Figure #70Here’s a draft of the poem I’m writing in response to David Adix’s Native Figure #70. The poem’s title comes from a classic adage about creative invention from the middle of the last century: “No ideas but in things” (William Carlos Williams). I’m sometimes moved to push back against this insight, but I always find myself coming back, with pleasure, to the physical world while making poems. Native Figure #70 is literally stuffed with things: a smorgasbord for someone like me. I keep finding new morsels there to taste.

The unfinished poem now hangs alongside the sculpture in downtown Douglas, Michigan, in Water Street Gallery’s It’s a Matter of Opinion exhibition. Click here to read more about how this came about. Thanks, Water Street, for including me in your first Expressions in Ink event.


In Things

[work in progress]


If I had a box of sky-blue puzzle pieces

Lincoln Logs, Legos, beads, Scrabble tiles, bottle caps

playing cards, wooden pencils, embroidery floss . . .

I’d see the toy closet in my cousin’s house

board-game cupboard at my grandparents’

junk drawer at 800 Sunningdale Drive

where I learned to hold onto the smallest pieces of things

because you never know . . .

even drapery hooks, safety pins, and paper money

feeling throwback

dull as dust

if not exactly discardable


Nothing lusterless here

in this body stuffed and lanky both

Native Figure #70

clutch of bits collected

sorted, placed

wired as if electrified


AH then ON

measuring-tape toes

plastic-lizard thighs

washer pudendum

rhinestone nipples

and a bright red ladybug

for a heart


Any one might

start blinking, humming

A Philips-head screw might

break into opera

A stick-and-hook finger start tracing

pictures in the air