Selected Photography, Art, and Poetry: Threads of Life

by Nani Lii S. Furse


Each writer, photographer, artist, and composer began with the same simple strands of perception and experience available to all of us.

But in the mind’s eye they envisioned the finished work, three-dimensional and full of color.

Keeping that vision before them, they did the work: shearing, carding, dyeing, spinning, and finally weaving. Perhaps unraveling and reweaving over and over again until it was right.

Here are their finished tapestries, full of color, melody, insight, spirit, and testimony. These are winning entries in the 1989 New Era Writing, Art, Photography, and Music Contest.

Cumorah Dusk

A fourth September slips summer
green into horizons of this
gentle-water land. Only leaves
rinsed to afterglow
stir at Joseph’s homespun passing.
Night memories seal with fire-pure
light the pending task, like high
sun on his upturned gaze during a
first planting.
Autumn wind shimmers
up through the trees, remembering
those who come in the west’s
blue hush. His hands know a
quiet of touched stone; he knows
where to kneel, then wait.

[photo] Photography by Eric Swenson

Diamond

Today will hold us in quiet
eyes, will tell us that to trace
so intricate a journey
is to search our way through
facets of the other until,
illuminated and clear,
we know the crystalline complete.

[photo] Photography by Candy Young

[photo] Photography by Ned James

Metamorphosis

I turned over a new leaf
Then I watched it dry up,
Ready to crumble into a brittle
Palmful of memories.
I wish I would have
Carefully laid it between
Two warm pages
Of a hopeful, promising volume,
To keep it strong and green,
And to, at least, give the appearance
Of life—
And determination.
Now the pain of changes,
From caterpillar to butterfly,
From green leaf to gold
Has been a waste,
Buried in the earth
With the embryo
Of some tender seedling.

[illustration] Art by Kristina Knell

[illustration] Art by Cheri L. Countryman

Settling to Sleep

Dusk settles over the valley
Like a hen starting to roost,
Nestling the houses under its soft down
As if they were chicks.
Finally,
Assured that all is well,
It brings its wings down over the mountains
And rests peacefully until dawn.

[illustration] Art by Anneliese Warnick

Duel

Face to face at dawn,
It smiles;
LeeRing at me with typeset teeth
And inkEd breath.
Boundaries are drawn, weaPons chosen.
I—armed with
A splinted paleTte of swirled metaphors,
Which glimmered in the paDded desk light of
Late last eVening—
Fling them out with a spLatter …
They dRy up in mud-colored splotches, peeling
on the blaNk page.
Thrust and parRy, white fingers jabBing,
(Thought you could sLip in a seMi-colon;
DiDn’t you?)
Cut and snip, clitTer-claTter,
Firing off explosive rounds of ammuNition.
Exhausted, I fall back into the
Frumpled mouse nestle of twined sheets,
With only the scattered limbs of words
To mark the confrontation.

[illustration] Art by Ingrid Niesen

Blue Eyes and Eggshells

In his chubby little hands
He clutched them
As he ran,
Running the lumpy ground,
Lumpy with apples
And crabgrass, behind him,
And under the blossoming trees,
Cupping the smooth,
Blue of them,
He scampered home,
Home to show someone,
While beaming proudly.
Heart beating,
Blood pounding,
Eyelashes fluttering
And blue eyes bright
With excitement.
Then mother scolds
For stealing
What he thought
He had found:
Just strange, funny,
Blue rocks.
She softly explains
That a living thing with
A heart beating,
Blood pounding,
And a faint pulse fluttering,
Sleeps inside.
Confused,
Disappointed,
Holding them gently
Now, looser now,
He carries them,
Walking over the
Cloddy orchard ground,
To the tree,
Where a red-breasted bird
Flits wild and frantic,
Around and down.
Its heart beating,
Blood pounding,
Wings fluttering,
Looking for the children
Dressed in
Eggshell blue.

Forgotten Sundays

For the first time in eight years,
my father sat by my side
in church last Sunday.
As he stroked my four-year-old sister’s hair
and gently squeezed my hand,
memories blurred my eyes
and trickled down my hot cheeks.
I didn’t wipe them away.

[photo] Photography by Eric Swenson

[photo] Photography by Angela Walton

Kites at Play

once-upon-a-blusty, gusty, march
my eyes swept the sky and found
minute specks of soaring color
dipping swingingly with loops and bounds
pursuing the wind
like bright kittens chasing their tails.
suddenly the bravest speck drops—
seizing its tail and racing earthbound.
before the dreadful crash, it turns—
and, heading for the sky,
it flies away into forever.

[photo] Photography by Candy Young

Advice

I can’t tell you what to do, my child.
I have hinted before about what you might say
Or how, perhaps, something might work out better.
But, of course, my ideas only sound easy,
Perhaps too easy, so you don’t listen.
Well, I love you. I won’t nag.
I’ll bite my tongue and hold back
Unrequested advice,
Though you row your boat in circles
With the anchor down.

Coming Home

Coming home one snowy eve
I paused just underneath the trees
to watch the sun’s fast fading light
surrender to the cloudy night.
In some fenced yard far down the hill
a dog barked twice, and then was still;
alarmed, perhaps, by some night sound
that came from shadows cast around.
The yellow windows’ brilliant glow
cut through the twisting, tumbling snow
to warm the peaceful, lonesome dark
as if a beacon to my heart
that called to me to enter in
and fill my full cup o’er the brim.
My family’s voices raised in song
embraced me as I crossed the lawn
and held me close like a dear friend
to greet me at my journey’s end.
Of all the joy I’ve ever known,
the most was felt when coming home.

[photo] Photography by Tamra Hamblin

[photo] Photography by Chris Talbot

Seasons

As I grow older,
the seasons just blur into forgotten years.
But when I was a child,
every day was a summer day.
Even if it was snowing.

[photo] Photography by Bobbi Jane Rice

Instant Replay

Why won’t time stop for me?
Does for the color commentators
who can just say,
Let’s see that one more time …
Not only do they halt time,
they get more of it;
More once more for the
isolation shot or the close-up
or the reverse angle;
More once more until
it’s decided the pass was
incomplete.
Wish I could check out life like
old players can football—
No film rolling while I yearn,
learn, pray, play, grin, or … sin.
No way can I call time out and
analyze with fondness or pain
things and things;
Time keeps pushing me forward,
only lets me say,
Let’s try that one more time …
So I don’t get more time—
I use more of it.
Logic is, though,
That the less I replay
and the more I redo,
the more likely
it’s decided my life wasn’t
incomplete.

[photo] Photography by Christina Rivera

Great-Grandmother

One Saturday night, Mama told how
you crossed the Atlantic with only a
sister for company, another result of
family struggling to send each
child to Zion. Diverted by her
best of voices I scowled only
slightly while she finished
rolling my hair for lank Sunday curls.
My sister and I later quibbled over
who toed the line that
divided our bed into suddenly
remote hemispheres. Then I dreamed of
you blown together in a
rowboat, destined for those
hardbound adventures that
crowded Little Golden books on my shelf.
Hearing the story on request
I feel a clearing through distant
harbor, where ships were
watched out of sight. You clutched for
the hand of one who ached, standing
taller than her 11 years. And salty
wind furrowed the sea, sifted
through uncleared acres, Zion,
saw you home in this patchworked
shade of lilacs and a weeping willow.

Paper Swans

He ran outside
In corduroy overalls that
Bagged at the knees,
Dragging behind him
Transparent dreams
Of color and light
To be pinned against a crepe-paper sky
With gusts of wind.
“Fly!” he commanded
And tugged fiercely at the string.
It jerked upwards
And, with a rustled sigh,
Fell.
It lay there—
A slash of fragile flesh
Exposing bamboo bone
Creaking stiffly in the wind.
He trudged back inside
With spit-polished face and dirty hands,
Dragging behind him
A tangled mess
Of paper and string
To be hauled away with the garbage
Next Monday morning.

[photo] Photography by V. Beth Scott

[photo] Photography by Bobbi Jane Rice

Sunset

Golden-flamed tailfeathers flickering,
The phoenix sinks through
Mauve skysea to mingle
Fiery ashes with some
Forgotten Lethe, and
Slumbers for a
Thousand years
Of night.

Fathers

I guess it was about ten years ago,
but I remember it so clearly.
I was sitting in front of my mom’s
makeup mirror at the kitchen table.
Curiously, I pulled my stringy brown hair
away from my face.
A plain reflection stared back at me.
I didn’t notice
that my dad had been watching the whole time.
He grinned and said,
“Are you trying to see the face
your Heavenly Father sees?”
At the time, I couldn’t figure out how to answer
or why he even asked me that.
But now, I don’t think he really wanted an answer.
Fathers are just like that.

[photo] Photography by Diann Standage