“’Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, 1927′ by Ansel Adams” by Eric Dean Wilson

¶Here is a photograph of not a mountain, surely. Of a koan, maybe, of modern error, of the dead letter office of the land. Or if the mountain, its indifference—indifference to Adams, to us, to being recorded. ¶The temptation is: read the landscape as reference. The trap, also. Adams tried. The land says nothing about itself except that it is. ¶And yet it is, with its own terms, undercurrents, threats. A menacing charges toward me, or will, as I consider the difference between what lies before me and within memory. ¶This presence before a mountain should not make us feel one with it, at home, comfort, etc. No, I’ve come closer to feel the distance. The feeling before the presence of a cliff is alienation, or should be. This cliff as viewed through a century simultaneously would seem, in its darkening and lightening, to pulsate. Through a million centuries, to grow. ¶The photo is glassed, reflecting my face, revealing the mistake, which is to understand the land as speaking something about me, us. ¶In what language, for instance, does a life present itself? None but itself. What morals? None but emulation, avoidance. Could another possibly tell me about the singularity of myself? Maybe not. Wrong questions. ¶The translation of landscape is the working into other media—writing, painting, gravestone—from bad sources. The reading is the piecing together from supposition of the original, the shared book, itself a translation from a lost fragment. ¶In another Adams photo, I see, on gray pasteboard, a white range, a black forest crossing that range, a horse incarcerated by light. A friend called it his zone system—adjusting the contrast of discrete spaces independently. The effect is a fracturing—a further delineation of each zone (sky, mountain, treeline, horse) by dividing it from proximate zones. Another way of saying it: Adams interred his subjects in distinct graves. ¶A later Adams: a square window frames a white mountain which seems to illuminate the interior of a drab room—part of a Japanese-American internment camp, California, 1943—where a woman, hand poised above a notepad, smiles for the camera. The cold reflection of the flash in the filing cabinet echoes this forced expression. Here, the zones are clear, the attempt by America to keep Americans from Americans from within America. The room says madness. The mountain says something too, says the word indivisible. ¶Does everything come to this? The hasty defining of categories and, then, the frantic dividing of things of the world into them? ¶But category fails, a shack built of grist bricks, inconsiderate of legacy. One rational knocks them into dust. That, perhaps, is the true riddle of the category: a shape that, when held firmly in the hand, sublimates. ¶Glassblack sky. No cloud. One piece of. Unbroken. Except by. The. What is it. ¶noun, a large single upright block of stone, especially one shaped into or serving as a pillar or monument. But to what. ¶At last, my translation: …gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces

Photo of Eric Dean WilsonEric Dean Wilson is a writer and educator in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been published in The Encyclopedia Project, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, River Teeth, Los Angeles Review of Books, Heavy Feather Review, DrDOCTOR, The American Reader, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of The New School’s MFA program, a former Assistant Editor at Archipelago Books, and currently teaches at The New School and Ramapo College of New Jersey. He is also a regular contributor at SCOUT, a poetry review website.


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