Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 32, August 2013—Women Looking at Vispo Issue)

Katie Yates
On ‘Open Up and Bleed: for James Osterberg Jr.’ by Maria Damon
from The Last Vispo Anthology (2013) ed. Nico Vassilakis

Maria Damon
Open Up and Bleed: for James Osterberg Jr.

In the way that my mind lingers in the melodies in Zukofsky’s suite of poems 80 Flowers: 1974 – 1978, in sequences like this one – heart’s ease love-in-idleness viol – I might be able to describe how I am absorbed into Maria Damon’s needlepoint for Iggy Pop, Open Up and Bleed. This response comes maybe because her work illustrates a constant conversation I’ve had with myself, in verses that wind between stories imagined then built around real voices which emerge over time, the fruits from the labor of attending to marriage and the businesses of caring for family. I see in Open Up, for example, an apron given to a little girl, cool plaid with softened ruffles, gift from a friend’s beloved Italian grandmother. Exhausted, the dog sleeps in the corner, fans billowing in every room. The children are away at camp, at the JCC just across the street. Morning begins in prayer, just as Damon’s bright cross-stitches tell another secret story of survival with innocence.

I want to be able to say it, how did Creeley put it, in his poem For Love, for Bobbie – Yesterday I wanted to / Speak of it, that sense above / the others to me / important because all / that I know derives / from what it teaches me – as a way to describe what I have been longing to figure out since graduate school—what is it that comes between word + image in this needlepoint, etched, knitted or the photographed sense wherein one holds onto vision. What makes an image stay? What words or what stitching? Damon’s handiwork brings together the simplicity of domestic life with its’ basis in rags of color and her finely tiered hems.

This contemporary embroidery ritual rings true—a handy, sacred object serving our desire to sanctify gifts we give one another, quiet words in an elegant alphabet to map out familiarities and tithes.