Artist's Note: The following stories are part of a series entitled The Virginia Project. In 2014 when I moved from Brooklyn to High Falls, New York, I learned that the artist Marc Chagall and his partner Virginia Haggard had made a similar move to the town in 1946. I researched the two years that they spent here, and everything was Chagall! Chagall! I thought Haggard, an artist who was 30-years younger than Chagall and the daughter of an English diplomat, deserved more attention. The pieces in the series are loosely based on the couple, and are written in Haggard’s and her daughter five-year-old Jean McNeil’s voices.
From 10/27 to 11/25/18, The Virginia Project, an exhibition that will include some of the stories and 14 women artists’ visual interpretations of the pieces, will be presented at The Wired Gallery in High Falls.
Marc’s head blurs above mine. I pull my hips up, wrap my legs tight. Now he whimpers in his sleep. Marc, I say, shaking him. Marc. His eyes are in some bleak country when he slams his fist in my face. He’s awake now, rushing back to himself. He wants to explain. To tell me what horrors he’s relived. But I hold up my hand. Something has closed inside me.
Later, while he snores, I dream of embroidering his face on white flannel. Careful black stitches edge the long nose. I color his lips vermillion. Two thin lines stitched shut.
I thought I’d die living away from the city’s diesel perfume. Hot dogs’ steamy water bath. Pools of dogs’ urine lifted me on my toes. But when I’m here, Jean’s hand in mine, it’s as if these new smells -- milky cows’ breath. The sweat of nervous chickens. Frogs’ exhaled algae -- are an elixir. Our home, snug against the hill, a stitch of blue before clouds. The road loops and loops with a long story to tell. Wood smoke curls from patched barn wood chimneys. Even the stars pose, waiting for my attention.
Tina Barry is the author of Mall Flower, poems and short fiction (Big Table Publishing, 2015). Her work has appeared in numerous literary and anthologies including Drunken Boat, The Best Short Fiction 2016, The American Poetry Journal, Connotation Press, Blue Fifth Notebook, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and Red Sky: Poetry on the Global Epidemic of Violence Against Women. Tina is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and has several Best of the Net nods. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing at Long Island University, Brooklyn in 2014. Tina is a freelance writer, a teaching artist at The Poetry Barn, and a writing tutor at SUNY Ulster. Barry lives in the Hudson Valley. More information can be found at TinaBarryWriter.com.