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Johnson & Hanson – August 2013

Kat Johnson and Nels Hanson traded art and words. Kat shared this untitled print with Nels:


In response, Nels wrote this poem:

Heart’s Roses

One vital heart, two blood-red full-bloomed
many-petalled roses, green leaves veined
black drinking some hidden light that must
be brighter than the sun the way they shine
or maybe they are the light. Are there thorns,
dark, sharp, like sharks’ fins or ready fishing
hooks? Yes, but then there always are—Deep
Love and Beauty pair with suffering so Life
comes out of Death, long night between each
bell-like stroke, as you notice from the blue
tributaries along the ventricles. “A rose is a
a rose is a rose,” said Gertrude Stein and
that’s true enough. What word can do them
justice? Shakespeare thought, “A rose by any
other name would smell as sweet.” I think
a rose by another name would have no scent
attracting bees in Spring, and Lovers, famished
monarch butterflies. The name fits the flower.
I’m reminded of the paintings by Frida Kahlo,
injured suffering woman they made a movie of,
victim and true heart of the faithless muralist,
except these blossoms know they’re One, sprung
from two chambers of the heart echoing within
the full then empty atrium. When I was small my
mother played the phonograph at dark so I could
listen as I fell asleep. Young Joan Baez, just a girl
herself, sang beautifully an old English ballad
called “Barbara Allan,” about a boy who loved
her truly and died from her chill, unrequited love.
In shame and sorrow she died too and was laid in
grave, same churchyard beside him. From his
grave a red rose grew, Barbara Allan’s a briar.
They grew and grew until at last they twined to
form a True Lovers’ Knot. This picture’s better.
The roses turn redder each beat and recognize
the other from the start, two roses one, each
opened face the other’s perfect mirror. It gives
me needed hope—-at least the roses know who
they are and where we come from and realize
its blood not water keeps them sweetly fresh
and from the looks of it blossoming forever.

* * * * *

Nels shared this poem with Kat:

The Ship of Theseus 
It was Zeus in disguise, the white bull
charging from the sea took Europa on
his back to Crete, had her worshipped
as the goddess Hellowtis after she bore
King Minos and his brothers. Poseidon
gave the son of Zeus a bull for sacrifice
a dazzling milky animal his father’s twin
galloping in the surf but impious Minos
offered another, sparing the pure gift
to breed his royal herd. In fury the Sea
God made Queen Pasiphaë heartsick,
mad with love for the bull, tearing rich
hair and face, estranged from food and
sleep, writhing on the palace floor so
helpless king at last summoned Daedelus
and soon in a flowered meadow among
the king’s cattle under an oak’s ancient
spread shading branches she discovered
the snowy beast and won his ardor easily
until he turned to graze the matted grass.

Overcome in the painted wood heifer
contrived by artful counselor the queen
conceived and after the normal span
stalked by nightmare and waking fear
she birthed a strong male child whose
body joined a calf’s head and for hands
and feet sprouted hooves as the nursery
raged with appetite like the horned boy’s
ardent but indifferent father’s. Fearful
King Minos now demanded a stout cage
to hold his ravenous half-son and within
a day the gifted maker fashioned a prison,
torturous tangled maze with single door
no window or slit for light below a stone
roof blocking sun and moon, to confound
with darkness the lone and clever captive.

Finished and paid with gold but sensing
fate’s grim reward (“Wise King Minos,
paint the God’s bull black, your black
bull white, to substitute, before the Holy
Offering”) Daedelus devised wings of
wax and feathers for escape over wide
water with incautious Icarus his only
son. The growing Minotaur grew hungry
and every famished seven years devoured
a feast of fair Athenians, seven youths
with seven maidens forced into the night
of trackless howling corridors all strewn
with skidding bones among black rags
until at last handsome Theseus arrived.

Smitten Ariadne the queen’s daughter
had wound a ball of twine for her love’s
uncoiling as he dared the blind confusion,
passageways past number, each manifold
with intricate deceptive branches, tracking
echo of her half-brother’s heavy tread and
breath. Thunderous hoof-steps now circled
the intruder, hunted turned hunter when
at a sudden angling a tainted wind blew
hard against the Greek’s strong brow, for
a bare instant’s hesitation iron courage
faltered and he swiveled to run, abruptly
thought better, leaped at the hot shadow
and fatal horns with dark plunging sharp
sword stabbing once and again now and
again and again thrusting in passionate
frenzy to murder the endless night itself
long after the dying creature’s rending
cries and rushing fountain ebbed, then
ceased. Frantic living Theseus stumbled
seven times, fell, crawling as he searched
the starless dark to clasp again Ariadne’s
cord and flee forever the baffling labyrinth.

Thus Theseus emerged to fanfares and
light, deafening chorus of worshipping
praise, met deathless fame and storied
treasure, received in sacred marriage vow
prized hand of Ariadne. Lovely flowering
spring and fruited and abundant summer,
amber autumn, mild and long—all were
innocent of harsh winds threatening snow
of leafless winter. Heady feats like the full
but fleeting moon do age and sadly wane,
the satisfied heart palls, homesick yearns
for dire encounter to relight the cooling
blood, hungers for risk, chance, uncertain
adventure. They forget the one who gave
them string. The hero wearied of his wife,
restive he assembled taut crew and trireme
and sailed for danger, faraway and fabled
Island of the Amazons, in gruesome combat
to contest the army of fierce women, conquer
and wed their comely General and Queen.

Meanwhile across the mazelike ocean
with burdened heart and downward gaze
the Cretan princess mourned love’s broken
pledge, all unknowing her fate was yet
unwinding like Europa’s or Persephone’s,
frayed thread falling on the ground to trace
a figure in the dust, Dionysius, Bull God
that harbored one stirring insistent wish.

Wild horns crashing hooves struck horribly
and shook the Earth. The thwarted agonized
deity stormed in such tirades of bellowing
need sympathetic Zeus now keenly recalled
Europa’s amorous charms and took thought
and pity on his lust-stricken kinsman. Zeus
in kindness in an instant changed mortal
Ariadne to fitting partner for a god. In her
honor on Olympus at the wedding feast
he set her bridal crown high atop the night
amid the hallowed starry kings, intrepid
hunters and bright beasts while winter
flowers bloomed everywhere blood red,
petals dripping scarlet at Persephone’s
unbroken cry from Pluto’s locked chamber
underground. Leagues away by ocean a blue
thistle dying, turning black, knew Theseus
picked the fulsome moment, his once-wife’s
nuptials, to abandon present queen and wife
Antiope, sole Amazon to marry, name that
means “one always kidnapped or escaping”.

The hero who plighted his troth with force
of arms, his victory his bride’s slaughtered
and surrendered reign, like Dionysius was
possessed, with perfect Phaedra, second
daughter of Minos and Queen Pasiphaë,
sister to her once Ariadne and brother of
the fearsome Minotaur long-slain in ghostly
silent house. So was given birth a strange
paradox “The Ship of Theseus” which asks
if a ship’s every part is taken and replaced
the ship remains or is a different ship. Gods
know perhaps, those man-like or hoofed
animal and male. New in marriage Theseus
kept the sharp sword honed, his dagger, bow
and quiver, fresh arrow always at the ready
string to sail for Golden Fleece, sunny Islands
of the Blessed or human beauty to betray.

In response, Kat created this, entitled “Theseus”:


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