published in New Ohio Review, Issue 4, Fall 2008
Anderson Inside the Hurricane
by Stefi Weisburd
The wind has come to remind us of our wings
— Mississippi artist Walter Anderson,
who tied himself to trees in order to experience hurricanes
Lashed to the mast, ears thrashed by sirens in the eyewall, Anderson is the squall’s canvas, ravaged by wind that wants to strip his skin from skull and howl.
Only yesterday he sank to hands and knees to understand the guano of green heron, to paint
the violet frog. Lying by a quiet lagoon, inking a white-throated sparrow, he saw cadmium and red madder happily flare in foliage. In the slash pines of Horn Island where imagination fills the space between trees, art
defers the evil moment. Contour of bark or butterfly is ballast; it calms the
gale within him, bulrush pool, always a balm until a storm makes land. Then it froths and spits, rain needles him, ankles deep in the surge. How will he paint the sting of maddened sand, the batter of root
torn from loam, blue strafed from sky? Titanium whitecaps throttle the mangrove beach. All around him, palms flash and flinch like broken umbrellas in brash light, the shed in shivers under
the blotted sun. A locomotive in his ear, wind wrenches his breath from its palate, whips him beyond himself, out of his sleeve of pain, sopping
and so close, so close to capsizing . . . Something in the cyclone cries out.