ancient history

just fragments
reduced to a series of numbers–
take a photo to remember,
to contain the unknowable

reduced to a series of numbers,
ink on paper,
blurred now, salty–

take a photo to remember
the spirits now dispersed,
unable to find a vessel

to contain the unknowable–
all the infinite subtractions–
what remains has no name

A trimeric poem for Grace at dVerse. It’s very like a pantoum I think, so of course I like it.

I did this torn painting 6 years ago ago for a post mourning the fact that governments all over the world were destroying ancient art if they did not like the culture or religion it belonged to. Like the earth’s resources, once it’s gone it can never be replaced.

35 thoughts on “ancient history

  1. Ohhhh! I really like this. The verses and images pair so nicely with image disappearing more and more. Of course it fits your intention, but it could mean so much more–all those spirits looking for a vessel. It also made me think of a person with dementia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Merril. I wrote the poem first, then looked for art that fit, so its original intention was broader, and dementia is definitely a viable interpretation. I started with the idea of a photo, and all that it couldn’t hold.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The face seems like a blend of human and owl, and when it is torn up symbolizes the folly of humans tearing up wisdom (my interp.) So strange they destroy art by cultures and religions they don’t “like,” yet the museums are filled with the bones of members of those same cultures. There is something inherently evil about such practices.

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    1. Thanks Jade–you are right about the owl-like face–I hadn’t noticed that. Museums have a lot to answer for. And yet, without them, some of these artifacts would have disappeared entirely. Still…it’s complicated, and the motives are never pure. Like everything.

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  3. The poem is such a good statement. We all condemn the destruction of Buddhist art by Islamists, but I wonder how far back in history we’re prepared to go before we say, ‘oh, that was then, we don’t do that now’ and just let the art stand as a document of its age. Yes, I’m thinking of the statue topplers and the painting bannishers.

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  4. Sometimes Mother Nature and Time are hard on art too. It amazes me how much sense we get of the classical world from fragments (both of art and writing). Beautiful poignant poem. And lovely fragmented drawing. If you still have the pieces maybe it’s time to reconstruct it into some new iteration ….

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    1. Thanks Aletha. That’s true, time takes a toll on everything. The pieces are around somewhere, but where? that’s a mystery. I was just at the storage room today. There’s a lot of art in there, and none of it is labeled very well.

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      1. I often have trouble retrieving drawings that are sources for paintings. Ditto for source photos. I am inaugurating a system for the drawings, though, because I really love painting from drawings. I am motivated now! But you’re right, it’s hard to keep track of everything.

        That’s sort of like the life of art past also. Sometimes finding something in storage is like doing an archaeological dig. One must go through the layers ….

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        1. I keep bringing back boxes and discovering things not only that I have totally forgotten, but that I can’t imagine where they came from. I have a vague goal of organizing it all somehow…

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  5. I hate to think of that lost history. Love this part which speaks of the unknowable ancient past:

    to contain the unknowable–
    all the infinite subtractions–
    what remains has no name

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Grace. We seem to be constantly discarding things as we try to revise history to fit our beliefs. Not a good road to either knowledge or understanding.

      Like

  6. Kerfe,
    “Ink on paper/ blurred now salty” — Your art says it all, but the poem brings out the tragedy of the loss, and the tears shed over the irreplaceable. In all these millennia, the world never sheds its instinct to destroy.
    pax,
    dora

    Liked by 1 person

  7. powerful.

    my sister, a yoga teacher, commented that the Buddha might not have objected to the destruction of the statue in Afghanistan. I’m no Buddha, so i did…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I thought this form would suit your words and certainly it does. Adding the deconstructed painting between the stanzas has real impact. I think we’re always happy to tear up the pages of history because we always think we know better, until, inevitably we are proven wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my goodness this is absolutely stunning! The pictures add to the depth of the poem, especially love; “to contain the unknowable–all the infinite subtractions–what remains has no name.”💝💝

    Liked by 1 person

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