Thursday, February 23, 2006

speaking of gestation

After a night of sleeping badly on the medicine ball of my belly, I'm spending the day quite deliberately making myself physically comfortable but mentally uncomfortable.

I suppose it really started a few days ago, when I wrote a poem for Feller Buncher where I compared the thingy-in-the-belly to a eulachon (commonly known as a candlefish), a a small anadromous ocean fish.

According to the Wikipedia entry on eulachon, "the name 'candlefish' derives from the fact that it is so fatty during spawning, with up to 15% of total body weight in fat, that if caught, dried, and strung on a wick, it can be burned as a candle."

I came upon this fact while simulataneously reading about the vernix caseosa, "a waxy substance that mixes with his/her dead skin cells to form a cheesy coating which acts like a sort of wetsuit protecting the little swimmer's skin from chapping." But that's not all. According to the same website, at this stage babies also sprout "fine, temporary hair—called lanugo (meaning wool)—covering most of his body and helping to hold the vernix on the skin."

Given my general preference for the beautiful ugly I found the idea that I was inhabited by an oily goat...comforting.

Since I'd in effect stolen my comfort from another poet - Gillian Wigmore had included the word candlefish in a list of ten words we were meant to use for Feller Buncher - there was no escaping my own comfortable / uncomfortable obsession du jour, the following as-yet-unused line of poetry: Sleep is not an address.

I'm not even sure what it means, but it's been tugging at me.

Another tug came this morning in the form of photographer David Maisel's website, brought to my attention by a friend. Among other things, Maisel produces abstract aerial photographs of landscapes that have been subjected to some kind of cataclysm that are beautiful and also deeply unsettling.

In his Terminal Mirage project, Maisel focuses on Great Salt Lake in Utah, where "grids of evaporation ponds" have been laid "over the surface of the lake and its shoreline."

It wasn't that far, ideologically, from Maisel's project to this Wikipedia entry on salting the earth, where it read:

"In Spain and the Spanish Empire, salt was poured into the land owned by a convicted traitor (often one who was executed and his head placed on a picota, or pike, afterwards) after his house was demolished."

Add this to the fact that salt was a precious commodity in this period, often used as money, and our present-day unintentional/intentional practice of salting the earth (Maisel again, in reference to a project where he made aerial photographs of Los Angeles: "Surely, the early is dead beneath the sheer weight and breadth of this built form?"), and you've got nearly a lethal dose of comfort/uncomfort.

Also, sleep is not an address.


pohanginapete said...

Hey Ariel, where'd all the photos go? I was looking forward to seeing some when I got back (which I have, as you can see...) Instead, I have to get by on imagined images of oily goats and stuff... it's not... er,... quite the same. ;^)

Ariel Gordon said...

Is that all I am to you, then? A (series of) pretty pictures?

pohanginapete said...

NOOOoooo!! The words are great, and when they're complemented by excellent photos the whole is more than the sum of its parts (I refuse to use the overused and appropriated "s" word (starts with "syn"—which is probably appropriate)). Sigh... Sorry. Guess I've been barked at.

Ariel Gordon said...

See, this is where words (versus images)can fail you...I wasn't barking, mostly just asking a silly question in an arch way...

Anyways, I too wish I was taking more pictures. But in addition to my unwieldiness it's been both brightly cold and grimy for what seems like weeks - so much so that the only walks I'm getting in most days are between work and home...

Some days, much to my chagrin, it's only the few steps between the car door and the front door of my office.

Polly said...

I love the way your mind works!