In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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I have just come from gazing into eight rectangles of sky. By moving from mirror to mirror laid out in a courtyard, I have been able to take the trees with me. The clouds follow, floating across the little gaps between each panel. The artist of the mirrors has understood our strange fascination in lifting part of the world away from itself and holding it in the glass: the branches carrying on their own dark, mysterious lives below us, the wind shifting above us and under us at the same time.
These mirrors were part of an art show at a community college in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The talent involved the compulsion to buy eight old department store mirrors before they were demolished, the patience in arranging them in the right place and at the right level, and the passionate desire to hold the winds in the glass for a while, to turn the world aslant and love it at a slightly different angle.
The artist of these mirrors understands poetry. This is to introduce the poems of Pamela Perkins Atkinson. In her writing Pamela attempts to render not only the details of the world, but their magic as well. As she does with her mirrors, she turns the flat surface of paper mysterious and alive with trees and water and snakes.
— Chris Bursk
Summer nights are different;
they have another dark.
Spread your attention to your perimeters,
as a karate master widens his stare,
fanning his vision
to awareness of the whole of his eyes’ space.
Don’t focus; just spread your net of feeling
until its corners meet behind you.
Now you can sense how the walls
are less there than they are in winter;
the way the windows are loose, wide gates.
The roof doesn’t seal you down, but hovers,
not touching the walls.
The night tides slide into the light cones of your house
and out again,
like a black, invisible stream
sliding out of darkness into the light of a bridge’s lamps,
its surface wavered with gleams, and then
sliding silkily under the bridge’s dark again.
So the dark enters your house:
scented with screens,
impalpably powdered with the wings of thumping moths,
It’s so hard to see the shape of water.
on a sun-roughened dock,
head hanging over,
chin pressed against the splinters,
and try to take the shape with your eye.
just past the creosote-scented shadows
surging hollowly under the dock, just past your fingers,
the glassy, angled water
tilts against the pilings:
a slow lift and suck, and
murmuring wet lipping.
You can try to hold,
to clamp the shapes in your mind,
wrinkling your forehead,
feeling the sun bring out prickles of sweat
on the back of your head
under your warm hair,
but those surface loops and ovals
shift and bonelessly break into french curves
that escape precise memory.
They sea-change your own reflection,
your tipped down head,
your reaching hand,
into curves that flash,
into rocking, shifting mirrors.
Rhododendrons clenching their leaves into double-rolled scrolls;
honeysuckle lapping its leaves one over the other,
and, perforce silent,
sitting in a stilled, darkened tremor
of grey-green cold.
Their dun, subsonic shudder is only felt
if touched. Feel it?
If we four could hold hands . . .
honeysuckle and you, rhododendron and I . . .
in that level of life past the differences of
if you and I could dull our blood
to their quenched seeping
we could shudder together; we could shake out our senses
to the thinness of the air,
dim them down like the waning of this winter afternoon
to a barely heard
— a hospital in India —
a photograph of a child in an iron crib,
gaunt, with chopped dark hair in black spikes on the sheet.
Her eyes are open and endlessly grieved;
she seems to have ceased to try to protest her pain.
Her mouth, which had opened for hurting, is a little to one side;
her outflung arm is thin;
the elbow is the largest part.
A woman leans above her with the look
that shows long practice at holding anguish
squeezed down to the size of regret.
She raises the sheet
to cover the open mouth,
the fixed uncomprehending eyes.
Pamela Perkins Atkinson