The Spiral Jetty
“... a curl of bulldozed rock along whose rough top
one could walk, was built at the edge of the Great Salt Lake…
projecting a quarter of a mile into the brine.”
What you made, Robert Smithson,
what you're famous for, is often now submerged.
That's all right. It’s the making that matters most.
Like those little bowls we used to make
from playground dirt and spit. They never lasted.
I was only six; it was the shaping that mattered.
My lungs blazed as I ran to the “pottery,”
mouth filled with water from the school fountain,
to drench the centered hollow in a mound of dirt
by spurting water in, and, quickly then
to sculpt away the sides, before the sun,
our only kiln, could bake the bowls
to finished works. Maybe it was
Emerson who said all art is permanent.
There’s the film, of course, and essays on
your work, but really wasn’t the point
to slosh along the meander line, where the lake
lapped the shore, to build the jetty up until
“solid and liquid lost themselves in each other,”
thought and motion one thing, just as we all are,
at six years old, overtaken by art? No rush
in your work, just the boulders piled side by
side through the pinkly algaed sea,
cycling the form of your jetty turning
back toward shore--a jetty that is sister
to other jetties that jut more objectively
into the brine--what we all should build:
a way of running atop the sea, or with
mouths full of water, arms upraised, all
the way to the center. Oh, Robert, we’re
out of breath, still running. Still tasting
dirt and salt. The work holds water, still.
Ellen Seusy lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her work has appeared in From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright, The Christian Science Monitor, The Atlanta Review, Blue Mesa Review, and other anthologies and journals. She holds graduate degrees from Stanford University and The Ohio State University, and has been an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.