Category: Art

On the Outside

I Follow the Wind by Judith Clay (used with permission)

I Follow the Wind by Judith Clay (used with permission)

(a children’s poem
inspired by the art
of Judith Clay)

I was once, you see,
a clockwork child
never understanding
all these pieces of me

Alone in a room
I couldn’t manage
to work, no matter
how many fixes I contrived
to my intricate damage

Until one day
I heard a peculiar sound
a roar and a squeak
from a lion I found

He was like me,
part whole and part wheel,
and he endeavored to see
beyond the difficulty, I feel

My trouble, he said
was staying at home in bed
wheels are for turning
and with the wind at our backs
we found our motion,
our own perfect paths

linked to Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub

Acrylic on paper 2005 Anna Chamberlain, poetry 2013

Acrylic on paper 2005 Anna Chamberlain, poetry 2013

Frank O'Hara 1926-1966 by Grace Hartigan

Frank O’Hara 1926-1966 by Grace Hartigan

Frank O’Hara says to Grace Hartigan
‘I do not always know what I am feeling.’
(but in For Grace, After a Party
it will become about you)

spouting a poetry of indeterminacy
as he builds his identity,
a compulsion of artistry accusing
her of the betrayal of figuration

pure abstraction was required to
invent a self-referential language,
to find the convincing limits of the self
she asserted the definitive line
in his elegy in paint, Frank O’Hara, 1926-1966

now imagine the Abstract Expressionists
on Facebook, drunken missives
of fluid modernity existing within
the persistent lateral surveillance of decorum

gorging on sycophants sexting naked pictures
from the front facing cameras of smartphones
deKooning’s women couched in
an art of internalized misogyny

in this iDubai world of conspicuous
consumption, anything can be a commodity,
masquerade as a pretense or solipsistic dissolution
accompanied by a string orchestration
to score a cinematic self-expression

all devolves into projection and reflection
tactical apologues in the life of the mind
code-talker paradox a side effect
in a cyber-context devoid of meaning
simultaneously blocking and enabling communication
digital age where we cannot make marks
that depress the paper, only unembossed gloss

we’re so far from the sumptuous feasts
debauched scenes and willful obscurities
of Lycophron’s Alexandra, offering instead
staid symposia and motivational speeches
forgetting the orgiastic origins
and slave owning of the intelligentsia

Plato was the first literary dandy
explicating the joys of exploitation
revived by the Queen of Versailles
time share dream pushers building
90,000 square feet of opulence because they can
suing the filmmakers for life story rights

we bleat mutilated themes like Adele anthems
(registering attempts at emoting)
obsessive tracks running on elliptical trainers
to avoid over-hyped terrorist psychosis

virtualization is an act of fallacious connection
Time polls reiterate being rich will make you happy
performance art in the social hierarchy undermining
Rich’s dream of a common language

private and public merged
process and product revealed
so that the art and artist are one
unheeding the warning signs
Pollock’s unveiling killed him because
he knew the falsehood he stood upon
(cigarette butts and ejaculate
embedded in house paint)

how could we not continuously turn
to the melodic tones of dancing limbs?
pregnant looks, throwbacks to lover’s songs
ingestions of longing, You Belong to Me
melds into Make You Feel My Love

both speak intensely of possession,
of an invented and distorted humanity,
at the edge of thought as it becomes volition
or fades into the void, a gnat’s worth of life energy
in the storied American pursuit of happiness

Virtuous Compositions

‘You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity’*

poetry compresses and pressurizes
the ragged edge of an improvisational ocean/sky
I confront the integrity of the line
purity of sketchbook ruminations now outlined
in graphite strokes of velleity

phase shifts embedded in oil stick
color whispering, pressed lips to canvas – bleed/drip
every touch a blossom brush with death
branching iridescent highlights of
a monumentally intimate asymmetry

I come upon the space enfolding
the butterfly lovers, immortal,
burning swans screaming in flight
silhouetted against a murderous apathy

internalized terror of what cannot be released
what rains down upon us, drawn and redrawn
by everything outside ourselves and our control
tracing a watermark of interiority

delineating Whitman’s path
between reality and our souls
infinitude revealed through our separation
I search for a home within
the windowless reading room

* from Telescope by Louise Glück
‘The land and sea, the animals, fishes and birds, the sky of heaven and the orbs, the forests mountains and rivers, are not small themes  . . .  but folk expect of the poet to indicate more than the beauty and dignity which always attach to dumb real objects. . . . they expect him to indicate the path between reality and their souls.’ from the Preface to Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Putrefaction plié

Dancing with death

dancing with death

exabyte choruses of jumbled debris
detritus and hubris, humility and dignity
Mao’s last dancer lifting Pol Pot corpses
in a ballet of ideologies as
art crumbles into propaganda

song lyrics and lyrical nightmares
conspire to create vistas of twisted
surrealist mindscapes, beautiful disease
even Charles and Ray fell prey
in a day/night haze of stalled flight

Isaiah Berlin argues value pluralism
beating a drum in honor of human tragedy
young pioneers of socialist realism dancing
immortalized with graphic clarity
denouncing enemies of the state
of a unified ego / positive freedom
collapses under the weight of oppression

a conscious self-mastery schoolmistress
raps her knuckles in the theater of mind/war
constructing corrective labor camps for the
multiplicity which refuses to comply with
posted slogans knowing the flogging will
continue until morale improves

an undecayable, sainted body
arises in a self-perpetuating
cult of personality,
becomes the god
birthing scribes who

indoctrinate the newly formed history
solidify the moral superiority
of the family of origin
in an attempt to root out the shame
of a peasant, anti-intellectual upbringing

there’s no escape
from the fatherland
cellular memories,
spinning ballerina delusions,
brought about by behavioral epigenetics
while vertigo overwhelms the
perpetually still dancer

Richard Diebenkorn - Berkeley #57

Richard Diebenkorn – Berkeley #57

incendiary convergence, blood-dark magnolia
caught in a wounded harvesting, profound incursion,
an exile – suicide volition in a fading Arcadia

oscillating secrets, pleasure traversal
dreaming plunge on a transparent, violet night
blue smoke ushers a vestigial solemnity

(the text intervenes –
a mutilation which language
supports and denounces*)

cavernous figurations, internal adorations
aesthetic conceptions underscoring
an invented landscape

elegant silence of seclusion’s verdancy
ephemeral horizon, an evasive, mirrored shore-line

inclination, reflection, formidable curiosity
abstraction of Diebenkorn’s expressive,
succulent brush-strokes

dancing exclamations of luminosity
hieroglyphs of absence enabling
an atmosphere of poetic contingency

glistering disquisitions, light echoes – shadow colors
bewitching lexicons, internal archways of lavish resemblances
banished beauty, castles built on unbounded mists

pale branches atop evasive stones, incommensurate
reaching toward scorched estuaries

impenetrable worlds of hearth ash
remains of an intense art

painted mountains, the apparent vanguards,
figurative defacements of a gestating destiny

* from Anne-Marie Albiach’s The Wasting Away “of Chance”
posted for Charles Miller’s dVerse prompt Meeting the Bar: Form for All and was created following a random method of word selection (including allowing another poet to choose words) from multiple texts and then arranging them poetically. The texts include the complete novels of Jane Austen, Women’s Poetry in France 1965-1995 translated by Michael Bishop, Possession by A.S. Byatt, American Hybrid A Norton Anthology of New Poetry, Gerhard Richter Paintings from Private Collections, and Richard Diebenkorn The Berkeley Years 1953-1966. Please join us at dVerse Poets Pub.

ars poetica, a seduction of lexical lists
mélange unmoored from belonging
pulse thrum in the anechoic room

how will we find purity amidst semantic noise;
the salve of metalanguage in a sea of allusions?

language transfers mental content
(words are containers)
speakers eject thought into an external space
(in this way language is reified)

‘a poem should not mean but be’

positing a fantasia,
a condition of meaningfulness –
unfurling with the cosmic significance
of a blue lotus blooming improbably
at the base of a Bodhi tree

cartographic games of death,
hybrid experiments that assuage
our fear of floating into the void


a terribly human snow angel
sculpted and melting, transfigured
to cloud and stream

whispering Rilke’s empty freedom
attained by seeking what’s beyond
a treatise of identity,
Hillman’s String Theory Sutra

(this poem has a mimetic twin
that plays arias in another dimension
through a telekinetic gramophone)

where, a reader may ask, does virtue lie?

Dickens’ acuity akin to the Delphic Oracle unsettles
telescopic vision reveals Bishop’s calculated descriptors
alongside Ashbery’s nuanced reflection:
convex mirror distorting the ruminating Self

(my face imprints the air within a breath of yours)

Carson’s accordion of grief,
a Sanskrit obituary contrasting handwritten notes
each word translated to illuminate a place
where no light is permitted

we poets enact a query
demonstrating the fragility
of the sacred phoenix’s flight

philosophical conceits drown
in a tidal wave of lyricism
roaring, irremediable, shifting selves
litter an infinite shore

(we build cairns for those without name,
stone markers in the sand)


van Gogh paints stars on the interior of a hadron collider,
excitation modes divining the luminous day of the psyche,
ebullience of the creative moment as comets seed the earth

kaleidoscopic supersymmetry unveils strange loops,
circumscribed by the calm intelligibility of science
model agnosticism engulfs with purifying fire

in the ascetic refuge of an enchanted forest, imaginarium of enlightenment,
crystalline structures of specificity hide the occlusions of the unconscious,
chaotic clouds of information growing exponentially

Usha’s bifurcated tongue spreads duality across the canvas of the mind
sand shifting at the garden’s gate, encoding cryptic messages,
erosive ablutions upon the glittering souls of the dead

across the deep shaded valley starling calls and falcon cries unite
imploding singularity awash in Dionysian pleasure amidst an Apollonian
atmosphere, contrasting Wittgenstein’s necessary silence

Huysum’s flowers scry an ecstatic love, impulses flashing
like jewel inlaid symbols of eternity, cartography of virtuosic ambiguity,
as Richter explicates tragic materiality or sublime interiority

within this vale of soul-making, temporal and inescapable,
poetry’s fountain, a thousand headed hydra, reanimates and reclaims
Renoir’s river runs as the round world spins, days end and the end begins

in this elusive and fragile bubble replete with elaborate honeybee dances
Magritte’s surreal apple exists in its listening room
immortally intoxicated with the mystic universe

Flora (detail from Primavera) Botticelli

Flora (detail from Primavera) Botticelli

Yea, in the very moment of possessing,
Surges the heat of lovers to and fro,
Restive, uncertain; and they cannot fix
On what to first enjoy with eyes and hands.
The parts they sought for or those they squeeze so tight

Gentle western wind enamored of her purity
Caught swirling in a fury of passion
Overtaking the nymph of Elysian fields

Perianths cascading from her lips
Dew of heaven, conceived in the womb of earth
Meadows bloom with myriad colors where there was but one

Ephemeral four petal blue flower of alchemy, mystic rose
Eros embraced in the mandala of calyx and corolla
Only her scent remains

Insufflation of Spring’s promise
Bounty, beauty and union abound
Gifts of the goddess framing our pleasure

Notes: *From Of The Nature of Things, by [Titus Lucretius Carus] Lucretius (written in the 1st Century BC) Translator: William Ellery Leonard

Nine Dragons by Chen Rong, 12th Century

Nine Dragons by Chen Rong, 12th Century

for Dave

In a time when words were like magic,
scintilla, igniting the soul’s spark,
when a person could become an animal
and an animal could shape shift into a man

the Self was an ever changing avatar,
evanescent, unfolding in the storm clouds
hidden in the firestick, a manifested paradox,
alchemical fantasy, a secret backbone,

I ruled the underworld, black as void
my blue flamed breath singeing flesh from skulls
ashen harbinger of death, bearer of detritus,
my treasures of regeneration well-guarded

my dragon form forged star glittering,
damp fiery, cold spirit in the heart
of a supermassive black hole, abyssal afrit,

my wisdom grew over millennia until
one drop of my blood
could transmute fragile flesh
into invincible skin

Notes: This piece is now linked to Meeting the Bar: Atmosphere at dVerse Poets Pub. When writing this poem I wanted to create a feeling of awe, fear, psychological tension, and transformation. To accomplish this I used diction that emphasizes these qualities as well as words that may not be as familiar to readers. My intent was for this exotic language to allow the reader to experience the unknown in the process of engaging the poem. In addition, the setting is darker and spans a great deal of time. Obviously, the environment is influenced by myth and displays a fantastical world. Using a first person persona and an authoritative voice adds to the incantatory feeling of the work which I felt would contribute to a sense of awe. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings about atmosphere and the tools that contribute or detract from it within this work.