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Little Grand Canyon in Yellow
                          —at the Georgia Museum of Art

The teenagers stare at the canvas.
At the art museum, I watch them
squirm with body-newness, struggle
with attention. The curator shows
a Howard Thomas painting. Providence
Canyon in color. Orange. Red. Yellow.
Anything, but everything warm. Thomas
used earth pigments. Grinding up soil,
mixing for color. Quaker-born, from Ohio,
during his first trip to the South, he
gathered red clay outside Asheville.

In the museum, in a Lucite case,
I see the baby food jars of his color
collection. Labeled—detailed records,
natural materials. The jar lids instruct,

Twist. When I first arrived in the South,
I stayed in the very same mountains.
I spent the summer in a camper
with a man who understood newness,
who once buried his documents, his identity
in the ground, changed his name. Spent
time in jail for it, hidden, staring I suppose
at some wall blankness. He told me, I think
I might love you
. I didn’t say anything
back. At the museum, the curator explains

Thomas’s process. She says it was like dancing.
That he placed the canvas on the floor. He
played music in the background. Bach,
Vivaldi, Haydn. She closes her eyes to what
she might hear. She begins to hop about
the gallery, she dabs invisible paint

across the floor. The teenagers
stare. One boy asks, What does it mean?
After they leave, I approach
the jars.  I imagine someone asks, have you
been there?

The other day, a new friend walked
along the river, uncovered an old homestead.
She found clouded milk
glass, dusty vessels, broken cans.

A few hours south, the ground.
I’ve learned it gapes open. I didn’t know
there were canyons. Here. And somewhere:
caves. Somehow: a way to read
colors. The rows of jars that
have to mean something.


Interview Practice

Where do you see yourself in five years?
                                             Leadership. Taking responsibility. Something about                                              working with others.

What is your greatest strength?
                                             Quality akin to perfectionism. Details explaining
                                             how strength can equal weakness.
                                             A funny anecdote about photocopying
                                             entire novels. How I file the pages by chapter.

What are your obsessions?
                                             Spontaneous combustions. I watch documentaries. I                                              remember the cover image of one—a faded yellow                                              armchair. The black round imprint of burn.

                                             Sinking ships.

Are you lucky?
                                             I never cry while watching moths die. I never get lost                                              on the way to the post office.

Describe your career timeline.
                                             In college, my geology professor lectured on “The                                              Timeline of the Far Future.” He explained the ways the                                              world could die. I imagine new Ice Ages, rising seas,                                              exploding suns.

Have you faced adversity?
                                             I am not drained. I never wander at lunch and forget                                              to come back. I never imagine
                                             the time we laughed in the butterfly garden, I never
                                             think about placing chestnuts in his outstretched palm.

Tell me about yourself.
                                             Yesterday, I swear a hawk followed me home. I
                                             am a person hawks follow home (maybe).
                                             In fifth grade, I collected rocks. I liked to examine
                                             the pyrite. I admired the ways
                                             it wasn’t gold.

What do you fear?
                                             The removal
                                             of mountains. A joke about
                                             telemarketers, missing big games.

What do you do when  
you’re disappointed/
                                             Details about planning
                                             a future. Walks
                                             to nowhere. Something
                                             about wishing, but not believing
                                             in prayer. Say
                                             I strive for tradition. Insist
                                             I’m made for this work.  


Lindsay Tigue is the author of System of Ghosts, winner of the 2015 Iowa Poetry Prize and forthcoming from University of Iowa Press in 2016. Her work has appeared in BlackbirdPrairie SchoonerHayden’s Ferry Review, and Rattle, among other journals. She has been a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and has received a James Merrill Poetry Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She is currently a PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.