Emma Aylor

Painting Grass

          Eric Sloane, Pecos Ruins, ca. 1975

I don’t just picture him tipping all the blades—
          or I can’t sympathize just as a watcher would:

                    abstractedly, instead,
                                                       I flick my right hand
                                several times before I catch it moving. I wanted

          to make some, not only to stand there.
                                                                             It must be,
                     in our region, that to compose grass is a common problem.

The sky is easy, or not easy, but it sweeps, is far, and we
                                 know little of its composite particles.
                                                                                                 But the grass

           is so many; the grass is good labor—surely
the people is—
                      surely there are more shades

                      than you’d expect of the dried-out stalks we’ve got.
                                  Sloane expressed at the frothed tops

                                   a cursive purple, a cursory sage,
                                                                                         but for the most
           it’s dozens of the pigments of this September:

                       it’s powder, pink sandstone, saffron, sienna.
I could worry less if I were to name them all

                                    before they poke as through an open-woven cloth
             to the air on my other side,
                                                           straight out

                        the crown of my head as if I’d bunched them in
a crown of soft turf blanched by recessed lights.

                                                   I’m still here on the one bench of this gallery,
                                     making others feel they have to whisper,

             and I’m possessive of this one.
				                                I want to say aloud
                         you get real close, then let the sharp plain tails

                         brush color to the high bones of your face,
then listen
                                     what’s netted over

To Remember the Faces of Friends Far Away

          Capulin, New Mexico

Clipping the corner of New Mexico, keep close
watch ahead, at the blunt horizon line,
for the wire of edge to be built or blown

into hill, butte, cliff, plateau, mountain (some swell);
in so doing, you prepare an elevation to knot
at your knuckle for the next few hours

through the bleak Texas panhandle and just below.
The trees dropped out long ago. There’s one last
mesa above railroad, rabbitbrush, dark cattle—

then a manmade pile of volcanic earth to trick
yourself by, you not knowing which landmark
comes last, and which you’ll need to hold in mind.

From the author: This pair of poems addresses the shared mode we can take on in attending closely to landscape, to artworks, and to personal memory. Both are set in or near West Texas, where I’ve been for several years now, and are interested in the way I’ve “taken on”—really, been altered by—this region, so different from those I’d lived in before.

Emma Aylor is the author of Close Red Water (October 2023), winner of the Barrow Street Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in New England ReviewAGNIColorado ReviewPoetry Daily, the Yale Review Online, and elsewhere. Originally from Bedford County, Virginia, she lives in Lubbock, Texas.