A 2nd response to the question “What is Avant Garde?” (graphics and text by A. Leon Miler)
Coyote was avant garde, quick on his feet, and smarter by far than the rest of us. Being quite clever he always sought new ways to exploit his environment, not for anything all that bad, but for the aesthetic of it, and maybe for food. It wasn’t that Coyote tried to be avant garde; he didn’t really think about it. While others ran well defined and familiar rabbit trails, Coyote would just casually pick up a bit here, a bit there, like a junkyard thief, passing unnoticed, an Egyptian bone, a scrap from Ishtar’s gate, an Etruscan urn, all served up with just a twist of fate.
Like the wild horses that run the other side of the Rio Grande, Raven liked to run with the wind. She rode the updrafts ever higher. She was not known for the quality of her voice; it really wasn’t all that good, mostly just croaks and cawings. Late that night, though, she began singing melodiously, haunting and beautiful, an ancient tune though the words were not, a sweet, sweet song:
“The star tree spreads its branches over fish,
Whose dreams are difficult to catch with bait,
Or webs and pennies tossed out on a wish
That slip from human hands to heaven’s gate.
Bow down the branches; shake the starry fruits;
The fish will pause and rise to taste the air.
Lean on the water, grasping at the roots,
Then bait your bucket with a song and prayer.
The fish you catch will disappear from sight;
The river’s own will snatch your song’s good cheer,
Then fill your dreams with bucketfuls of night,
Of stars and fish lost in the atmosphere.
Then bait your bucket with a song and prayer,
Of stars and fish lost in the atmosphere,
That slip from human hands to heaven’s gate,
That slip from human hands to heaven’s gate.”
Far below her, Raven saw a twinkle on the river bank. Far below her, Coyote saw a small light in the darkened night. As they both drew closer, a small fire burning resolved itself inside a circle of stones on a bank overlooking the river. While no one in particular was looking, Coyote dashed in, grabbed a burning brand and disappeared into the dark trailing a row of embers behind him. Raven rose up following on quiet wings trying to divine the Coyote’s actions.
Coyote was avant garde, and avant garde is a fire. If the fuel is good, it keeps you warm and light, if not, the embers just float off into the night bravely challenging the stars for a moment.
(Poem by Jill Domschot)