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Poussin & Purdy – August 2017

Jessica Purdy and Fabrice Poussin traded art and words. Fabrice shared this image, entitled “Complexity,” with Jessica:

In response, Jessica wrote this poem:

Sea of Sand

– after “Complexity”, by Fabrice Poussin, a black and white photograph taken at White Sands Monument, New Mexico

In this white desert, no water,
but 280 million years ago
the Permian Sea was spread here.
Valleys where the gypsum is gutted.
Dune grass in the hollows.

I know something of sand. When I stand
at the edge of the ocean it is
particularly unstable. Perhaps you’ve
felt this peculiar shift, remember
how instinct can save you. What
might be under there? Here I am,
putting water where there is none.

The greatest mysteries left to chance,
climate, geology. Not one human
footprint. Wind-broken crystals form
the sand, patterned as if banded
by waves. My own world has been
less dry than this scene. I’m standing
like the stalk of yucca plant
in the foreground, the only vertical.

The photographer stood there
and the shutter opened—his eye,
the camera’s. The plant looks dead,
like some of Dali’s best examples.
Seed pods blown open, empty-eyed.
What does it mean that now I feel
like I’m lying down? Horizontal.

My eye has moved up. Even the clouds,
the most transient vapor, lift their heads
from the flat mattress of air,
form holes filled with black sky, mimic
the distant dark mountain range.

Can you feel the sky pressing in on you—
vast yet claustrophobic. Have you
felt this thirst? Not one thing is meant
to stay as you are seeing it this once.
You’re never the same.

* * * * *

Jessica shared this poem with Fabrice:

Night Walk While You are Dying

The idea of night is black and still,
but house facades are burnished
bronze by a streetlamp,
and the air smells briefly of skunk.

Pale fog condenses
beneath a golden porch light
snapping on. “Night, Pa”,
someone says as she leaves his door.

Car headlights slide up the black
grease of trees, ghosting them
apparition white. Shadows pounce
up and out, jump the walls of a house
beyond, and then the chiaroscuro is gone.

The tree is itself a shadow.
Something made. Charcoal branches
against a star-wet sky. A train blows
through, its interior grows from within–
each empty seat a movement.

The motion in an upstairs window–
a girl in red pajamas, wet hair
obscures her face as she turns
toward something unseen,
recedes down a hallway, vanishes.

Veins in the asphalt like black blood.
Every bundle on the sidewalk hides a figure.
Every thing by some absence, transformed.

In response, Fabrice made this image, entitled “Night Walk”: