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Bartell & Fischbach-Braden – Feb.14

Sylvia Fischbach-Braden and Kendra Bartell traded art and words. Sylvia shared this digital collage entitled “Skin” with Kendra:

In response, Kendra wrote this poem:


First, map yourself onto leaf:
body cellulose and reaching fibrous stalk,
self extending outward, spoked—

Then, turn, inanimate,
all together at one

time the colors blending
to envelope your heartlines up
through tip pointed
the edges rawed to hard monuments.

Now feel the body
consistent in entirety,
a system of interconnections
separate and meaning something
other than a system of belief.

No, rather, the blending
of tender, fear, worry, warmth—the colors
echo to the sea
that bores through in holes
each time repeating
I belong to no one—
I belong to no one—

* * * *

Kendra shared this poem with Sylvia:

Please do not touch


She had seen the world
between two
soft-edged L’s , touching
at right angles. Small scope.
Years ago. The camera
never turned off or stuffed
into pockets.


Her mother, splayed
next to the toilet. Right
palm, upturned—
reaching across the
grubby tile. Fingers perfectly
spaced for another’s
to fill.


The door of the club swinging
behind her, shut; the man
across the street, drunk;
the fingers, as if combing
her coat, gripped tight;
her keys, spokes
between knuckles;
glued tight.


Trips to the grocery store
often included her tiny fingers
straining against her mother’s
clasp. “Don’t eat that,
throw it away!”


She can recount the story of her
naming. The angel in the dream,
the voice of a strawberry
being turned over
in a bowl, the fingers
the constellation shaped
from dragon to bear


Her father,
10 and 2 at
the wheel.


The surgeon’s awkward
wrinkles, pleated as he
places his palms together
and sighs.


She wonders if she’s ever truly
held hands with another
body. All she remembers
are grasps, fingers cupped and
shoved into mittens, the
feeling of her own fingers
pressed against each other.


The phone rang, her number—
she plucked the cuticles
carefully away from each nail
and listened to his voicemail
while the edges softly throbbed.


Her father,
waving at the airport
terminal, her bags
in hand.


She studied the hand beside
her—reaching across
the sheets, upturned:
callous under each
knuckle, thick thumb pad,
fingers with just enough
space between to slip
in and fall asleep.


Again her mother,
again the sickness,
again the palms slicked
with sweat.


At night, she traces
his back with her fingertips
feeling the staccato of their pulses
playing. She wonders if he hears
the beat as background
music to his dreams.


She held up the camera
once more and framed
the decrepit house. She
saw her mother
turn the corner of the porch
twenty years younger
and felt somehow
The soft pink frame
held the house
in warmth.


Sometimes, she picks up
the phone and listens to the dial tone
buzz on, palm flattened against the receiver.
She feels her mother’s
palm on her own skin.


In response, Sylvia created this digital image, entitled “Splayed”:


One Comment leave one →
  1. February 14, 2014 5:02 pm

    Leaves as skin…great combination. Lifelines, that’s exactly what the veins in a leaf are. Glad to now “know” that in a new way. And the fingers poem is extraordinary. It is always great to read something that is completely tuned to something that you discover has been inside you yourself all along. I esp. like “She wonders if she’s ever truly held hands with another body. All she remembers
    are grasps”
    Thanks to both of you.

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