Vanessa Zimmer-Powell is another wonderful Mutabilis Press alumna, and I’m pleased to feature her ekphrastic poem “Shadow Sonnet” tonight.
One significant feature of the Houston landscape is its trees. We don’t have hills or anything else to make the terrain dynamic, but we have trees like no one’s business. There’s still a pine forest in this city, even it’s filled with uber-expensive estates, and another one that’s actually just a big park. And when you fly into Houston, particularly from the north, the greater metro area’s outskirts look like bins filled with stands of broccoli. So many trees.
And our oaks, among other varieties, are beautiful. They grace the boulevards in the more elite neighborhoods and the yards of most mature subdivisions. Trees two and three stories tall, with canopies stretching over the streets and houses. When we had a solar eclipse here in 2017, you could view the crescent suns through the shadows their leaves made on the ground.
Mature trees are a firm selling point in our residential real estate market, and they are one of the things that make this city livable, especially in the summer.
After viewing Anila Quayyum Agha’s installation, Intersections, Rice Gallery
I know the shadows of oak; at this hour
they trace their lace on the homeless body
at the edge of campus, on the students
who need the calm of shade sometimes, and then
there’s me, the interloper, collecting
intersections formed by absence of light,
frottages that linger like dark henna,
or a smell that I carry when I leave
the presence of a stranger. She was
breathing into a respirator and smelled
like orange Ivory, if that exists, you know
I carry her into traffic, the patterns of truck
shadows, a freeway where we do not move.
Each car spreads its gaunt halo of anger
This poem was originally published in San Pedro River Review(Spring 2016).
Vanessa Zimmer-Powell’s poetry has aired on the radio and has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. Recently, she has taken an interest in writing and filming cinepoems and has been a ReelPoetry and Gulf Coast Film Festival juried cinepoet and filmmaker. Awards include first place winner of the 2017 and 2016 Houston Poetry Fest ekphrastic competition, and Top Honors in the 2017 and 2019 Friendswood Library ekphrastic poetry competitions. She also received honors at the 2013 Austin Poetry Fest, and a 2013 Rick Steves haiku award. Her chapbook, Woman Looks into an Eye is published by Dancing Girl Press.