Edward A. Dougherty

Four Emblems


All the dimensions of a riparian region:
how it runs through the body—
the river of commerce and river of dreams,
river of sadness, river of light.


Riven, the mountain is mined, we say,
despite those cuts really being theirs.
How strange to possess
from a great distance. Or be possessed.


Blue jeans hung to dry in winter
freeze stiff. How long’s that take?
Come spring the trailer
will be dismantled and hauled away,
leaving the fence to declare Private Property.


I can’t read any sense in these emblems.
No corrective to actions. No direction
for a pilgrim’s progress. Still, salmon
urge their very bodies upriver to spawn.
They die, having abandoned saltwater
for fresh, once born and now breathing.

Edward A Dougherty writes: "These visual/verbal creations are not all that innovative, seeing as they continue a tradition of emblems, a form that goes back to Andrea Alciato, whose Emblemata was first printed in Augsburg in 1531. My delight in Asian sumi-e that put graywash paintings in relationship to poems and in twentieth century abstract art update the form. And so, I hope my emblems are interesting in our age that feels the pendulum swinging back away from words toward the image."

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