Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens…

Well, maybe not chickens, but day old chicks anyway.

I’m amazed by their instinctual behavior. Loud, sudden or unusual noises cause them to go completely silent. I was listening to NPR News on the way home and each time a new announcer came on, they fell silent for a second.

There are already showing signs of developing personalities. Fledgling bossy ones, curious ones, timid ones and Miss Distress Call. She finally calmed down after I picked her up and  completely enclosed her in my hands, next to my fleece sweater for about 60 seconds.

2 rooster-lings and 8 hen-ets. With the sex-linked characteristics showing up as: Pale Yellow Males and Sienna Striped Females. This will not hold true to their chicks and I’ll have to use the more traditional methods of determining sex in the future.

In terms of sheer numbers of chicks, I got far more than we need. But I have to be realistic and account for potential losses. And sadly, when the roosters get old enough to start scrapping over the females, one of them will be “culled”.

Life is hard. Let’s not dwell in that place.

Here, lets look at some super cute baby chicks instead.

Between preparing for chicks and a mild case of the flu (thank goodness), I haven’t had a lot of time to work on my soda can solar heater. Be patient. I’ve got new chicks to tend for a couple of weeks, so I won’t be leaving the grounds for too long and I’ll need something to occupy my time.

Guy Logic in Tool World

So I’m assembling a new drill press today and run into a perfect example of Guy Logic.

I’ll skip over the part where they assume I’ve assembled a drill press before and leave out helpful explanations and steps. Because, in my experience, the people who write tech. manuals couldn’t have possibly assembled the items they are writing about themselves. So there’s no point in bitching about the universal constant of half-assed assembly instructions.

I’ve gotten about half way through the assembly and everything is coated in machine oil, including my hands. Each of the plastic bags wrapped around each individual of the parts is coated, the machine is coated; I could give the Terminator a full-body massage and still have greasy hands.

I secretly believe machine oil is like some sort of pheromone for men. Either that or they believe it works that way on the women who smell it.

“Oooooo, he must be handy. He smells like greasy nickle soup. Hey, baby, I’m sexually available.”

So, I’m reading the directions and trying to keep the machine oil off the instruction manual – because I’m prissy that way- and come to the part where I am supposed to prepare the head assembly before putting it onto the base. The directions read:

Place the head assembly upside down on a level, flat surface.

In other words, take it out of the box, remove the greasy plastic wrapping and put it upside down on the table. But then I see a note at the bottom of the instruction series:

NOTE: This tool is heavy. Get help when needed.

So, what your sayin’ there bud is I should pick up a bulky, unwieldy, machine part featuring a slick, plastic hood with my grease-coated hands and hey, take care, it’s really heavy and flip it over to put it on the table.

And truly it is a heavy bastid. But the only tools they claimed one would need are a mallet, an adjustable wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver. There was nothing about an extra set of hands, attached or not, to a beefy grease-monkey.

If there were, I would have picked one up at the hardware store on the way home.

Visual Arts Reviews for the IC: People Places Power at Van Every/Smith Gallery

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Arts In View: Visual Art Reviews from Island Ford Art

Brad Thomas, curator
Van Every/ Smith Gallery Davidson College
Exhibit through Feb. 25, weekdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m., weekends 12 p.m.–4 p.m

Culturally, one of the more interesting things about photography in our age is how we take it for granted. Anyone with a cell phone can record an image. We’ve grown up with every mundane instance of our lives and every major cultural event defined, captured, and frozen in time. The still image provides clarity in a world in constant motion; revealing the “truth” of experience we miss as events unfold.

Photography also provides the opportunity to witness events and locales we may never be able to visit or experience. Many of the photos in the People Places Power provide the opportunity to appreciate the contrasts, beauty, minutia, and grandeur characterizing 21st century America.

This show of large format color photography at Davidson College re-examines tableaus and environments that we would not give a second glance as we passed in the safety of our vehicular cocoons. Some of the subjects lie sleepily far from the paths we travel while others were once thriving with activity at the center of commerce. These forgotten places, abandoned buildings, and people from the neighborhood have been captured in candid, unguarded moments.

Notable among these are images chronicling the deterioration of the former automobile powerhouse known as Detroit by Andrew Moore. Mr. Moore has undertaken an in depth survey of sites in and around Detroit. The photos in this exhibition focus on the defunct Ford Plant at River Rouge. Few images can convey the decline of US industry as sublimely as these photographs.

Victoria Sambunaris’ western landscapes are arresting from a formal perspective. The lack of strong directed light creates a flattened, compressed space and stacks the layers of the open landscape vertically. This gives the viewer a sense of viewing wall-hung tapestries, rather than a deep, expansive plane or geo-thermal features nestled in a Utah landscape. Ms. Sambunaris’ work along with David Taylor’s harkens back to large format images of exotic places exhibited for paid admission in the late 19th century. These are scenes of the contemporary frontier on a scale with nature.

Alex Prager’s image of a young woman illuminated by an open fire on a parking deck is striking for its juxtaposition of this single figure against an inner city nightscape. Another figurative work, by Richard Rinaldi, offers a nicely tonal black and white portrait of “Craig” a young man, shirtless with tattoos.

There are a couple of definite drawbacks to this show. First and foremost is the lack of gallery space. Any one of these artists could hold their own in a solo show of 30 or more works. Here, we are only offered appetizers; one or two works from each artist. And frankly, this is not quite as satisfying as catching the unique visual rhythms of one particular artist. As a viewer, one misses the subtle narrative that begins to develop in the course of a visual series. Clearly the emphasis is on the landscapes which are dynamic and required the largest spaces within the gallery. The more psychological images of people were relegated to the back room and their impact suffered as a result.

The curator must’ve understood the “sampling” aspect would be problematic, offering a table full of large format photography books featuring each of the show’s artists. Having access to the books provided the opportunity of seeing a broader survey of each artist.

The second problem also lay in the curator’s hands. Sometimes a curator will feel the need to shoehorn the images in order to have them fit into the “theme”. Unfortunately, this was evident in one or two instances; creating somewhat jarring visual and thematic interruptions within an otherwise cohesive exhibition.

As a side note, we would also like to direct you to the exhibition by student studio senior Alanna Ford (Jan. 12-19). Her work is clever, well considered and well crafted. It’s nice to see such mature work coming from someone in the earliest stages of their art-making career.

If you need more information on the artists or the shows at Davidson College, please go to our website, Piedmont Foothill Venues

We’ll see you there!

Canned Heat: a solar project.

I ran across an interesting company out of Canada a few weeks ago. They recycle aluminum cans to make efficient low-cost solar heaters.

I thought the idea was brilliant and worth trying to see what the process might entail. This is a perfect project to try with students. And fits perfectly with the Boy Scouts Environmental Science Badge.

But before we start explaining how we went about it, I want to thank Diedra Hicks Iredell County Cooperative Extension and the students of Mitchell Community College, Statesville for their invaluable assistance with this project. But not so much FreeCycle of Hickory.

I’ll be updating this post as the project progresses, so check in periodically.

Step One: Kick the Cans

But don’t dent them. If you take the opportunity to view the video clip from the Cansolair website, you’ll see rows of unblemished aluminum cans. They can have minor flaws, but it is better if at least half the can is smooth.

So collecting we went. In addition to being a good lesson on renewable energy and recycling, there is something to be learned from cleaning up discarded cans from the woods and road sides.

If you decide to go can hunting, latex or polypropylene gloves are probably a good idea. The worst I’ve found is that folks sometimes use cans for spitting tobacco. But there is always a fear of other unknowable ickyness when you poke around outdoors.

240 minimally blemished cans seems to be the magic number. This isn’t too hard when there is more than one person on the job.

Once you have your cans, they will need to be cleaned. You don’t want mold or the smells of soda or beer in the air exchange. A little bleach in a tub full of hot water should take care of the average soda or beer can. Soap will help with those that are a little more grungy.

You’ll need to de-tab the cans. This can be done before or after washing and is a nice mindless chore while watching TV or sitting around. And, bonus, we can donate the tabs to Sharon Elementary School can drive along with the unusable cans we’ve collected.

There are a lot of urban legends about charities accepting tabs, but for the most part, they aren’t true. We’ll pay it forward through the Sharon School student can drive instead.

117 de-tabbed aluminum cans

So here are our cans in the wash mode.

And this shows you how little I know a about canned beer. I didn’t know there was such a thing as Bud Dry. According to the Mister, this one verges on being an antique.

Dry, Bud Dry

Tonight the second batch sits soaking in the tub. We’ll get those dried tomorrow and ready to drill out.

See Canned Heat II for more.

 

Projects and more projects.

Artists are often more interested in working than talking about their work. This often applies to home projects too.

Late last autumn, we started a chicken coop. I hadn’t posted the pictures, partly because we are chick-less for another month. We are picking up 10 Gold Comet day old chicks from Shook’s Poultry just across the river.

The Gold Comets are sex linked by color. This means when the chicks hatch you can instantly tell the males from the females. That way you can keep the number of cockerels down.

We figured a nice coop would make us happy and the chickens comfortable.

This slide show runs through our process:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Coop, posted with vodpod

We buried the wire about a foot in the ground. And we ran wire overhead, so we hope egg-stealers are kept to a minimum.

We have also been working on finishing up a couple of building projects.

We finally got a cover on the well. It will disassemble if we need to pull the well to work on it. And it offers a good storage space for bird seed, tools for the flower beds and other minor gardening stuff. Yeah… it looks like an outhouse. But we prefer to acknowledge it as the Water Shed.


Well House

We plan to put granite around the base and if you look closely you can see the color color sample on the front. I’m looking for a sort of Robin’s Egg Blue.

We’ll get some fancy hardware for the door and eventually a solar panel and battery to run the well for those times when electricity is out.

The light is because it's been so damned cold.

And finally the cabin. Our future storage shed for art, supplies and musical equipment. We’ve got the old roof off and the new plywood and paper down.

Cabin Addition

This weekend we’ll finish the siding, work on the flashing and finishing the roof preparations before we shingle. I’ll be painting the walls with the main color. The accent colors will come later.

There are couple of other things in the works. But we’ll let you know more about those as they progress.

On walking the fine line between revisionist history and cultural sensitivity.

Two stories have come to light this week that examine America’s relationship with art, it’s depiction of slavery and our sociological  and cultural response to those depictions of history.

The first story, out of Georgia, centers on a series of murals painted by George Beattie depicting an idealized version of Georgia’s agricultural development.

The series starts with corn grown by prehistoric Native Americans, and proceeds to a 20th-century veterinary lab. The history in between the ancient and the modern eras includes slavery.

The incoming Republican agriculture commissioner, Gary Black, doesn’t like the work and feels it is no longer appropriate for the modern agricultural systems in Georgia. (Perhaps a golden idol to Monsanto would be more to his liking.)

Mr. Beattie is no longer alive to defend the work, but had obviously dealt with the issues raised prior to this incident.

Beattie’s 1995 defense of his work:

“As a human being, I am vehemently opposed to slavery, as anyone should be, but it was a significant epoch in our history; it would have been inaccurate not to include this period.”

In the second incident Publisher’s Weekly examines a Twain scholar’s efforts to “update”  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for a modern audience.

Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic by most any measure—T.S. Eliot called it a masterpiece, and Ernest Hemingway pronounced it the source of “all modern American literature.” Yet, for decades, it has been disappearing from grade school curricula across the country, relegated to optional reading lists, or banned outright, appearing again and again on lists of the nation’s most challenged books, and all for its repeated use of a single, singularly offensive word: “nigger.”

Believe it or not, I find the first incident slightly more defensible than the second for this reason:

Twain was portraying the mores of his time. As a former newspaper man, he understood the importance of capturing the particular realities of a story, even if they were dressed in fiction.

In creating his painting series, Beattie was not portraying the essence of his era. He  chose to create a view of history that removed the suffering of the kidnapped victims of slavery. Neither did he depict the genocide visited upon the Native Americans who were driven off their tribal lands. He chose to create work that pleased his patron; work depicting idyllic moments; free of want or hardship. He edited out the uncomfortable moments in a foreshadowing of what Gary Black is currently attempting to do by removing the work wholesale.

Black claims he is not comfortable with the depictions because they whitewash the realities of Georgia using slaves to build it’s wealth and power. But by the same token, it seems he is attempting to push that uncomfortable skeleton into a literal and metaphoric closet.

In denying our history, we belittle the suffering of those already made small, nameless and faceless. How can we pretend the abuse did not happen? How can we bear to make the abhorrent more palatable by a self-imposed blindness, by euphemism or by proxy? What do these incidents say about our willingness to confront our past so that we remain aware of our potential, as humans, to dehumanize others?

As an artist, this chills me; this marginalization of painful truths for the sake of ease. It does not bode well for our maturity as citizens or as a society.

Opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune.

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions.

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly mean.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison.

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.

In this country—the most favored beneath the bending skies—we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child—and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity.

I believe, Your Honor, in common with all Socialists, that this nation ought to own and control its own industries. I believe, as all Socialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly owned—that industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone. There are multiplied thousands of others who, like myself, have come to realize that before we may truly enjoy the blessings of civilized life, we must reorganize society upon a mutual and cooperative basis; and to this end we have organized a great economic and political movement that spreads over the face of all the earth.

There are today upwards of sixty millions of Socialists, loyal, devoted adherents to this cause, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color, or sex. They are all making common cause. They are spreading with tireless energy the propaganda of the new social order. They are waiting, watching, and working hopefully through all the hours of the day and the night. They are still in a minority. But they have learned how to be patient and to bide their time. The feel—they know, indeed—that the time is coming, in spite of all opposition, all persecution, when this emancipating gospel will spread among all the peoples, and when this minority will become the triumphant majority and, sweeping into power, inaugurate the greatest social and economic change in history.

In that day we shall have the universal commonwealth—the harmonious cooperation of every nation with every other nation on earth.

Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.

I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. The people are awakening. In due time they will and must come to their own.

When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.

I am now prepared to receive your sentence.

Statement to the Court
Eugene Debs, September 18, 1918

Eugene V. Debs Foundation

Visual Arts Reviews for the IC: NCNC at SECCA

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Arts In View: Visual Art Reviews from Island Ford Art

North Carolina New Contemporary at South East Center for Cultural Arts

Just to keep you on your toes, we decided to visit one of the exceptional galleries we neglected to mention in our last column.

The South East Center for Contemporary Art, SECCA was founded in 1956 as a nonprofit art exhibition space. Since 1972 it’s been located at the 32 acre J.R. Hanes estate at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston-Salem.

If you want to make a day of it, SECCA is next to the Reynolda House of America Art, Reynolda Village, and a few blocks from Wake Forest University. SECCA incorporates the original Hanes English style mansion with 20,000 sq ft of open gallery space, a 300 seat auditorium, and state of the art building systems to provide the region with a first rate exhibition space of national stature.

There is room for a wide variety of sculpture, large scale, and interactive pieces in the larger spaces and standard works in the small intimate space within the original mansion, or on the beautiful grounds.

Since 2007 SECCA has operated under the umbrella of the NC Museum of Art which means the facility can be maintained and best of all, admission is visitor donations.

The Current Exhibition, North Carolina New Contemporary, runs from October 8, 2010 to March 13, 2011

This show is supposed to be “underground” North Carolina artists. There are only a couple of problems with that: a couple of them used to live in NC and the term underground just don’t mean what it used to.

The fact that the work is being exhibited in a gallery with national stature suggests they may have come up from the depths and into the open arms of the establishment.

Let me give you a couple of pointers on visiting shows like this 1) Don’t  read the artist’s or curator statements before you take in the visual. Statements only serve to “tell you what to think about the art.” We want you to have your own reactions. 2) This show has evolved from “street art”, aka graffiti, so it has an interesting mix of “lowbrow” and “highbrow” imagery. Enjoy it as a pop culture “mash-up”. Sorta like those restaurants that server Mexican-Chinese food.

Darren Goins makes art from a wide variety of materials, from the standard, painting and printmaking and combines it with other media like glitter, neon and industrial foam. They are “eye candy” lots of bright colors and frantic visual movement.  They echo, in their color use, to contemporary Japanese prints, but Goins marries those to western abstract art.

If you look carefully at a number of works, you will see shapes and patterns that repeat, suggesting a language of sorts.

Hieronymus Schofferman’s small works are notable for their intimacy. They have the quality of random doodles that lead to intensely worked imagery. Schofferman’s larger work presented here is visually muddy, lacking the striking graphic quality of the smaller pieces.

James Marshall’s large untitled mural is problematic for me, because it’s been “done” by artists like Sol Lewitt and Gerhardt Richter’s hard edged abstractions. This doesn’t mean its “bad”, it simply didn’t work for me.

Brian Mashburn’s work on the other hand, is an interesting mix of flat shapes intermingled with atmospheric landscape. It has the effect of creating a push-pull of illustration and fine art technique. These paintings evoke stage or film sets awaiting action, or the next scene of a continuing story. As a side note, the paintings with figures would be just as effective without the inclusion of people.

I love Taiyo la Paix work. It is comic book fantasy writ large. I may not agree with his stated reasoning for creating the work; but it is beautifully rendered and exquisitely composed.

la Paix combines several art genres with the soft pastel colors associated with Asian design. Illustration and a sometimes unique point of view create a snap shot candidness to the paintings. In his way, if not in subject matter, this work echoes Toulouse Lautrec’s paintings of the late 19th century.

Gabriel Shaffer uses elements of Native American iconography and blends it with a style very specific to the “underground” And therein lies my issue with the work. It may not bother people who aren’t familiar with the style, but mentally I couldn’t move beyond it to see the work clearly.  In other ways, these works echo more mainstream neo expressionist painters like A. R. Penck and Georg Baselitz. The surfaces are thick with layers of color and texture; covered with primal glyphs.

The paintings may not have thrilled me, but I was drawn to the pyramid created from recycled metal, wood and iron.

Sean Pace’s sculpture reconfigures recognizable objects; salvaged pianos, motorcycles, arm chairs into mechanical objects.

One piece, Power Struggle, consists of a series of arms made of welded rusty iron which seemingly crawl across the floor wielding a shotgun and a sword. At the top sits a large Kotte lamp. This spotlight serves as a focused eye, looking through a series of magnifying glasses floating around the “head”. Each lens examines a small plastic zoo animal held delicately at the end of an alligator clip.

Mathew Curran’s mixed media work consists of a series of heads created in spray paint on wood panel. The interesting thing is it has all the qualities of a massive pen and ink drawing or wood block printing. The “marks” made by the spray paint are so linear and precise; you are drawn to both the image and the method.

Mathew teams up with Derek Toomes to collaborate on Deus Ex Machina a billboard sized wall mural utilizing imagery from the film Metropolis.

Overall, the show was nicely cohesive. With a little effort, you get a strong sense the similarities in color, style and presentation echoing back to the artist’s street roots. Go and spend some time with the work, you will find something you like. We promise.

If you want to see more of a particular artist’s work, visit our web site. We will provide links to websites featuring each artist at Piedmont Foothill Venues

We’ll see you there!

Stormaggedon: Ark Storms and the San Andreas Faultline

NBC Los Angeles
Scientists Cite “Atmospheric River” for Near Continuous Rain

Seems that scientists have pinned down the system that is dumping flooding rains onto California. And they realize it has happened before:

But there’s nothing new about the phenomenon.  What scientists now realize was an atmospheric river in 1861-62 brought California 45 straight days of rain and caused flooding of Biblical proportions, evocative of Noah and his ark. It bankrupted the state.

So they have insipidly named them Ark Storms. ‘Cause how you gonna sell it sexy to the general public if you cite a more technically correct name?

The scientists studying this storm admit that they don’t know if this particular system will end up being an Ark Storm. Time and the amount of rainfall will tell.

In my post of 1 year ago, Doom and Gloom: Sunspots, Volcanoes and Earthquakes. Famine, Disease and Pestilence. , I discuss scientific observations regarding the links between shifts in weather, including rainfall and some earthquakes.

Evidence of a link between climate and the rumblings of the crust has been around for years, but only now is it becoming clear just how sensitive rock can be to the air, ice and water above. “You don’t need huge changes to trigger responses from the crust,” says Bill McGuire of University College London (UCL), who organised the meeting. “The changes can be tiny.”

Climate change: Tearing the Earth apart?
New Scientist

In the NBC article, Lucy Jones of the U-S Geological Survey office in Pasadena and a specialist in earthquakes comments on the history of this type of storm. She says she was struck by something in the timing of the storm and the occurrence of a major San Andreas quake :

Jones is struck by the coincidence that California’s last major Ark Storm occurred so close in time to the last Southern San Andreas Big One in 1857.  It appears both recur with a frequency of a few hundred years.

The question becomes: did the years leading up to the San Andreas Quake in 57 have smaller (non-Ark) storms, like the one California may be experiencing at this time?

If there is a correlation between these rivers of moisture in the atmosphere and the- long overdue for a major shift – San Andreas Fault line, we would hope that the California Government finds a way to gently remind people to stock up on emergency supplies. Watch the videos in the NBC story to see what they consequences of such a quake might be.

One notes, without irony, that the last time California had an Ark Storm, it bankrupted the state.  This time around the storms are definitely not the cause of the current financial crisis in CA.

 

A poem in honor of the eclipse

Bodies in Motion

Me and my baby
view the eclipse.

Two luminescent bodies
slip
past and future
intertwined,
along a sweet
bisecting line.

(1995)

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