The movie begins
in West Texas
on a rusty deck
overlooking the boggling
beige immensity
of the Chihuahuan Desert
lavender mountains
into the blue sky

“Are those cliffs two miles away, or twenty?” an architect says. “It’s so hard to get a sense of scale out here.”

Everyone nods
heads on swivels
like prairie dogs
puzzling the distance traveled
to reach this place
which seems like no place
but the wind’s own

“The horny toads are all gone,” the typographer says. “The fire ants got them. Ate the babies.”

He steps from sun
into shade cast
by the building
five steel containers
with glass fronts
and sloped roofs
the line between
sun and shade
like that separating
two worlds
having nothing
to do with each other

“If I lived out here,” the poet says, “I’d want a helicopter.”

O, Marfa
you’re so high and dry
the view goes on
for miles beneath the sky

In the dim interior
of the Crowley Theater
we hear
Carlos Jiménez

Behind a wall
reaching out
to the city
a quiet prayer
to forgo formal
fantasies and
consumerist excesses
an architecture
of simple forms that
reveals its complexities
and its intentions
over time

“What we are really doing as architects is constructing time,” Jiménez says.

His buildings dot
that high desert town
Hotel St. George
St. George Hall
Crowley Theater
the Crowley House
now Ranch 2810
each an essay
in restraint
the product
of careful observation

“The most important tool for an architect is observation,” Jiménez paraphrases Rossi. “Observations become memories that can be drawn from again and again.”

at Ranch 2810
once a dream isolated
in the oceanic domain
now made plain
by vanity and pain
the books on the shelves
bought in bulk
the lion skin on the floor
dead to the view
of the limpid mountains
but the filmic sequence
still in place
the passage
from room to room
a revelation
of the landscape
its terrifying sweep
and the cozy
comforts of home

“There were originally native grasses here, but the new owners are afraid of snakes so they planted a lawn,” Jiménez says. ”Otherwise, it looks as it did when it was finished, except the tree is bigger.”

O, Marfa
you were once nowhere
the water broke
and now your name is blare

In the dim interior
of the Crowley Theater
we hear
Christine Ten Eyck

Landscape architect
of an arid land
Architect’s Sister
opens with an apology
then quotes Craig Childs

“There are two easy ways to die in the desert: thirst and drowning.”

She begins
by observing the movement
of water across the site

“That’s clarity,” Ten Eyck says.

On a mission
to rip up asphalt
and corny dog trees
that don’t so much as
move in the wind
replacing them
with a paradise
of harsh beauty

“Big-Time Nature,” Ten Eyck says.

The memory of
arroyos and washes
tough native plants
that speak the
immutable language
of the desert
creosote and lechuguilla
yucca and mesquite
appealing to the senses
through myriad
textures to connect
the urban dweller
with nature
without shame
regardless of

Rodney the Roadrunner
killed by feral cats

“There are problems with wildlife in the city,” Ten Eyck says. “I’m not a very firm person.”

Earth Wind Water Fire
The Capri at night
Orion the mighty hunter
alight in the sky
a bachelorette party
from Illinois
high-heel walking
toward the flashing
yellow light
at Highland

“We didn’t think it would be so desolate here,” one girl says.

The mournful horn
of the muffled train
dividing the town
the impassive
adobe face
of Judd’s Block
like the walls of
Spanish Missions
among hostile Indians

O, Marfa
the fire burns all night
the drums tum-tum
the sparks become a kite

In the dim interior
of the Crowley Theater
we hear
Rick Joy

Sunlight dancing
against a wall
the ground edges
of broken sidewalks
the patterns of
trampled dust
on a gallery floor
little emotional moments
so important for
making architecture
that is as much
a lifestyle proposition
as a building

“They live beautifully in the house,” Joy says.

conceptually insightful
moving around
like animals do
for the sun

“Light the life, not the building,” Joy says.

The details supporting
the concept
cherishing the spirit
of the site
the building culture
of the place
part of an evolution
striving for endurance
not tied to
archaic forms
but made like ruins

“Learn the tradition, but use your brain,” Joy says. “Our brains are the biggest file. Remember that architecture is hard. But it’s also a blast.”

It’s a who’s who
around the bar
at Stellina
the names from New York
and Los Angeles
their laughter
like laughter
gulping wine
enjoying the Marfan time
the hazy light
radiating from
high white walls
when a guy
an artist a filmmaker
a musician poet
mystic thinker tinker
falls off his stool

They can’t wake him
can’t get him to
stand again
he hangs in their arms
like jelly in a bag
eyes shut tight
big glasses
and flat-brimmed
baseball cap
knocked askew

Marfa’s one ambulance
comes to take him away
blue and red lights
flashing through
the storefront

“There’s a saying here,” the local says. “‘It’s a long drive to Alpine.’”

O, Marfa
you won’t die today
your saving grace
is you’re so far away


Author’s gravatar

What a great way to summarize this wonderful event. I truly appreciate the quotes as take-aways. You captured the beauty and the burden that is Marfa.
Sean K Garman, AIA
Mitchell Garman Architects


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