- Umberto Ak’Abal writes, in “The Dance,”
All of us dance/ on a cent’s edge
Upon what edge are you or your characters dancing? And, what happens? And, what do those watching fear will happen?
The officer at passport control in Mexico City asks where I am coming from. I offer Sacramento; he counters with Atlanta. But I am so tired I don’t recognize the word Atlanta. I start to nod no. He repeats, slowly, A T L A N T A. I agree that’s where I have been most recently.
He asks me why I am in Mexico, and I want to tell him that I long for music in the streets, tacos in the park on Fridays, children roaming freely into twilight, a ride in the back of a truck, Indigo skies over Santo Domingo church. Instead, I sneeze the word: tourism, and he sends me off for two rounds of suitcase inspections and impromptu Spanish tests.
I’m usually up for trying out my comprehension, but I left Sacramento at 11:05PM and arrived in A T L A N T A at about 3AM my time, to take a train and find a gate in the vast terminal and then tried to sleep while a little old man loudly read the newspaper and slurped steaming coffee.
The officer has caught me at 10AM his time, 8AM mine, 11AM Atlanta’s.
Before meeting him, I have mostly fruitlessly tried to sleep in three time zones: pacific, eastern, central. I will have experienced a handful of solid minutes of sleep without disruption.
I will, at last, nap deeply in the small plane over Oaxaca and then briefly in a taxi-van full of seven men in the bustling streets leading to my stop (second-to-last) and my room, my comfortable room, at the posada.
- April Bernard, in “Roy Orbison and John Milton Are Still Dreaming” (https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/roy-orbison-and-john-milton-are-still-dreaming) delivers us the joy of waking from a satisfying nap:
You know what I mean: In the instant
of waking in bliss, the whole body smiles—
Then, she shows how though the mind may want to wake “in bliss” (as in the joy of landing on Oaxaca and being delivered to the posada), reality is often not as generous. In her poem, Bernard offers a list of “happy facts.” What are the “happy facts” that fill one of your characters?
In the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, has a Touch Tour, for the visually impaired. In addition to sculptures that can be touched, there are three-dimensional representations of some of the pieces, including Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
Standing in front of the majestic piece, we could simultaneously feel the winds showering her with roses and see them in full color. Her coy attempt to cover herself seemed every more futile under our curious fingers.
Of course, we recognize writing and painting as art; most of us can literally and metaphorically see the similarities. However, touch yields similarities in line and form.
Consider the following vivid visual descriptions of “The Blind Woman” by Ted Kooser:
- Read the start of the poem at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42645; you can also listen to the piece at the same site. Describe your favorite color or time of day as if you are delivering it to a person who cannot perceive it with her eyes.
Lore has it that more than 25,000 people cross the Ha’penny Bridge daily. Dublin’s bustling pace does not make me doubt this number. I think about the crowds I crossed with and how little attention I paid to my fellow pedestrians perhaps due to the weather, rush, or crush of the crowd.
But late at night, the bridge was nearly empty, practically glowing, and ready for strolling despite the cold. Its luminescence made me think about what we miss when we are on our rushing way to the next place.
Shel Silverstein’s “Masks” (below, from Every Thing On It) makes me think of Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” (https://www.poetryfoundation.org/resources/learning/core-poems/detail/44272) and how we intentionally and unintentionally carve our way through the woods.
She had blue skin.
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by—
And never knew.
- What mask is your character wearing? Why? How does it affect her way as she wends through woods?
I loved several childhood books above the rest: Little Bear, A New Home for Snowball, Mommy’s Little Helper, and the Child’s Garden of Bible Stories. Each of these books was as visually engaging as the narratives within. And, the lessons I learned about helping and kindness and fairness and storytelling shaped my friendships as much as my writing.
So when I first set eyes on Michelangelo’s The David—first the replica in the Palazzo della Signoria and then the original housed in the Galleria dell’Academia (Accademia Gallery) —I recalled the tale of David and Goliath that followed the Garden of Eden and Exodus and the plentiful illustrations to help young readers.
Marveling at David’s towering and pale body, such a stark contrast to, for example, Donatello’s diminutive bronze interpretation, I am perplexed by how much more colossal, how monstrous, how goliath! Michelangelo’s Goliath might be.
In fact, David’s unabashed stance and nudity make me question whether Michelangelo read a different tale than I. According to my Little Garden, David was clothed and about the same age and size as I.
Speaking of Michelangelo, it is February, and I can’t help thinking of TS Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and his repeated lines: “in the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.”
- See the whole poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/detail/44212. It is a dramatic monologue. Consider using this forme to take us along on an uncomfortable visit with strangers, family, doctors, potential lovers.