Friday, August 10, 2007

Of William Blake, Moses and a Watermelon

Both read the Bible day and night,
But thou read’st black where I read white.

from The Everlasting Gospel by William Blake

See the dirt encrusted on the rind of this watermelon bought at the Farmer’s Market in Asheville, North Carolina? Martha Heath-Vehorn thinks it’s Moses, because she “knew it couldn't be Jesus,” according to this Times News article.

I’ve been to Asheville, several times, a few visits lasting weeks at a time. One of my old and most favorite partners in crime runs a letterpress studio there, Blue Barnhouse. Asheville is a small mountain town where the most exciting happenings take place in the woods and tree-dense rolling mountains, so it’s no surprise that this kind of news item would get some attention, but then again, even in huge cities like Dallas these stories get play in the media.

Thing is, this woman is discerning enough to look at her $3 watermelon, see a face, not see Jesus, and default to Moses, of all Biblical figures. I don’t see a smile here, in fact I see something more chthonic, which is appropriate I suppose for a fruit grown from seed. Thinking of it as a face, it strikes me as angry, but then again, that’s the intrigue of such visual manifestations, no two people can ever see the same thing in the same way. And of course the same rule can be applied to the notion of meaning, too. William Blake demonstrates this with a deft rhyme scheme in his poem “The Everlasting Gospel.”

Heath-Vehorn knows that the dirt will fall off or dissolve eventually, but in the meantime she is open to suggestions. I think she should read Blake and study his amazing prints. His demonic and strained faces echo, for me at least, in this dirt Moses, but his words also speak to the essence of how varied interpretation can be, which is the crux of Madonna of the Toast.

Jesus was sitting in Moses’ chair.
They brought the trembling woman there.
Moses commands she be ston’d to death.
What was the sound of Jesus’ breath?
He laid His hand on Moses’ law;
The ancient Heavens, in silent awe,
Writ with curses from pole to pole,
All away began to roll.
The Earth trembling and naked lay
In secret bed of mortal clay;

No comments: