Self-Portrait as Chihuly Macchia

In March 2023, when I was in Seattle for the AWP conference, on the advice of a friend’s husband I visited the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Although Chihuly is world-renowned, I had never encountered his work before, and almost immediately upon entering the museum I was dumbstruck. But the Macchias! The Macchias took my breath away. The museum also features several short videos of Chihuly at work, and the visuals of the spinning molten glass combined with Chihuly’s discussion of his vision for what glasswork can be, inspired this poem. I’d like to thank Chuck Bombardier for pointing me to Garden and Glass.

Chihuly Garden and Glass, 2023

If the body is an archive of glass & breath
& air, if beauty

                  doesn’t have to be functional,

then maybe I can take up space in this room.
I’ve never been functional, but I was pretty
& might still remember how to expand
to meet the scale of my desires.

Might remember how to pour like honey
& swirl like a girl’s skirt, remember
how to shape-shift on simple human breath.
Heat & air & furnace, endless
immutability of form. If calm & contrast,
then three hundred colors might carry me.

If I’m only alive when I don’t know
          what I’m doing,
alive when I don’t know
          if I will break,

then let me push the boundaries of thinness
& collapsibility, let me pour my breath
into the narrow pipe of this life,
into expand & expanse.

If I don’t shatter,
I could settle into something beautiful.

Jennifer Saunders (she/her) is the author of Self-Portrait with Housewife (Tebot Bach, 2019), winner of the Clockwise Chapbook Competition. Her poem “Crosswalk” won the 2020 Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition and was published in Southword. Jennifer is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Orison Anthology nominee and her work has appeared in Cotton Xenomorph, The Georgia Review, Grist, Ninth Letter, and other publications. Jennifer lives in German-speaking Switzerland, where in the winters she teaches skating in a hockey school.



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