Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poetry for an Art Auction

Do you want to know how did I end up with an enormous map of Venice waiting for its place on my wall? No? I'll tell you anyway. It is all the fault of the Sunland-Tujunga Alliance. This civic advocacy group was formed for the "No to Home Depot" campaign - one of the recent successes in the fight for self-determination in our foothill community. The group mobilized everyone else, persuaded our elected officials that they have to listen to our voices, and, despite fierce opposition of corporate interests and the efforts of their lobbyists, the community had its say.

Fast forward to September 2010. The Alliance decides to help local cultural groups and, with other local partners - artists and community activists organizes a Community Art Sale and Silent Auction to benefit three cultural institutions: McGroarty Arts Center, Bolton Hall Museum, Little Landers Historical Society. Over 60 pieces of art are available for sale including about 20 pieces from local artists and an entire collection of maps, drawings, prints, and photographs depicting such varied topics as sailboats, English manor scenes, bird's-eye maps of famous cities, caricatures, and construction scenes.

I was invited to write about the artwork on sale, but was featured at another reading on the same day, at the Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada. I could only be there for 30 minutes at the end. It was not a huge obstacle to the organizers, more a problem for me, since my favorite painting was sold by then (a landscape scene with yucca flowers in a art-deco gold frame), but I still felt I had to contribute a plem, buy an artwork and have my share in community life.

A visit to the event's website left me with short poem, about the rooster. I found the Asian-style image inspiring, for I'm a Rooster myself (in the Chinese Zodiac), as vain about my appearance as the painted bird:

The Rooster

© 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

Crowned with red
I admire black feathers
of my silky tail

I wake up at night
to proudly crow about
my strong beak and talons

Buyer beware

The rest of the images on the site somehow did not make sense, I could not figure out what it was all about until I saw an album of photographs of the entire collection, donated to be sold anonymously and benefit Sunland-Tujunga's cultural organizations. Painter and activist Debby Beck brought the album to local Starbucks where I had a revelation! Pages and pages of hunt scenes, pages and pages of boats, pages and pages of workers soldering steel beams, pages and pages of maps... I was hooked and found my way into the imagery, capturing my impressions in free verse:

Dreaming of Elsewhere

© 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

Red jackets shine against dark green foliage
of English copse and hedge.
Over the hill and dale ride the hunters.
Tally ho… Tally ho… hounds bark,
their voices echo through the fields
on a frosty morning.

Steam boats wait to take explorers
to the South Seas, Tahiti, Argentina.
White sails barely flutter in the breeze,
stiff and proud on the tall ships
of her Majesty, the Queen.

The West Australian,
The East Indian, Sultana,
The Kestrel – all are ready
for adventure, to circle the world,
conquer foreign lands,
bring back the gold of El Dorado.

Dreamers dreaming dreams –

We are at the edge of the ocean,
blue and deep, it stretches
to Japan we seldom think about
here, in the Far West
of Pacific Rim, Terra Incognita.

The lay of the land is clear
on antique maps, straight
from paintings by Vermeer –
only the milkmaid’s missing,
and the pearl. Canals, islands,
and church towers of Venice,
evenly measured empty blocks
of Atlanta, chaos of streets
crowded like children
at a Los Angeles fiesta,
and the mysterious labyrinth
of Boston, carved from sea,
sliced away from water.

Why Boston? Why so much Boston?
Is there a secret to this Eastern city
that explains Californian sun?

We do not hunt foxes in jackets
redder than their fur. We do not
wait for the sailboats and steamships
to take us where we do not belong.
We measure the lay of our land
in cypress, sycamore and live oak,
with the scent of sage shimmering
in summer heat above dried chaparral,
with star jasmine and orange blossoms
sweetening our winter gardens.

We are not going anywhere –
not to New York to construct
the tallest buildings of heavy steel,
not to an English manor
where silver is polished weekly,
and the butler serves tea
and scones at five o’clock.

Dreamers dreaming dreams –

We are here, longing for
elsewhere. Shall we ever
catch foxes eating fruit
in our vineyards? Shall we
find ourselves in lands distant,
exotic, unknown?

The sailboats and steamships sailed away to distant shores; the maps and small pieces found their way to people's dreams. The center, museum and society counted and shared the donations. I was left in Venice, a six-foot-long, mahogany-framed detailed map of Venice - the magic city I dream of visiting again.

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