Hidden Fences by Genevieve Gaignard
Hidden Fences
Genevieve Gaignard
Chromogenic print,
30 × 45 inches, 2017.
Image courtesy of Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles.

Some continuity tried to claim me
the wet like the liquid in my eye

crossing the tea-dark water of the river pool
I felt my body’s recognition
of its element and wanting
to stay,

and I, cradled
in my skull, floating in its own ocean,
felt the thin bone between me and me
a leaning like vertigo, like calling, like
a hum of knowing, close as touch.

So I crossed slowly, ready
never to leave.

All this came back in the blue
under the jetty where we practiced
after the pool and suddenly breathing

became strange, inward swell
of lung, outward give
rhythm wouldn’t beat
and repeat, each step a volition
reflex battled with training
remember, pull in air, not
too fast or deep

Panic has its own pattern,
too fast, too deep, its blue too opaque
fish through which the waves pulse, rise
in a school whole, too much
wonder and alien softness

If I can stop dying, I can see
the water and light make peace here
30 feet below where I do not belong
but remember


Gabeba Baderoon is a South African poet living and working in Philadelphia. The author of “The Dream in the Next Body” and “A hundred silences,” she is at work on a new collection, “Axis and Revolution.”

About the artist: Navigating the intersections of race, gender, age, and religion, “The Powder Room” builds upon Genevieve Gaignard’s practice of character-driven self-portraiture in photography as she introduces a new cast of women, each played by her. Continuing the concepts embedded in her recent solo exhibition, “Smell the Roses,” at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, Gaignard’s new body of work employs exaggeration and camp to explore social constructions that relate to her identity as a biracial woman. “The Powder Room” alludes to a confessional space where the artist is alone with her own image, a place to compose the self and reflect on its performance. Through this lens, Gaignard—the performer and the person—challenges notions of beauty as a tool in the construction and presentation of self.