Where the Fog has No Name
Conceived in a sea fret, whilst resident artist for ‘Djerassi: Scientific Delirium Madness’, 2018
Elements of PaintBarbara H. Berrie, grew into her name;
a scrap of a girl, all angles. She felt at odds
with the round sound on her tongue,
her name passed down through generations.
We walk and talk, about many things:
including where the sea ends and sky begins.
The chemist in her is so precise, she thinks carefully before
she opens the lid on the depth and breadth of her knowledge,
the elements of paint in sky:
The landscape speaks.
When asked to name the colour of sun
her answer is considered. By sun, you mean fire,
a sunset spectrum. Well now let me see.
You’ll need red oxide, deep orange, canary yellow
then something paler, diffuse sunlight:
Gophers have unearthed clay across the trail, the land
pock-marked, holes in which snakes can hide.
We come back to earth.
These tones seem easier to name, more familiar to my untutored
British ear, they spill out of her mouth. Grounded, well-trodden words:
The mist shifts, a burst of rays, slow reveal of ocean
we wrangle over the colour of waves.
Green-blue depths, turquoise, churning movement
as Barbara the artist strains against her chemist bonds:
Azurite (like sky),
which when combined make
Clouds scud across the sky, lines of breakers
out past San Gregorio visible only from high ground:
Chalk white, Zinc white, Titanium white, Lead white
The sun throws long shadows, our bodies in relief
as we return, an inky Stink Beetle crosses our path:
Lamp black, Bone black, Ivory black, Black earth
Here we are looping back again, a thread woven
in the earth colours of Barbara’s Scottish upbringing,
the browns and greys of Highland mist, indigo lochs.
Counterpoint to the tin pot yellow sun and cobalt sky
of Washington D.C., the place she now calls home.
lost in the woods,
in the misty shimmer
and forest floor.
an ecotone sounds
in my ear,
like a chord struck or plucked
on a baby grand
or sweet charango.
I see you there.
you seem so real,
my arms stretch out
like redwoods do,
so that sunlight
cannot filter through.
let’s make a wish
over this coyote bush,
to loneliness, a mere vanishing point,
panic struck from my chest.
my bird’s foot hop,
a de-composite dance,
the nest I made
only raided again
lost in the woods,
all glazed and brown.
here, I choose to make my home.
[one] factorialthere are fish that swell up
to frighten their enemies, like i puff up my chest
some explode when hauled into thin air
but others, like electrons,
strike a projected wave at just the right moment
as a door opens, or a window of opportunity
electrons rise and then they fall again,
in this falling colour is made. in my falling for you
what colour was made?
here in this particular light [or wavelength]
horizons stretch, bend to the curve of the earth
i can see everything more clearly
there is not one door, but several
open at different times, some are even held ajar
a deer appears in my line of sight
i feel more connected to you now,
than when plugged directly into your skin
up here the air is thin, and we are closer
stage frightloud crack of ripped canvas //
lights up / blue filter shone down on the stage
perfect model of a barn / seen from a distance
/ through fog blown like dry ice //
man enters stage right / throws
black earth / kicks the wheel of night /
the orchestra cranks up / wades through mud
// a bull frog sounds from the pit
geckos tremble / squirrels drill a crescendo /
while swallows thread the high note //
nature carves a wall of sound / tight knots bitten
// score underwritten /
as silence descends / coils and upends
a kind of poetry that you already knew //
// mesmerized our audience stamp their feet
rise as one / crack lines falter
/ moon flicks her lamp / safety curtains fall /
leaves just a rattle //
Core, marrow and blood
for Pamela Djerassi and her familyLet go of inhibition,
walk barefoot through
Bear Gulch Creek,
stretch out, look up, way up
into the redwood canopy
stand tall on the old stumps.
Watch the leaves touch
like hands might, if they knew
you were about to fall,
call out all the names
of the people you have loved,
bathe under a waxen moon.
This place seeps into your bones,
spores spreading out
in core, marrow and blood,
the need to create, to feel,
empathy as much curse as blessing
observe the fog roll in,
how it presses down on your shoulders, a weight:
paint, words, clay, wood
yarn, ink, metal, stone,
earthy pigments, moss and lichen
grass, sky, sea, mountain
lion, vulture, lizard, slug,
swallow, coyote, heron and hawk
bobcat, owl, rattlesnake, newt
All of it –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– so vast
your hand barely able to keep up
with the mind’s momentum.
Eliot North is a writer, doctor and educator who currently lives in Valencian Country, Spain. She was nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize for her poem yolk, by Black Bough Poetry. Her short story This Skin Doesn’t Fit Me Any More, was originally published in Structo Magazine and subsequently selected for the anthology Best British Short Stories 2017 by Salt Publishing. Poetry and prose in Firewords, Structo, Acumen, Black Bough Poetry, Dovecote, Re-side, The Broken Spine and Ink Sweat & Tears literary magazines. The latter publication also nominated her poem My Mother Visits The Dissection Room for The Forward Prize in 2017. Her first digital chapbook, Born in a Pandemic was published by Ice Floe Press (2020). She was selected for the Djerassi Resident Artist Programme: Scientific Delirium Madness, in 2018. She carved two poems into wood whilst she was a resident, which were installed on the Djerassi property, as well as writing essays and poems on the themes of medical science, nature, identity and creativity. Twitter: @eliot_north