huddle of death to fuel
those powerful wings.
Deceptively straight-forward, the poem will open, for readers of a certain disposition, to complex interpretation. For me, "Vultures" is an insightful tracing of a complicated relationship with religion and a paean to the contemplation of death and awesomeness of the universe's messy abundance.

Photo credit: "Soaring," painted by Andrew Wyeth (photograph by Ken Burris, for Shelburne Museum)

3 comments:

Mikhail Capone said...

Welcome back! I'm looking forward to reading your next essays, and I hope that you will post more paintings soon.

Michael said...

This is neither here nor there, but today I found out that adolescent turkeys resemble vultures. What's more if you stand in front of them, they gather like a congregation. If you say anything to them they respond en masse by saying 'blobbledobble blobbled dobble.'
I said "Can I get an amen?!"
They said 'blobbledobble blobbled dobble.'
"Can I get a hallelujah?!"
'blobbledobble blobbled dobble.'
"Praise god!"
'blobbledobble blobbled dobble.'

Eventually they will be eaten.

Welcome back.

Hungry Hyaena said...

Mikhail:

Thanks. It's still a slow pick-up with the writing, but hopefully some good will come of the slow burn.

Michael:

blobbledobble blobbled dobbl