Lecture on Nothing

            a meditation on the art of Agnes Martin



I spend three days in the antique gaze of Agnes’

eyes and her buttoned-up dressing of silence to expose

the episodic echo of everything she ever knew. If she were pronouncing

one thing it seemed to enlarge. I take a break and slice a loaf

and watch for longing. The kitchen is in constant muss and we eat

all the parts that have been left for us. The prayer

of coastline, loosed mosses. I’ve never been older. I am content

to let the people around me explain the proportions

of their shadows. Today’s rain knocked slow on the roof

early morning. A perfect monotony, a change of measure. I notice Agnes sits

and frames the room and the room where she sits is built reliable

around her. There is always the tangible sun, continuous,

and her body never chummy. I am close to her thick tufts

of hair. Her eyes fill with seawater. Her face in its later pieces

looking at empathy. Something is happening. She is looking

out through her own set of rules. Gray passes to each window

of my small cottage, unfastened. Tracks vanish. Yesterday, I spent hours

walking through restless grasses. Mud-edge gradually spread

and I would not reverse. The humid air and the stalks and pods

as crickets piled on top of each other. I don’t believe

there is nothing. On Territory Road I saw a cannon with a message.

I couldn’t read how it leaped, so I can’t tell you

the farthings, or possible due. I believe in that stare

in slanted sunlight, whatever she spotted. It is late; the sky

has gone on to sleeping. Night is my chased memory. I won’t tell you

I understood. Only that this is what I wanted to open: the coast,

the clouds. Everything is capable of a once upon a time, and I wanted

to see it, to hold the world to its grain, what was missing.

Lauren Camp is the author of four poetry collections. She has received the Dorset Prize, a Black Earth Institute fellowship, residencies from Willapa Bay AiR and The Taft-Nicholson Center, and a finalist citation for the Arab American Book Award. She lives and teaches in New Mexico.