Tracy K. Smith
If light is both pow-wow
For some reason these lines triggered a memory from a long ago viewing of Bruce Elder’s long (eight hour) film-poem Lamentations. I recall a scene with camera peering up through tipi poles to the sky.
One of the trigger words is of course “light”. What else could appropriately allude to a filmmaker? And the montage of two cultural idioms calls to mind the techniques of the experimental filmmaker. There’s something more. Smith’s lines skirt the evanescent: the mention of two musical modes oscillates: the eye sees them in succession as the ear drags them in a bid to occupy the same aural space. We are not sure if we have truck here with layering or with juxtaposition. We sense beauty. And to sense beauty is to recognize mortality. In the words of Bruce Elder:
To say that the beautiful shines within the time-bound is to say also that the beautiful is dynamic, — another aesthetic insight the cinema was created to convey. But if the beautiful is dynamism, and whatever is dynamic requires time, and time implies death, then beauty is allied with death — as closely allied to death as it is to life, as closely associated with violence as it is with charity. Beauty condemns what is beautiful to perish.
Anything that begins with “if” partakes of perishing. Things yoked by “both … and” struggle against this perishing. We are illuminated by the dynamic.
And so for day 1587