In Julie Dash’s Octavia Butler the director washes Octavia’s
Monumental feet & toenails in buckets of government water
When there are no seas or rivers handy. It takes too long
Awaiting God’s drizzle though there are open barrels outside
The camera’s frame in the scene where Butler lies outdoors
Letting her entire mouth fill with tap-water, then spitting the water
Into the air as rain blessed & better after the taste of her speech.
If you don’t see suffering’s potential as art, will it remain suffering?
When Butler tells Dash she’s dreamed of storms all week,
Dash asks to film the dreams. The camera watches Butler sleep
A full moon humming something in the same baritone she uses
When she speaks. Of course, Octavia Butler stars in Octavia Butler.
She buys blouses with patterns of leaves & flowers in the off hours
And listens to the young hotel desk clerk worry about precipitous weather.
In Gordon Parks’ lost Octavia Butler photos Parks parks Butler
In Central Park & shoots her against the stars beginning to burn
Between the leaves & city some twilight evening in 1963.
She’s a teen, but tall & nearly as quiet as the trees & policemen
Hovering over the scene. Parks shoots her near the tallest tree
Leaning into its shade, then clutching a hatchet, then transformed
Into a small black bird perched in its branches. No police dogs
Are on the attack. Rain makes the tree bark appear
To be sweating. The surface of everything cries over the black
Holes between capitalism & spirituality; the manholes between
Building & property. When asked about the banter shared
During their time together, Butler & Parks recalled different things.
If you see suffering’s potential as art, is it art or suffering?
If you see life’s potential as art, is it artful or artificial living?