Art Preview: We Are Neighbors

Poet And Photographer Team Up For Book And Exhibit

Alisa Valdes
3 min read
Haunting City Portraits
(Justin Thor Simenson and Hakim Bellamy)
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We Are Neighbors is a new collection of poems and photos from poet Hakim Bellamy and civil designer/photographer Justin Thor Simenson, both of Albuquerque. Buy the book at Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande Blvd. NW) or see the exhibit at the Rainosek Gallery(UNM School of Architecture & Planning, 2401 Central Ave. NE) through March. The following is an excerpt:

There’s no La Llorona for the aquifer, only the river. They warned Johnny Junior about the arroyo, but not the underworld. So when the City (or Base) dug up his street in search of oil. He considered it an opportunity to see if China, Australia or Alice in Wonderland really did exist. And no one has seen him since. It was sad, but it served a purpose. See, Johnny Junior was a very good, albeit curious, 9 year-old boy. Well liked by his peers and all the other parents in the neighborhood. Perfect grades, even better manners. Obedience, sometimes misinterpreted as fear by the cooler kids he was desperate to be liked by. The makers of mischief as the antidote to boredom, who grew tired of parents always asking them why they can’t be more like Johnny Junior. And the day Johnny Junior slipped down the rabbit hole, he made history. He finally achieved what he wanted, to be the kid parents warned their kids about. 5 years later, the City (or the base) has not made so much as a shovel’s worth of effort to fill Johnny’s hole. The community vigorously protested against it … on the off chance Junior eventually finds his way back home.

Just beyond the threshold of kitchen door, they are engaged in a philosophical debate about planter boxes. He says, "It’s odd. In the desert, plants are like zombies. You can’t even kill’em!" She says, "Historically, it was a euphemism for death. Like pushing up daisies. Like the mob would put you in a planter box." "I know," he says. "Human fertilizer." She interrupts, "But now, they are symbolic of life in the desert. Proof of the resilience, adaptability and sheer endurance of growth. In an environment where we are told it is impossible, to grow anything.” Just like any nuclear apocalypse, after which a single flower eventually blooms. A middle finger to the end of the world, as we’ve known it.

(Photos and poems reprinted with permission from Justin Thor Simenson and Hakim Bellamy. Follow them on Insta: @iminphotos and @hakimbe)
Haunting City Portraits

Justin Thor Simenson and Hakim Bellamy

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