Feast for the Senses
In the fall of 2021, we opted to bring you a feast: a feast for the senses. We reached out to five Affiliate Artists and asked each to respond to one of the senses: sight, sound, scent, touch, and taste. Join us at the table and enjoy!
illustrations by Alicia Dornadic
when my mother splurged purchasing ripe raspberries she’d dole them out two at a time like rewards like payoffs when she was gone i’d steal ten lock the bathroom door slip one after the other on the tip of each finger like ceremony like foreplay revel in the delicate balance between expansion & destruction between pushing too far or not far enough i felt dirty & unclean i felt excited in the mirror i’d deliberately tease my own mouth ask quietly do i deserve this divine reward i’d say no but think yes i’d feed myself one at a time whispering to my reflection flush with desire that i was such a goodgood child
the way sweetness sticks to fingers to lips the way memory holds what you once fondled in a taste a scent ancient & earthy like underarms unshaved smelling feral & hungry the desire to get dirty the gluttony the hoarding & binging the way dryearth & heat create the flavor of darkness & moisture search for it under bedsheets in back alley makeouts in the groping of hand between belt & belly running through pubic hair in the tension between thought & act in the satisfaction of sucking meat off pit & spitting pit into air
the best things are what we grow bud to flower lover to partner baby to child what fecundity we create by how we love a friend planted a persimmon tree over her placenta she shared the fruits with me years later while our kids played i taught my children to call the cuts & scrapes they acquired strawberries bloodred & scabbed over look what you grow look how you heal once i planted strawberries with my daughters to teach them some lesson long forgotten this spring i found the plant again tendril wild & weed covered bearing small red berries so angry sweet so intensely alive tasting like leaving & returning like losing something & finding something else like seasons & surviving & harvests & life like life
Questions for a Photograph
-does the feeling come from two pairs of elbows leaning on the windowsill?
-is it in the modest Vs of their necklines and open shirt collar?
-does it come from the garden?
-is it in the position of the hands?
-is it that house and sky are nearly the same shade of white?
-how do I decide which details aren’t important?
-like what seems to be a thermometer nailed to the outside of one shutter.
-or is it that certain details seem too private to point to?
-what’s in the photograph but cannot be pointed to?
-that at first I think my grandmother is my aunt?
-does this constitute the subject?
-is it two daughters and their mother in white sleeveless dresses leaning out the second floor window of a white house? is it two lemon trees with whitewashed trunks, and part of a peach tree? is it their father in a white short sleeve shirt almost disguised by the landscape, standing a bit to the left and carrying a large watering can? is it the spout hovering over bare dirt? his proud posture? the house behind him with four windows, three of which are open?
-why is my grandmother the only one not looking at the camera?
-what’s over there, past the garden, the same direction his feet point?
-is her mouth slightly open because she’s speaking?
-why am I drawn to the side of his shirt where it’s creased and pulling, tucked into the waistband of his trousers?
-was he really watering just then, or is he posing?
-who called them to the window?
-is the subject an idea of happiness?
-as though none of it happened, is the subject occupation and civil war?
-precisely because there’s no trace of it?
-who here fought in the resistance? who sold communist newspapers?
-if there were a trace would I recognize it?
-where’s my eldest aunt, from whose balcony this was taken?
-was she the photographer? are they looking at her?
-it can’t have been her, this is Greece in the 1950s, and she’s a newly married deaf woman living next door to her parents who perpetually infantilized her.
-but isn’t she standing next to the photographer? to his left?
-now what’s the subject?
-even though it is small, and exceedingly grainy when I zoom in on my phone, the photo exudes love. how is that?
-is it because I took this picture of the photo in that same aunt’s kitchen, only a few meters from where it was taken?
-after not seeing her for 18 years?
-is it that they survived because of a barrel of olive oil buried in the garden?
-is what looks like a slab of wood or stone propped against the wall what they used to cover the hole?
-didn’t mom say they would move the slab aside only after dark?
-there’s so much I can barely make out
-is that a magpie by the closer lemon tree?
-all the shutters stand open
-what’s that resting on the first floor windowsill? a tomato on a plate? a sleeping cat?
-why do I like the curtain pushed to the right behind the women so much?
-is it because the folds recall the creases where his shirt tucks into his waistband?
-the cellophane over the photo sent back the kitchen light’s glare, and the reflection of my phone in the image makes a new frame around them
-the photographer’s voice saying bravo, very nice
-is it evening?
-it was evening, wasn’t it? a long day. almost no shadows
Cosmic Touch / A Meditation on Touch
In September, I visited Gulnara Kasmalieva’s and Muratbek Djumaliev’s eco residency in a remote village near Issyk-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan.
Mixtures of clay, straw, limestone, and sand, applied by hand, form this structure. The nature of this building process means that their touch is imprinted on each layer. When inside, the feeling of touch transcends material; it effervesces through the surface and envelops you, as though engulfed in the palm of someone’s hand.
I slept here alone for one night. Inside, the white and textured walls of this intimate cathedral glowed like the surface of the moon. Gravity fell away and I caught the moon looking back at me through the window.
In San Francisco it is rare to be immersed in a dark quiet where one can witness their movements in relation to other celestial bodies. I laid awake watching the moon shift across the windows, remembering that I, too, am suspended in orbit. As the moon retired, the light of the sun reached me through a window beside where I met the moon’s gaze the night before. A full rotation complete. A reminder that, like the stars and moon, we are each an orbiting body in the cosmos of this universe.
A palm, built from flesh, muscle and bone, transfers heat and energy to the object it holds; can we think of touch as this transference of energy, even if direct contact isn’t made? An exchange similar to the path of light that radiates from the sun, to the moon, to eventually, illuminate us, our faces, our skin, our surroundings.
Clay, straw, sand, and limestone were the conduits of Murat and Gulnara’s care and intention; an offering for new perspectives on the spaces we build and inhabit, what we give, and how we receive, now absorbed and carried through my bones and celestial body.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR AN OLFACTORY DREAM GATHERING
Jan Born’s experiments have taught us that “olfactory sensing pathways in the brain lead more directly to the hippocampus than do visual and auditory ones” and that smell is less likely to wake you up than the other senses are.
Right before you go to bed, cook a fragrant meal that reminds you of the person(s) you want to be with. Think of them while you cook.
Do not eat.
Make a plate and place it next to your pillow. You need to be able to still smell it within 20 minutes of falling asleep (slow-wave sleep).
Let the person(s) you invited enter your dream.
Share the meal.