Monday, August 2, 2010

Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz

by William Notter

She had a truck, red hair,
and freckled knees and took me all the way
to Memphis after work for barbecue.
We moaned and grunted over plates of ribs
and sweet iced tea, even in a room of strangers,
gnawing the hickory char, the slow
smoked meat peeling off the bones,
and finally the bones. We slurped
grease and dry-rub spice from our fingers,
then finished with blackberry cobbler
that stained her lips and tongue.

All the trees were throwing fireworks
of blossom, the air was thick
with pollen and the brand-new smell of leaves.
We drove back roads in the watermelon dusk,
then tangled around each other, delirious
as honeybees working wisteria.
I could blame it all on cinnamon hair,
or the sap rising, the overflow of spring,
but it was those ribs that started everything.

"Half-Rack at the Rendezvouz" by William Notter, from Holding Everything Down. © Crab Orchard Review & Southern Illinois University Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission.

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

The White Museum

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

Reflections On Time

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.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Beginning

I started to feel like the Twilight Zone had wrapped itself around my life. The sensation that I was losing my way, not quite in control of my life, was starting to become my new normal. That is what we started to call life here in New Orleans after The Disaster; the new normal. A condition that was the result of life as we knew it forever changed; destruction, death in all of it hideous forms, grief, anger, sorrow. The list is as long as all of the words for the ugliness of existence. How does person, a community, a culture survive and find meaning and the will to continue? The strength of character, the resiliency of survival, humor, love, culture, friendship, and family. New Orleans is no stranger to the cruel and capricious ways of Nature, but fortunately it has an abundance of wealth in the ways to continue on.
The last round of storms this season, brought back all the fear and anxiety of what transpired in the waning days of August 2005. Yet, somehow some of us escaped another round of horror, others weren't so fortunate and another chapter of lives destroyed began. Are our lives becoming a progression of the nine circles of Hell?