Poetry by David Campos, Artwork by Maceo Montoya
American Quasar is a visual-textual collaboration between poet David Campos and artist Maceo Montoya. What began as an exploration of the precipice of violence evolved into an excavation of self, a deep meditation on how country, family, and trauma affect the ability to love. The collection is divided into two parts. “Part One: American House Fire” addresses country and whiteness, touching upon the political catastrophe we’re living through. “Part Two: American Quasar” addresses personal trauma, the emotional craters left by family and the search for the recipe to heal them. The collection’s larger claim is that the “citizen” cannot be dissected from the human being.
American Quasar is not an ekphrastic exercise; the artwork is neither an illustration of nor a response to the poetry. Rather, both poet and artist responded to each other’s imagery, organically building a poetic space where the body is understood in both physical and celestial terms. In Campos’s poetry the earth/sky and the body/memory are merely flip sides of themselves. In Montoya’s B&W monoprints, created by digging into and wiping away ink on plexiglass, he creates solitary figures reaching into the earth as though hoping to find stars. Other figures look to the vast sky wanting to feel the earth underneath. At its core, this collection attempts to capture the physical weight of the hurt that has been done to us, that we've done to others, and that through it all, somehow, we’ve managed to maintain the ability to love.
American House Fire
In a house fire, you don’t die
from the flames, so don’t mind the broken
windows. I’m trying to let the smoke out.
I have been for a long time running
from room to room looking for an exit.
What I would give for the chill of starlight,
to believe in a just god who brings rain
to temper the blaze ravaging my house,
to feel, for once, what it’s like to win;
in victory, instinct orders our arms to rise
toward the heavens. Some say
this is what we’re left with to remind us of god,
to remind us to surrender.
But the smoke has stolen
too many of our fathers; it’s after our sons.
And every door leads to another dead dream’s room.
Still, they watch my house burn,
smoke lifting its arms over the city.
Only if they didn’t cook with fire, they say.
Only if their house had followed code.
How many more doors will have to burn
until it’s yours? I’m running out of windows,
and my arms are losing their strength.
The sky darkens with victory,
surrender? It’s hard to tell
anymore. But what’s certain is
in a house fire, you die
when you cry your child’s name.
- David Campos