Jan '03 [Home]
Poetry Feature: Colors
By Accident ~ Margo Berdeshevsky | In the House of Nettles (I) ~ For Life's Too Short ~ Listen to the Fool ~ Anne Blonstein | cummings | Porch ~ Duplicity ~ Ann Cefola | White-Eyed ~ Purple Alert ~ Yellow ~ Jay Chollick | cummings | Field ~ Reef Wrack: St. John's Island ~ Charles Fishman | A Single Cell ~ Will Gray | Night Vase ~ Nancy Haiduck | Milk, Blood ~ Valerie Lawson
lettervanes ~ Beyond Phenomenon: Undoing the Doctor's Damage No. 1 ~ Maureen Holm| Lorca's Lady in a NYC Train ~ Evie Ivy | Blue ~ Nicholas Johnson | Sonnet to Blue ~ Ode to Yellow ~ In Green Galvanized Night ~ Stephen Massimilla | The Idea of Madonna ~ Jim McCurry| Mixing the Colors ~ Jessy Randall | Unknown American ~ Tim Scannell | The Dreamer and the Dreamed ~ Robert Scott | In Your Pocket, the Ticket Throbs ~ Zach Sussman | On the Road to Rose Blanche (3) ~ Gyorgyi Voros | Before Drawing ~ Martin Willitts, Jr. | Oasis ~ Hanne Winarsky
L'amour est à réinventer
You know its early step,
its late and heartbreaking branch
leans like every seduction, uncertain
with the gift of
beauty, kissing at its nipple.
Too quickly, petals.
You who know April, forgot to stay
the ember night, the fierce lark,
You who are the street,
the cashmere sleeve,
the oriental bough, billing,
then invent spring.
Its bitter rain has tasted us.
You who tongue that impermanence
that men conceive, at a fire:
I am at the trees, a little like love, I am counting the sky,
its darker colors: sudden silk. used pink.
Fingering kindness, its soft cotton.
I am inventing cherry blossoms.
I am burning snow.
I am breaking a rose, by accident.
You know the fallen fingernails of the cherry trees?
their arms in the air, ungloved, extravagant
raw silks? Suddenly pink trembles of April—
as though a thousand gourd-beats racing
nakedness into its clutch—
it always happens. How the fragile
blooms, like seductions,
become what they were not.
You, in your door.
You invented nothing.
~ . ~
In the House of Nettles
a white silence and some cowbells.
some voices that have hostaged gods.
some voices that polished rose and cross.
some voices that varnished a rock
in the grooves for blood. so that we can't cut
questionanswer. ruins for a son
and the moon. that we can't discern
the rents in time. taste the thistles the forest
draws us into. where the moss and fern
caress the trees where the brown shadows
tease the silence when the kissed mouth
is filled with red seeds.
a bride walks through the mud
her feet shod in lilies. the stones rise
from the wide on yellow foundations.
in the fearleaves is there magic enough
to green our dreams?
For Life's Too Short
for life's too short not
to make love on orange
grass and violet sand
with the ugliest of women.
i ran past cars whose doors
were barred to catch a tram
from the city. if single deaths
are tragedies one million
require staging on
the island of atlantis
flooded with the ink still
wet with a chorus of wild
herons. and along my route
the plane trees were arping
their brown and green
pasts as perfect artists of
organization and chance.
falling through their leaves
the light they miss just foot-
prints my overexposed
greeting to the photographer
with one pink one yellow shoe.
Listen to the Fool
listen to the fool with the closed mouth
dressed as a leafcutter queen sand
in her hair. fingers stained with red ink.
smell the air blessed with flying bodies.
taste the earth layered with form.
persephone's nostalgia. swallowing
granite seeds her throat cut up by
history she sleeps beside mrs dalloway
hugging her twin yellow teddy bear.
and the pillow is stained with red ink
and her dreams are stained
with farmers' footsteps as she walks
through the rice fields. as she sings
pink horizons back to lady macbeth.
not between the lines. in them.
corrections in red delete
the old repetitions.
e. e. cummings: Mt. Chocorua (NH), watercolor 18" x 12"
~ . ~
See how the blue overrides everything:
The yellow table, like a foal, struggles to get up.
Dresden blue inflates wicker armchairs
which hold plump pillows hostage.
Flowing into infinity:
the lines of the gray wood floor.
Beyond the screen, the yard, a mottled green,
insists the birch continue its delicate bend,
unseen by the apple tree in its agonized twist,
like Venus de Milo with one branch lopped off.
Their world arrives powdered on my fingers,
the blue, the blood we barely see, becomes the weight
of sky on the century-old farmhouse,
the sister of yellow, the mother of green,
a sad music, the paper's textured surface
wearied by smudging, retracing.
My eye digs up the yard like a sharp hoe,
searches this room for it shade by shade.
Arrest this blue, put it behind bars I myself will draw,
but hear how it beats still, beauty, paper, flaw.
[Coincidentally, "Porch" was written just a few miles from
the mountains portrayed in cummings's painting.—Eds.]
Painting is not going well and in truth,
I no longer expect to be famous.
—Monet to Bazille, September 3, 1868
Even Mme Louis Joachim Gaudibert knows grace cannot be forced,
oil and turpentine wander their own way on the canvas,
form a palette neither model nor painter wants:
The pale gray, for instance, recalls the artist's sigh
when he agreed to paint the collector's wife.
A clock whispers, tsk-tsk, tsk-tsk.
Note the color of Madame's dress: a flat ice
like the interplay of light and hunger on a handful of francs,
or how fog creeps up the interior, the way commerce cools the artist's vision.
On the table, two ripe poppies reach forward, small green hands beg.
Mme Gaudibert desires Toulouse-Lautrec reds,
the rose flush of a Degas dancer, but unaware of color,
she only hears the patient taps against stretched canvas,
the monotone of her days pressing against the unimagined.
Her husband wants a talisman to break the bourgeois spell,
to transform gray hausfrau into god czarina.
But he has bartered her image:
Even the artist has her look away.
Black lace of a hat up-ended, open, leans free of the table's edge.
He fears the collector's appraisal, the wife's loathing. Monet feels
the collective frown of an entire continent.
Horses tread hard outside, carriages intrusive, then softening.
Surely they will turn the sized-for-Versailles painting to the wall
where its weariness will accumulate.
She sees the sneer of Parisian painters who will mock her profile,
and in the cruelest of possibilities, call her ordinary.
They cannot face one another.
In the portrait's black iris they see something blink,
perhaps a signal to the auctioneer:
~ . ~
No rainbow's arc
or Joseph coat, the ruby's blood
or honey's suavest pouring.
No parrot, peacock, chickadee,
no scarecrow's thatch
or muddy brackish waters—or even
coal, the bluest eye, the blur
or bougainvillaea spilling; no,
none of these, not one
is white or whitish, thank G
For that. For I am
surfeited with pink and brown
and tannish; or that
purple-gray—just dump it, dittoing
the yellow range. And green—please,
no more green—just purity
that's whiteness, color
The endless white Antarctic
and the polar bear—and whiting—
a swimming yes! The sheen
of pearls and
ivory tusks and bloodless, drained
and white it is the ghost
of empty and devoid, the absent
Whites of pale cream
and polished—wizened white,
the aged face, soft wrinkled
century; the flashing teeth the eyeball
and the cirrus cloud, and
the bride in white and Anastasia's
Severity is next, now white's
rectangular: a tiny canvas, stretched
to its linen limit, it takes
one jabbing stroke to sully purity
with stink, it is relentless life
that's scumbled in
The armpit and the crotch
and flung confetti;
the stench of cooking
brilliant light of bliss—O try,
my holy messenger, come into
it, but you
cannot-celestial's ripped! and flat
the angel is, the body opened
By a bomb I say, smear whitewash
on—punish the curving globe
for it. For only white
can deaden the bitter outline; shroud
its sinew; placate
its sting I say paint over it,
a brushstroke blizzard
conjured up whitewhite; and falling
like a curse, the gravest
~ . ~
Is purple a color—
or just the world's most luscious
yelp of warning?
For the voluptuary:
that purple satin sheets, anticipating
love, will slide ahead
And to beware of them,
of certain purple bruises on the
Of how, in a lovesick morning,
the thwarted dick will find no solace
in its purple hour
And of the sun, beware—
there is an ultra violet scorching
of the orb
Even the girl's not safe; a scattering
of violets, dark
and veined with a peculiar blood, they've
jumped—the bouquet emptied
But purple is!
It is both prose and passionate,
breath's sweetest exhalation
For whoever loves,
they have that rich hue shading them;
for only in the dusky abandonment
of arms, is it purple only
here in this embroidered environment,
where even the weed that's milk
is lavender—it's also
where the crafty lovers skulk;
where in a fit,
purple is never pulled up passionately
from the ground—
but lilac is, the lovers tug—
pull it out! get out!—they are so wise,
for parting grows inside of it
~ . ~
Yellow bright and sun,
or harshly sweating
through the force of light,
sublimity is risen
Proclaim the day in
beaten gold and yellow storming
trumpet—the bursting world
a yellow thick impasto
Van Gogh writhing,
and Midas, singing gold
now hoards the sun
O yellow day,
the world's a pissing splendor
of delight, but nonetheless,
the lemon's inexplicable.
I'll dance the edge of careless
like a clown
I'll dream about Rapunzel's
hair uncoiling—wisp and tendril,
floating down like
through the air, I'll dart
Through liquifaction's palace,
a gold fish
through the fluid rooms, I'll roam
the summer meadow's
I'll sift the thinnest
wash of gold from rocky
and I will hear the yellow song
the finch is singing
And come, in holy saffron,
a shaved-head monk
on lotus and the folded knee—
into this summation of
silence—a paradise I will never
hear; and through a staring
opaque eye, will never
e. e. cummings (1919), Noise Number 1 (1919) oil on canvas, 36" x 36"
~ . ~
Indigo Batwing Vermilion Goat Balls Pineapple
Father, you wouldn't speak so I collaborated
with the unspoken I took you at your word
and kept silent silence a field we walked
together Your language was color and, for you,
a shade—a hue—held a full note of difference
In this field, clear gradations of color: ragweed
pokeweed chicory wild carrot nameless tufts
and over-castings of shadow Bronze Green,
provocateur of exiles Emerald Green,
that velvets the moss-lipped snow Aquamarine
that deepens the sea's turquoise Cedar Green,
too dark for densities of love
In the wind's warm stillness the sun relearns
its name gentle liftings of the scarred field
soothe the sky's broken azure The haze
is in the seeing but the field dances Lemon
Yellow, lightning after the Flood Benzedine
Yellow, that the monks outlawed for its silences
Golden Yellow, blood of Delilah's throat
No figure but my own: why are you absent
as well as mute? Will you address me at last
in persimmon or lavender? Will you rub my poems
with your thumbs, the way you gauged chartreuse?
Milori Blue, embezzler of horizons Marlin
Blue, gill slash of the lost ocean
In this field, darknesses grow wings: Air-gun
Silver Licorice Nighthawk Conquistador Ochre
Primavera Sunset Viridian Dreamstalk
Father, listen to your son talking in colors!
(Reprinted with permission from The Firewalkers (Avisson Press, 1996).)
Reef Wrack: St. John's Island
Everything pulsates, dances, waves
gracefully, hauntingly trembles, floats,
all tendrils, fronds, antennae, blowing
delicately in undersea currents: gemstones
bejewelled in forgetfulness, hatchlings
of burnt silver, blue-rimmed, like snow-
flakes, yellow-edged, violetiped: light
cascading, waterfalling, not ours to destroy.
Shoals of living creatures . . .
quizzical, insular, singular, oracular:
pseudopodial, cicatrized, tubular, mandibular:
sea cactus, sea cockatoo, clownfish, and lobster-
slipper, cherubfish, coral crab, zooanthids
from Fantasia: seahorses of black marble
or white chocolate, the little dorsal fin
giving propulsion. Life fishes for names.
The sea is purple-veined, green-mouthed,
valvular, cyclopean: Argonauts of the under-
place, cartouches of plum and cinnabar: forests
of amethyst, buttercups of salt, the tide's
floating enigmas: fire coral and fanged
emptiness, sudden death-places, fatal silences.
On the fins of parrot fish: subterranean codex,
(Prior publ.: Mudfish. Reprinted with author permission.)
~ . ~
A Single Cell
He bought the phone
that it was not a fad
but a modern necessity.
Now it sits on his hip
every day, silently;
the only time it ever flashed red
for a message
was when he called to test it.
Not that he wants
to be one of those people
who have long, loud
on buses and trains,
wrapped up in themselves
like a gift basket
in colored cellophane.
But it has somehow become a reminder
that he is single again and hasn't met anyone
who'd even be interested
in writing his phone number down.
He could call his mother, but
she'd only wonder why;
she'd hardly be impressed
by the fact she could reach him
any time now. A thought jeers
from a cold corner of his mind—
that he started life
as a single cell, something
easily discarded or replaced
with a newer model
before it divided into variety
like the little appliances
he sees in the darkened bus
during the ride to his empty
like a light signaling go
when there is no one
at the intersection.
~ . ~
You could reflect on tall trees swaying at dusk,
the nearby trilling bird call,
the faraway trilling recall
you will never be able to see.
Or you could sit by the window
facing the street and listen
to the confident plop
the ball caught in Chrissy's mitt,
plop, Dad catches, throws, plop,
the sun dips a notch,
on the narrow street in the city's backyard,
plop, remembering another daughter's
shouts, screams, laughter that spilled
down this street,
passing from one phase to another,
changing in one spot
anchored like a pinwheel
as the sun slips.
You don't want to be in the woods
at night, especially in the rain
when you can't tell a quivering shadow from a heavy bough
that smacks you,
when you could be on a city street,
yellow taxis swishing in dark, glistening puddles
smelling of tires and ozone
washed curbs, pale street lights,
awaiting a whistle and Gene Kelly.
Not even the golden threads of a spider's web
mesmerize like the mighty metallic stanchions
of the George Washington Bridge
at night majestically dangling spans
of glittering green bugs
winking behind trees too dark to see.
Would you like to be a lighthouse keeper's wife at night
alone with him, the sagging moon, the speckled sky,
the clang of the bell buoy?
Or would you rather be a jazzman's wife
enfolded in the sounds of a storefront jazz club
in a big city?
His clarinet rings out to a steady, heartfelt bass;
an evocative guitar and swinging drums keep pace,
respond. Pink and blue lights filter
through the smoky room, catching notes
in halos around the quartet.
The noisy crowd applauds the players,
and the barmaid, young people, foreign arguments,
accents, drinking beer, embracing.
When you open your eyes
your table's blue glass vase
is always blue, even at night.
~ . ~
Most people criticizing my work have never seen it.
The artist works with available light
these are honest images
not pornographic, but innocent
we are born naked, buried clothed
Lamb of God, take away the sins of the world
A grey kitten laps milk from a red bowl
there is blood on the fangs of a black hound
a cardinal lies still in the shadow of a hemlock
wings spread as if in flight on snow.
Peel a rose, unfold a lotus;
it is high tea, Sunday service.
Choose the shipping channel,
you set buoy or bell,
fisherman or fish—
but, this is Serrano.
Be seduced, be repelled,
snag on that disturbing clot,
a healing, a warning
fluids act in predictable ways.
These things give life.
These things will kill you.
With the twin horns of mind
pierce the glass and drink,