“Things That Collapse” by Jonathan Harris

Graphing Uncertainty V by Christine Crockett, abstract painting of lines and triangles in red and black

Image: “Graphing Uncertainty V” by Christine Crockett. “Things That Collapse” was written by Jonathan Harris for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2024, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Jonathan Harris


Slumped in a lawn chair under a pink umbrella a hand fan on his belly
in a jackknifing heat that’s me I see now and those are my children
coming for me from our rose bed gone-under. They lay me
on the earth and fall in tight my son at my heart splitting
stones on my chest. On her knees and cell with 911
my daughter traces half/faces the wrinkles
on my forehead. She bends closer after
ending the call coos in my ear ruffling
her ringlets: orphans, origami, tents,
tables, tarantulas, hammocks,
accordions, waves. At least
those are the notes I’m
vaguely aware of
but find hard to
slap on the cheek a shrug by my shoulders my children
cry out: Dad! Dad! Don’t leave us! Don’t you dare
leave us! Then together scoop me up
in their arms and won’t let go as if
everything in our top-down top-
heavy world hinges
on the screws

from Ekphrastic Challenge
February 2024, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Christine Crockett: “This poem handles the ekphrastic challenge with such craft and imagination. The concrete format of two ‘collapsing’ triangles not only mirrors the geometry of the collage, but also captures something profoundly human in its composition. The organic roundness of red at the center of the college is a pulsing, endangered heart. The first triangle tapers as the stricken narrator’s consciousness streams and ebbs into single-word utterances, each a play on triangular or folded forms: accordions, origami, tents. A heartbeat pause, then the poem pivots into the ‘slap’ and embrace of his son and daughter who revive him, ‘hinge’ him back into the widening world–bloodlines that stave off the ‘top-down-top-heavy’ world that threatens collapse.”

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