Sunday, September 15, 2013

My Friday Night Date


I started something quite awhile ago on facebook that has become a regular posting which friends appear to look for each week. My husband and I almost always go somewhere on Friday evenings; it's our Date Night. Not bad for a couple married 49+ years. I'd like to tell you about our date this past Friday because I didn't post anything that night on facebook. Instead, it's today's blog subject.

We drove 2 1/2 hours to St. Joseph, MO on Friday afternoon, checked into a hotel and changed clothes. Ready to go, we drove to the Albrecht-Kemper Art Museum to attend a very special art exhibit. It was Opening Night for a Painting/Poetry Collaboration. Abstract artist, Jennifer Rivera, selected 18 poems from poets who responded to a call for submissions for this project. Many months elapsed between submission, acceptance, and showing.

Jennifer Rivera's exhibit featured the poems and her interpretive painting for each one. My poem, "play, gypsy girl, play," and the painting are posted above. It proved an exciting experience to have my poem in the exhibit with Jennifer's painting. We had been invited to attend the Opening Night on Friday September 14th. Perfect Friday Night Date.

The museum, once a mansion, impressed us both on the outside and what we found within. Because of an addition to the original home, it was even larger than it looked from the streetside. Light-colored wood floors gave it a contemporary feel and the display of colorful paintings drew us in immediately. As we strolled from painting to painting, I marvelled at the use of colors that somehow matched the poem posted next to each canvas. After reading several of the poems and admiring the paintings, Ken said, "Here's yours."

I must admit I had a few butterflies as I turned to view it. What had the artist seen within the words I'd written? When I saw the very large canvas and the great deal of red, I wasn't quite sure what to think. The title she'd given the painting was "Frolic" which was taken from the context of the poem. The longer I studied the painting, the better I liked it. I didn't completely understand it as is often the way with abstract art--at least for me. But I will tell you this. I felt absolutely thrilled to see my poem as a part of this project.

A bit of background on how the poem was written. At one of my writers conferences, a poet told us to reap the harvest of our dreams. She said if we woke in the morning with a vivid memory of a dream, we should get up and begin writing immediately. Forget all those usual early morning activities. One morning, I tried it as the dream I'd had was so real, so filled with color and images that I knew it must be written about. I even had the first two lines in my head before I threw back the covers and got out of bed. Off to the computer where I wrote and wrote until the poem felt complete. Later, I changed a very few things, probably one of the smallest editing processes ever for me. The poem was published at A Long Story Short and selected as Poem of the Month there. I shared that honor with another poet, as the editors could not choose between us.

Ken suggested we move on to the reception area where we had wine and appetizers and visited with others who had come to the exhibit. We went back to the paintings and poems and made a second tour of all 18. I recognized a few names of the other poets. We had an opportunity to visit with the artist and met some of her family members who had come from as far as California for the Opening.

The price of the painting titled "Frolic" was, we learned, $4,600. Ken told Jennifer we would buy it but it was much too large to fit anywhere in our home. True! Plus it saved my dear husband a lot of money.

It was a long way to drive for a Friday Night Date, especially since we had to make the return trip the next morning. We were both very glad we'd attended the Opening Exhibit and had the thrill of seeing my poem featured there. I'll post the poem below. Read it and then look at the painting again and see what you think. As for me, I love it!

play, gypsy girl, play

passengers on a train, gypsies
going nowhere; wheels kiss tracks
like passion-driven teens
as gypsy women dip needle and thread
into cheap and flimsy fabric,
fashion bits and pieces to sell.
pricked fingers bleed onto gingham
and voile, spit wipes it clean again.

little girls wear blue eye shadow,
swing immature hips and mimic
older sisters, thumb their nose at
mothers, aunties, and grans.
too soon they’ll be snatching cloth,
sewing, wiping blood spots away
but for now, let them frolic,
midnight eyes glittering with
mischief, too soon the cares of a
gypsy woman settle on shoulders
like a burlap shawl, hardly noticed
until the years pull it tighter, hold
her captive in a smothering embrace.

play, gypsy girl, play for the years
roll quickly by; shake your tawny locks,
clap your jeweled hands, twirl until your
skirt billows round umber knees,
laugh and sing, before the heavy
 mantle of womanhood crushes
girlish patter, cares and woes
etch themselves in deep ridges
on cheek and chin, shoulders curl onto
sagging breasts, veins make maps of legs,
and thinning tresses turn to silver,
eyes dull from anger and
sometimes fear, gaps where teeth
once looked like pearls on string.

weathered faces turn to watch the
young girls dance, needles never still,
minds spiraling backward.
play, gypsy girl, play
before the years sit like a rock on
your heart. the train speeds
through the night, whistle whining,
through sleeping villages,
while gypsy women sew and
little girls with blue eye-shadow
see only tonight.

         --Nancy Julien Kopp


  1. I think the painting fits the poem beautifully. When I think of gypsies I think of bright colors. Love the poem.

  2. Thanks BJ. Glad you liked both poem and painting. It really was a wonderful experience being at the Opening.