v2.8 / maria gutu @ the edges

“To fill the emptiness is the most important aim for the artist,” says Maria Gutu, who stocks the vacancy of her images with fragments from old soviet magazines. Politicize that process, if you must. The cyclops welcomes all analogies. But the impulse to fill an emptiness opens almost every holy book across all cultures. The faceless Creatura (as Jung called it) abhors a vacuum. It itches to draw a line, to fasten a star, to wish a stone into shape. And what a strange shape, when first seen—that is, as we see it first in Maria Gutu’s collages.

In her book, Dear Apocalypse, the poet K.A. Hays (who we’ve paired with Gutu’s photographs) grapples with a similar emptiness, or threat of emptiness, always at work in ourselves. How to tell that story? We try with books, but the narratives are often too clean, too tidy, to resemble the outer universe, much less the inner:

. . . how unlike them we are—
our titles clashing with our plots,
bits of narration missing or absurd.
More saddening is the thought of after,

when this stint is done and some other species
stomps and sings here. Of course there will be no one
to read our ruins—only some bugs who have no sense
of the tragic. . . .

Gutu and Hays take us to the edges, where the creative process remains marvelously unfinished, jagged, unbalanced, bewildered, alive.


MARIA GUTU

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DEAR APOCALYPSE

Gust through—    good. Give us
over to the oaks,    sway the old
sheds, the mansions—    shake them down
to meadows,    unmake us, melt off
what was wasted    of our waking years—
but know    we’re no worse
than former fools.    You could have felled us
a millennium back,    blasted and bludgeoned—
you’re late.    Level us, but let it be
put in stone    (or penciled on plastic):
Here lie some bodies    who bear no blame
for any faults    the future may find
at rest in their ruins.    Remember: we had
a god who grumbled    through us, gave us
his face, held us—    fisted, we like to feel—
even as he ended us.    Excuse him.
He was, like any other man,    complicated.

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LETTER FROM THE END OF THE WORLD

They must have wearied of looking in on us,
the meridians. They shook the earth’s rugs
and broke away. Now we must be like saints,

barefoot and flexible. We ache for the years we fought

for our gods, before this wind
began playing our landmarks, felling
our churches, mosques, synagogues, lobbing

the bricks and stones skyward. It is terrible,

we say in every language
as it spins down homes and schools
and juggles the ruins—.

We wail like children on the beach

who had intended to slow spoil of a city
of sand, but were slighted by the sea
flinging through too soon. Too soon:

Meridians, you who guided and lulled us,
we accuse you.

Your spines left circular runnels
in the sky, through which we can see the great arbiter,
as bland and ready as a cast-iron pan—in whose image

we fear, squinting, we were not made.

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MEANWHILE

All of us, every one,
will be dissolved not long from now.

Meanwhile we tuck away the winter’s claims,
put photos in a box, look elsewhere.
It is not as difficult as it would seem

to shrug off the dead. Half the population
could go in fires—ah, we would say, but look,
the snowdrops hang their brows
beneath the shrubs, a sign of spring!
And the winged insects, hatching.
There will be a disasters special
on the news tonight—we will mourn then.

Now the grackles have returned.
I hear their hideous clacking
as they slam about in packs, settling
in the stripped branches—moving
as if an equation, perfect. That is how
we must live: mathematically,
like seedlings in the shade of the old ash,
waiting for rot, when we will fight
for a place to grow.

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LETTER FROM THE AFTERNOON

One assumes the universe
slags on with its business,
thought it seems to have wearied of late
and only that monster, the cane begonia,
with jagged leaves like the wings of vultures,
hurries up to the windows overlooking the street.

It doesn’t bother with this room
or its shelves of books.
It ignores the gold embossing
on their spines. We reach for them—
crushing, how unlike them we are—
our titles clashing with our plots,
bits of narration missing or absurd.
More saddening is the thought of after,

when this stint is done and some other species
stops and sings here. Of course there will be no one
to read our ruins—only some bugs who have no sense
of the tragic. Some think after our extinction
earth might be calm—but I doubt it.
The begonia, with its red undersides
and sly roots, hulks on, an ordinary zealot,
shading out the philodendron, hoarding sun.

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IN THE GARDEN

Afternoons past three o’clock, the orchard shrugs.
The unripe apples look jaded and the air
tastes like fruit fermented. Afternoons
make us listless things, overripe. Why is it?

And soon the rattler, tomorrow, will swallow us,
its skin first gold, then brown, then shed. . . . Pluck,

heave me away to the compost. Afternoons I need
to talk epistemology with something ugly
and inanimate: the earth, for example.


All photographs © Maria Gutu, featured with permission of artist.
All poems © K.A. Hays, featured with permission of artist.