TRIPTYCH

A triptych hangs in the gallery of memory. Admission is by invitation only.

The first panel is a time fogged mirror into which I stare. The adopted image hides behind the tarnished silver. My adopted mother’s voice is heard from a hidden speaker: “You were named after my father.” I want to tape his picture to the glass, a face to share the empty space. She has no pictures, she says, he never liked being photographed, said it would steal his soul. She can barely remember him: “He died when I was five.” I ask questions. I need to know more about the giver of names. She falls silent, drawing in, secreting memory.

In the second panel a woman sits, fidgeting. She is a striking blond. I cannot see her as being sixty-one, though she is. I deny that I am fifty. As the Rabbis climb the few steps to the Bimah, she leans over. “You know,” Lois says, “just like you, I was named for your grandfather. She talks freely of herbalism, life in New York, places she wants someday to see. “It’s funny,” she whispers, “I’ve never seen a picture of him; like he had some kind of phobia of being photographed.” Outside the Temple she stands with my mother and sister, arms interlocked, embracing both. I snap the picture. I am not captured on the film. Lois and I drive back to my mother’s apartment, stopping at one of the unending lights on Wisconsin Avenue. She touches my hand: “You know there was one more person named after him, your other sister.” The light changes.

There is only a picture hook in the wall — not even the faint outline that marks the space from which a picture is removed, the wall beneath unbleached by the sun. Lisa, my my sister, like me adopted and as quickly withdrawn, left no outward marks. She is a footnote in my father’s obituary. She is cast off by family, an unmentionable. She is my mother’s deeply hidden scar.

I am repeatedly drawn into this room. It’s walls never change, the pictures periodically replaced. I need to visit, to assure myself of — what? Someday, too soon, this exhibit will close.

First appeared in Pitkin in Progress, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2002)

RED DOT

I have visited countless galleries,
stared at or shielded my eyes
from all manner of art, but
I always read the plaques
affixed to the walls, name
of artist, of work price,
the relative  amount speaking
to the financial state of the gallery.

I actually care very little about
the name of the artist other
than as a historical reference,
for the piece has already spoken
or remained in total silence.

I do glance at the title
and wonder why so many 
artists, of infinite creativity,
when it comes to words
are struck mute, and tell me
their work is simply “Untitled,”
which for me is but another 
way of saying, unpurchasable.

FIFTY-EIGHT MINUTES, MORE OR LESS

In a bit less
than an hour
a new exhibit
will open
empty space will
be occupied
with moving
bodies of artist
and viewer,
universes will form
a thousand children
will be born
an old man in
a distant city
will slip away
a contented look
pressed into
his face
world leaders
will ask why
and have
no answers,
but all of that
is not now,
but in a bit
less than
an hour.

ART

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?

GALLERY (IN) CONCERT

Kandinsky, Braque, Matisse and Degas
all stand patiently in the hall
wondering if anyone, this night,
will notice them as they always
seem to do, while Motherwell and Pollack
lurk around the corner, feigning
indifference, dreading being ignored.
The sound check is long ago complete
and the three men sit in the cafe
lost in the crowd, sipping wine,
a beer, a soda as the last of the meals
are consumed and people file out
and up the stairs to the auditorium.
Picasso stares up in wonder
as the piano comes to life,
carrying us all on a wave
that undulates across the strings.
The bassist crosses the bridge,
darts back, and we stare slack-jawed
as his fingers defy our eyes
and expectations. The drummer
brushes off our questions and solos,
content to carry the music
lightly in his hands as Calder
is left to twist gently in the breeze.

ESCAPE PLAN

Open the door quickly
for you may find a wonderland:
a bottled djinn waiting for your wish,
a mangy dog looking for scraps
his fur wet and matted, head down.

Open the door quickly –
it may be the entrance to a gallery
or another door, and another
until you are outside
and must open a door to come in.

Open the door quickly
that we might capture the last
of daylight and inhale the aroma
of the first star of night.

Open the door quickly –
the earth beckons, crying out
as a new child is born,
as she is rent to form the pocket
for those recently gone.

Open the door quickly
for the mental  walls
in which you choose to live
have grown boring.