Watching you in the shadows rip your poems into pieces, tossing them like blossoms cascading into a bucket of glowing coals.
The shadows of your hands flutter perfectly against the wall, the shadow of your fingers tearing shapes into pieces, tossed up & falling down, the sun at two o’clock highlighting shadows like birds sliding down the wall.
Nobody imagined your face streaked or the palms of your hands covered in coal dust.
One torn fragment flies through smoke and sticks to your streaked face in the shadow of a cherry tree, the bucket heavy as an anchor, the last of your words going up in smoke.
I fell in love with the maps of distant time, unexplained distant time & the Neolithic, I fell in love with the Neolithic – your dark hair,
Dark as some mystery strain of ancient wheat shimmering in the coolness of twilight, pressing your toes and fingers into the clay floor, stretching your body from horizon to horizon
Balancing a voluminous golden disc upon your delicate, curving spine. I’ve learned the language of discs and cherry blossoms, your fingers and smoke. I bury my animal cry.
Your shadows are hunger.
The eye blinks once in the gloomy shadow of the soul’s laboratory. A shattered disc showers fragments. Clay – no, not clay – gold. Hollow doors open and close, concealing this world. You seize the universal remote. Your fingertips press TV channels bright as a sun. The Clay Channel. The Gold Channel.
You gave me an indelible precision I mistook for esoteric ambiguity. Shadows conceal and reveal. I gave you tools for repairing machinery. You asked where this machinery might be found.
In the Legion parking lot snakes fall from the sky. You sing them down into the branches, how you sang! They wound themselves down, sliding and wet, their hearts tinted with gold, zigzagging into liquid angles and spitting hieroglyphics, falling upon your shoulders like rain loosening your hair.
Cauldrons along your spine bubbled over spilling gold. I was drawn as if by a magnet to your magical hysteria on the night you promised you would never shatter again.
You raved about a coastline where we might find ourselves half-buried.
You ridiculed mannerism in cinema but never did you ridicule Suprematism. In the shadow of a tower you open a drawer filled with soft gloves and the sounds of night. You pull charcoal up to your elbow. The Suprematism of your eyes lined with kohl.
A movement crosses the palm of your hand dividing stone from water. Your breath fills your spine with heat, a motionless reflection shimmers, spreading to the edge of a stone radius.
Your blood has not forgotten this stone.
I read Neolithic in full in February and it took me ten minutes to read with a fairly brisk delivery. I have edited it substantially (and spontaneously) for this posting. I hope I have conveyed the essence of the poem even knowing how much is missing…
Although cubistic, these artworks pre-date Cubism (and Sam Cooke) by roughly 7,000 years. Hamangia culture is a Late Neolithic archaeological culture of Dobruja (Romania and Bulgaria) between the Danube and the Black Sea and Muntenia in the south.
Cubist image: Pablo Picasso, Girl with a Mandolin (Fanny Tellier), late Spring, 1910
We need to learn an almost extinct language I will study with you.
We need to live among the people whose language is almost lost I will join you and also learn traditional survival skills.
To leave me for the shaman I will drive a stake through his medicine box, realize my grave error instantly, and escape, although barely.
To beckon and summon, seducing me with whispers that reach into my blood, I will return.
I must stand trial for my crimes against love and magic, I will escape, again.
If you decide to hypnotize me while I sleep I will seal my heart against your vibrations and embrace the crazed dream of modernity. Because I am a fool. Weary of surviving on roots. Even the root of you. Even the root of me.
If you decide I must seal my heart against the sounds you once made I will throw the window open a final time, upon your murmur coursing & drenched in starlight, intersected by a highway carrying the disappeared.
If you decide to remain quiet I will train my ear to hear the sunlight falling.
If you decide it is my duty to dig out the wooden stake I will return in the dead of night speaking an extinct language.
Photo credit: Renee Perle, a Romanian Jewish girl who moved to Paris, is famous as the first muse of the famous French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986), who is considered one of the leading photographers of the 20th century.
I read a quote by art critic Robert Hughes comparing painters: There is more death in a Gustave Courbet portrait of a trout than Rubens could get in a whole Crucifixion…
Then I heard a song by an artist we saw in concert. Who spun magic, jewelled webs we fell into after chasing each other through twilight circumstance. Twilight and traffic.
The labyrinth ruled by Janus one level below.
The shadows jousting on the street didn’t remind me of your fingertips, or your January dancing, or your honeyed cake.
I didn’t make that joke in the elevator.
Carried, like some tragic Pieta, into the stream. The playing of a wooden flute sounding in the reeds. My hands flat against your skin. The temperature slipping.
Forbidden music within your temple as quiet and still as polished stones. Awash in the fragrance of whispered moments. As shiny as a silver bracelet, a tunnel, a hook.
I’m not even sure I heard anything.
Did such music ever exist.
I’ve never wondered how my fine shoes, sewn of ancient parchment & soft as a silk purse, got so wet.
Nor have I contemplated Gustave Courbet’s
Or the absence of all that is not
While gazing into the eye of the fish,
A future sun.
Credits for original images: The Trout by Gustave Courbet, 1873. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958, based on the play by Tennessee Williams starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Skyscraper and Tunnels by Italian Futurist painter Fortunato Depero, 1930. Pieta by Michelangelo.
I do not own the original images or claim copyright. I have created new images for non-commercial purposes of commentary under Fair Use provisions of copyright law.