A cool rush of flagrant defiance
Unlocks a chain of misdemeanors
That fall from my tongue in a fevered cadence
My soliloquy goes uncharted
In this forest of layered beasts
Whose fragrant alliance has put me up to the mischief
I have fallen at the feet
Of one cleansing breath
That has choked the life from subjugation to rules that loathe exceptions
And I have taken flight on improbable wings
Where am I?
In the sea…floating…gracefully
Having left my shore, my home, my beginning –
I am here floating
Counting on the great watery vastness
because nothing else counts
There is no future or past
that can measure against this moment of birth,
this gem of becoming,
this blossoming under the moon
There is no structure made of earth or time
that can define boundaries of love
No words to describe what it means now
What you ask of me is too small
The sea is full of air
the air is full of sea
the cosmos full of rocks and stones
that are full of atoms, full of particles, full of space
Where is there an end or a corner to pin love to
and say, “this is how high,” or, “this is how deep,” or, “this is how long?”
You ask too little of me
I love you more greatly than this
A river of stars finds me dreaming
Inviting space to sculpt stone into waves
Where river and red sea meet
Where so-called laws of physics
Are tossed into depths unknown
And shadows bear witness
To blood and tears fueling the mallet
The chisel strike sparking points of illumination
Into thin air
To be held aloft in a vacuum
And doling out all
In a lucidity of timelessness
That gazes into the density of my abyss
And calls me beloved
“You are a worthless girl,” she says…and she says it again and again until the mirror cracks.
Then she studies the crack. Carefully. As it might well be a gift from beyond. Seeking a hidden message, she leans in and fingers the edges as her eyes scrutinize every jagged corner. She stands back and gazes from a distance. Arms folded. Knuckling fist to mouth…pondering.
“You are a worthless girl,” she whispers, re-examining the careless magic that summoned this unexpected visitor. “What does it mean?”, she wonders silently, eyes fixed on the glassy fissure. All day she is consumed by the question. It follows her through her tasks and obligations. It hovers over her. Slides beneath her. Envelops her.
And the crack in the mirror watches her. When she goes outside, it calls to her. And every time she returns, she studies it again.
She considers, tentatively, “you are not a worthless girl.” Then directly and squarely at the crack in the mirror, she declares, “you are not a worthless girl.”
The mirror does not mend.
But the girl…the girl is now fascinated by the possibility – by all possibility. What could come next?
“You are worth the sun and moon and all the stars in the universe,” she chances quickly.
“You are worth the planets and the ice and the oceans and every bit of life, seen and unseen,” she exclaims.
Nothing breaks, nothing mends. Everything is whole exactly as it is.
“You are worth time and immortality,” she dares. And at this, everything disappears.
She wracks her body this way and that, wanting to see every direction at once. Is it true, the nothingness? What does it mean? “What…is…it…worth?” she utters slowly as her face cracks the smile of consciousness.
This painting has remained a powerful and ever-fresh source of inspiration since I bought a print of it nine years ago. That is the magic of Mary DeLave Art.
When I look at any piece of Mary’s work, the words “mystery” and “primal” leap to mind. It conjures up from within me something ancient and instinctive; something fundamental and pervasive. What is it about these paintings that is so deeply and endlessly compelling?
Is it the vibrancy of her colours, paired in such a way as to ignite themselves and each other? Maybe it’s the celebration of music, a most powerful force unseen but universally understood. Perhaps it’s the frequent presence of animals in Mary’s work, or the many wide, unwavering eyes shared by all her species that convey an intimate interconnectedness of life.
Maybe it’s the way – if you look at a DeLave painting long enough – a face you hadn’t noticed at first will often emerge, sometimes seeming part of the more obvious faces…are we separate or are we one? And perhaps there is a faint suggestion of spirits in what looks like invisible profiles kissing cheeks.
I could go on and on. Gazing at Mary DeLave’s artwork feels like an infinite process of discovery of self, of the nature of life and of something beyond. Do yourself a favour and head over to Mary’s site and feast your eyes on some gifts that just won’t stop giving!
Will you dance if I play?
Will you sing if the music knows you?
Kiss my cheek and loose yourself to the wind?
All that is promised, my friend
Is the golden rooted hum in the lumber of my guitar
And the spirit of trees weeping Spanish Moss
Echoing their deep bass on the oaky breeze
Tickling our palate for lust for life
Only this raises the palms of the dead skyward for more
Will you dance if I play?
Will you stomp the earth into resonating vibration
So that the whole world may sing
All dressed in a dream
With spiraling notions relieving the seams
This is what we came here for
Something ancient and primal
With our skin stretched across the depths
Like a drum
Will you dance if I play?
Will you spin into arms and out again?
Will you rise with a melodious eye
And spy on the whole of existence?
Its steel strung heart of persistence
Voicing the chant of sublime being
Will you dance the transcendent carnality
Into harmonious crescendo
And raise the light into ovation?
I am asked and answered
Beleaguered jasmine trill of longing
Snake smoke trail seducing sway
Beguiling smile descending
Swing upending the cause
Bemused and bespoke
I am exactly as ordered
Dyed crimson and bordered
In sailcloth and wind
And nothing untangles the fragrant cry of desire
The sea sprayed reaching
For fire aloft
From hands singed with elation to remain
We came out from a land
Rich with harmony and sacrifice
We built legends and legacies
And threw fire from our fists
Unto the firmament
We brought down gods upon our heads
We sought shelter in their arrogance
Devoured our fear like ripened fruit
And this is how we nourished our souls
Grew teeth in our throats to imprison them
Behind voices made lame by our dinner
Our hearts grew thinner
And our chests spanned wide
To shield and conceal our labouring breath
Convinced of our impending death
But our souls
Trapped in our breasts
Heaved through our skin
The immortal summons
Trauma, indignity, betrayal and other unwelcome visitors show up in some lives more than others. If they show up enough, a person might reach a point where they feel – they believe – they cannot withstand anymore. One more blow, and they will crumple and cease to be. They might plead and put The Great All That Is on notice: “Look, I can’t take anymore. I’m just letting you know this, in case you can find it in your heart to not send any more my way.”
Then, another blow – maybe a series of small ones, or one low-grade, crushing long one. Then, the person might just shut down – cease to even try negotiating with the powers that be. “What’s the point?” Now this person KNOWS, they really cannot take anymore. Truly, this time, the person will break when another wave comes.
Then, another blow. A big one. One that makes all the other blows seem like mere child’s play. And do you know what happens to our little person? Our weary, bedraggled, pushed-beyond-the-breaking-point little human, who has always had thin skin, but who now surely possesses no skin at all anymore.
It takes a long time, but this person opens their heart and makes themselves vulnerable – again. They do it. And they do it because now they really know something. Now this person knows something that is true: Life wants to live. It keeps going whether or not we can keep up. Life wants to live. So may as well embrace it. We are stronger than we think we are.
I’ve watched you break
I have felt every bone,
One by one, splinter into fragments
Into dust and rubble
Utter annihilation, not once
But many times
I’ve seen you stand up to tidal waves
I’ve seen you refuse fortunes
I’ve seen you run headlong into the mouth of a beast
And then another…and then another
How you emerge to run again
I do not know
But I’ve seen you reappear like magic…fully formed
Over and over again
I’ve seen the map re-write itself
I’ve seen the flowers bloom
And ruts in old roads replaced by mountain meadows
Purely by the sheer power of your will
I’ve seen you cry
Alone, abandoned and betrayed
And I’ve seen you walk outside and go right on loving
There is no give up in you
Even when you desperately wish it so
So may as well embrace this
This heart hurt
Because it is happening
And your heart will rise to meet you