Let That Fire Catch Me Now is a new series of wet-plate collodion photographs by Adam Ottavi and poems by Kevin Goodan. The poems and plates will be displayed in March 2015 at the Bunnell Street Arts Center in Homer, Alaska. An artist’s book of the project will be published in 2016.
We step from the ash
And ghosts greet us now
With rough hands
From across the line
Wanting their names
To be spoken in the
Still and darkening air
And when we say
Fisher, Stamm, Mackey,
Touchette, they crack
And guide us back toward
The pale and waiting flames.
Where are you now
Great churning storms
We rebuffed with our bodies
And a few hand-made tools
And when we taunted our mastery
Before you with gestures
Of rancid clowns how were we
To know we were the ones
Still being forged
In the breath of stars
Most believe that flames are greedy, indiscriminate,
consume what lay in their path, but flames choose
what feeds them: this drainage, not that, this house,
but not others around it, this body crowned in fire
while the rest are taken bit by bit. This is not
the understory. This is how it is. At night we dream
the ignition, all the homynms of action, the wrinkled air
holding, for a moment what used to be: gated wyes,
a King radio melting between coordinates to safety,
a buckle, scrap of belt, a few threads of canvas
where the pack skidded along, strip of boot, a glove.
The unconsumed, and the unconceived, are we not
inheritors of ash, the colors of now, the land
in its rending? That which is brittle, has ruptured
cracked, germinated, taken root in us, have these not
blurred the consequence of haunting? Horsemen,
horsemen, I hear you near, the sound blades make
digging through rock, this body, and the others.
We dream coniferous,
thick ropes of smoke
that braid into a weather
of reignited ash
where we use our lips
as guides to the small air
beyond our seeing—
who was it that said
throw your tools
then laughed into the hand-held?
Who was it that stumbled,
puked, and muttered leave me,
leave me? Who turned
and calmly walked through
the flame? Whose face
is it now that wakes me
smoke blind, fear slobbered
swatting the embers
that burn into the neck,
the backs of knees, cuffs,
and every glove—
who are you running toward me
beneath the canopy of ghost-trees?
Whose throat does not house
a conflagration? Whose lungs
do not feel the mortal twinge
shiver a breath from them?
I look down into the valley
of my life, cupping an ear
to hear a sudden chorus
of trees ignite, the refrain
to overtake the draw
for such roaring is a proverb,
a distraction of light—
singe me I whisper
as I let that fire catch me now
and purge me into songlets of ash.
Everything we did had to do with lines.
We slept in lines, we dreamed in lines,
We fixed ourselves to the lines on the map.
We flung our line-gear on, lined out
On the slope to dig hand-line, hot-line,
Jumper-line, scratch line, the best we could.
We kept our lines of communication open.
We called in long-lines, laid down black-line,
Anchored our lines to natural breaks,
Sweat running down our bodies in lines.
At night, inside our lines, we hunkered
Around the smoldering stumps, whispering
The day amongst ourselves, gear laid out
Adam Ottavi was born in Iowa in 1980. Since 2002, he has lived and worked in Alaska. Labor is the heart of his creative process while he often focuses conceptually on portraiture and human relationships in photography. More at adamottavi.com.
All photographs © by Adam Ottavi. All rights reserved. No images may be copied or used without express written consent of the artist.