Anderson Inside the Hurricane

By Stefi Weisburd

Featured Art: A Vagabond Walking Along a Lane by Alphonse Legros

The wind has come to remind us of our wings — Mississippi artist Walter
Anderson, who tied himself to trees in order to experience hurricanes

Lashed to the mast, ears thrashed
             by sirens in the eyewall, Anderson
is the squall’s canvas, ravaged
             by wind that wants to strip
his skin from skull
                          and howl.

      Only yesterday he sank
                             to hands and knees
to understand the guano of green heron, to paint
                        the violet frog. Lying by a quiet
      lagoon, inking a white-throated
                        sparrow, he saw cadmium and red madder happily
flare in foliage. In the slash pines of Horn Island
where imagination fills the space between trees, art
     defers the evil moment. Contour of bark
     or butterfly is ballast; it calms the

                   gale within him, bulrush pool, always a balm until

     a storm makes land.
                             Then it froths and spits, rain
         needles him, ankles deep in the surge.
         How will he paint the sting
                    of maddened sand, the batter of root
    torn from loam, blue strafed from
                               sky? Titanium whitecaps throttle
the mangrove beach. All around him, palms
                                flash and flinch like broken
              umbrellas in brash light, the shed
                                       in shivers under

         the blotted sun. A locomotive
                  in his ear, wind
                                    wrenches his breath from
                           its palate, whips
         him beyond himself, out
                  of his sleeve of pain, sopping

                                          and so close, so
                                 close to capsizing . . .
                        Something in the cyclone
        cries out.

                        Something wheels

                                                 and sings.

Originally appeared in NOR 4

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