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Jacob’s Ladder
Original photos, poem, book design Kristie Atwood
Maps public domain
Ribbon, 100% cotton resume paper

Artist Statement:

Termini is the main train station in Rome, Italy and the title of the poem that is included with this book.

I have passed through this station many, many times and it has become iconic to me.  I wrote the following poem with kinetic energy in mind, and the mark of that in Termini is not just the constant movement of people and trains but the old fashioned split flap which changes the times and destinations for the trains about every fifteen minutes.  I love the sound of the split flap and the vision of it.  Therefor, the design of this book had to reflect the split flap by moving like it and making some kind of noise as well as change of information.  Thus the jacob’s ladder structure.  I think the poem itself says it all.


In Termini


They stumble and shove, squeeze
through tiny electric doors and crowd
down clink of worn metal stairs, silver, bullet riddled
textures felt straight through their shoes to their feet.
They hit the platform stunned, heads dipping, shifting
back and forth, swifts - which way to go?
Trash and splash of yesterday’s coffee stains the stone.
Their legs begin to move, skip - arms cling tightly to bags, hands shift over handles of black, blue, or brown.
Along trains, dirty, left and right they move towards
these giant heads, bulbous, no need for the light of their single eye, in this bright sun shafted down in beams, so brilliant this late morning light guiding them along.

They enter the station - stop, gaze. Squares of glass
open down into some cool cave below.
Bare shoulders, knees celebrate heat, a hot summer dayoozing down through open tracks. Travelers sit crushed side by side, blooms of burgers in hand or tiny sticks of bread with meat, grinding between teeth
quickly gnashing before they must jump, run
to the sound of a female voice echoing like music
off the dull marble walls, floors - freckled with tan,
stippled in black, flecks of gold glittered, they listen -
so loud she speaks first in Italian, then English.

The split flap click, click, clicking of arrivals and departures- slap, slap, slap and there’s a new place to go, and like grounded pigeons they crank their heads
backwards to see. Some move on towards the open mouth of Termini, past the glass cases filled with food
covering faces against slight smell of urine, baked bread, sugar.  Small herds gather round self serve kiosks, plastic cards slipping in and out, tickets spitting among constant drone of voices broken by a shrill scream breaking the squeak of shoes, the bump and bang of rolling bags.
Suddenly we burst outside into the heat,
eyes blinking in the full sun. We prepare.  
Gypsies surround a tall, dark man, black hair
slick with grease.  A single hand slides
from under a piece of cardboard
into his front pocket, past the pleats
into darkness.
The homeless rest in shade against the hulk
that is Termini. Skin as gray as clouds, clothes torn, stained. A man, shoulders slumped forward, reaches
into his unzipped pants, pulls at himself,
just aware enough to find his own pleasure.
Copyright Kristie Atwood




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