Looking at boulders

There are few things I like better than a great ekphrastic poem:

Adjacent, Against, Upon

Rick Barot

—after Michael Heizer

I may be looking at the set of boulders

I may be looking at the set of boulders

that is now in front of me, but it is you I am addressing.

You are near or you are far,

depending on the accuracy of the words I have chosen.

When my teacher told me to use this

instead of the, she was talking about the range between

the intimate and the conventional. The gray cluster

is radiant, but it is a melancholy radiance.

To describe it only seems to lean away

from what I intend. Maybe, then, touch is a better way

of explaining the pleasure of that

encounter: the surprise and familiarity of the plant

that you brush past in the dark of your

own house. Or maybe the always-new logic of a dream

is closer to the truth: the falling that takes place

in a place where there is no ground.

The boulders are there for me, an arrangement

and its warren of rooms. One door opening to foggy roses.

Another one opening to a dawn that is the color of tea.

Surely there will always be new language

to tell you who I am, imagination rousing

out of idleness into urgency, reaching now towards you.

I keep remembering my teacher and she is an image

of joy, the small and wordless music

of her silver bangles. This over the.

One of the rules for writing the poems of a lonely person.

that is now in front of me, but it is you I am addressing.

You are near or you are far,

depending on the accuracy of the words I have chosen.

When my teacher told me to use this

instead of the, she was talking about the range between

the intimate and the conventional. The gray cluster

is radiant, but it is a melancholy radiance.

To describe it only seems to lean away

from what I intend. Maybe, then, touch is a better way

of explaining the pleasure of that

encounter: the surprise and familiarity of the plant

that you brush past in the dark of your

own house. Or maybe the always-new logic of a dream

is closer to the truth: the falling that takes place

in a place where there is no ground.

The boulders are there for me, an arrangement

and its warren of rooms. One door opening to foggy roses.

Another one opening to a dawn that is the color of tea.

Surely there will always be new language

to tell you who I am, imagination rousing

out of idleness into urgency, reaching now towards you.

I keep remembering my teacher and she is an image

of joy, the small and wordless music

of her silver bangles. This over the.

One of the rules for writing the poems of a lonely person.

Rick Barot was born in the Philippines in 1969 and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied at Wesleyan University and The Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. His fourth collection The Galleons, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2020.

Adjacent, Against, Upon – by Michael Heizer (1976)

Michael Heizer (born 1944) is a contemporary artist specializing in large-scale and site-specific sculptures. Working largely outside the confines of the traditional art spaces of galleries and museums, Heizer has redefined sculpture in terms of size, mass, gesture, and process. A pioneer of Land Art, he is renowned for awe-inspiring sculptures and earthworks made with earth-moving equipment, which he began creating in the American West in 1967. He currently lives and works in Hiko, Nevada and New York City. 

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