Flow Wide

Inspired by portraits and a video installation in the Museum’s current exhibition, Time and Tide Flow Wide: The Collection in Context, 1959—1973, Dominic Bellido ’24 writes a series of haikus, fragmented poems, and prose in creative response to the exhibition’s questions of history, time, and the economic forces that influence American people and art.

These writings are dedicated to Marisa C. Sánchez, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow for Research and Scholarly Engagement at the Colby Museum’s Lunder Institute for American Art, curator of the Time and Tide Flow Wide exhibition.

Dana Claxton, Headdress, 2016/2021. Archival pigment print on Epson photo paper, 48 x 32 in. (121.9 x 81.3 cm). Forge Project Collection, traditional lands of the Muh-he-con-ne-ok, FP.2021.0092.


The first face I see 
stands behind a white cage. Head
dress, beads mountainlike

on a woman’s face.
Turquoise jewelry draping
a mask, threaded strings

of rain, how much? How
much for this picture? Priceless
necklace, silver tears

gathered from the ground,
cast into fine chains that throw
stories with their light.

Constellation of
pendants dangling, her neck
shielded by rainbow

stones, carved up prayers
from all corners of the land.
O, beaded headband,

your history speaks
        for itself. Your women take care
of all your unfinished 
        corners. But what
of my reflection in
        your gaze?
Am I worthy? 

Installation view of Time and Tide Flow Wide: Collection in Context, 1959-1973, Colby College Museum of Art (September 27, 2022–June 11, 2023). Photo: Luc Demurs.


See the boy on the bicycle. See the walls  
        that he must stand between. Is his face worthy

now, God? How long has someone waited  
        to see him? They say the only body worth my time 

is the one with the highest price. Like endless 
        red blush, or filigree lace. Cold disdain from the other 

pale portraits on display. I look down at the boy’s
        hands and hear a wail break out of the room’s corner, 

a song strung up along the gauze of white  
        light bulbs. A warm voice. The hung up faces can only

listen. It’s no one’s fault, how my heart breaks
       when I remember the portrait can only move inside

our heads. I wonder what the boy on the bicycle
        would think of the sound castling him and his frame. 

They pray that walls                 never learn 
to talk, but I           know that to each God 
you must bargain       with different rules.

Everything has a price.           Anything can
be bought;          the only damn question is
what are you                 willing to sacrifice?

But the heaven                       marketplace
ain’t as                 golden as it sounds, boy.
The best customers             always come 

back for more.

Theaster Gates, Still from Do you hear me calling? (Mama Mamama or What is Black Power?), 2018. Two-channel video, color, sound (42:40 min). Edition 4/5. Purchased jointly by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, with funds from the Film and Video Committeee; and the Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine, with funds from Bernard and Barbro Osher.


I step into the room at neither the beginning nor the end of the film. I take a seat. The film shows me a woman smoking out a window, a muted hymn drifting out like her cigarette ash spirit. In the next scene, she blazes up a flute that pierces through another song. 

The film reels through more bodies, collaging white men in pressed suits, a gospel man, black father looking for job with moonbore eyes. I see supermarket aisles, billboards, pretty white faces on rows of bean cans; then, a hallway of library doors leading nowhere. A woman stands by the bookstacks, eyes closed against a devil’s voice proselytizing her on how to sell to her own kind, how to buy, how to play all these games that have the same damn winner. 

But her hymn persists. Like a promise. A war bellow, a moan, a cry for any God to climb up the throat of dawn and give us something. 

But not just anything. Not freedom, not the way it’s advertised. All these times, I’ve kneeled at church, and all I’ve ever asked for was another way out. The key to the backdoor or a bank vault. Something that’ll make me feel better, God. But this song cuts at something deeper. No! God, give me a knife instead, so I can slice through the film’s ancient maps, tired graphs that calculate the buying power of the poor. Lines that go up and down and take bodies with them. Let me be the last face the devil sees at his stand. That’s all I ask for, God.

I lean back on the bench and watch the film reel itself around me 
the drumsound snaking out of every speaker 
forming the stage for an old dance. 

Not the way my mother taught me. Not the way
the screen has shown. I leave the room
and walk around, looking for a mirror,
any mirror. I put on a song
from my father’s time.
I dance for 

or at least
until I feel someone
watching me. Until the song ends. Until

the steps outline my
patterned past, like beads strung out
on a spider’s web.