Wind Shapes The Mountain, Sand Is Many Men: Two Poems for Thomas Dexter By Devin Powers

Wind Shapes The Mountain, Sand Is Many Men: Two Poems for Thomas Dexter

By Devin Powers

I met Thomas Dexter nearly 15 years ago at Bennington College in a psychology class focusing on Sigmund Freud’s writing. Thomas was in his second year; I was a Freshman. I had the impression of his strong philosophical dimension: a passion for ideas and a questioning, keen intellect. But what I remember most about Thomas was a pressure in his speech and even the way he held himself. There was a tension behind his words and actions. I still see it and feel it on occasion when I spend time with him. This intensity is a natural part of him—just something he carries. I mention this bottled-like energy because I see it as the spring source from which all of his work flows, irrespective of media, idea, or the shape and look each independent work takes. The energy is always powerful and volatile in feel. It often has a formal beauty—not a calm beauty like a field of flowers, but a rumbling, sublime beauty like lightning cutting a storm. In his best work I have a feeling of awe accompanied by a real sense of fear. This builds into an excitement that could become something out of control, even maybe ecstatic if I am not careful with myself. Nietzsche almost certainly would have called Thomas’s work Dionysian.

Thomas asked me to create a written response to his work in TIME(AFTER)TIME at NAPOLEON. My first impulse was to write an essay, but the more I watched the works again and again, the more I felt an essay would do more violence than justice by making a too static interpretation on an artwork that was so open and alive. Instead, I recorded a poem called “Bone,” which responded directly to Thomas’s “Verschiebung (displacement)”, image still, 2015.” In addition, I adapted a poem titled “Lines of Light,” I first wrote in 2008. The language in “Lines of Light” connects well with the turning kaleidoscopic imagery in “burningdownthehouse.” The feel of the poems relate to the anxiety and libidinal energy I see in Thomas’s work. Intended to be heard rather than read, the following two poems have been shared on the NAPOLEON blog as audio files.


I recall
repeat ripple

a mumbled
the flicker
that smelly liquor
and lick her

wind shapes
the mountains
thin white light

digits play
along sheets
blanketed over

see between
past the rasters
a twitch

dip your head
dip you head

the water
i the water

see static sea
a quiver
in the gravestone
nine years old

the freeze
that frees
the draperies

the geeks
and the greeks

the headless angle
time past hellenistic


again again



stiff vein
strong arm

how the river flows

under the sun
dark energy pervades

where it goes
how it blows
these strings
of seeds

stars forever
long telephone
ring ringing

the great tapestry
the good zips and

through the bed


rustle rustle
he’s Russell
he wrestled Russell
a wrinkled mess
of parts
and bodies
the hand darts
up her skirt

bent down
knees together
elbows on knees
feeble fetal

in dark air

see shore

sand is many men
beaten below
the clouds
below the winds
its rain
below nervous
below the
bellow the


and what
what’s above

what is below
sentiment and

below sediment
rock bone

blood blood
red blood
and more bone

Lines of Light

underneath she is calm
and empty
under she is empty
underneath is calm
underneath is soft
underneath is naked
underneath naked

maybe she was crazy

she said
many lines
she said he was
many lines
she said he saw
she was probably crazy
when she told me
when she told me
we are all lines of light
she was probably crazy
she was crazy
she said we are all lines
of shooting light
she said lines
of shooting light
she said he was lines
of shooting light
she said I was shooting
lines of light
she said I was shooting lines
of light
she spoke shooting lines of light
she spoke shooting light
she spoke light
she spoke

what do you think

what do other men think

calm space
and easy

About the Author:

Devin Powers earned a BA in Studio Art from Bennington College in 2005 and an MFA in Drawing & Painting from Brooklyn College in 2009. The paintings in Powers’s recent solo exhibition at Lesley Heller Workspace were described in the New York Times as containing a “writhing, billowing energy”. For more information on the artist please visit his website:

To download a PDF version of this essay, click Dexter_Powers_May_2015

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