Thursday, June 10, 2010
by Robert Hass
I have just crossed the Rio Grande,
And by a string of clever switchbacks
Have, for the moment, outwitted the posse.
Ahead lie the ghosts of Sierra Madre.
Behind, I have nothing but sun,
While the condor's shadow circles over my bones.
Though the mountains are steep, my horse doesn't falter,
And now I know why starving bandoleros
Will never shoot their animals for food.
Beyond my mirage, I see the white adobe—
Yes, the one with the red-tiled roof—
Which one afternoon I will lean against, with my hat down
And knees up, after a bottle of tequila.
In that siesta, I am sure to dream Of the lovely senorita
Who has stolen away from her father
To meet me in the orchard.
But enough of that. There is work to be done.
I have cattle to rustle and horses to steal
Before the posse picks up my trail.
(In a poem of Mexico, it would be unwise For a poet to mention the posse is his wife.)
So, mi amigo, if you find her
Prowling my mountains
With a wooden spoon in her hand,
Tell her I am not here.
Tell her I have run off With Cormac McCarthy and Louis L'Amour,
That I ride like the wind
To join up with the great Pancho Villa.
"Mexico" by Robert Hass, from Counting Thunder. © David Robert Books, 2008. Reprinted with permission.
Monday, November 16, 2009
My aunt was an organ donor and so, the day she died,
her organs were harvested
for medical science.
I suppose there must be people who list, under "Occupation,"
"Organ Harvester," people for whom
it is always harvest season,
each death bringing its bounty.
They spend their days loading wagonloads of kidneys,
whole cornucopias of corneas,
burlap sacks groaning with hearts and lungs
and the pale green sprouts of gall bladders,
and even, from time to time,
the weighty cauliflower of a brain.
And perhaps today,
as I sit in this café, watching the snow
and thinking about my aunt,
a young medical student somewhere
is moving through the white museum
of her brain, making his way slowly
from one great room to the next.
Here is the gallery of her girlhood,
with that great canvas depicting her father
holding her on his lap in the backyard
of their bungalow in St. Louis.
And here is a sketch of her
the summer after her mother died,
walking down a street in Berlin
when the broken city was itself a museum. And here
is a small, vivid oil of the two of us
sitting in a café in London
arguing over the work of Constable
or Turner, or Francis Bacon after a visit to the Tate.
I want you to know, as you sit there
with your microscope and your slides,
there's no need to be reverent before these images.
That's the last thing she would have wanted.
But do be respectful. Speak quietly.
No flash photography. Tell your friends
you saw something beautiful.
"The White Museum" by George Bilgere. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Time as a subject in photography can be conveyed in a number of ways but in the photographs selected for this publication they may not seem quite so obvious. While the intent of these images was not about time, it has managed to become what these photos represent to me.
The photos of the bridge by Lake Pontchatrain are on the surface about the more formal aspects of the photographic image: the composition, the interplay of light and dark, reflections, water, repeating forms and so on. The catalyst for making the images was, however, about how in the autumn in New Orleans, the quality of light changes as the season changes. I always look forward to this time of the year, because it always brings new opportunities to see the environment in a new way as the air becomes clearer, and shadow lengthen along with the shorter days.
The photos of the construction of the Crescent City Connection, the second parallel span across the Mississippi River, was about the monumental shapes and forms as they began to change the city landscape, but the underpinning for these images was about a new chapter in New Orleans history offering increased traffic flow between both banks and a transition to a more modern city. The old bridge was no longer adequate; the time had arrived for another to make us more efficient.
Finally, the photos of the urban cityscape are, on the surface, about contrasting architectural styles and scale. The real context is how the functionality of our buildings has changed as we have moved through the years. In the modern era, they need to be bigger, less ornate, a grander sense of scale that diminishes the human scale to serve the bigger corporate need.
In the course of a photographer’s career, the meanings of photographs change as well. Often, the photographs are made simply because the photographer is responding in a particular way to what is in front of him. The real reasons are often elusive, obscure, hard to fathom and not readily apparent. When going back to view one’s work, time becomes a prism or looking glass to another set of associations that inhabit us as we move through the phases of our life. The world and our time spent on it has a particular nature when experienced as a young person, when viewed from the perspective of an older person, it makes one pause to try and comprehend how fleeting our time is and how quickly it seems to slipping away.