Helen Brechlin: Alternative Narrative

The End

Recently, ALSO THAT regular Helen Brechlin made her grand return to the United States from a six week stint in Beijing, China serving as the Artist in Residence at the Inside-Out Art Museum. She was kind enough to answer some questions about her experience and share the work that she created there.

Follow Helen on Instagram here. 

Visit her website here.

Visit the museum's website here.

MT: How did you land this Artist in Residence Role in Beijing?

HB: At the end of my senior year at MassArt the chair of the Painting Department Chair had set up an amazing opportunity for the graduating seniors. All could apply by the a certain date and be considered to receive a one month residency at the Inside-Out Art Museum in Beijing, China! I quickly wrote my statement and sent along my additional images and resume. After some time I received the incredible news that I was the chosen student and I could choose a month between October and April to go on this fantastic journey.

 MT: Was the change in your surroundings reflected in your work?

HB: Absolutely! Residencies are great because they give an artist time to focus on their work without many worries beyond, “What am I going to paint today?” Part of this residency was having the city impact my work. There would be no point to being in such a unique city like Beijing if was making the same work I did back in Boston. This change manifested itself in an intense shift in my color palette. I typically used a very muted color palette, but in Beijing the color exploded. The concept of these paintings was centered on the idea of a nature in and surrounding the city reclaiming the land in a post-human world. These “Snap Shots,” as I’ve been calling them, are glimpses into this alternative narrative. Everything is slightly askew, the colors are acidic, nothing feels what we would describe as natural, which I wanted to reflect as the permanent impact of pollution in Beijing.


MT: Were there any challenges in bridging the communication barrier?

A New Beginning

HB: The short answer is yes. I was only able to pick-up on two words, hello, nĭ hăo, and thank you, xiè xiè. This made traveling beyond the confines of the museum a little difficult, but not impossible. Everyone at the museum was extremely welcoming, warm, and beyond helpful. Many of them spoke English, so I only had to worry when I went into the city. I had a very handy guide book written by the Lonely Planet (which I highly recommend!!) so I mostly stuck to restaurants and sites that were described in the book, and used the map that came with it. that map became a new fixture in my pocket. Beijing is a very safe city. I became versed in the universal sign language of the world. I could pull out my map point to landmark on it and even though we couldn’t understand each other the person I was asking for would gesture towards the general way I should be going. The biggest challenge was ordering food at restaurants not in the book. One specific time I went into a restaurant that had a large picture menu. It was the first time I had gone out completely alone in a place without an English menu and they were not used to seeing tourists. I pointed to something on the menu frazzled by the waiter standing over me waiting for me to order. When my food arrived it was a bowl
full of spicy peppers and scallions to increase the flavor with very little meat along with the
customary hot water to drink, and no rice. After a painful ten minutes, a very kind waitress came over with rice. She seemed to know that I didn’t know what I had ordered.

MT: Did you notice any cultural differences in how your work was regarded?

HB: I think the main difference was that everyone was positive? It’s hard to say. I couldn’t talk to everyone about my work, and I found most people to be polite. So, if they had something negative to say, or even constructive criticism, it was kept to themselves. This is also being compared to my previous experience inside a college studio class, where the point is to receive feedback to push further, while in Beijing I was mostly on my own.

MT: What was the biggest take-away from the entire experience? Would you do it all again somewhere else? If so, where and why?

HB: Besides thoroughly enjoying Beijing and the amazing cuisine and sites, my biggest take away was my individual growth throughout the experience. Knowing when to ask for help, and knowing that you can survive on your own in a city that you don’t speak the language or know much about in general was invaluable. I feel stronger than I was before the residency. I would absolutely go on another residency like this one. Traveling is a huge interest for me and ideally I would like to go everywhere, so this is a hard choice! My top two would be either France, a home of great painters, beautiful views and of course amazing art historical sites; or Japan, a bustling country that also has historically great painters, views and sites, plus I’ve always wanted to see the Golden Temple!


MT: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists?

HB: Try it all! I think I held back a little while I was in Beijing, and I wish I could change that. When I did step out of my comfort zone (which was a huge portion of the trip) it was extremely rewarding. I think this applies to even your hometown area. Try something and don’t let hesitation and fear get the best of you, it’s something we all fight with, so don’t think you’re alone.
Also, do a drawing a day.

Agents of Chaos - Mick Theebs

Mick made a small series featuring cats. These will be on display and available for purchase on August 28th at the Paradise Art Festival. 

Cats are agents of chaos. They have a mind of their own and subject others to their will. They are impulsive, fickle, and flighty. They are a perfect representation of the temperament of inspiration. 

Good Fortune - Manny Blacksher

You may remember Manny Blacksher from the ALSO THAT Poetry Contest I held last year. You may also remember him from the ebook of his poetry I published here on the site. I'm proud to share his beautiful words with everyone today. 

Manny Blacksher is an editor, freelance copy writer, and researcher living in Birmingham, Alabama. His poems have appeared in Measure, Unsplendid, Works & Days, Digital Americana, and The Guardian's Online Poetry Workshop. He had the exceeding good fortune for Mick Theebs to design his mini-chapbook, earthly Sharpness, in 2015. He is now revising a full-length manuscript.

-MB

Check out this video of Manny reading his poem 'The Procession'.

Editing for Heartache


In Chapter 3, you mastered the “Old-New Contract”
and combined it with strong characters and actions
to give a gas utility shut-off notice
clarity and grace. Think of how a typical
“Dear-John” letter obscures purpose and fixed resolve
with abstractions and meaningless modal phrases:

4.1.A
    Hey, I know things haven’t been good lately. I mean, 
    we tried what Dr. Floss advised. I think we both
    know it’s just not working out. God, I’m sorry, but
    I’ve got to go away. I need some time alone.
        
I’ll bet you’re shaking your head. The lover has missed
a chance to tell the dumpee they will never fix
concrete problems, and the dumper cannot be swayed
to go on with their irreparably damaged
coupling. The letter needs help from a confident
prose editor. Let’s sink our teeth into this draft
and make the story both lucid and dramatic.

4.1.B
    Dear Aubrey,

            I have been thinking of us. A lot.

    We agreed with Dr. Floss to give ourselves six
    weeks to make the important changes we discussed.

You still don’t clean the tub. I found more pubic hairs.
You forgot to pay the electric bill. Again!
Last week, I went down on someone from Marketing.

    Clearly, neither of us wants this relationship
    to change. I hold it annulled by common consent.
    Appeals will be considered for forty-eight hours.
    Please contact me with any questions. 

                        Yours truly,

 

Precision Finish by Cimex


Good that you and I should like surprise.
Repaved, familiar speedways feel new
to old drivers. We gauge each other through
quick looks, customary jokes, apprise
the field: road-worn but going odds are under-            
valued. We’ve bright eyes, firm smiles. We’ll
take Manhattans, and, later, should we feel
the itch, a room to run that circuit. Blunders
of drifting hard through curves have taught us all
the risks incurred by transport on strange beds— 
but what bed’s not strange if one doesn’t park
alone to cool beneath clean sheets? Infested
mattresses race with other bodies, remark
jumping thighs, fast times never bested.

 

The Procession

When they had rested, Jesus left that place,
But Ethel came behind him saying, Lord,
You’ve left your coat, and he replied, I’ll get
Another coat in Pergamum to last
For all the ages. Blessed be the fleece
Of Pergamum. All praise the tailors there,
The skillful needles. Narrow eyes can see            
How best to sew a button. Dust rose up

Before their watchful feet and kissed the sky.
When they had reached the hill where is a well,
They saw a multitude of Pharisees
All spitting beans at ghosts and crying out,
Leave us, Accursed! The Chosen One beheld
These fearful scribes and laughed aloud. He said,
You must not vex the dead, but come away
With me. They went with him but brought their beans.

Upon the road, a stone rolled hard against
The thigh of one whom Jesus loved. Hold up,
I’ve hurt my leg, said the Disciple. Wait,
My thigh is very sore, he told the Lord.
Let’s see how bad it is. The Son of Man
Put forth his hand and touched inside the wound.
I fear I may not walk. But Christ said, Thou
Will soon feel better. Don’t be a baby.
        
Later, they approached a market where
Was every kind of good thing on display,
All very keenly priced. The Lord said,
How difficult it is for wealthy men
To enter heaven, but I really like
This coat. What does it cost? The merchant said,  
Lord, if thou command, how can I not,
But I must sell this wondrous coat to you

For only thirteen silver pieces. Hear
Oh Sons of Judah, Jesus cried, how great
The faith of one who sells a decent coat
To me for six. Forgive your servant’s sin!
The vendor pleaded, Ten is this coat’s price.
Be healed, said Christ, and go in peace with nine.
He bought the coat and both were satisfied.
Ethel said, That coat looks good on you.

When they were on the road, the sun drew down.
The sun was broad and shone upon the fields.
Its light was gold on trees and stones, and wind
Bestirred the grass to din like distant cymbals.
The one whom Jesus loved was muttering,
It’s grown too hot, but Ethel looked about
And said, It feels like keeping promises.
And Jesus said, I know just what you mean. 
                                
Later, when they had reached another hill
Where is another well, a crowd of men
Possessed by ducks accosted them and waved
Their arms in fury. Rabbi, have you come
To foul our nests? The hour is at hand,
The Lord replied, when nests will be subsumed
In cypress boughs, and rivers cover all
The bank, and catfish eat your eggs. Fly south.

The sun was low. Christ said, Those ducks were nuts
—What a world. The Disciple who loved
Him said, You are the meaning in my life,
And Ethel said, You’re my inspiration.
Christ replied, Give thanks to God, it’s been
A perfect day, but I could eat a goat.
Let’s get inside. They shook the dust from off
Their coats and entered into Pergamum.    

Eric Lee Bowman: Deceive The Eye


Mick Theebs: When did you first realize you were an artist?

Eric Lee Bowman: Well, I always knew I was an artist. My parents were both artists and they were both raised by artists. So it's been a part of the family forever. My mom is a painter and my dad is a photographer. My grandfather was a photographer. My grandmother was a photographer and a model. We always had an art cart rolling around the apartment with paints and markers and paper and stuff. Making art was the main thing to do around my house. Making art is just part of the culture of my family.

MT: How do you choose the subjects of your photography?

ELB: I'm doing mostly portraiture with this camera. The medium I'm working with calls for portraiture. It just works very well with the wet-plate collodion process.

Eric goes deep on the Wet-Plate Collodion Process

MT: Where did you learn to operate this equipment?

ELB: When I was in high school my dad set me up with my first camera. He gave me a Nikon FE2 and I was shooting 35mm film on that for most of high school. My dad showed me how to use the camera, my grandfather showed me some stuff with it and that's where it all started. With my current camera, you can't really get glass plates for it and adapting it for sheet film would require a little bit of work. I wanted to shoot on glass plates, since that was what the camera was designed for. So I knew how to operate the camera, I just didn't have film to put inside. So, I took a photo-chemistry course at SVA and studied a number of different antiquarian photo processes from the mid-eighteen hundreds.

MT: What are some of the challenges in working with such unique equipment?

ELB: The camera has a number of light leaks in it so I usually cover the camera with a heavy fabric or a heavy dark cloth, just to keep the light leaks to a minimum. I do occasionally still get a light leak or two here and there. Working with the chemistry is fun and I take a lot of safety precautions: rubber gloves, apron, goggles, and proper ventilation is important too.

MT: What if the camera breaks? How do you find parts?

ELB: Luckily nothing has broken on this yet. Really, there isn't much that can break. The wood could crack if I bend it the wrong way, but I can glue it back together or I can have a carpenter fix it. The bellows can be replaced. I just have to be very careful with the lens. The lens is the prize piece of the equipment.

Eric goes into detail on 'the prize piece'

MT: What are your thoughts on nostalgia and history and its relationship to present culture?

ELB: I know for me, using this equipment connects me to my family. There's a family tradition in doing photography and painting. I see that a lot in my day to day experience. In my apartment, I have something like fifty thousand photographs from my grandfather that he shot. That's just part of what surrounds me every day. Occasionally I'll open up my file cabinet and pull out some photos and that's my connection to the history of photography- through the history of my family.

ERIC SHARES SOME FAMILY HISTORY

MT: And you're absolutely keeping the history of photography alive in a very concrete way. Is there many people that still use this process today?

ELB: Oh yeah, there is a big community of people still doing this. We're connected on Facebook and Instagram and we're all following each other. I think what I'm doing is a little different, using the trick photo processes I'm using. I haven't seen anyone doing anything that kind of thing.

MT: What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists?

ELB: It's important to get stuff made. Just keep making stuff all the time. I've realized recently that if I'm not making it, it's never going to exist. Art is for the most part a physical object. It's something that exists as something tangible. You can have all the good ideas in the world, but if you're not making it it doesn't exist. Ideas are all well and good, but artists keep making stuff.  


Legal Disclaimer: All works above are the property of Eric Lee Bowman and are not to be not to be printed, not to be used for the promotion of a specific project, not to be used for any commercial purpose, and not to be published on any other site or in any other app without the explicit written permission of Eric Lee Bowman.

Special Thanks to Will Star who took all of the photos (that weren't direct scans) of Eric Lee Bowman and his work. 

Rosemary Celon-Gordon: Out of the Ordinary

I paid the Gilded Lily Gallery a visit and had the chance to speak with the owner and resident artist Rosemary Celon-Gordon. I had a wonderful time sitting among the beautiful works in her gallery and talking about her work.

If you find yourself in southern Connecticut, I absolutely recommend dropping her shop for a visit.

Like their Facebook page here.

 

MT: HOW'D YOU GET YOUR START AS AN ARTIST?

RCG: I've always been into the arts, even as a little kid. I would always dream about being an artist. Professionally, I went to school for architecture. Then, I did shows for like 15 years after I graduated. Then I opened up here...I guess that was when I first realized I was an artist, because I started making money. I mean, before that I did, but you know, it wasn't steady. You know the term starving artist? We were all starving artists, believe me. When I was doing shows, I needed a job, so I worked a steady job for like fifteen years, then I opened the gallery and that was when I realized I was an artist.

MT: How did you make the transition for architecture to fine art?

RCG: I went to Paier [College of Art and Design] and got my degree and got a job after graduation with Ethan Allen. I didn't like it. There wasn't any creativity to it. It was basically sales. Architecture wasn't really what I wanted to go to school for. They didn't offer fashion design, which is what I really wanted to do. So I went for architectural design. But then I decided that wasn't what I wanted to do. I really wanted to draw and do fabric art and paint. My work has evolved. I started working with fabrics...I would make soft sculptures out of fabrics- almost like doll making. That was how I started doing shows. I've always liked textile designs and I think when you look at my work there's so much detail in design in it. 

Rosemary describes her style 

MT: You have a really unique style, in that, it toes the line between sculpture and painting. How did you develop that?

My work has evolved a lot.  I got my start with soft sculptures and fabrics. When we first opened the gallery I was working in polymer clay. With the clay, the designs are all done in the clay, because it's pigmented. I went back to painting with acrylics on canvas. Then I discovered glass paints and that was my ah-ha moment, when I discovered you could paint on glass and it could look like enamel. A lot of my paintings hanging in here are done on glass. And then I went from totally glass painting to some with mosaic work and now I'm doing mosaics. I also do jewelry with resins and silver and bronze. I don't get bored because I keep changing my mediums. I keep incorporating what I use in my glass painting in my jewelry. You look at my work and you can tell it's mine. There's a vein that runs through it.

MT: How did you decide to open the gallery?

I worked for a company for 16 years that closed their stores in CT and I needed something to do. I wanted to go back to my art because I kind gave it up for those years when I was working full time. I got my severance pay and I said to my husband I couldn't see myself working for someone again. I hated working for someone else and I really missed doing my art. With the severance pay and a loan, we did it. We opened the gallery. And that was fifteen years ago.

MT: You've managed to operate this gallery through one of the worst economic downturns in recent history. How? 

Determination. I have a pretty good following with my work. We're honest. We don't pressure people. When someone comes in, we let them look around and enjoy. We have things nobody else has. When you're looking for something different, unique, and special we have it. In this economy, you have to have that. You can't be run of the mill. It's gotta be something out of the ordinary. A niche thing. That's what we are.


MT: What words of advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Just keep working. Keep doing it. Pay your dues. Just work hard. You can't expect to graduate from school and just get the perfect job. You gotta work for it. And keep working for what you want. It's not easy to be an artist and make a living. Most of the people I have in here have other jobs. I myself did too for many years. If you think you're gonna be rich and famous forget about it. 

Finding Integrity in the Fountainhead

Ayn Rand is a polarizing figure in the world of literature as the progenitor of the philosophy known as "Objectivism". For the uninitiated, the driving force behind this school of thought is that selfishness is not an inherently bad trait and that a person's sole purpose is to pursue their own happiness while generally disregarding everything else, including the well being of society at large. Unfortunately, many people have latched onto this school of thought in order to justify their shitty behavior.

I cracked the Fountainhead having full knowledge of this philosophy. I wasn't expecting it to be a good book. I wasn't expecting to agree with anything written in the 753 page tome. I really only read it to confirm my suspicions about Ayn Rand and Objectivism- that it's a total waste of time and merely rhetorical leverage for terrible people to rationalize selfish behavior.

For the most part, I was right. The Fountainhead is not a well-written book. It's bloated with fluff and reads like a fan-fiction. Rand herself once said that the cynical female lead Dominique Francon was really just herself on a bad day. The characters for the most part are cardboard cut-outs meant to further Rand's intellectual agenda.

But I would be lying if I said I took nothing away from the Fountainhead and that parts didn't resonate with me. An overarching theme of the novel is integrity and the different ways it can be tested. While there were many aspects of protagonist Howard Roark's character that didn't sit well with me (he arguably rapes someone at one point) I will concede that I admired his commitment to his artistic integrity.

Howard Roark is lightning in a bottle- built up to be this superhuman force of creativity that is destined to revolutionize the field of architecture. However, nobody around him initially notices this. He is laughed out of architecture school and most firms. Eventually, he finds work with an old master of architecture who recognizes his talent for what it is and mentors him. Eventually, he slowly but surely develops traction and achieves success as an architect without ever compromising his vision. Of course, a bunch of other stuff happens in the novel, but it's not worth discussing here.

The thing that stuck with me was Roark's unwavering confidence in his work. No matter how many people told him he was wasting his time, no matter how many people laughed in his face, or poo-pooed his ideas, Roark kept right on doing what he was doing. He never got angry, he never fought back in any meaningful way. He just kept on until his eventual success. 

Now, I don't have the hyper-detached confidence of borderline psychopath Howard Roark, but this message of staying true to yourself as an artist is absolutely something I can get behind. It's important to make art that expresses who you are. It's not a science. There are guidelines, but no absolute rules. There is only what looks good and what doesn't. I try to remember that as I create and get frustrated with myself and compare my work to other artists. I always appreciate feedback, but I do not live and die by it because there is no pleasing everyone. First and foremost, I need to please myself with the work I create. Maybe not with the same unflinching rabidity that Howard Roark did with his own work, but somewhere in between.

Would I say The Fountainhead is a must read? Absolutely not. But I was pleasantly surprised by the exploration of artistic integrity and what it means to find success as a creator. Do I agree with every single thing I read? No way. But, there is merit in reading things that force you to broaden your horizons and expand your perspective, especially in this age of safe spaces and echo chambers. 

If you are a creative person or want to become a creative person, this book should be on your reading list. 

Work Doodles

Have you ever been in a meeting at work and found yourself drifting off? My go-to move is to doodle, as it keeps me awake and looking busy. I invite everyone to send me their work doodles via alsothatwebmaster@gmail.com

Here are some doodles from the past few weeks.  

Guest Post: Enamored with the Medium - Tessa Junas

I'm excited to share the amazing ceramics of Tessa Junas. The things that really strike me about her work are the intricate patterns and the vibrant colors. Keep an eye on this rising star as she builds her already impressive body of work.

My name is Tessa Junas. Ever since I was a little girl I had a fascination with ceramics. My grandmother had a collection of pieces displayed in her house and every day after school I would study the designs on the pots in sheer awe of what someone out there could create. I took my first ceramic class at Amity High School and became enamored with the medium. I went on to study Studio Art with a concentration in Ceramics at Southern Connecticut State University under the instruction of Cort Sierpinski, Josaphine Rossomondo and Gret Cochenet. They have all aided greatly in my education and helped me nurture the style which I have developed. It is reminiscent of the Ukrainian pottery I loved so much as a child yet I wanted my pieces to be vibrant and interesting with a life of their own.

Guest Post: Transitions - Helen Brechlin

The fabulous Helen Brechlin makes her return to ALSO THAT with new work. 

Check out her Behance for more work. 

This collection of work was created over the course of my senior year at MassArt. I set out with the idea of painting hair. My previous post explains that hair stemmed from a project where I was making paintings to break stigmas of rape survivors. I wanted to create cogent discussions of how survivors are viewed and treated, whether it be by their school, community, or the media.
Hair is a substance that is full of metaphor and meaning. To individuals it can stand for opposite ideas. It is revered when attached to a person, and then the instance it is taken from the setting of the body it is thought of as disgusting and dirty. A stray hair on anything means that thing has been contaminated.
To me, hair is a recording of personal histories. Hair grows with you through your experiences, whether they are struggles or triumphs. In my paintings I focused on the hardships and depicting emotionally traumatizing events with hair. How will the hair manifest itself when the person it belongs to is a rape survivor?
My concept comes before my preferences; I am a representational figure painter who has forgone both the body and observation to better express my ideas. As this project has continued there has been a slow transformation from strictly observational studies to purely abstracted realities of swirling colorful tendrils. The hair I paint tangles within itself to ebb and flow as it fights its way to completion.
My most recent paintings, many would say, do not resemble hair at all. I gave myself my last semester at school to be a period of painting where I step away from my preferences and politics and begin to dig deeper into the medium of painting itself. I still think of hair when I am creating paintings, but not in the literal sense when I first began this project. Instead, the hair is referenced in the brush strokes, line and form. These works I call “Transitions” to reflect my emergence from school and observational painting. With these works, I hope to gain better insight into the kinds of paintings I wish to create in post-grad reality.
— HB

Skull

I painted a ram skull recently. The thing about this one that's different from a lot of my other work is that there was no initial concept sketch. I just sat down and started painting and this is what happened.

Acrylic on Bristol paper

There were a lot of corrections with this one. I fussed over it for a while before I was finally happy with the finished product.  

Take a look at how Skull came to be. 

Lot's Wife

It's human nature to look back. We are a nostalgic species and there is much to learn from retrospection.

The story of Lot's Wife from the book of Genesis has puzzled and intrigued all manner of artists as it seems to serve as a warning against our impulse to look backwards.

Lot was a citizen of the original sin-city: Sodom. Being a good Christian, he took two strangers into his home and protected them from an angry mob of rapists. The strangers reveal themselves to be angels and tell Lot that he needs to GTFO of Sodom before pissed-off Old Testament God torches everything. They hustle Lot and his family out of the city just as the fireworks are starting up and the angels tell them not to look back. Lot's Wife, (sometimes called Edith) looks back and is immediately turned into a pillar of salt. 

There are extensive artistic works examining  this story- painters painting her shocked face as she gazes on the ruins of her home, poets writing words from her perspective as to why she turned to look. Here are three poems that give us some insight on what Edith might've been thinking.

 

Lot's Wife

by Anna Akhmatova

 

And the just man trailed God’s shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
“It’s not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed.”

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn

 

Lot's Wife

by Wislawa Szymborska

 

They say I looked back out of curiosity.
But I could have had other reasons.
I looked back mourning my silver bowl.
Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.
So I wouldn't have to keep staring at the righteous nape
of my husband Lot's neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead
he wouldn't so much as hesitate.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Checking for pursuers.
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.
Our two daughters were already vanishing over the hilltop.
I felt age within me. Distance.
The futility of wandering. Torpor.
I looked back setting my bundle down.
I looked back not knowing where to set my foot.
Serpents appeared on my path,
spiders, field mice, baby vultures.
They were neither good nor evil now--every living thing
was simply creeping or hopping along in the mass panic.
I looked back in desolation.
In shame because we had stolen away.
Wanting to cry out, to go home.
Or only when a sudden gust of wind
unbound my hair and lifted up my robe.
It seemed to me that they were watching from the walls of Sodom
and bursting into thunderous laughter again and again.
I looked back in anger.
To savor their terrible fate.
I looked back for all the reasons given above.
I looked back involuntarily.
It was only a rock that turned underfoot, growling at me.
It was a sudden crack that stopped me in my tracks.
A hamster on its hind paws tottered on the edge.
It was then we both glanced back.
No, no. I ran on,
I crept, I flew upward
until darkness fell from the heavens
and with it scorching gravel and dead birds.
I couldn't breathe and spun around and around.
Anyone who saw me must have thought I was dancing.
It's not inconceivable that my eyes were open.
It's possible I fell facing the city.

Painting by Janet Shafner

Painting by Janet Shafner


What Lot's Wife Would Have Said (If She Wasn't a Pillar of Salt)

by Karen Finneyfrock


Do you remember when we met
in Gomorrah? When you were still beardless,
and I would oil my hair in the lamp light before seeing
you, when we were young, and blushed with youth
like bruised fruit. Did we care then
what our neighbors did
in the dark?

When our first daughter was born
on the River Jordan, when our second
cracked her pink head from my body
like a promise, did we worry
what our friends might be
doing with their tongues?

What new crevices they found
to lick love into or strange flesh
to push pleasure from, when we
called them Sodomites then,
all we meant by it
was neighbor.

When the angels told us to run
from the city, I went with you,
but even the angels knew
that women always look back.
Let me describe for you, Lot,
what your city looked like burning
since you never turned around to see it.

Sulfur ran its sticky fingers over the skin
of our countrymen. It smelled like burning hair
and rancid eggs. I watched as our friends pulled
chunks of brimstone from their faces. Is any form
of loving this indecent?

Cover your eyes tight,
husband, until you see stars, convince
yourself you are looking at Heaven.

Because any man weak enough to hide his eyes while his neighbors
are punished for the way they love deserves a vengeful god.

I would say these things to you now, Lot,
but an ocean has dried itself on my tongue.
So instead I will stand here, while my body blows itself
grain by grain back over the Land of Canaan.
I will stand here
and I will watch you
run.