UIMA Word Painters: Work from Cheyenne Nimes

Last night in the Old Capitol Museum, the UIMA hosted its first Word Painters reading of the semester. Cheyenne Nimes (right), a graduate student in the UI Nonfiction Writing Program and one of the University of Iowa Museum of Art's Fall 2009 "Word Painter" fellows, read from her recent work, as did Ryan Van Meter, who currently holds the 2009-10 Provost's Postgraduate Writing Fellowship in Nonfiction.

Following each Word Painter reading, the UIMA "Art Matters" blog will be featuring work from the Word Painter fellows. The first selection (below) comes from Nimes, who is currently working on her thesis statement, a group of nonfiction essays addressing issues of the world's water crises. This selected essay focuses around the Cuyahoga River located in northeastern Ohio. The piece is just one example of how Nimes' work really makes you think about rivers in a completely new way, from their raw power and natural mystique, to their role in the larger water crisis issues of the world.

Make sure to check the blog next week for another highlighted work by Nimes, a piece about the Colorado River.

--Claire Lekwa, UIMA Marketing and Media Assistant

Running from the surface.
By Cheyenne Nimes

Call this "Cuyahoga," "crooked river" in Iroquois.
Usually 3-6 feet deep, most of us can stand in it. I meant mostly can’t stand it. Time magazine says it "oozes rather than flows" and in which a person "does not drown but decays”.
Fires occurred on the Cuyahoga River in 1868, Dying would have been better at the beginning, 1883, the rules to survive this situation? 1887, A voice so far back having it is a haunting, and explanatory, 1912, toy, plaything to ring in the century, 1922, All-out war, 1936, It has no before or after now, 1941, she grinned black blood out her toothless mouth, tongue cut out pleased for them like that, 1948, ___slipped quietly away with the current, drifting down the river that stretched into the darkness and in 1952. The 1952 fire caused over 1.5 million dollars in damage. River sound goes dry, 1969, A flame that never really left. Flames going into and out from, going in as many directions as there are.

There is a pattern to the responses: this campaign really started over a hundred years ago.

It flickered hypnotically.

Variant names:

Cajahage River
"The Cuyahoga is always in heavy combat with bridge builders, smoke and silt and pollution and riparian lawyers."
-William Donohue Ellis, "The Cuyahoga"

Cayagaga River
U-shaped river flows both south and north. Water: a word whose meaning has extended to include its opposite: The river that can be blue & red. For reasons that were never made clear.
That ends at Lake Erie just 30 miles from its headwaters.
That never forgets who she is & why she’s running.

Cayahoga River
“Cuyahoga River Area of Concern”

Cayhahoga River
Everything, everything was burned.
And there may be no greater certainty than this.

Cujahaga River
You don’t know the way the river moves in nights where this happens. Everything you didn't dream of, everything that rivers touch. If you knew how it felt.

Every eight seconds, a child somewhere in the world is dying from dirty water.
Right now.
Blowflies: these are the first on a corpse - within minutes The winged things category. They have the ability to smell death from up to ten miles away…

Per the Treaty of Greenville, effectively became the western boundary of the United States & remained as such briefly. 1795 to 1803.
The line sounded rehearsed. As if the river itself were watered-down, lie in wait, slink, You knew me when you knew me.

River de Saguin
For every river that’s caught fire.

Number of people worldwide who do not have access to safe water: 1.1 Billion.
37 tributaries. It drains away to somewhere else. And something equally beautiful is lured to its death.
That’s Billion.
Not Bouillon.

All you need to know is one or two things about a river.
Water receives everything that floats, dissolves, or goes into suspension. Of things moving in it. Of things worn away by it.

Rivière à Seguin
No press photo exists of the 1969 fire - news agencies used the photo from the 1952 blaze (A one-round kill is cheap.)
As if to say the incident did not happen. Or, forget where you last saw me, I no longer exist.
Summer of love. Don’t forget we loved each other. You know how people say something went out of them & they could never do that thing again? 1969: Somehow, when it was over, we flat out knew it.
I was back at the crematorium where we last saw you & said goodbye. As we halted before the glowing oven the river closes its eyes. It was so real. In my dream you were trying to open your eyes. You wanted to say something. (That's all there was.) What were you trying to tell me?

Rivière Blanche
An animal’s blood circulation system.
If you leave now, you’ll smell oil on your skin for the rest of your life.

Sounds like you could drink it.
Like a river all along.

We have begun to define a river as all the things a river can be:
Depends on who you are.

The United Nations refuses to recognize water is a human right. Dried-up contorted dead bodies at the dried-up water hole.
There’s no coming back & there’s no other side.
Still, nothing fell down inside the house. They sat & watched water in a glass move.
Tourists themselves.
The well-watered.
Umbrella drinks FTW.

Over a 100 mile course.
A permit from the Ohio EPA is required to discharge anything into the Cuyahoga River. Currently, there are 200 permit holders whose discharge is regulated by the agency's standards. An opening to a soul. Transnational corporations such Suez, Vivendi, and RWE are buying up water rights all over the globe.
Ben Franklin’s smirk on the C-note.

It becomes difficult to explain by what & of what. Swallow the light. Swallow the sky, swallow the ground whole, the sky, too, the sky and you and

“And, and, and…”
There really are no words.

And there was a small shine in the street until the thing broke. Then it was over. Things are moving that shouldn't. All the fish started jumping out of the water at once, knew the difference without being told, river got up on its hind legs- reared up like a fighting animal-
Gasp at the sudden liftoff.
Now what’s this coming down the street?

River experts say the best way to see a river change course is to look at aerial photographs. From the air you can see it whole. This little bird hovers immediately above it.
And one bird was bleeding from his wing.
Water extends into flames.
Water that floated into the sky.

14,000 to 30,000 people die each day of water related diseases.
All together, please.
Push them out of your way.

What should I do if I come in contact with water from the river?
“Just coming in contact with river water does not guarantee you will get sick. Many other factors determine whether you will get sick, including how long you were in contact with the water, whether water came into contact with your mouth or eyes, and whether you have any abrasions that allow the water to enter your body. Additional factors are your age and health (as it influences susceptibility to illness). If you do come in contact with the river, wash exposed portions thoroughly with soap and water. Avoid touching your mouth or eyes. Avoid drinking the water. If you feel ill after coming into contact with the water, contact your doctor.”
Words at the last minute.
With one hand pressed against the bank for balance. Blackened sockets.
Your hand disappears. There’s a big difference between opting out & opting in. On both sides of the river. I even have nightmares of you. Dreams of you and me hanging out and then you disappearing. I lay awake at night and listen to our song. Over and over and over and over and over and over. The river burning again song. My hand gets very hot.
Wash it off with what water?

Hundreds of millions of years ago, before vertebrates and invertebrates parted ways, water brought forth more complex life forms—such as humankind. When the river was cut the affected extremities turn white, then blue, and red as the blood supply is cut off. There is only so much water. Cellular water contaminated by pollutants alters DNA.
Saying, “They’ve come for you.”
Put your hands up and no one gets hurt.

No one has perfected a weapon capable of stopping them. Dead End Crossing Sign. Like, where are you going to go?
The man that swore revenge on me.
The unpleasant smash of g-force when we turned once more to the sky.
Whoever you are: Last call.
Cuyahoga River has also been known as:

Copyright © Cheyenne Nimes

1 comment:

A Reader said...

What utter, complete, unreserved, bollocks.