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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 2: March 2020
Poem: 319 words
By Mary Jo Balistreri

Dalí Speaks With His Niece

You took Mother to the very edge of collapse, Uncle Sal. 
What was she supposed to make of all those clocks 
in a landscape painting? 

First, I told her to comb the ether of the canvas. Don’t you see 
our mountains and sea, our scorched land, the ants... 
well actually, the ants disgusted her. 

You don’t think all those ants devouring a melting clock 
is a bit over the top? 

Think about it, Maria. Summer in Catalonia is a kiln. 
Sometimes even for me sun is a slow gong in a brass bowl. 
Heat rings in my head. The real is surreal here. 

We’re shaped by the blaze...we’re shaped by our dreams. 
A clock’s hard surface can be flipped in a dream. For me, it was 
a piece of melting Camembert cheese—don’t you see how 

organic it is? Ants eat cheese, birds eat ants. 
Birds die, a swarm of ants eats birds. We’re all in flux, 
neither one thing nor another. 

But why do you have to paint it? Mother couldn’t 
believe you’d think she’d want it hanging 
in her living room. 

Nobody likes it, especially with that—
what’s that thing oozing in the middle? 

It’s a self-portrait but I’m in process. 
Look, Maria, time itself is unreal. 

I paint my objects with precision so I can affix them 
to strange surroundings, dream elements. 
They’re hand-painted dream photographs. 

Is that what you’re doing with Mother’s dried pomegranates? 

Yes, I love it that they’re no longer red but tough brown leather. 
Those secret seeds inside. I will make them a dark purse for blood 
that will never spill. 

Just a thought, Uncle Sal, but why not call a truce? Bring a bottle 
of Celler Piñol. She’ll make her Cassoulet of pork and duck. 
Just the two of you?

—After a painting by Salvador Dalí (1904–1989), The Persistence of Memory (oil on canvas, 1931)

Publisher’s Note: Dalí’s painting is under copyright to The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation and thus is not reproduced here.

Mary Jo Balistreri
Issue 2, March 2020

has three published books of poetry and two chapbooks. She has been writing haiku and haibun for the past three years, and her work has appeared in human/kind, frogpond, modern haiku, the heron’s nest, noon, presence, and blithe spirit, to name a few. Her ekphrastic poetry can be found in The Exphrastic Review.

Author’s website: http://maryjobalistreripoet.com

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