Joseph Anderson

Tesserae, Part 2

I wrote a post yesterday about life-as-mosaic, listing the many kinds of pieces I have in front of me as I work these days. On reflection I want to clarify something: the phase I’m in now is perhaps the messiest part: breaking the materials up into pieces so they can be reassembled. The radical context-switching (from Japanese-language-to-Ezra-Pound-to-Arabian-Nights) jangles and loosens my mind and creates space for new structures to emerge.

This work is actually kind of difficult. It’s  necessary step toward coherence, but there are other steps after this. When the incoherence of this phase gets to be a bit much to take, it’s good to keep in mind that this profligate consumption and digestion is not the whole story. There is a picture emerging here, somewhere.

A poem to capture this moment in the process for me:

My hammer comes down
The aquamarine tile smatters into fragments
Dust rises, burns my eyes
Clots my nostrils
Frowning, I clear away the chalky grit
Collect the promising pieces, the interesting shapes
And tip the rest into the garbage bin

Getting to essences is hard, dirty work —
Symbol systems, philosophical programs,
Ideologies, metaphorical worlds, forgotten identities —
A slab of bluish slate
A sheet of seafloor limestone where ancient shells take their rest
Grey granite erratics untouched by human hands
A stained glass window (careful now!)
Friezes, colonnades
Remnants of smooth marble from a Roman bath
A chunk of Chinese temple
Under the hammer they go

This is constructive work
But start here
Don’t stop swinging
Despite the dust