Collaboration: Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias

Two Hearts, Two Windows
by Karen Elias

Poems by Marjorie Maddox. Photographs by Karen Elias.


—after the photograph by Karen Elias Two Hearts, Two Windows

Apart inside,
together they stare

not at each other
but at the worn world

beyond arm’s reach.
There: the child, alone,

hopscotching away her worries.
And there: the single blue jay dotting

the drab day with color.
What is no more

and what is still
keeps moving through

the familiar view. “Remember…?”
one laughs or sighs, turning

again toward the other, 
together inside.

[Previously published in Love & the Pandemic (Moonstone Arts Center) and forthcoming in Every Day Poems and in Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts)]

Two Hearts
by Karen Elias

Day Is Done. Is Beginning.

Evening grays into rest:
low light, cool earth;

cushion of moss;
scent of clover or pine

that fastens the mind
to the living beneath,

around, or above
the expanding arc

of our hearts if only
we’d breathe in

the pulse and hum
of the land and the one

beside us now, reclining
like this on dirt that holds

and enfolds us in Earth’s
quiet comfort of calm,

this needed rhythm
of rest/rise/repeat singing

us toward each day’s
shimmering season of sleep.

Whether with Borders
by Karen Elias

Whether with Borders

—after a composite photograph by Karen Elias

These seasons, you’re never sure whether     
the weather of now steps through 
or over the barbed-wire borders   
of others’ spaces, but here the clouds—
as textured as clogged lungs—hover  
precariously close to the past of then. Face 

it; each night, you still breathe in faces
clamoring across borders—their weather
of worry: the wind that stalls and hovers
over the landscape of you. Born a nomad, you threw
shadows across lightning; watched clouds,
heavy but mute, re-form foggy borders.

Spaces, wide and open, still haunt, the sky a bad border
you can’t evict. Her mottled, gray face—
begging always for mercy—keeps clouding
the view. Weather, whether, the calm eye of whatever
blur in the whirlwind you try to step through
into space that fences home, hovers

in the sun-streaked rain that hovers
with its empty promise over the bare soil. Borders
call from across the horizon. You yearn to walk to and through,
to hold close your cloak of questions and face
the unreliable temper tantrums of weather
prophesied in each Rorschach of clouds.

Fair skies/foreboding? The clichés of memory choose “cloudy,”
that fifty percent chance of happiness hovering
over your front porch seconds before you decide whether
to step off into the forecasted storm, just beyond your borders,
the ones that make you feel safe, but aren’t. You face
the inevitable, wandering wind; hitchhike through

any opening into the future, now through,
you promise, with all that’s past. The back-lit clouds
beckon, and your aging, weathered face
forges on into the unpredictable. Hope hovers
in the breeze you breathe beyond borders
in that lush language that uncovers whether

or not each wave of weather crosses over and through
to broader spaces, gathering ancestors, former selves, all that hovers
so close now to hope, to your un-cloudy, border-less face.

[Previously published in Glint]

Love-in-a-Mist or Devil-in-the-Bush?

–after a series of photographs by Karen Elias

O, pink antennaed aliens,
sinister and spindly,
your sci-fi stamens snaking
from Pennsylvania’s backyards
into the arctic frames
of Carpenter’s The Thing,

into what
will your blooms erupt?

No warmth, no safe
watermelon stripes of spring.

From the mist,
the monster emerges.

Your bald buds curl and crack,
bending even now
toward isolation’s grey,
toward the bleak, frigid days
we know are lurking
beyond the camera.

Marjorie Maddox, winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); children’s books; Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Her newest books Begin with a Question (Paraclete Press) and collaboration with photographer Karen Elias, Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts), are due out in 2021. 

Dr. Karen Elias taught college English for 40 years and is now an artist/activist, using photography to record the fragility of the natural world and raise awareness about climate change.  Her work is in private collections, has been exhibited in several galleries, and has won numerous awards.  She is a board member of the Clinton County Arts Council where she serves as membership chair and curator of the annual juried photography exhibit.

Elias and Maddox are engaged in an exciting, mutually inspiring project, combining poetry and photography in creative collaboration. Their work has been exhibited at The Station Gallery (Lock Haven, PA). In addition to Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (Shanti Arts 2021), additional collaborations have appeared in such literary, arts, or medical humanities journals as About PlaceCold Mountain ReviewThe Ekphrastic ReviewThe Other JournalGlint, and Ars Medica

Marjorie Maddox’s Website

Marjorie Maddox at EIL

Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias at About Place Journal

Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias at O: JA&L

Shanti Arts

More Collaboration at EIL

Photographs by Karen Elias, used by permission with these poems.




One response to “Collaboration: Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias”

  1. basela says:

    I love this post since it captures Chris’s intent in starting EIL, a collaboration of different modes of artistic and literary forms of expression. Just beautiful.

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