A LAND BEYOND THE SCARS
Flagstaff, Arizona, 2021
By MICHAEL PERKINS
I WAS ABOUT TWELVE THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED ONE OF THE LITERARY WORLD’S SIMPLEST AND BEST METAPHORS FOR THE PROCESS OF HEALING. However, I didn’t discover it visually, that is, on the printed page. Instead, I felt it in the strange, lonely, tremulous cadences of a lone voice on my teacher’s portable phonograph. She was trying to demonstrate the rhythm of verse, how it counted out its beats and measured its messages, and so she played us a reading of the source material, Grass, as read by its author, Carl Sandburg.
Thrilling to the almost creepy quality of his voice, the way certain words gurgled and shook in his throat, I struggled to hear not how he sounded, but what he was actually saying. Half a century later, I hear that voice when I walk through a field of simple green blades waving in the wind. And now, in a way that was impossible in my youth, I feel the complete truth of those words. They inform my photography as they guide my heart, a heart that needs to believe in healing, in the permanence and dominance of Nature, and Her ability to erase even our most grievous faults…..
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.Shovel them under and let me work—I am the grass; I cover all.And pile them high at GettysburgAnd pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.Shovel them under and let me work.Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:What place is this?Where are we now?I am the grass.Let me work.
The work continues. In our hearts. In our hands.
In our eyes.