They brought him myrrh on a flaming salver and all he could do was say “This is something I would expect from a butcher or a carpenter, and the camera angles would never work, so bring me napalm or punji stakes that we have proven to work.” They brought him ripe oranges and the sweet meat of the pineapple, its juice dripping from his chin, and all he could do was tighten his grip on the AK-47 and dream of night on the edge of the jungle. They brought him Rodin, Matisse, Rembrant van Rijn, and Blake, but all he would see was Bosch and Goya, and then only by the light of fading candles. They brought him the String Quartet in A Major played on Strads and Guarnaris, but he wanted the retort of the howitzer the crump of the mortar, the screams of the child. They brought him his child wrapped in bandages missing fingers and toes, and all he wanted was the nursery, a newborn in swaddling, suckling her breast as he stroked her head and remembered the moment of her creation.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press (2008)
“You have to go all the way to Washington,” he said, “to find decent statuary.” “Oh, you can find one or two in almost every city. Its founder, some general or admiral, some animal that oddly represents a metropolis that has cast out its animals, or penned them up in zoos, put them on leashes. New York has quite a few, Boston as well, and Chicago, well it likes sculpture, but spend half an hour in Vienna and you are overwhelmed with statuary. Maybe they have lower standards there, or far more history, but I suspect it is that they don’t rush about on the winds of whim, despite our endless example to them.
We greet as long lost friends, having never before met save sharing a place a decade apart. I strive to cling to what was there in that place, she, fueled by the frustration, has turned away just because of it. I go home to my words, she to her art, and we know our paths will cross again.
“You know,” she said, “it is the critics, they are the real problem, all holy and self-proclaimed arbiters of taste, deciding what is and is not art, as if God spoke late one night and declared to each one that he or she and only he or she would determine what is art.” I wanted to argue with her, but I was standing in a gallery where the signs requested silence, that and I really had no argument with what she said, for I knew that taste was personal, that art had no hard metrics, this is, this isn’t, there is no ruler, no gauge, no scale. Add to that the fact that I truly love exotic mushrooms, morels, enoki, the odder the better, and she finds all fungus disgusting, belonging in its earthly grave, and though wrong, it is her taste after all, so there it is.
As you walk through this particular space will you see a small child perched on a stool, crayons in hand, a small rectangle of paper on the top of the desk laughing, creating a world you could never hope to understand, or an older woman, leaning on her walker, staring into the canvas, struggling to see each brush stroke and three workmen white hard hats, retractable rules and laser levels, measuring the gallery against the blueprint which are artists — which is art — does it matter?
Writing is an art form that very many never see but the unseeing of the work is what elevates it to art. This is what you often hear from the unpublished, or even from the denizens of small press purgatory, the one the Vatican will never acknowledge, for the poets corner of heaven is so deeply hidden away. The words on the page know better, they see the beauty as they tumble from the pen, and need no confirmation.
René Magritte was born and died in Belgium, neither happened on this day, but he painted a most realistic picture of a pipe, which he captioned “Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe,” which of course it was not since it was only a picture of a pipe and he entitled the work The Treachery of Images. This brings to mind a question: if I say, Ceci est une poeme, is that true, or am I engaging in a mere treachery of words? Draw me a picture of your answer, if you would be so kind.