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.)

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