Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Scream


Such a twilight
has no history,
nor would this nobody
rigid in the clutch
of his own two hands
in front of a sky
no longer his sky.
Two men walking away
are too nonchalant
to have seen his face
and stopped; therefore,
it must have looked
different than now.
Did he see fear
in their faces
or the fear
they saw in his?
The bridge rail
and the black river
connect all three
like testimony
and conspire
to convince them.


A red dusk
is sunlit pollution,
so it is not sick
churning colors
and nauseous chaos
of sand and sky
writhing in the same
two dimensions
that move,
because these
are all too real.
Not like that mouth,
that woeful oval.
As the vanishing point
is absent
from the painting,
from that mouth
no word flies,
nor any sound at all.

The Undone Thing

My body's naked decay
illuminates a room of mirrors,

themselves reflections, years
compressed into a backward look.

That was flat bone, that, my eye,
that, hard skin, sharp spine.

As number shapes itself,
a man gradually freezes

into the markless prism
of each day: One. Attention!

Two. Prayer! Three. Reach out!
Thus, the count approximates me.

The caliper and the scale
exact a shade of difference

between mole and carcinoma-
sensations bought and sold:

a faceless, Ernstian torso,
odalisque sans ottoman,

beckons like blue oblivion;
afloat in a dusty tearpool

with feathers, stone, and pigment
peeled from unsized canvas,

she is the life of reclining truth,
with plump breasts pointing up.

The seductions of flounder
stall when fins touch glass;

untentacled jellyfish loom
out of the clouds of sand

the moment our quotidian fate,
the miracle of food, descends.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rodin's Beaudelaire

In the late 80's, I visited the wonderful I. M. Pei-designed museum of art at Indiana University in Bloomington and wrote this poem a few days later.

Rodin's Baudelaire

The walls are bone white,
corners obtuse angles
leading the curious visitor
from the heart of the room.

Depicted atrocities hang
by wires on golden hooks.
A noseless black face
dreams its perfect teeth.

Metal faces bent
to bulge bone and eye
exaggerate anatomy
to misshape outworn words.

From the ceiling, red
thread-wound slinkies
suspend, sprung by a man's
time spent winding.

Naked plaster Venus
starts from her washstand
confusing me for a puzzled
god in her angled mirror.

acrylic globes float
in blood-flecked oil
slowly filling each tube.

A mounted knight droops
in despair counseled
by a thick-lipped goat
skittering on the butt of his lance.

Numbers and dismembered
limbs flung across
a rectangular blank answers
faith with intimation.

At the center of all this,
the upturned face of a man
seen, from the right side,
earnestly seeking

what he hasn't made up
his mind about already,
upper lip a smooth
half-smile of vision,

from the left side, a sinner's
mask, dimpled where
two lips meet
tenderly in half-kiss,

then, face on, its
conflicts less resolved
than invisible, its mouth
a poem of pursed silence.

Thus confronted, I
place cold hands
upon that cold upturned
seeker's ghost made

black metal, my
thumbs on its pitted irises,
fingers in its ears, press
our foreheads together.

You, Rodin, read
the gallery thoughts of one
who is also the imprint
of thumbs in clay warm

with vigorous kneading; is
this the last exhaustion,
chapel of tortured beauty
prefiguring death?

I look, the guard
still gone, rap
the skull with my knuckles.
Rap again that ringing.