Christine Stewart-Nuñez

Contest Winner - 2nd Place

Poet and essayist Christine Stewart-Nuñez is the author of Untrussed (forthcoming 2016 from the University of New Mexico Press), Snow, Salt, Honey (Red Dragonfly Press 2012), Keeping Them Alive (WordTech Editions, 2011), and Postcard on Parchment (ABZ Press 2008). Her piece “An Archeology of Secrets” was a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2012. She is an Associate Professor in the English Department at South Dakota State University.

Photo credit: Terrance Stewart

Art of the Body

—After Aquaform by Pauline Aitken

I see art in the body and the body in art
no matter where I look on this wall:
in canvases, in my son’s darting shadow.

Aquaform, with its nucleus at the heart,
membranes and organelles I’ll call
these shapes, and I’ll make this a window

to consider seizures, how they part
neurons and words, how they stall
my son’s learning. Mine feels shallow:

on a gallery walk, thoughts start.
I focus first, then fall
into paint, into cells, into sorrow.

*

Into paint, into cells, into sorrow
I focus first, then fall.
On a gallery walk, my thoughts start—

my son’s learning. Mine feels shallow.
Neurons and words—how they stall
to consider seizures, how they part

these images and make this a window.
Membranes and organelles I’ll call
Aquaform, with its nucleus at the heart.

In canvases, in my son’s darting shadow,
no matter where I look on this wall,
I see art in the body and the body in art.

This poem began as an exercise in ekphrasis during a fellowship at the South Dakota Art Museum. At the same time, I was discovering a lot about my son’s diagnosis with Acquired Epileptic Aphasia, clinically known as Landau-Kleffner Syndrome (LKS). This rare form of epilepsy severely limits his receptive and expressive language functions. Art and the body converged in several poems. During the revision of an early draft ‘Art of the Body,’ I was teaching Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard, and I chose the ‘mirror’ form after admiring one of her poems written in a similar way. This poem will be included in my exhibit ‘Woman Working From Women: A Poetry Ekphrasis’ at the South Dakota Art Museum, July 2016-December 2016.

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