Poems by Kevin Goodan + Photographs by Adam Ottavi
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 Their ghost-smiles 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 In lines.
Kevin Goodan was raised in western Montana and fought forest fires for ten seasons with the USFS on the Lolo National Forest. His most recent book is Upper Level Disturbances. He is currently associate professor at Lewis-Clark State College, and lives in Joel, Idaho.
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.