Crater of Popocatépetl, Jean-Baptiste Louis Gros Artist’s Statement

by Maria Rouphail

Honorable Mention, 2016 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition

Hot breath
sulfur reek red
as a shark’s mouth,
stone teeth
magma studded

               I was born into the French nobility. My
               father was Napoleon’s official painter
               of heroic scenes. Myself? I preferred
               strange landscapes

               I was named First Secretary of

Ochre scumble
colonial scabs on earth flesh
roads for the varicose
legs of mules and their drivers

               the French Legation. That’s when
               I climbed the snow-capped volcano
               with my friend and fellow painter
               Daniel Thomas

Orizaba smokes
in background haze
the starved land chokes

               Edgerton. I was also a photographer.
               Or should I say, I was
               one of the earliest experimenters
               in a new visual medium

Time is coming
¡Arriba, Popo!

               for the capture of light.
               You could say
               my approach to El Popo was cinematically telescopic

King’s men will slide
from your vertebral back
¡O Popo, Arriba!

               avant la letter. Fascinated
               by aerial perspectives, my eye— as though
               conveyed by balloon or helicopter
               hovered over this strato-

crushed in your jaw

               volcano from the Pleistocene age. During
               the 1830’s it belched hot ash only occasionally. I
               pressed this massive natural object into a small canvas.
               Mastered it from above, you could say. Indeed,

You will wipe your mouth
with the emperor’s flag
high on an impasto ridge.

               you could say I nailed it.

MARIA ROUPHAIL is a member of the faculty of the English Department at North Carolina State University, where she teaches courses in World Literature and serves as an academic adviser. She holds a PhD. in literature from The Ohio State University, and is a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society. She has won recognition by the NCPS, having twice been a finalist in the Poet Laureate competition. The author of Apertures, which won Honorable Mention in Finishing Line Press’s “New Women’s Voices” competition, she has published in Pinesong, International Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, and One. She has garnered Honorable Mention in the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival competition. Second Skin is her newest collection of poems.