Steve Trenam leads a poetry class in which the poets use visits to various environments to inspire or motivate poetic impulses. On January 3, 2020 the class visited the LaHaye Art Center and toured the artists’ studios and Alley Gallery. The participants then had 30 to 45 minutes to put pen to paper. I asked them to share their work with me.
When the sun is setting on the purple sage, last of the prairies.
My lonely eyes still see our little orphan,
Wrangler Bo, I knew him before the year he died.
Riding his stud of these plains, Little Bo’s first and only male stud.
Gunshot black, twelve-hands high,
They come riding after Rocket’s herd of mares on the last round-up,
Their smoking hooves clouding the last red, colored dust,
Rising to mingle with the light of the last sun’s rays
Where tomorrow’s sunset will again
See the Spirit of the Wild Horses, with Little Bo’s hat
Waving high above his head in the late evening’s light again.
Once more, riding in the shadows of the red dust,
Spurs jangling, Old Rocket’s huffing hard, rushing those mares
Down that “older than time” Buffalo Trail
All never ending, disappearing before our minds in the last rays of light.
Suspended, straining every sinew to maintain the graceful pose.
Fingers curling, spine aligning, arching hip to pointed toes.
Androgynous yet masculine, two bolts with rebar rusting through.
Rest though not forthcoming, moving though immobile, in review.
In the cold I sit and wonder
How to see so much beauty
The soaring wings of a nearly lost sculpture
Its beak pointing upward
Portending great things to come
Its wings have lift and width
Realism that Inspires.
Surviving a great fire sitting on a pile of detritus
Ever about to soar out of the stricken landscape.
Did the spirit of its bronze allow it to be?
Are there other spirit bronzes that survived
Calamity around the world?
Response to bronze sculpture created by Jim Callahan
Great Egret with wings so spread
smoke engulfed your out-stretched head.
Feathers that once were white
Oh, if you could just take flight.
You look on remnants—charred and ash
The fire prevailed- such heat- a flash
And the embers cooled at last
Great bird, you managed to hold fast.
A symbol of the spirit strong
What’s left behind…we move along.
The egret rising—I’m left in awe
of what you witnessed, what we saw.
A dream of encounter.
What to do with the land
As the seventh son?
Blue Heron crossed the lake.
The heat of the heart of a dream,
Fused a vision of land as a gift.
To the wild things and to the
children of children of children.
The Blue Heron flew across the lake
But the Heron became Egret
And the Egret became Phoenix.
Non-ferrous metal annealed
In the furious inferno.
Dueling with death and atomization,
Fate blew a gust of cool air
Between 1500° and annihilation,
The thud of the heart of that bird
Threw wings, and the sound was
Alchemy fusing metal and dream.
twisted rusting grace
in bamboo grove, back alley way
balancing strength innuendo
surrounded by bronze grace of flight
deeper into heart of swollen rust
he held in stillness.
How hot the molten love
to pour into cold light waves
steel waves, undulating
stealing heart waves
flight of egret waves
how does stillness twist and turn?
How much balance
working strength of moving steel
whether cold or inferno blast
in balancing heart gracefully resting
for a moment, just a perfect moment.
How much of this on the outside
is true to inside and how much
is what’s balancing impression
outside rusting in alley ways
caught alone in the now of resting moment
no thought caught inside.
Caught in this inside instant of
heart, open hearted balance
of just now,
balancing, perfect balance,
over and over,
resting, striving for
1.4.20 Poem inspired by Jim Callahan, “Gymnast” sculpture.
Great Cowboy Art
Divine bird, winged silver arrow
soul lifting from body, phoenix upping
lotus flower mud rising bird
sculpting cowboy blue jean horseshoe man
went to lunch and never came back man
in reaction to space man
the nothing and the everything man where
missing fingers were not at issue
even backing up into sculpting life
where the horse meets the road
where three dimensions beat two where
silicone bronze copper flight fill
the feminine power of flight feathers fly
where there are no fixed flaws
like spinning silver of glimmering glow
we learned Gilham is not gullible or afraid
we learned how this moment
pours into two thousand degrees of
just at the right moment
we learned life can harden into spirit
and were reminded soul soars beyond mind.
(1.4.20 Poem to Jim Callahan.)
The Clay Studio
Weak light from an overcast sky
trickles through dusty windows.
Shelf-covered walls overflow
with clay-dusted papers,
casting molds, unfinished pots,
and tools for forming clay.
I sense my aliveness
amid these lifeless things.
The artists have gone,
leaving behind a vase
of dying white lilies
posed on an empty table.
I lean into open corollae
of veined white petals,
with rusty-red pollen.
It is not for me
to answer their urgent plea,
cloaked in heavy perfume.
There will be no resurrection
for the lilies.
Circus, big top, lions and tigers and bears, and
coyote, just one: a pup who drew attention in her wildness.
Not a dog, though closely connected.
A leash disdained with a coyote glance, and
for good measure, piles of scat for adoring crowds.
She was Canis Latrans, in splendor.
Using trickster deception residing in her dNA
she beguiled a man, the man who loved coyotes.
First a glance from her amber eyes, then a soft rub
against his manly thighs as he knelt beside her
Canas body. Unleashed a comfort to her wild ways.
Thus, she rode along on another journey,
through country roads and city streets,
a sidekick to an unknown destiny,
where a burrow waited to conspire with
humor towards the man who loved coyotes.
December 27, 2019
In The Foundry of Creation
Isn’t it ekphrastic?
The alchemy of elements—
to smell to touch imagine
Isn’t it dynamic—
to sense the flush of wings
answer the bull elk’s bugle
catch the fox’s pounce!
Isn’t it fantastic—
to feel the sweat of Sisyphus
to know the eagle’s stare
and coyote’s yodeling cry!
@ Jim Callahan’s Studio
Sonoma, CA. Jan 3, 2020
Jim Callahan’s Sisyphus
Sisyphus, King of Corinth,
Crafty, cunning, deceitful,
Grounded for his sins:
Endless drudgery requiring
No craft, no cunning, no deceit,
Frozen in bronze,
Burdened by crystal,
Confined to his senses
In endless struggle
With forces he can neither fathom
January 2020 at Jim Callahan’s studio