“Half of Everything” by James Valvis

Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2018: Artist’s Choice


Muse Laura Christensen

Image: “Muse” by Laura Christensen. “Half of Everything” was written by James Valvis for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, January 2018, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


James Valvis


Half flooded by her advancing cancer,
my mother stands like a false Christ
who believes she can yet walk on water,
believes the pills she takes will be enough

to staunch the sea rising around her.
If she wears her finest dress and jabot,
if she keeps her hair combed and dry.
if she just stands still long enough,

hands folded, forever proper, civilized,
submerged table set for morning tea,
she can go on believing, as she has,
the world is only a fraction of what it is.

Already she’s turning back into the girl
who could not face my father’s alcoholism,
or her son’s sadness, or any deluge,
only clear skies and cumulus clouds.

If she ignores half of everything,
she thinks without ever thinking it,
her last half doesn’t need to go under
and she can find a way to fly home.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
January 2018, Artist’s Choice

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Comment from the artist, Laura Christensen: “Before reading this poem, I had considered how water could represent a subconscious (amongst other things), but I had not quite imagined a place where one might place parts of reality they want, or need to ignore. Reading this poem, I am touched by the mother’s futile struggle for control. In my art, I contemplate a similar, but more general concept of quality and grace in the face of entropy.”

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