The City of Marquette’s Office of Arts & Culture commissioned an opening and a closing poem for the 2021 Marquette Art Week.
The opening poem is entitled The Art of Reconnection written by Milton J. Bates; the City of Marquette’s 2020 winner of the Annual Writer Award, former Guggenheim Fellow, and published author.
The 2021 Art Week closing poem is entitled 10 Things Cowboys Teach Us About Art written by Martin Achatz; Former U.P. Poet Laureate, published poet, songwriter, and City of Marquette’s 2021 Annual Arts Advocate Award winner
Enjoy writing, listening to, reading, and discussing poetry by joining the Marquette Poet’s Circle
The Art of Reconnection
by Milton J. Bates
With just a little realignment,
a few degrees of counter-clockwise pivot,
the ore dock in our harbor could join
those Neolithic registers of solstice
at Stonehenge in England and Maeshowe
in Orkney. Then the rising sun could tunnel
through concrete to renew its promise
to grow our food and shelter, recharge our
batteries. Lacking its fire, Earth would be
another lifeless rock in the Milky Way.
So many planets, moons, and comets ride
with us around our star. What keeps us
on that carousel? The body’s gravitation
to other bodies, an attraction sometimes
fruitful, sometimes fatal, or both at once.
When Earth drew the dagger of an asteroid
to its heart, the fallout killed most dinosaurs
but cleared the way for hominids like us.
Today’s dagger is a creature smaller
than an asteroid but no less deadly.
We have graphs and spreadsheets to document
its damage. We have yet to count the ways
our bodies find their way back to other
bodies, re-weaving old connections,
creating new ones. During our darkest days
artists and artisans continued to work,
often in isolation. Now may their light
tunnel through the darkness to reconnect us.
10 Things Cowboys Teach Us About Art
by Martin Achatz
- Cowboys love manure, its bovine insistence, how, if added to barren, empty fields, something green will grow. Fringed onion. Sagebrush mariposa lily.
- Cowboys think they own places. Fence them off. Graze them. Steal them. Wrap blankets of smallpox around their shoulders. Uproot them. March them to Oklahoma. Places can’t be owned. They own you.
- Cowboys sing like Tex Ritter or Gene Autry or Willie Nelson. Streets of Laredo. Peace in the Valley. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Even their horses trot in 4/4 or 3/4 time.
- Cowboys cook beans over fires on prairies under stampedes of stars. Sometimes they add bacon. And it’s perfect.
- Cowboys gather in saloons after roundup. To play poker. Get into fistfights where one cowboy gets tossed into the water trough outside. Find someone to chare their dusty bodies with. Because it’s all about being human after long months in cacti, mountain, mesa.
- Cowboys are good bad and ugly. But isn’t everything?
- John Wayne’s last words were: “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. And I love you.” Even the tallest in the saddle knows what it all boils down to at the end.
- Cowboys ride on backs of wild things into wild things. Rivers swarmed with water moccasins. Deserts studded with Georgia O’Keefe skulls. Donner Party passes blizzarded impassable. Cowboys are either brave or stupid. Or poets.
- The only real cowboy I ever met was in a bar called the Buffalo Nickel in Kalamazoo. He wore Stetson, snakeskin boots, tom jeans. His hair and beard long, untamed, gray storm clouds sitting on his face. He looked like Walt Whitman. I kept expecting him to break into “Song of Myself”.
- I learned all these things about cowboys by watching westerns on TV with my Dad on Sunday afternoons/ Gabby Hayes. Clint Eastwood. Gunsmoke. So I don’t know if they are true or false. But does it really matter? Maybe cowboys are fictions, created from history into memory into imagination into myth. But those lazy Sundays, when my Dad didn’t have to go fix a furnace or unblock a sewer, those were times when I felt most connected to him – when all our father/son differences vanished like a herd of cattle in a dust storm. And isn’t that what art is all about?