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Visual Cues

(Art Meets Poetry — and Vice-Versa)

Artist and Poet: Jackie Tchakalian

Woman with a Book
I've known since I was a young child I would be a visual artist. Poetry came much later—to my astonishment, as I had never considered myself a writer, and delight, as the process was so satisfying. Image and language, painting and poetry; I find both require an intense concentration, a delving into the unconscious, and a state of being where there is perfect fusion of time and activity.

I consider myself a visual person; one who thinks with, and gathers information into, a swirl of visual patterns and images, one who uses graphs and lines instead of words. Therefore, it is not surprising that, always, it's an image that brings me to a poem. Yet it is language that lets me enter the poem. Once there, I have no control over the two. They take over in ways I can't possible predict. They adhere, break apart, re-combine, chase each other, and sometimes go on strike until, finally, they form a union of sorts and finish the first draft.

On the other hand, language has no direct bearing on my painting. Descriptive words (colors, forms, etc.) enter my thoughts as I paint, but don't help form the body of work. However, I do use the constant flow of language, such as from the radio, to keep my mind occupied and away from "thinking" when I am working on a painting, so that I can respond in a more purely sensual manner to the world of canvas, images, color and form.

In an indirect way, both language and image inform my painting and my writing.

 Jackie Tchakalian 


It is warm. It is early evening. We are relaxed
sitting at the patio table. We hear the flutter
of silk, smell the drift of smoke as

they float in on green plastic curved-back chairs:
our mothers. Yours sits straight, coat buttoned
to her chin, scarf double knotted. Mine
hunches over a crossword puzzle,
ashtray, half filled glass.

Large dining rooms with sun lit corners
trail after them with voices folding and unfolding
over heavy white linen, napkins politely draped,
waterfalls of silence after the sip after the toast,
heirloom candleholders wedged between crystal
and grapes, rising flax down,
the ripple of spilled wine,
the weight of candle glow.

We chuckle and agree, Oh, yes,
they would have loved this house
with its views of mountains and voids,
silences between leaves,
and promise of heavy ignorance
beneath our feet.


Irises and babies have to push their way
into this world, meringue beats lighter
in a copper bowl, ants avoid alum,
and cast iron pans are best for frying fish.
I know to prune a peach tree, cut a sucker, 
and drop dead from laughter once or twice a year. 
I know it is possible to darn a garment with human hair, 
the stitching so fine you will have trouble finding the tear, 
and my husband will become amorous when I prepare 
his favorite meal. If he should die first, leaving me alone 
with arthritic hands and knees, I won't be able 
to trim the hedges or move the ladder. We will never 
resolve the thorny issue of the second pond. 

I know I will miss him; then I won't.