Art Works

by Robert Bensen

            Sara Bates, “Honoring Circle” (sculpture)
            Before a shop built downtown sealed over a spring and a little creek,
excavation turned up the bones of a man, his pipe and some shards of clay
            that came from this embankment above the Susquehanna—
clay that made the brick that made the shop that hides the creek
            that flows through pipe that’s made with clay that made the pipe they dug
beside the man they found not long ago, long after he had turned to clay.

If spirit lives in everything and everything in spirit
            then the young woman with a virus raging in the head
who has fallen asleep beside Sarah's “Honoring Circle” while the rest write
            may have dreamed herself one day as pleasant as this
beside a pretty little creek above a bluff and drank from its talkative source
            in the warmth of a complicated sun, an agitated sun
flaring with seeds and pods and leaves and shells and petals,
            a composed sun from whose center the crossed roads carry
what they always carry down their seven shining paths
            until the red sun of evening stripes her face
and she flutters awake to find herself alone
            with this work, this disk of gifts on the floor, walk about
and wonder what on earth she saw in it, and what she sees. 

 An excerpt from Before by Robert Bensen
© Robert Bensen. All rights. Reserved.

Robert Bensen has published six collections of poetry, including Orenoque, Wetumka & Other Poems, and Before. His work has earned an NEA poetry fellowship, the Robert Penn Warren Award, the Harvard Summer Poetry Prize, and Illinois Arts Council and NY State Council on the Arts awards. His scholarship in the Caribbean and Native America has produced essays, studies, and editions, won fellowships from the NEH and Newberry Library, and led to teaching in St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. He is the editor of Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Hartwick College (1978-2017).  He teaches at SUNY-Oneonta, and conducts a poetry workshop at Bright Hill Literary Center, Treadwell.

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