The Gulf of I Statements: Water Experiment #1

I relax at the beach. I stretch my body out on a towel, look out, and note the long horizontal lines and bands of color. My father taught me how beige and blue are compatible. He wanted those colors for the interior of our local church. Since I turned forty, I discovered many ideas and it is difficult to relax, but this is water and sand’s gift to me. Also my father’s. I currently have no church.

I shade my eyes from the image of the egret standing in oil. In our living room we try not to watch any news. But my husband is a birdwatcher so even a half second of an image makes an imprint. This is the first time I have written “my husband.”

I wanted to see the way water would work on clumps of acrylic paint. It may be the only response I can muster. I had not intended to write any poems but the site has been on my mind. There is no usefulness to the paper surfaces now soaked and beginning to disintegrate.

I do not need any more reminders of corporate greed, the follies of fossil fuel, and devastation in general. The geologists say you should stretch your arms out and envision the human race as one line on the palm of your hand. We understood this, driving through neighborhoods skirted and crossed by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, reading a map of asthma. This way of seeing can make you an activist or a nihilist or an artist. Not deciding, I wish for framed spaces in which to exhale. This morning, I did, and did not recoil from the pressure around my sternum from a heart breaking, watching the water move.

Here is how:

Take any piece of paper, arrange some paper towels on your kitchen counter or table, take a baking sheet with edges, pour any pigment into the pan in a thin layer: ink, tea, coffee, dollops of acrylic paint and water. Do not spend any money on these supplies. Take your paper and make folds: vertical, horizontal, diagonal. These depressions will hold the pigment and create interesting paths and intersections for the watery color. These intersections might also be fragile and eventually separate a bit, letting the light through. Now dip your paper in the pan but do not dip the entire sheet: partiality will induce visual interest. Keep in mind that some leftover white space or blank space is also interesting. As your paper soaks, use your fingertips, under the thin layer of water, to spread the pigment around. Use your sense of touch, not your eyes, to move the color around. Step away from the tray and hold the paper up, watch the pigment move in watery streams, and rotate the paper according to your whim, your desire. Lay the paper down on the paper towels you have laid out. Let dry.


Jill Magi’s text-image works include SLOT (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse), Threads (Futurepoem), Torchwood (Shearsman), the chapbooks Confidence and Autonomy (Ink Press), Poetry Barn Barn! (2nd Avenue Press), and Cadastral Map (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs). An essay on ecopoetics was recently published in The Eco-Language Reader (Portable Press/Nightboat), correspondence with Cecilia Vicuna was published in Letters to Poets (Saturnalia), and to keep things fresh, Jill also writes occasional sports columns for The Brooklyn Rail. She teaches at Eugene Lang College, The City College Center for Worker Education, and Goddard College. From her apartment in Brooklyn she runs Sona Books, a chapbook press.


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