Friday, October 01, 2021

Covid Chronicles, Ekphrastic Edition, Santa Barbara, CA

 Melinda Palacio

    Artist Colleen Kelly has built an art installation in her front yard in Santa Barbara. The pieces quickly came together. She used a dead birch tree as the front end piece with hands reaching skyward, as if reaching for something thrown off a New Orleans Mardi Gras float. The dead tree with various blooms symbolize climate change. Not only is there a visual component to the exhibit, but a audio one, where natural sounds and children's voices can be heard. Kelly mentioned that the sounds blend in with the neighborhood. Blue bottles, pomegranates painted an exceptional dark shade of red, cloth flowers and fruit and eggplant are in all "bloom" from the dead tree, hence the installation title, Ghost Trees in Bloom. While dead trees offer great perches for falcons, owls, and hawks looking for lunch, the exhibit invites the living to interact with unseen spirits. There's a playful aspect to the visual quality of the mournful work, especially in the chairs. Everyday, Kelly moves the chairs around, making the installation fluid and fresh while most of the decaying pieces remain static. Kelly wanted to make sure to document the installation with photographs and video in anticipation of the day the artwork needed to come to down and passerby's could no longer see themselves reflected in the big mirror to east end of the sprawling piece. But there was one component that was missing. She envisioned a poem printed to the left of the mirror. She asked me to write the ekphrastic poem, based on her art installation for Ghost Trees in Bloom. Here's what I came up with. 

Somehow the Ghost Tree Still Blooms 

Melinda Palacio

Please take a seat, plenty of room.

If you listen as if holding a conch to your ear,

We are still here, laughing 

In the space between the wind.

Me, Momo, and them.

We laugh and cry, think of before times,

When us kids played around the Birch tree,

We ran carefree and free from worry and 

Changes that came slow like molasses

Nana poured on our cakes, and then

Faster than the speed of tomorrow 

Crashing down like yesterday.

But we didn’t think Mother Earth 

Would change, pack her bags.

Nana says everything changes, but

Somehow the ghost tree still blooms happy,

White hands and limbs reach skyward.

They jump up joyous as if in church.

Take me, lift me, free me from this blue bottle.

Somehow the ghost tree still blooms blood red 

Pomegranates. Red like the time

Momo skinned his knee.

Before fires and water

Washed away our house,

We kids used to swing from the tree,

Leaves and fruit on green grass.

Now only white ashen tree bones remain.

Somehow the ghost tree still blooms 

All our favorites, Nana’s too:

roses, pomegranates, eggplants.

If only we would have paid attention,

Our ghost tree might have company,

a home that’s more than your

Reflection in the big mirror.

The beauty of you.

You in a temporary shelter.

Green grass gone.

Take it all in before the

Wind overtakes you. 

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