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Sudden Encounters

--inspired by the Remedios Varo painting
Exploration of the Source of the Orinoco River

The Orinoco overflows from a goblet,
spouts from the center as though
water had wings. I’m telling you,
this goblet rests on a table
in the hollow of a tree - so
deliberate that you can’t help
but question if the almighty
watchmaker set it there himself.
Paley would have had his say,
to be sure, but this is about Varo
and her own fantastical teleology,
about how the source is never
what you would expect, how
inspiration swims like pink dolphins
through the rivers of night, daring
you to look into its eyes, challenging
you to brave a lifetime of nightmares
for the purchase of a moment of genius,
to be like the woman manning a vessel
no one else has ever seen, like Varo
herself – swimming on the river
with wings, her retinas burnt and open
by frequent, sudden encounters
with dark and unholy gods.


--inspired by the Remedios Varo painting
To Be Reborn

There’s no mother’s milk
the second time around,
just a crescent moon
floating in a goblet bigger
than your own head, or
maybe it’s really the world
in there, shimmering and
dark, ready to be consumed.
I’d say be careful drinking
out of that thing, but
how trite it would sound
after what you’ve just
done, tearing through
Mother earth’s most intimate
fabric, ripping a frayed slit
just for yourself. Think of trees
poking their branches where
they don’t belong, encroaching
back through the windows built
to keep them out. You’re
something like that, one
of nature’s great mysteries
thrusting yourself into
the narrow rooms of man,
enclosing yourself between
the walls of this synthetic  
life, time after time, birth
after birth, like a hamster
in a cage on a wheel. Sure,
each ride is different, but
at some point you’ll break
down that cage door, say
goodbye to the spinning
wheel, and finally run free.

Barefoot Rondelet

--inspired by the Remedios Varo painting
To Be Reborn

To be reborn,
step barefoot from this world, praying
to be reborn
wild-eyed, seared by life, and graying
already with wisdom, forewarned:
it’s a sad, sweet, brief delaying,
to be reborn.

Copyright © 2011 Melissa Studdard

Melissa Studdard is a contributing editor for both Tiferet and The Criterion and a reviewer-at-large for The National Poetry Review. She hosts Tiferet Talk, Tiferet Journal’s blogtalk radio program that interviews writers and religious and spiritual leaders. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Boulevard, Connecticut Review, Poets & Writers, Gradiva, The Smoking poet, and Dash, and she has just completed her first novel, Six Weeks to Yehidah. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and teaches English and Creative Writing for Lone Star College-Tomball.