Selected Photography, Art, and Poetry: Portraits of Ourselves

by Nani Lii S. Furse

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    We called for self-portraits, and you gave us a gallery full, enough to fill a dozen wings, a thousand corridors. The portraits came in many forms—in pen and ink and oil and watercolor and poetry and prose and music and photographic prints and transparencies. They were portraits not of your faces or figures but of your thoughts and feelings and perceptions. There were moody interior landscapes and sun-washed impressionistic gardens filled with laughter. Never have we seen such a rich variety of technique and medium.

    Photography sketched your insight in the form of a white egret amidst green spears of grass, children drinking magic from a water fountain, a pale moon hung in the arch of a yellow church.

    Art captured your love of beauty in the guise of a pensive ballerina, a proud athlete, a sleek sailboat, an exquisite silver pendant.

    Fiction revealed your spiritual depths in crystal tears reflecting the healing gift of repentance.

    The winning article mirrored your compassion in the sweet waters of unselfish giving.

    Poetry caught your sensitivity in a prayer clipped word-thin by the south wind, a dark-born morning, the pulse in an old man’s hand.

    The winning hymn portrayed your gratitude for the gift of the Atonement.

    The winning song painted a bright picture of your love for missionary work.

    It is with great pride that we invite you to enter one small wing of this great gallery of self-portraits. We wish there were room for more. We hope that you enjoy these portraits of yourselves. You will see that they portray not only you, their creators, but also Him from whom we inherit the impulse to create—and in whose image we all were created.

    [photo] Photography by Stacy Anderson

    Noon Hour Memorial for Edward

    South wind clipped the prayer
    word-thin. We heard only syllables
    but you, child, watched from
    another side, eyes
    couched in the dusty carnations and ribbon
    blown over your sister.
    We twisted in our full skirts;
    wind melted transparent scarves
    over older women’s heads.
    I could not hear you circle those dark angles
    scissored at our feet until
    hands crushed together
    and your head pressed my thigh.
    Then brown grass crept under
    your shoes, not waiting for “amens”
    or petals to lower out of the wind.

    [photos] Photography by Lynn Howlett

    Speed of Man

    While we sat in our living rooms,
    They took our eyes
    And flew them to the moon
    At the speed of man.
    While we ate from aluminum trays,
    The ball game was in our bones.
    They can fire a voice like a gun
    At the speed of man.
    We were never satisfied
    With our living wardrobe.
    We replaced our hands
    With giant cranes,
    Built metal brains
    To crack the numbers.
    Son, you take this erector set,
    And build whatever you want.
    But promise me, son,
    You won’t leave the earth
    Anywhere near the way you found it.

    [photo] Photography by Melanie Jenkins

    [photo] Photography by Carl Houghton

    Nephi’s Prayer on the Eve of Christ’s Birth (See 3 Ne. 1:10–15.)

    Oh God, thou everlasting Father,
    How long must I wait
    As the wild earth waits?
    I wake to dark-born morning,
    Bowed in my wilderness where
    Heart shreds against winter grass
    For those eyes that sear with searching
    The zenith sun, believing.
    I would bear my cry on wings,
    Seek skies in white quest and find—
    Yet words slide into shadows
    Gathered by stones.
    Come, come—fold heaven’s love in flesh,
    In star, in that day and night
    And day which shall be
    One, as if there were no dark.
    Let not upturned eyes
    Hoard blackness like these stones;
    Stay earth’s thrust towards night—
    But now—now the sun’s wake swells with
    Voice and light:
    “On the morrow I come,
    I come into the world …”
    Oh, lift to see the sign—
    Star-rise in my wilderness.

    [photos] Photography by Jonathan Baet

    [photos] Photography by Candy Young

    February Solstice

    Fog strays into predawn sage,
    Stratum of night unshaping.
    Crone-hands uncurl the revelation of
    Cottonwoods’ naked grasp.
    Fingers thin into wind,
    Groping for transparent spring.

    Just a Hill

    I like this hill—
    It isn’t a big hill,
    It doesn’t have a
    beautiful view
    But it’s a quiet hill
    And I can come here
    and think
    About Brother Johnson’s
    lesson on repentance;
    Or how I’ve been doing
    as our quorum’s
    first assistant;
    Or the way Christ
    resisted temptation.
    Wind—
    It blows past me and
    shoots through the
    tall grass;
    Rain clouds gather,
    Mingle and mumble,
    A stormy premonition;
    But they leave again
    And the grass is still dry.
    I realize
    It’s not so important
    what I think about
    while I’m here,
    As what I do between
    visits.

    [photo] Photography by Brian Williams

    [photos] Photography by Bobbi Jane Rice

    The Suburban Woods

    As I stroll within my
    Suburban wood,
    I sense the night’s rebirth.
    The light turns a warm orange—
    incandescent
    from living room windows;
    And the steel sky is lit by the
    Infinite expanse of twinkling
    city lights.
    The cool twilight air feels gray
    Against my face,
    And pink autumn breeze blankets me
    In peace.
    I hear the soft, slurred rush of a distant stream
    of traffic;
    It hums a background for the crickets’
    Lively lead.
    Under my feet I feel the crackling snap of
    crumbly concrete
    As I walk beneath the shadows of a towering grove
    of telephone poles.
    The daylight fades, and
    The woods echo with the night’s noisy hush—
    And the faraway cries of hungry
    children
    coming home for supper.

    [illustrations] Art by Anneliese Warnick

    [photo] Photography by Candy Young

    On the Beach

    A single seagull cries,
    Some poor beached mammal dies,
    I sink into the sand
    Like a fallen coin
    From a young man’s hand.
    A single seagull glides,
    A muddy little boy cries,
    I slip on thoughts
    Like the rings
    On a young girl’s hand.
    On the beach
    You’re washed away,
    Revealing bones
    Of long-lost dreams.
    A single seagull sings,
    A lonely parish bell rings,
    I hesitate
    Like the pulse
    In an old man’s hand.
    All alone, I walk the beach,
    Past the bones of bleached-white dreams;
    The fog rolls in
    And covers me
    Like God’s own hand.

    Mozart’s Fingers

    Mozart’s fingers told the paper
    What his brain was thinking—
    Put melodic mist
    And permeating emotion
    Into black notes imprisoned
    In staff-cages.
    Mozart’s instruments
    Told the world what his notes
    Were doing,
    Translating the concrete
    Back to gorgeous
    Abstractness.

    Untitled

    Who was that, singing,
    just now I heard a
    picture.
    On the radio.
    I know the face be-
    hind those empty black
    eyes they
    don’t remember me.
    I’ve loved that little
    chair since I was hardly here
    not much help at all.
    The calm shallow wave
    rolls softly upon the wet sand
    chasing the seagulls.
    To walk this path I
    find a sky of deep set blue
    I am twelve, again.

    Windblown

    Silence sprained by
    whistling winds as
    a baby breeze dances
    among grass blades,
    tilting sprouted
    toadstools and
    tangling clusters of
    morning glories,
    ending in a dizzy swirl
    of crimson leaves
    in rain gutter whirlpools.

    The Answer

    “Are you there, Lord?”
    I ask in blind confusion.
    He smiles and answers,
    Not by thunder,
    Nor by angel,
    But through a sunset—
    Amber bursting through black clouds,
    Warmly piercing my soul.

    [photo] Photography by Stacy Anderson

    Mirror

    I tire of my face and
    my faults
    and my unsteady
    faith in myself.
    Let me look in the mirror
    the Lord would make,
    to know myself not in
    the insecurity
    of here and now
    but in the strength of
    someday
    that reaches to eternity
    and shows me as the
    daughter that I am.

    Pool of the Sky

    The moon is a stone
    Thrown in the pool of the
    Sky,
    With ripples of clouds
    And flotsam of stars.

    [photo] Photography by Bobbi Jane Rice

    [photo] Photography by Melanie Okey

    [photos] Art by Stephen L. Atwood

    [photo] Photography by Katrina Bakker

    [photo] Photography by Melanie Okey

    [photos] Photography by Lynn Howlett

    grandma’s attic

    my step on a creaking stair
    blends with the insistent rain
    pattering roof, splattering window
    calling me up.
    muted tones, basking in half-light
    from the lonely, naked bulb
    swinging in silence.
    i kneel by a trunk
    reverently shaking memories from ancient dresses,
    reading them in yellowed letters,
    putting them on with a faded, fragile hat.
    dusty dreams of long ago
    take me captive into their world
    play on the stage of my mind.
    “if only things could speak,” think i,
    “what stories could be had!”
    yet silence reigns in this kingdom
    with only dark and musty musings
    to bring the past to life.

    Aftermath (1+1)

    He believed, of course, in neat addition
    (Leading in time to multiplication)
    Laying all hopes in a short equation,
    But factors he had not counted on
    Shattered his precious paragon,
    Unable to encompass the phenomenon
    Of clouds slipping over bright
    Moonlight, or in a pond, the rippling glide of
    A maple leaf. Somehow it just didn’t add
    Up.

    Untitled

    A rock
    thrown far off—away …
    I heard the water break
    and swallow up
    the seed of a mountain.

    [illustrations] Art by Rohn Solomon