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Posts Tagged ‘ekphrasis’

Getting Messy

I like when

your eyes haze

with mystery

so I know myself

more sculpturally

and remember

how to brow,

how to jowl,

how to cheek.

I like when

we lip,

more smear

less line,

when we belief

less tidy,

more smudge

more shine.

I love when we

smile through

shadowy mess—

when we face

less certain,

more suggest.

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            on seeing The Lovers by Pablo Picasso when I was sixteen

Perhaps because I was in love

I fell in love with The Lovers

fell in love with the way

the man held the woman from behind.

Fell in love with his red,

with her yellow and green.

Fell in love with his gaze,

with the tilt of her head.

I knew what it was like

to be that woman.

Even now, looking

at the painting in pixels,

not in oil on linen,

I feel it—the harmony

of the blue sky behind them,

a sky somehow boundless

inside of them, too.

Thirty years later,

I’m still charged with that blue.

And whatever it is

that forces the woman

to look beyond the frame,

I remember that, too.

It’s as if she can’t quite see

what’s about to happen,

so with one hand,

she holds on to her lover.

With the other, she reaches,

or is she holding herself?

And here’s what I grasp

that she doesn’t yet know—

how hard it will be, how hard

it will be to let go.

The Lovers by Pablo Picasso

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I didn’t know then that devotion

was jumping off the high dive into a pool

though there was no life guard,

though there was no telling

what or who else was in that water.

 

I didn’t know devotion would mean

tattooing another’s face to my forehead

the way Frida once did with Diego—

how the whole world would be able to see

what I thought was invisible.

 

I didn’t know devotion meant walking barefoot

into the wind, a wind so strong it shredded my coat.

Didn’t know my destination

would become so unknowable,

would remain so far away.

 

Perhaps I thought it would be more mechanical—

as if the nuts and bolts of you

would meet the nuts and bolts of me,

and through sun and rain we would fuse together,

belly to belly, nose to nose.

 

Instead, I meet devotion now

the way I once met Georgia O’Keefe’s clouds

in the stairwell of the Chicago Art Museum.

I stared at the giant painting, thinking to myself,

That’s not at all what it’s like.  

 

Years later when I visited Abiquiu,

I saw the sky so true to what she’d painted,

gasped to see that herd of perfect ovals

flocked white above the red land.

Perhaps this is what devotion is like—

 

being willing to trust I know nothing at all

of what it looks like. That the only way it reveals itself

is when I meet it with wonder, the way I might meet

the work of a master, willing to be curious,

willing to be awed.

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man-ray-yves-tanguy-joan-miro-max-morise-2

inspired by an exquisite corpse drawing by Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró and Max Morise

 

 

It all began

as just a kiss—

but there was a handgun

inside of a fist.

 

Our pages were folded

so we couldn’t see

where the story started

and where it would lead

 

(couldn’t know what would happen

below the waist—

another man crushed

by love’s unwitting weight).

 

It all began

as just a kiss—

who knew that it

would lead to this?

 

 

*

to see the image and read about the surrealist game of exquisite corpse, visit https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-explaining-exquisite-corpse-surrealist-drawing-game-die

 

 

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Bound by Natalie Seabolt

Today, Rattle.com featured my poem, “Seeking Purpose,” which I wrote in response to Natalie Seabolt’s beautiful image, “Bound,” as the Editor’s Choice for their Ekphrastic Challenge! I love this practice of writing poems for images–this one explores our purpose, and how it might be nice for the world to give us just a little clue about what that might be. You can download a broadside of the poem and image right there on Rattle’s page.

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after The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

 

In this sea, the great rogue wave is always

about to crash, and the fishermen

in their long thin boats

slip themselves forever in its path—

and though it hangs above them

with hundreds of frothing claws,

and though they cower atop their boats,

they’ve yet to be cast off into the sea—

and the moment is forever charged

with an anticipation larger than

the highest mountain, caught in curiosity—

how will it be to be devoured?

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Of course it was awful, what he did, chopping

up his son to serve him in a stew to the gods,

confused somehow about sacrifice.

 

After that, the gods never let Tantalus be nourished again.

He was forever made to stand in a pool of water

beneath a fruit tree, its branches low hanging.

 

And whenever her reached to eat the fruit, sweet and ripe,

the branches would rise. And whenever he tried to drink,

the clear water would recede.

 

There are many kinds of prisons. Some

have iron bars, cement walls. Some deprive

you of your senses. But the gods knew some look like paradise.

 

Haven’t we all been confused before?

Haven’t we all made misguided sacrifice?

I’m not trying to defend Tantalus. I’m just saying

 

we all understand hunger. And no matter how many times

the branch is taken away, it is survival to want the fruit,

to reach, to reach again.

 

to see the image, click here

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after The Conjurer by Hieronymous Bosch, 1475

The-Conjuror

No one is so much a fool as a willful fool.

            Flemish proverb

 

 

Most people don’t know where to look—

they’re easy to distract. Some simple patter

can confuse their eyes and cloud their

clarity. “You see this pearl,” I say,

“so luminous,” and hold it up to gather light.

And while they look, a hand can do what hands

can do. And if something should disappear—

a ball, a purse, a trust—I tell myself

it is a fool who’s always credulous.

And in the end, it’s just another empty pocket.

Just another empty cup. Just another

empty promise in a world

with shame enough. So call it magic.

Call it theft. They’re both just rearranging.

One ends in astonishment.

The other in a hanging.

It’s plain survival, this secret art,

this instinct to deceive.

Thank God for fools, their froggish blear,

their longing to believe.

 

 

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One Blooming

 

looking outside myself

for my dream, when all along

it takes my shape

 

 

Thank You Letter to My Lungs

 

No matter the shame,

the fear, the loss, the pain,

you bring the outside in

and then share what’s inside

with everything else,

 

and rhythmically, quietly,

hidden and tireless,

you stich me,

unite me

to the cloth of all that is.

 

How do I sometimes

ignore the communion?

And you breathe on,

barely audible prayer,

weaving me into here, here, here.

 

 

 

One Reason for Clarity

 

 

playing hide and seek

with myself, I always win

I always lose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson

 

 

I said to love I am lost

and she gave me

 

a ladder, a leaf,

a crooked blue door,

an alley I’d never

traveled before,

 

a room with no ceiling

three circles, some green,

bouquet of uncertainty

scent of spring,

 

a small red window

a straight backed chair.

Still lost? she said.

Now share.

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            Based on an encaustic piece by the same name by Andrea Bird

 

 

 

She asks if I can hear the silence.

I try. I try too hard and all I hear is a low

green chant: lovable, loveless, loophole, loose. 

 

So she gives me petals, a handful of pink,

and I gather them in my hands. How lovely

they are as I listen to them fall.

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