Selected Photography, Art, and Poetry: Threads of Life

by Nani Lii S. Furse

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    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


    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


    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.
    Assured that all is well,
    It brings its wings down over the mountains
    And rests peacefully until dawn.

    [illustration] Art by Anneliese Warnick


    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.
    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


    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


    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
    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

    [photo] Photography by Christina Rivera


    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,
    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


    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.


    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