For Remedios Varo
In my favorite photo of the artist
she is half-concealed behind a screen.
Always doubled or tripled
both Basque and Andalusian
artist and entrepreneur
allied with Spain, France, Mexico
wife, lover, provider of bread.
Only her paintings show
what came of stepping out
from behind the screen.
Surrounded by Surealists,
full of high spirits,
arrested for sympathy
with rebels, she joined
the lines of artists waiting
in Marseilles for passage west
three times a refugee
No wonder her paintings
are full of hybrid images.
Few have gone further
to make art or love.
The Creation of Birds
La creacion de las aves, 1958, a painting by Remedios Varo
She is an owl.
But it only takes a second
to see that she is also an artist
who uses the energy of stars
to paint four birds that rise
in turn from her paper
and fly off in full color
to live their avian lives.
Her heart is
the musical chamber
that gives wings
to light and color
bringing them to life.
She sits firmly at her table,
gently focused on her task,
relaxed, ready to refract
or magnify the light, to dip
her brush once more and keep
on painting all the birds.
Look how one already eats his seed.
(1907-1954), Remedios Varo (1908-1963 Frida Kahlo)
Even now, people say
they know the one
but not the other,
two women who lived in Mexico City,
one rooted in her mother’s homeland by love
the other uprooted from her father’s country by war.
One tethered to a man more famous than herself
the other, wife to men of three nations
and to none.
The one a painter of self-portraits full of passion,
the other of strange personaje
who journey far in space and time.
One brought native dress and customs to her city home,
the other lived in fictive landscapes
deep inside the forest or the sky.
One was always still before the gaze
the other always moving, coming apart
and knitting back together.
One focused on the beauty and power of women,
the other on the human in its earthly orbit,
swirling around the table of life like fruit.
Why choose between them
when we need both visions
to repair our world?
Swimming a Life
Spurred by fantasy she floats face down
Splashed by reality she strokes upstream
Sometimes synchronized sometimes solitary
for the headwaters
the open waters
Water, crystal-clear or murky as cream soup
She sallies on, exhausted or exhilarated by each encounter
Fording the rough patches
threading the channels
taking the branch
riding the waves
Scanning shoreline but resisting the draw
of whatever flotsam or jetsam swirls in the current
She pushes forward in waters tepid, frigid, boiling, roiling
Backstroke breaststroke dog paddle crawl
Glancing back, she tallies
what has been
and what will never be
puddle pond Pacific
landfall will take her
When She Comes
After Ellen Kort
When she comes to get me
I hope we linger a while, smell the lilacs,
listen to the flutes, contemplate crows
I hope we can unwrap the stories, eat them slowly
She can tell me about my father
I can tell her my adventures, I hope
we can angle up the peninsula one more time.
I’d choose autumn with its kodachrome colors
but whenever would be fine
Perhaps there’d be time to visit the Queen’s Chapel,
watch the kites near Hay-on-Wye,
hug one more redwood, thank
all those friends who made
my journey worth the effort
But she may take me
quickly---no time to sort things out, no
time to thank the friends who helped
smooth my fractured path
She may come in the night
Stand by my bed, hold out
her hands. I hope
she brings apples and pears, pistachios and
olives and that we might nibble
as we await the dawning
And I hope she will teach me to fly,
to fly with those angels
into the light
Sometime after copper bottoms and before teflon
between Aunt Jemima and Martha Steward
in a land of aprons, Settlement, and Betty Crocker
She was sold the dream
“Lifetime,” he told her. “triple bottoms, waterless cooking, stainless steel.
These pots will last a lifetime”
The slick salesman was larger than life when he kissed her
across the street in the school yard
plied her with extras
electric coffee pot, steak knife set, aluminum silverware
She paid on time
never saw him again
The Lifetime still shines in kitchen cabinets
seven or eight packings and unpackings in five decades
countless culinary catastrophes, marvelous meals, eggs every which way
The Lifetime still shines. The dream has flickered, dimmed, grown bright again
Not as she’d hoped in Miss Rasch’s high school home ec. class
Not as she’d wished or wanted but yet
Looking back a lifetime she is content to have lived
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