This afternoon I was chatting with my friend F– about Black Jesus and the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa). I described the sparkling and revered four-foot-high image of the Virgin Mary and Child I visited at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Poland.
I was asking F– if she might be interested in a wooden, bejeweled, mini version as souvenir. And, she was delighted by the promise of Black Jesus and less enthusiastic about the paler version I also had to offer: a new babe in a diaper who appears to be newly plucked from the manger, in a crib with straw.
I told F– briefly of how the monastery was packed with pilgrims who’d traveled distances to be in the presence of this scintillating icon, to pray, and to be enlightened. I explained how a wall in the sanctuary displays crutches, braces, and other relics of grave injury and seems to promise cures and strength. I detailed how I dutifully carried a bouquet of yellow flowers from a woman with Parkinson’s in Dobra, how a young man in a cobalt coat placed the fragrant bunch on the altar before Mary. I shared how some say Mary is named for where she was found and for her virtues. The virtue of being Black.
Spending Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Dobra, Poland, emphasized that I am a foreigner and a sightseer. I was mostly spectating the hour-long service in pure Polish and then I drove to Częstochowa to visit with the Virgin and Child. And, I felt, as I have so often in Oaxaca, that I am a wayfarer, a church tourist.
And, this reminded me of Dean Young’s “My Process” and the other ways we might be congregants.
by Dean Young
Sometimes it’s like pushing a wheelchair
of bones through the high-tide sand.
Like giving birth to an ostrich,
an ostrich with antlers that glows.
The sense there’s something wrong and
not giving a hoot like going to church
to see what you can steal. Experimental
Read the rest of the poem at: http://poems.com/poem.php?date=17198
Here is another poem on process: http://www.blueridgejournal.com/poems/aw-isaid.htm
Last night I went to a German artist’s show at the contemporary art museum.
I knew nothing of the artist, Sigmar Polke. I went because it was free and on the way to a free jazz show. The art was an interesting blend of painting with printing and stamping. The images were intriguing, but, for me, the titles were the arresting element. One painting was named something along the lines of: an old man and a punk rock young man are sitting in a dark living room full of antique furniture and the father says to the young punk, “someday all of this will be yours.”
At the Saturday intercambio, I am sitting with Julio, Valentina, Mariela, and Gabriel. I mention the show and the vast titles to Gabriel who wants to learn German. Valentina says my description of the title reminds her of a truck commercial in which a man says to his son, someday all of this will be yours, referring an expanse of property. And the son asks: and the truck?
I am walking along the pedestrian corridor planning what I will say to the woman at the bakery as I request a sandwich. I walk and negotiate with myself, and then I am interrupted. An elder with coin purses yells at me in English to buy what he’s selling. I pretend I cannot hear him though my ears are open for any suggestion of English.
It strikes me that my entire month here is the art show and each post I can offer is perhaps a long title to accompany the piece.
- Of course, this experience of being a painting makes me think of Linda Pastan’s incredible “Ethics.” http://shenandoahliterary.org/blog/2011/09/linda-pastan-ethics/ I’m not suggesting you should elect the same question (a Rembrandt painting/or an old woman who hadn’t many/ years left anyhow?) for your writing. Maybe you ought to increase the stakes?
Piazza della Republica, Florence
Of course, carouse is at the heart of the word “carousel.” And, we do not deny we were utterly intoxicated by the lively accordion tunes from the carousel; by the buzz of activity on the square, including musicians and strolling lovers; by the joy of the last few merry-go-round riders; by the cold that made us aware that we needed to keep moving and that the graceful herd of twenty buckskins and creamy palominos, elegant as ballerinas, enchanting as unicorns, had dazzled us so that we were practically frozen in their presence. We could not resist envisioning ourselves resting in the two golden carriages covered in blankets or, dare we think it, furs; warm.
Something inside us that hadn’t twinkled in a long time was stirred, and we, delighted that star was still there, were ready to wander back into real life, into being middle-aged tourists.
- There are many carousel inspired pieces out there in the world. Zachary Schomburg gives us the sense of being inside a carousel, of being pinned to the wall and then made disoriented by the spinning in his “The Carousel” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/carousel. And, take a look at Laura Kasischke’s poem, “Recall the Carousel” at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/recall-carousel. Her piece is a frightening reminiscence of the threats facing children. The poem takes a sharp turn into the dreadful as she writes: “The carousel? Do you recall? As if/ we were our own young parents suffering again/after so many hundreds of hours of bliss.” Suffering seems to be understatement in the face of horrors she evokes. What happens when you step onto/into the carousel stage?
As we head into week three of the Fall 2014 semester, summer is a sandcastle swallowed up by an ocean of motion.
I have four Advanced Composition courses and Creative Writing, English lab hours and four independent study students. Also, this is the semester I will start a new campus-wide writers’ workshop, bring one of the artists from Oaxaca, continue the weekly intercambios at Home Depot, and lead a week-long philanthropy fair (in November). I refuse to use the word: busy. I am occupied. I am in motion.
I’ll find a little bit of summer, a diversion from the semester’s motion in my students’ blogs. This semester’s blogs start tomorrow, and they are:
Please follow them, like them, tell them what you are thinking.
The other day as I was navigating an unfamiliar street and preparing for an unusual conversation, I must have had a serious look on my face. A man commanded me in Spanish and then English to smile. I had to laugh at how serious I was with my errand, how I had been rehearsing my lines. Always concerned about being appropriately polite, I also wasn’t so sure if the words for what I wanted.
Of course, I smiled. In fact, I practically laughed at the irony because, especially in photos (or drawings), Oaxacans often assume a serious posture that typically does not include a smile. They may be grinning up to the minute the shot is taken, but almost always, this neutral to serious face appears, provoking me to want to command: Smile.
As soon as he saw me on the Zocalo, Mateo wanted the camera. We needed to wait for Cecilia and Augostino who were elsewhere trying to magnify sales before our meal. Mateo seemed to have a plan for the day. He was taking pictures of the mannequins in the windows, enjoying the reflections in the floor and the glass and in a car on the street. I love how he’s intuiting what the camera can do, how he’s learning to look at light and shadows as he is steadying his hands. His pictures are clear and planned.