At the passing of a loved one, my first inclination is to catalog as many memories as I can before my grief-flooded brain sweeps them away. To archive my thoughts, so that I might later remember a lost beloved by stitching them together from fragments, scraps of paper, journal entries. As I thought about Jay, my memory catalog felt intense, but woefully incomplete: the color of his eyes, a cheeseball he liked, his striking honesty. Even more incomplete was my ability to stitch him in any meaningful way to his beloved partner, Kim: a wedding ring, a compass, a blue flower. I found myself looking for them, together, in the beautiful books they wrote while grappling with Jay’s mortality.
Though there are several poems that attest to the devotion they held for one another, I found that their individual meditations on blue—flowers, birds, and shards of light—spoke to each other. So, in my desire to see Jay and Kim together one more time, I wove together two of their poems: Jay’s “The Church Gardens: A Walk” and Kim’s “Fidelity.” The result was a powerful echo of both artists. I painted this woven text onto a 36×36-inch canvas in gold, graphite, and acrylic. The painting, as part of this tribute, is my attempt at remembering a life lived in truth and compassion, and at bringing to life these striking, cerulean memories to life one more time.
The Church Gardens: A Walk
Hummingbirds in blue burs whir
Necklaced around the nectar feeder,
Each creature gleaming, bright
A piece of polished apatite
Through whose facets sunlight
Shatters into flashing gaslight
Shards that fall into the larkspur
& blaze up, igniting every flower.
Each glowing petal blue proclaims
The feast by bluer glowing.
Bluer than a Day-Glo wing–
& yet, though they in flames
Are wrapped from stem to bloom,
It is the fire the flowers consume.
Heaven-selvage, twilight eyelet opened
Through the wind-
Scrubbed drab at the ridgeline
Splash of freshet nestled into stone,
What with bone-
Dry, blasted me have you to do?
Gentiana verna, do not intimate
Do not rouse the secret
Be that waggles in my breast to honey
To your hue,
What have you to do with me?
Do with me, flash lapis lazuli
Swatched from the hem
Of some Flemish madonna,
What you will, O do you subsume me
In deepwater blue.
Do me cerulean through.
But when you welkin me, whem like a brigand
Like the whole couloir’s
A blue desire before whose force
My will must break. Blossom, will I break
Faith with this rough-
Cast, this cherished chaff,
This earthbound habit for your unearthly?,
Can I forsake
This my sure estate for your ec-
Stacies on spec, for your fathomless X?
Fidelity in the Church Gardens
Kimberly Johnson, “Fidelity” from Fatal. Copyright © 2022 by Kimberly Johnson. Reprinted with the permission of Persea Books, Inc (New York), www.perseabooks.com. All rights reserved.
Jay Hopler, “The Church Gardens: A Walk” from Still Life. Copyright © 2022 by Jay Hopler. Used with the permission of McSweeney’s, www.mcsweeneys.net.