ancestor technologies

After Stella Brennan’s Ancestor Technologies, exhibited at City Gallery Wellington, 2023

Slowly, as the silk turns each thread to face you –

The baby’s head on a plate –

The molten eye of a horse –

The ladies with their new old dresses hitched up in the water, 

Silhouettes climbed by the pohutukawa on the shore. 

Each of them doubled back on themselves, 

Rippling to expose the spots where the chemicals ate through the image. 

Cyanotype. Prussian Blue. And then every shade of shadow 

Hung on lines like so much washing.

I loved this one most: in the clothes, the gardens, the coves, 

The gentlemen, a lone women staring steadfastly out, 

Like she saw this ahead of time and wanted to meet my eye. 

I pressed close to the wall, skimming plaster, feeling

The ghostly not-touch of edges of silk. 

Made my way back to that first narrowing grove of visage, 

Reaching out to the word shimmering, or, breeze, 

Settling instead for wavering, hesitating, 

Out of time.

The artwork that inspired this piece is currently still under copyright, you can view it online here. The featured artwork in its place was commissioned by bad apple from Mickie Loof for the 2023 Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.


In a dream, you saw a way to survive, and you were filled with joy.


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