No. 8. March of the Ashes: Pictures and a Poem

These pictures and the following poem are on exhibit at Studio B in Boyertown, PA in the “Muse” exhibit. They are included in a book of literary works published in conjunction with of the show.

The March of the Ashes
By Jay Ressler

Wizened and nine decades wise
Student of Martí and Maceo
And of The Moor too;
Gabo’s* friend died
An old man’s death.

Gold Medal winner
Of an Olympic event never sanctioned
“Assassination Attempt Survivor,”
With 638 wins.

Tainted milkshakes and poisoned cigars;
Bomb plots and sniper shots;
Lover’s treachery and mobsters’ plots;
CIA-masterpieces from afar
Foiled every one,
He suffered without a scar.

Hundreds danced in glee
In the sinking city by the sea
When his passing
Made history.

But multitudes mourned,
Freedom Caravaners by the throng,
Streamed from Plain and Mountain abode,
To proclaim “I am He” in a song.

Large in life was he,
Orator for peasants and working women
And laboring men too,
Leader in battle — el commandante,
Though hated by barons and capitalist lords;
By wretched and oppressed
The Old Man was adored.

His emblazoned battle banner
¡Si Se Puede!”
“Yes, we can! Yes, We Will!”
Heartened fighters at
Moncada and Alegria de Pio,
Sierra Maestra and Playa Giron,
In Angola and Cuito Caunavale,
In the war against illiteracy,
Also in the Special Period
That emerged from a bitter sea.

Likened to David challenging Goliath
For him Internationalism did prevail,
Troops to defend Angola
Doctors abroad wherever need bloomed,
(More than those of the WHO)
His strategic daring tipped the scale
Assuring Nelson’s freedom and Apartheid’s doom.

Revolutionary worker and peasant organizer
With Vladimir Illych he stormed the heavens
Without falling to Stalin’s vials of poison
The Old Man died an Old Man’s death
A spoiler of all the aggressions.

A reader and man of letters too
The Old Man scolded Gabo
That in the fictions he conjured
Real-world facts
Need be written true.

That is the story of how the commander-in-chief
Became the fact-checker-in-chief,
Even before a soldier’s fatigues he did quit
To sport a blue and white leisure outfit
In service of the man who imagined a century of solitude
A general’s labyrinth, and love when cholera throve.

Along the 500-mile march
Of the Old Man’s ashes
Thousands showed their homage
And millions made a pledge.

The procession’s final halt
Crowded under the shadow
Of the Titan of Bronze—
Martyr of Punta Brava to exalt.

Beside a thousand raised machetes
His brother, The President, made clear
The terms of the Will of the Bearded One:
There would be no statue or public place
On which the Old Man’s name or frame would appear.

The lone monument would be
The will and pledge of the fighting people
To defend their sovereignty
And integrity against arrogant hostility,
Multiplied by imperialist voracity,
By Leviathan of the North.

The Old Man’s ashes were fated
For a grotto quite small
Near the Mausoleum for Martí
In a crowded veterans’ stall
Bearing only his Christian name
On a humble cement wall.

Before the cremated remains
Of Gabo’s friend received their final rest
Maceo’s vow and warning were summoned,
“Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba
will gain nothing but the dust of her blood-soaked soil
— if they do not perish in the struggle!”
‘Tis the honor the Old Man’s life possessed.

*Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Jay M. Ressler

Jay Ressler Composite Photography, Encaustic Art, and Oil Painting He is an outstanding location photographer and painter, with an eye that can capture the soul of a Havana back street as beautifully as the sip of a hungry hummingbird, often with compelling black and white images. Jay Ressler is best known for artistic expression that lives in layers between opposites. “I like to explore boundaries,” he explains. “Boundaries between consciousness and the unconscious, between reality and imagination, between certainty and skepticism.” He does this by compositing his own photography in multiple layers to produce stunningly original, interleaved images. Using Photoshop, other image manipulation software and a variety of digital effects, he paints one photographic layer on top of another. He takes advantage of textures he's captured along with an array of processes for manipulating light, contrast, and color to tell the story. “Distorting and reinterpreting the literal 'machine moments' captured by the camera is as old as the art of photography,” he insists. Jay occasionally extends his multi-layered approach to encaustic mixed media creations. Based on ancient techniques, the process begins with cooking his own recipes of beeswax and damar resin and applying this medium between the layers of photographic images, along with various pigmented compounds and materials to add color, texture and expression. Either way, the results are riveting. The viewer is drawn into an unfolding, dreamlike scene that might be heart-warming, haunting, gritty, poignant or magical. Sometimes, within the various layers, all of the above. The award-winning photographer/artist has many dimensions himself. He studied advanced digital photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and advanced encaustic techniques with leading instructors in the field. He worked as an underground coal miner, steelworker, machinist, labor and civil rights activist, copywriter and commercial printer. He has a BS in Psychology from Albright College.

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