Lessons from James – by Kelly Sievers

“Farm Scene” James Castle, Idaho, 1900-1977 – Deaf from birth, Castle refused to learn sign language or to read and write.
He drew incessantly. For 70 years he used soot, sticks, found materials and his own spittle to record his vision. Portland Art Museum

Why brood a white sheet
of silence? Sharpen sticks,
mix saliva with soot, scavage
cardboard, scraps of paper.
Within your dirt yard limn
willful tufts of grass.

Don’t gild the chicken shed–
expose its crooked shingles.
Allow your house an open porch.
Find the path from the kitchen door
to the open field. Trust the solace
of a mended fence. Above you
great firs wave their heads.
One piece of sky can break the silence.
Spit. Begin.

Kelly Sievers lives in Portland, Oregon. Her work is published in a number of literary journals and in eight anthologies. Her poetry can be found in Ekphrasis, Passager, The Permanente Journal, the Oregon Poetic Voices Project, and is forthcoming in Learning to Heal: Reflections on Nursing School in Poetry and Prose.

Photographers Note: While the photo parallels the imagery of this piece, it also loosely depicts the message that lies within the lines of the poem: Don’t be limited by scant resources, seemingly hopeless circumstances or paralyzing fears. Instead, challenge yourself to find an unrestricted, imaginative spirit that lives within. Accept and embrace imperfections as they can lead to original, unguarded and endless creativity. Allow yourself to be inspired and see where the path leads. I chose a colorless photo to capture the soot and spit visions of the referenced artist, James Castle.