I Give What Art Demands

For Artist Vance Kirkland

Each morning, I slip my body into straps
swinging from my studio’s ceiling. The first
supports my chest, another cups the waist,
a third cradles thighs, the last lifts ankles into air.

I dangle above the canvas like a horizontal
astronaut of art flying in the room’s sky, my back
illuminated by the hot suns of studio lights.

I practice the rhythm of suspension.
One hand, fingertips touched to canvas,
steadies my pendulum body. My other hand
grasps a wooden dowel dipped in color
to dot a spotted nebula into being.

Blood rushes, blushes, and sings
in my hanging head. Fumes rise
from the oil paint, sear my lungs
like inhaled comets. My muscles
cramp as the moon rolls over
the skylight, asks how long
can an angel fly obsessed
with beauty and celestial mind.

The angle of my body to the art
reveals the image’s truth. To paint
the desert, I lie in the sand. To paint
mountains, I climb their sides. To paint
the distant cosmos, I must lift
from Earth, rise, hover like a star.

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About the Author

Carolyn Dahl is the 2020 winner of the Poetry of the Plains and Prairies chapbook contest for A Muddy Kind of Love, which will be published by North Dakota State University in 2021. Her 2019 chapbook, Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, was a first place winner in the National Federation of Press Women’s Communication contest, the Press Women of Texas’ contest, and also received an Honorable Mention in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Carolyn Dahl
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