Chelsea Wagenaar / Sal Taylor Kydd
—divination by frogs
crouch in clear waters, their mottled skin
as dew brilliant as the spiderwebs were the spring
my father saved them. They don’t know how
they were spared, of course, the wrist-thin skin
of their throats pale and pulsing to sound out
the hours, each other. Perhaps only a few
still survive that spring twelve years ago,
when their mother trekked up from the wooded stream
that bordered our yard and emptied her belly
in our swimming pool—nebulous cluster
of milky globules suspended there, each an eye
with its black, pinpricked center. There,
to our spellbound disgust, they hatched—
the pool a frantic bevy of heads and tails,
the luck or curse that placed them there.
If I follow them back through their afterlives,
bellowing and skin-darkened to herald
a coming rain, voluble with warning
when storms approached, some lost,
perhaps tweezed apart in junior high labs,
or caught again by my father, cupped too tightly
in the hands of his new daughter—if I follow them
back through their chorused, forested lives,
I can trace them up the garden hose
that poured them in synchronized frenzy
into their rightful waters, the hose
a sinuous lifeline climbing the yard to our pool,
where its other end siphoned the tadpoles
from a water thrilled with their darting chaos.
Look harder, farther: I see my father
by the stream, kneeling in damp clay,
his lungs full, his mouth around the hose
inhaling a deep, slow gasp, then another,
until the summoned water met his mouth.
The bodies pouring out into the life
they had not known to imagine.
And his watching them arrowed away
in the current like undoused green flames.
And the bitter, secret taste on his tongue.
Lullaby in a Drought
In the drawers, in the cabinets,
we find pecan casings and pellets,
the answer to the question
of what patters in the walls at night.
We are not the only lovers here.
If the lights go out, we used to say,
you pour the wine and I’ll find
the matches. But we dare not tempt them
in this tinder town—where sycamores shed
parched unready leaves, where yards are fringed
with thistle barbs. If the waters rise,
we used to say, you pour the wine
and I’ll tear out the best pages.
But now the baby’s in her seventh week,
pulled from the secret waters
of my body into a rainless topography.
Who is more sorry?
She sleeps the sleep of rivers.
In the nights I sit cradleside when she wakes,
humming Brahms’ famous notes—
a song he wrote to sway an old love.
So we are always singing
what we cannot change.
The walls fill with patter, rain clouds
form somewhere else. The wine
grows older, finer. If the funnel forms,
if the hail falls.
The Gospel According to the Ant
You unbeautiful unwelcome creature,
I find you
mired in malbec spatter,
freckling the sugar bowl,
a moving pixel among the strawberry’s
Little needle threaded
with these traces of my life,
you sew me
to the whirring world underfoot.
In perfect sync with the 5 o’clock train’s
you bear your crumb freight—
a piece of rind nearly twice your tercet body—
with what I have no word for
except maybe grace. Grace
that stays my hand, grace
that doesn’t lessen your load
but lets you carry it
until you reach your pocket of earth
where the others rise, finally,
to help you set it down.
Sal Taylor Kydd writes of her photographs from Origins. My work is primarily an exploration of memory, how we preserve memories and how they shape our lives moving forward with sometimes illusory certainty. It is also a reflection on time, and an examination of the fleeting moments where we behold change within ourselves and the world around us. I see the photographic object is a keepsake of our experience, and as such is a way of recording discoveries that serves as a reminder of what we have lost and what we are attempting to preserve.
In my most recent work I have been looking at how memory shapes and distorts our understanding of what is real. Specifically it is an exploration of truth through the lens of our relationships – how what we know to be certain about ourselves and the other, changes in the course of that journey. What do we keep for ourselves and what do we share? In a world where everything is shared and exposed, what is left that is sacred.
Chelsea Wagenaar is the author of Mercy Spurs the Bone, selected by Philip Levine as the winner of the 2013 Philip Levine Prize. She holds a BA from the University of Virginia and a PhD from University of North Texas. Her work appears recently or is forthcoming in The Southern Review, The Normal School, and Poetry Northwest. She currently lives in Indiana, where she is a postdoctoral Lilly Fellow at Valparaiso University.
Artist Sal Taylor Kydd has a BA in Modern Languages and an MFA in Photography from Maine Media College. She has exhibited nationally, with shows at A. Smith Gallery in Texas, Gallery 69 in LA, and Pho Pa Gallery in Portland ME. Sal is also a book-artist represented by Priscilla Juvelis, Inc. She resides in Rockport, Maine.