RETIRED

God sits at his easel, brush in hand
and thinks about the butterfly
alighting on the oak.
This man would rather paint
the nightmare of hell, but
he has been cast out and
his memory has grown dim.
He remembers being a small child
amused by the worm peering
from soil in a fresh rain and how
when he split it, both halves
would slither away
in opposite directions.
Now he rocks in the chair
and watches night fall
and shatter on the winter ground.

First Appeared in Medicinal Purposes: A Literary Review, Vol. 1, No. 6,
Spring 1997.

CECI N’EST PAS

This morning the sky
is a painting by Magritte
as it is most days, no title
Ceci n’est pas un ciel.

The birds rise from
the wetland as Escher
would imagine them,
the small wetland
once a place that
might be painted by
Monet on a day when
he cared nothing
for water lillies, but now
a jungle of Gauguin.

We wait for the return
of the flocks as the sun
makes its retreat
and imagine again
a blazing sky over Arles.

ONE DAY

We stood trapped between
slack-jawed and reverent
looking at the woman sitting
cross-legged outside the doorway
lovingly fashioning a pot,
her gnarled fingers gentle
on the yielding clay.

Others this day fashioned
rings and pendants
simple tools on silver
and one of a kind treasures
they would lay out
on blankets hoping we
would want more
than just a photograph.

Our day on the Taos Pueblo
ended too early, its
memories lingering
a lifetime.

LINKAGE

Linking things is a human need,
tenuous forces barely holding
across synapses easily broken
or lost, never to be replaced.

Ithaca is forever joined with
Galway City, and I still have not
figured out how to get the two
people together as together is
obviously what they should be.

She sits at a small table
in the Commons, staring, waiting
perhaps for a writer or lover
who may be both, to come down
from Cornell and join her,
while Oscar waits patiently
on a marble bench, hat by his side,
telling Eduard of the woman
he expects to arrive, trying
to determine how to tell her
that her friendship means
everything, but it can be
nothing more than platonic.

In my world they meet, she
listens, fights back tears
and promises always to be there,
friends frozen in time and bronze.

NOT EVEN CLOSE

It was Salvador Dali who once said:
“Have no fear of perfection,
you’ll never reach it.”
It might have easily have been
my creative writing professor
in College, although he would
have added, “and in your case
I doubt you’ll ever get close.”

Well over time I have
certainly proved Dali right,
although I’d like to think
the esteemed professor
missed the mark, but
as Cage said, Nicolas
not John, “Nobody
wants to watch perfection.”

TALKING ART

The good and the bad of acquiring a new work of art is that you have to listen carefully when it tells you just where in your home it has to be. You may have other ideas, but it is best to set them aside, for ultimately the art knows far better than you. All you must do is listen carefully, and mindfully but devoid of preconceptions. And new works of art come with a knowledge of how those domino mazes are constructed, for once they find where they need and must be, the art that occupied that place is duty bound to tell you where it wants next to be, and so on. So gather up your tools, ladder, picture hooks and nails for this is going to be a much longer day than you envisioned.

REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM

Gertrude Stein said
poetry is vocabulary,
or so Simic reported it,
but in that case
what do we make
of Haiku, where
a poem at maximum
can use only
seventeen words.

Perhaps, if we
follow Levi-Strauss
haiku is not poetry
but art, for all art
is reduction
and there is little
you can do
to reduce
a haiku further.

PHOTOGRAPHY

“Trying to explain photography and its art may be more difficult than explaining particle physics.” That was his opinion, and one he deeply held and shared freely to all who would listen or could not escape him. “After all,” he said, “you can draw pictures to illustrate particle physics, and far too many have done so, but the art of photography involves a mental process and only psychiatrists believe they can draw pictures to probe that. And,” he concluded, “one thing is certain, there is no art in the least in any Rorschach Blots I have ever been shown, and I have been shown many.”

COUPLING

Walking through the art gallery,
she frequently pauses to look
at paintings of couples in a bar
or a cafe, engaged in conversation.

I tell her they seem sad, as though
whatever romance they had
has waned, they having grown
apart, this a parting of sorts.

She laughs and says that I mistake
wistfulness for sadness, men
so often do, and adds they are
lovers falling ever deeper in.

She takes my hand gently, with
a look I might have deemed sad,
but knowing better. I realize
that I, too, am continuing my fall.

PERSPECTIVE

It is always, the artist told me,
a question of angles and elevations,
but I am sure that was just his perspective.

Dali threw all of that out, made
a pretty good living at taking perspective
out of his work, replaced by fluidity.

For Dali that fluidity resulted
in a fair bit of liquidity, which was
an irony not the least bit lost on him.

But even Dali ran out of time
before he ran out of ideas, it flowed
away from him and he did not care.

I choose to work with words,
for they are easily aligned with
what I imagine, from my perspective.