Selected Photography, Art, and Poetry: Portraits of Ourselves

by Nani Lii S. Furse


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