Jonterri Gadson on "In My Rush"

In My Rush

The first time I saw myself
reflected in well-water,

I became light. Now no one knows
how to hold me. A valley is nothing

but the lowest point in the curve
of a woman's hip; a river—nothing—

if not her sway. Lightbearer translates
to Lucifer. I still want to be held. Hold me

like sound—in your throat,
with your breath, on your tongue.

I'll be a river on purpose.
We'll make a braid of our legs.

On "In My Rush"

I wrote "In My Rush" during a two week residency at the Pocantico Center thanks to a partnership between the Rockefeller Brother's Fund and Cave Canem, an organization for black poets. One of the highlights of the Pocantico Center is the sculpture garden surrounding Kykuit, one of the Rockefeller family's homes. For two weeks, I stayed in the Marcel Breuer house on the grounds of the Rockefeller estate, a home that had been transported from the Modern Museum of Art. I'm giving all of this background information to say that I was living and breathing art, inspiration, and legacy. The living room in the house was all windows and at night it was pitch black and I was terrified of what I couldn't see. During the day, I'd put on my badge, call myself poet-in-residence and walk around the sculpture garden and really spend time with the sculptures, reading the descriptions and jotting down whatever notes came to me as I explored. I'd watch the sun set over the Hudson River, totally unobstructed, except for a sculpture that seemed to be placed to interact with the sun.

This poem is a combination of the notes I took in the garden. At the time, I kept thinking the more abstract sculptures resembled vaginas. It became an inside joke I had with myself. Then when I saw a piece that was blatantly a vagina, I felt affirmed. This poem was almost about that joke I had with myself, that I see vaginas in everything. Instead, the poem recognizes the feminine as a foundation, as essential. This is a poem about desire and desirability.

I gave a reading during the residency and tour guides and others who were well-versed in the garden's sculptures attended. Afterward, they told me which sculptures they recognized and what part of the garden I must have been standing in when I wrote certain lines. So this poem is also an ekphrastic, based on Gaston Lachaise's sculpture "Dans la Nuit" and they recognized the sculpture in the last line. There really was a well, I really did see my reflection in it and I really did wonder who could or would hold me now that I was starting to see myself as something of value, as light, which is something impossible to hold. There's vulnerability in saying I'm not being held and I want to be, but not by just anyone, well, maybe by just anyone. I considered not including those lines but then the turn made it all worth it, the move to give instructions on how to hold me and the owning of desire and desirability, seduction and sexuality in that line "I'll be a river on purpose." This poem is evidence of a transformation that begun during that residency.

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"In My Rush" originally appeared in Cream City Review.





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