Having Heard of Rivers (After Langston)

20 05 2011

This is my favorite thus far.

Having Heard of Rivers

After Langston


The Tire Dump, Redeemed

26 04 2011

The tires, as I had mentioned, were removed in less than 24 hours. I was disheartened, and had counted it as the third project (of six so far) to have been removed.

But then, on my walk to Gano Mission Center on Wednesday morning, I saw them in huge pile the adjacent field (behind the vine-covered fence you can see in the photos). And all the people of the land rejoiced. The next day I decided to just roll with the punches, and rearrange them in their new location.

Vacancies: The Tire Dump

19 04 2011

Aka the one that lasted less than 24 hours. . .  When I returned the next day, they were already removed, making this the third piece that has had a short life-span. They were gone before I could get any quality photos as well.

Seeing numerous piles of tires dumped in vacant lots or roadsides, I decided to play around with language, putting creative language where commercial language typically resides. (Unfortunately, it was still trash to someone.) I wrote this short poem specifically for the tires.

This is more commentary than I normally make alongside a poem, but I feel like giving some background to what brought the piece about. The 1st Ward was once the site of a Civil War mass grave — over which Jefferson Davis Hospital (now Elder Street Artist Lofts) was built — and I saw a connection between these acts of mass disposing of “expendables.” Two improper burials, with wider social implications. The subnarrative–the underlying connection–is the mass pushing out of people of color–having first dumped them into the ghetto then pushing them out again now that this land is desirable.

Dump us
in mass
graves, like
dead, like
runaway slaves
breath and noose.

Benches: Installed.

11 02 2011

After several false attempts, we (Matt, Zach, Carter and I — Kate) finally but most successfully installed our pew-to-bench pieces in the neighborhood yesterday — and it may or may not have been one of the happiest moments of my month so far.

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and…
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
— T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday

So Much More than Functional.

6 01 2011

What do red birds, dusty pews, power tools, sheet music, stiff paintbrush bristles and splinters all have in common? The answer is held together in a simple yet creative display of woodwork: benches. Earlier in the year, several of us (Matt, Becky and I — Kate) stumbled across a pile of abandoned pews in the unlikely treasure trove that is Houston’s Reuse Warehouse, a holding place for reusable bits and pieces from estate sales, construction sites and the like. One short trailer ride and several sneezes later, we unloaded two of the ungainly pews into an empty space behind Ecclesia and descended upon them with screwdriver, hammer and drill in hand. Over the next several days, we proceeded to:

– strip off a set of hideously uncomfortable cushions in a visible cloud of dust
– wrestle rusty nails out of their stubborn holds in the scratched wood
–  saw each of the pews in half in order to assemble two new, whole creations from the separate quarters
–  attack them with the whining power of a belt-operated sander
– file down pointy screw ends by hand
–  drill holes for newer, stronger bolts
– attach sturdier sides and support pieces
– cover the sanded wood with several coats of fresh paint
– add a few layers of varnish
– and finally adorn the final product with unique touches, including musical notes and bird silhouettes

At one point in the bench-making process, we had an audience of three or four homeless friends who alternately called out joking comments on our handling of the power tools, gave encouraging words of positive feedback regarding our paint choices, and even provided offers of help — which we gladly took them up on, of course. Whether or not we end up installing the recycled pew-to-bench creations at a bus stop, a taco truck or a nearby park, they are sure to add an extra dose of color and creativity to the preexistent community flair in the First Ward and we can’t wait until neighbors take us up on the invitation to “come and rest your weary sole.”