Thursday, March 6, 2014

Silvana Cenci’s Spring Tooth Harrow

Polarized image of Silvana Cenci's Spring Tooth Harrow
CC Jean Stimmell: 03/04/14
Silvana Cenci’s Spring Tooth Harrow *

Struggling in the midst of divorce
with no firewood cut for winter
I answered an ad: “wood for sale.”
That’s how I met a unique soul
known as “the dynamite lady”
who used high explosives
to blow up metal to create art
known around the world.
Silvana Cenci was her name.

When I came by to pick up my first load
She told me in her rich Italian accent
how her father was a famous anarchist
and so was she, living life
according to her own rules:
and “If people don’t like it,
they can fuck off and drop dead.”

She talked with her hands, gesturing
with her chain-smoked, unfiltered cigarettes
weaving a spell in words and smoke
enveloping me as I loaded my wood.

When she paused to offer me a cigarette
I carefully explained how I had quit
but promptly smoked one anyhow
inhaling the smoke felt illicit and intoxicating
like I had joined a revolutionary movement.

Each time I came by for wood
we talked and smoked
 and soon became friends.

She told me she had reached an age
where it was time to make a change.
She was selling off everything
to move to the Arizona desert
where she would support herself
selling hotdogs from a food cart
pulled by a camel.

Wanting to buy something else
to help her on her quest
I offered to buy
her ancient harrow
festooned with weeds,
thinking I could use it to till
my homestead garden.

But she said “absolutely not.”
This was not a farm implement
but a precious piece of art which
she’d always intended to mount on
the side of her studio.

I was finally able to make a deal
buying the harrow for fifteen dollars
only after I promised to cherish it
as a piece of art.

That winter I burned the wood
and had honorable intentions
to mount the old harrow
on the side of my barn.

But somehow now
30 years have passed
and my ancient harrow
still stands abandoned
in the dirty snow
at the edge of my field.

While composing this photograph
of Silvana's spring tooth harrow,
my memories came rushing back
of this remarkable person
 now departed to her home
to join the legendary ranks
of the mythic gods of Rome.


* A spring-tooth harrow is outdated piece of farm equipment that uses many flexible iron teeth mounted in rows to loosen the soil before planting.
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