2.08 Did the artist mean to write “sagacious?”

Mercedes Williams

I look for words first, on paper, in conversation,
so when I see the word “sapacity”
in the title of a painting on the wall of a café,
and I can’t define it, I wonder where it comes from:
I wonder at the sapien inside, or the oil (saponaceous),
or the wisdom (sapient) or a strong,
pleasant taste, sapid, like my coffee.
I wonder if it was meant to be “sagacious,”
but doubt such an obvious error.

So I play. Did the strange word fall from
another planet, rock red and bristling, or,
more likely, a lime green Florida yard like mine,
where the mind wandered under the sun
but couldn’t quite make it to the dictionary
and so relented to humidity and humanity,
to what’s inside already.
That trek to find what’s outside my brain
ends in a hot plastic lounge chair,
with an orange fruit from an old tree
and a dream of a robotic arm
that is as hazy as the dove blue skyline. 

In the dream, I have a silver robotic arm
that pulls orange fruit off the branch
of a tree planted in the 1950s, when this
blue and beige colony was plopped
on top of the tangled swamps outside Tampa.
The rest of my body is as warm
and vesiclated as the yellow insides of the hot fruit,
but there is pressure to open me up,
red banners on the highway yell
“tax breaks for testers of new robotic limbs!”

In a few years it will go further,
I’ll check back into the once white walled clinic,
now a little bloodstained with activity, where
doctors will squeeze my muscle and juice into pipes
that pump precisely, an unfortunate precision
which makes them cry at the realization
of robotification and the promise of extension —
“we give her a new leg, new breath,
a new brown eye!”

I will return home to my blue house
with the orange tree
and will try to remember the exact contrast
between the color of the fruit
and the leaves. Were they always the same tone,
respectively middle-of-the-road green and orange,
or did the wires in my new eyes
not properly calibrate to take in
the tiny crescents of cast sun
warming and shadowing each leaf and round?

But for now, the dark of my coffee
against the white of the ceramic
shakes in time to the music
playing in the café and the time
of the liquid is perfection,
the shake and bubble is perfect,
and I can hold it with my soft hand,
blister the roof of my mouth with its heat,
lick the little metals that seep out.



Is it a dream, or have I arrived?

I have a silver robotic arm
that pulls orange fruit off the branch
of a tree planted in the 1950s, when this
blue and beige colony was plopped
on top of the tangled swamps outside Tampa.
For now, the rest of my body is as warm
and vesiclated as the yellow insides of the hot fruit,
but there is pressure to open me up,
red banners on the highway yell
“tax breaks for testers of new robotic limbs!”

In a few years it will go further,
I’ll check back into the once white-walled clinic,
now a little bloodstained with activity, where
doctors will squeeze my muscle and juice into pipes
that pump precisely, an unfortunate precision
which makes them cry at the realization
of robotification and the promise of extension —
“we give her a new leg, new breath,
a new brown eye!”

And so I will return home to my blue house
with the orange tree and will try to remember
the exact contrast between the color of the fruit
and the leaves. Were they always the same tone,
respectively middle-of-the-road green and orange,
or did the wires in my new eyes not properly calibrate
to take in the tiny crescents of cast sun
warming and shadowing each leaf and round —
a real life painting that shakes in the wind?

 

The video I received was one minute and one second long. I wondered at the symbolism of the timing, as I wondered at the title “Sapacity,” and what that might mean, since it's not a "dictionary" word. The daydream with no answer, which is the feeling the video evoked for me, became something of a template. It informed the outline of the poems, the first which begins and ends in a coffee shop, staring at a painting (the video on my computer screen), and the second becoming an echo of the daydream, which doesn't quite stand on its own, and calls back to the painting from the first poem at its close.

I wrote this poem in Sun Valley, Idaho, a town that presents an insane contrast to the setting of the poem's dream in Tampa, Florida. I went to school in Pinellas County, just outside of Tampa, and have always found that area to be a little dreamy and weird. I love the smell of the mangroves, the idea of citrus which seems to permeate everything — a seriously necessary fruit to balance the heat — and was entranced by the often brutal surrealist sparring that occurs between the natural landscape and the built environment around it. Something about the simultaneous volatility and relaxation of the Florida landscape and culture seemed important to invoke here, not necessarily as an homage to Florida but as a way to try to understand the violence of dreams and how often, our waking lives are more dreamlike and sleepy, more automatic.

—Mercedes Williams

 
Sadie Pic.jpg

Mercedes/Sadie Williams is a writer and poet living in Mexico City. She writes a semi-monthly poetry zine called Bad Poems and runs a (currently hibernating) nomadic artist space called the Memorial Club. Williams is interested in collaborative processes in writing and art and in helping people tell their stories. With her poems, she hopes to explore the world on the outskirts of consciousness and confession. She is from Burlington, Vermont.

Spotlight on Mercedes Williams

 
 

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