White After Dark

trees cut white into pages
cut the light into radio waves
roll the fog to make diplomas

hours roll upon knuckles
sky raises its moon like a nightstick
black and blue and white

time is sanctuary cut time open
the cross cut curls like a finger
licked to lift the pages

Where the Paint Don’t Dry

An abstract painting
looked at my kid
and said, “I could do that.”

The conscious mind is trained by nature to seize upon the world and make sense of it. Alas, poor conscious mind!

An Abstract Expressionist spun her palette on a lazy Susan in the dark, like the chamber of a revolver in a game of Russian roulette. It spins and slows to a halt and she begins work. She jabs at the hapless canvas in knowing ignorance of the colors and deliberate non-concern for the emerging abstract forms. The close air sustains the poisonous cadmium vapors and smell of linseed oil. The blackness of the studio like pitch, a dead end in an abandoned coal mine. She executes the work in total darkness.

The painting completed, unseen even by its creator, is quickly sealed in a steel box welded shut. Whisked away to a deep sea fishing charter, it is motored out to sea and hoisted overboard, deposited in the Atlantic by an uncredited boat captain. It makes an ominous sploosh in the salty waves, which is recorded in digital audio for the exhibition, and disappears into the murky depths, bye bye. Fare well, unseen painting! Godspeed!

Take this image for no one’s eye
And stick it where the paint don’t dry

On opening night of the exhibition, the sploosh recording is looped in a darkened, empty room. The guests are asked to stop sipping their wine for a moment and imagine what the painting looks like. An explosion of faux-abstract imagery mushrooms up from the collective unconscious, a glorious, swirling mess of non-objective visions mixing with the ambient sounds of cleared throats and cocktail chatter. The critics bubble over with enthusiastic reviews. The conundrum of the unknown as a medium of expression: the mind is the commodity! It helps to be in the know on these matters, one supposes.

Time passes. Things are forgotten. Fare well, time! Godspeed, forgotten things!

At the retrospective decades later, a well trained docent at the MOMA will explain it all to a bedazzled couple from Topeka while the subtle energy waves from the artist’s original thoughts continue to propagate out into the blackness of outer space, bye bye. Fare well, original thoughts! Godspeed, conceptual art!

-:-

This bit originally appeared here September 3, 2016

Man, O Man

A robot wears a t-shirt:

[ I put the “man” in manufacturing ]

the living, teaming wreckage
of a homeless shanty—the keepers, undulating
like a carpet of snakes in the background

self-driven automobiles racing
above all, on the overpass, our roof
throats low the ambient hum of
the existers lullaby

the tool-master’s dilemma is
a careless construct between
what were thought to be bookends
birth before, and death after

—as a cotton seed sprouts, unconvincingly
on the surface of a rolling doughnut

—as a cotton seed sprouts, unconvincingly
on the surface of the moooon

-:-

(with nods to the venerable Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five)

Snowy

The snow lives, and drifts
here in the sunny South, with
gulf breezes, and egrets’
snowy whites accumulating
on fence posts, the dress
whites of warm winters.

Snowy Egret, Egretta thula

Spalding Gray (1941-2004)


June 5, 1941 – January 11, 2004

here’s a nod to Spalding Gray
who left the stage upon this day
and I will sorely miss the way
he made neurosis seem okay

and everything is going fine
I think of him and sip my wine

behind that table Spalding Gray
put all his demons on display
the monologues a life’s buffet
he lived inside them every day

and everything is going fine
I think of him and sip my wine

that every joke was free to play
and every gripe would have its say
his charming voice we thought would sway
that out of death he’d talk his way

and everything is going fine
I think of him and sip my wine

Continue

the Stradivarius is
a pull chain, and
any light is a continuity

of every light and
sound, a foundling set
to fret, on every vibrancy

and a touch continues
where every other
touch let off

in the pit, tuning
all singular things, aching
to be in concert

Pinched

the New York Times face-up
in a pile at Starbucks

—that face, again!

dead center above the fold, he’s
with a group of selfie-taking soldiers

I pinch a quarter-sized hole
in the photo, between thumb

and index, making a gap where
the country’s leadership ought to be

Bokeh

The lens is a monocle
a mockingbird flies right through it
and focus becomes a kind of concern
a bird’s eye does this too

Around every worldly focus
sharp like a chirp, the felt impression
of the periphery is vying, but
I am locked in your focus

And you in mine, and as for
the glassine other, it is wending
its way through the inattention
like noises from the kitchen

Gainers

the impenetrable silence before dawn
a truck motor

coughs, the horizon stirs with light
a thousand plans

conceived in earnest spin up, almost
audibly, find traction

continue, conclude, go sideways
succeed, fail, everything

depends upon it, we place a garland
of worn shoe soles

light a votive to our ideals, summit and climber
sometime, one day

sunrise crests at Everest, on flat seas
above a warehouse rooftop