Monday, July 9, 2012

The Cleave of Color

by Nancy Chen Long
(originally published in the 2011 issue of Weave Magazine)

puce. i know that
it’s a little like purple, or similar kind of
color. a little boy once said
dream
it to me
when we get older,
—we were coloring—
our petals blanched
in a field of bluebells
—our ancestors chanting in our memory
under the beam of a chestnut tree:
we are all one, child.
i, who had drawn a cart-wheeling girl,
preferring to be insular,
i didn’t want to color her.
humans graft color with artifice and so
i wanted her to be white.
what is real seems real if some other says it is.
there is no white
washing our imperfections,
silly, the boy said to me.
intellect may say we are vapor, while experience says
but you are
to stay the course, even though nothing can be seen except
white
flecks against a foreboding sky. stay the course,
i said
even if happiness should look like a point, even if
looking at his timberwolf
skin betrays the truth. what can be said about the
eyes and tumbleweed
dispersions of words, chaos and form—they are
shadows. he shook his head. no one is
ad infinitum—
white. i am peach, and
our options being finite, then
you are maize. to prove it,
let us broaden our palette—
he raised the crayon to my skin
in order to honor the original—
and the color disappeared against me.
yes, this is so like a dream. and so
i gasped. he did not know
there is no cold, there is only distance from the sun. change
the rules. let’s race, i said. i’ll race you to
the boundary of
the purple house.
what is considered home,
he said, but
those many rooms in one mansion, spinning,
racing
hurling through space. this picture
makes no sense
—a single stone in a galaxy of stones—
and besides, it’s not
the only thing that matters. the flash of
purple, it’s puce.
form is flesh, the imprint of color.
to prove it, he searched
through archives of memory,
everyplace
where we once danced to some familiar chant
trying to find it.
—still, it hums, ambient, steadfast.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dot Product: The Cross Between Particle Theory and Pointillism

Dots and dot-related words (dust, particles, particulates, etc.) frequently appear in my current work. In this poem, I play with the ideas of particle theory and pointillism. With a generous dose of poetic license, the mathematical operation dot product is applied to those two other "dot" things, particle theory and pointillism, mixing them together to arrive at one thing. In the fourth section of the poem is a reference to Seurat's famous painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, which is often used as an example of pointillism:

File:A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884.jpg

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884; image credit: Public Domain




Dot Product: The Cross Between Particle Theory and Pointillism 
(originally published in the 2011 issue of Paper Nautilus)

  Ø
Up close, everything is made up
of elementary particles, tiny dots.

They vibrate, shimmer, dance
wildly.
Maybe because they’re agitated,
maybe because they’re excited,

it doesn’t matter.
                  The countless tiny particles
that makes us and fill us
are moving, always moving,
even if just a quiver.


  ω
At a distance, anything
of any shape
will look like a dot, a mere point.

An insignificant dot risks
being missed

unless it is named.
And so those who explicate
have given a name—point particles—
to the near nothingness
of our elementary dancing dots.

And the explicators say
those point particles at the root of everything—
idealized—they have no structure,
have no mass.
They take up no space.
Up close
then, perhaps nothing
can look like a dot
because there is no
thing to see.
And yet—
here we are. We, who are made of quivering particles,
we have mass.
We take up space.


1
At a distance, a huddle of dots                                   
will take shape, will take color.

Take pointillism: a technique of painting
that uses countless numbers
of colored dots, distinct and unblended dots
all on the flat plane of a raw canvas.
Point after point of pure and different color.

                                    When viewed from afar,
the dots will be marshaled into solid shapes
by the mind:
perhaps into the shape of a proper parasol
held by a woman,
a bustled woman,
prim and detached,
a monkey at her feet,
a romping dog by her side.
In the distance, a boat at full sail,
white and billowy.

And those dots, perhaps a division
of blues, purples, oranges, and yellows,
will converge and blend into some other color—
let’s imagine into the fragrant green of a grassy field.

Form and color, forged
from the smallest dots with no structure.


2
At a distance, God is a pointillist painter
and time a ready canvas.

At a distance, the universe is a painting in some art gallery
            and evolution a paint-by-point particles adventure.

At a distance, humanity is a palette of constrained color
            and I am one dot, dancing wildly.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review of Wild Flight by Christine Rhein

[I originally posted this review on 30-Jun-2012 on Poetry Matters.]


Texas Tech University Press
http://ttupress.org/


By the numbers
ISBN 978-0896726215
Publication: 2008
Total pages: 120
Number of poems: 47



__________

It was the fabulous Molly Peacock, one of my mentors in Spalding's MFA program, who introduced me to Wild Flight and the multifaceted poetry of Christine Rhein. In addition to the recommendation-review below, I also had the opportunity to interview Christine. Click here for the interview and to read more about her. Nancy Chen Long
__________

Christine Rhein's debut book
Wild Flight takes the reader on no ordinary journey, from World-War II Germany to contemporary Detroit. To keep us securely fastened in our seats, Rhein provides threads of continuity, most notably through a layering of various facets of flight, such as refugees fleeing

An Interview with Poet Christine Rhein

[I originally posted this interview on 30-Jun-2012 on Poetry Matters.]

How little, really, we decide in life, how wild the impact,
what gets learned by heart …
from “Washing Windows,” Christine Rhein


As mentioned in my recommendation-review of Wild Flight, I was introduced to Christine Rhein's poetry by way of Molly Peacock. (Thank-you Molly!) There are many things to appreciate regarding Christine’s poetry, including the way she weaves science, technology, and math into her verse, her gift for the lyric as well as narrative, and her engagement with the world through the daily news. Wild Flight contains a number of poems inspired by, or based on, the news, such as