Monday, October 22, 2012

De Kooning: When the Shadow Menaced

1. The Glazier
The glazier is not worried about silverfish
eating the book bindings on the shelves,
the hard wood of the chair he cares nothing
about because he is visual and sees
orange crystal lit up like bulbs.
Against the rudiments of a room, the sloped
shoulder imperfect because of years of leaning,
he has located his fingers about to caress
the cold glass of a decanter he’s yet to urge
into its ultimate meaning. The worn shoes
he has used to model his self-pity he has
not captured because the reasonable
is not worth anything. What he seeks
is “‘another kind of light, not like on a wall. . . .’”

2. Flowers, Mary’s Table
Big-eye Mary with her orange
brow—I seem to recall her red lips
pushing outward, her lines billowing over
the plush flowers that bloomed on her table.
Imprecations about the death of color because
she was swollen beyond the normalcy she saw
in herself and could not deal with such content.
Never a tear but her skin hot by the ovens,
she built a memorial and infused it with
a light borrowed from a dream. The red-
swept terrain was a memory she could
afford now that the corpses were dried up
like leaves in a book. She went nowhere
but catlike lapsed into a white coma.

3. Man
The black-eyed white figure, its pain
thrust up its midsection, seems to say
all ends with blood dripping from
unknown wounds—the bruised thigh one
doesn’t feel but notices one morning.
Chewing on bone gristle, the bone-white
of his teeth charms no one into recalling
that here is a man bent over who stood
firmly on decision and voiced words
that turned quartz into air. The gray
hair of his chest peaks and no formula
combed frantically through the twin beats
of his heart can scourge this white agony.
It drives inward and renders him like others.

4. Standing Man
The inflamed skin of the man brooding red,
the voyage down crimson halls where the man
poses incessantly, his arms lost
in the coloration, then found, then lost like the edges
of fog. Standing, embracing a flower,
time bound to the wall, a medium
for a future not coming,
no doubt he hears in the expanse before
him the air living and sizzling. He stops under
the pipes and looks back, the seed
shriveled in him and about to perish.
No morality or internal matter
but the aesthetic of vanishing, ceasing to be . . .
the thin pigments on the surface of dreams.

5. Two Men Standing
Twin portraits of myself, one
thorough, the other a shadow of half-hidden
values, lines that abbreviate in space,
about to propound something but failing, not
rendering what was said or repeated
in the evening because the interior is
a symbol, an impractical adventure,
a pulse beat away from the impossible.
Erect, suggesting the giraffe, the arrangement, the dancer, 
the pure body of the brush that laid umber
across the interstices between figures,
there is perfection in withdrawal, in mystery, 
in the consummation of surface, in the violence of form.

(This poem appeared in the G.W. Review.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

My Desire Is the Region in Front of Me

                          Mon désir est la région qui est devant moi  
  —Guillaume Apollinaire, "Desire"                                                                                                  

The tuft of black hair on the nape of your neck,
I flare up when I pass you, your back turned to me
as you sit working, 
                                a fusillade of desire,
to kiss you gently in a surprise gesture
that would explode in my face, a transgression
across neutral ground where the unspoken is suddenly
             and all that is passion is laid out.
Where nations have boundaries, you
cannot commit yourself so thoughtlessly,
such maneuvers are warsome,
declarations of intentions
when everyone expects restraint.

Why are there trenches between us?
Not a conjugal visit but a touch of affection,
a bit more than a handshake,
but I'll tell you I have deeper feelings than that.

"That the the rice has burned in the camp pot
signifies you have to be careful about many things."

Indeed, I am, about so much,
never allowing myself a moment of pure release,

and why should my release include you?
What you have chosen for yourself I have no idea.

I'm not going to approach you head on because
I would have to alter you somehow, think
of you not as a person but a sumptuous olive,

a fruit field perhaps,
                                   on my enemy's land
I salivate for,
                       circumvent in my attack so as to
consume upon victory.

But there is no victory here, only people,
you and me.
"There's an enemy submarine that begrudges my love."
Indeed, I begrudge her myself—perhaps
you are not my love but 
                                        my antagonist.
How uncomfortable I am tracking the course of this battle
only my side is waging and the other 
not oblivious to but not about to encounter.

"There are men in the world 
who have never been to war,"
and I among them, 
                                a silly romantic,
regulated by deprivation whose desires
have not changed since boyhood.

We can't even negotiate because there is nothing
to divide up.
What is yours you're going to keep, what is mine
is available everywhere.

You assault me with honesty, leaving me helpless.
Your words smother my obsession.
But you confuse cynicism with truth,
and it's impossible for me to clarify.

Indeed, why bother?
                                  I have to remain myself,
and you in your territory to exist.

We'll meet at the borders,
           occasionally cross over,
not long enough for a visit
but just for curiosity, titillation,

as if we were passing 
each other on an empty street and our eyes met.