“Man with a Letter” by Hans Memling
This person seems to have had the kind of personality
that Norsemen imposed on yew trees. Trying to help,
the curatorial note says it’s “either a love letter
or a marriage contract.” So we might as well have no idea.
That is: man writes letter; man buys portrait or
man signs contract; man buys portrait. One of these seems
right to me, but, for once, we aren’t here to please me,
but this Dutch-like fellow. Either way: painter likes effeminate
accessories – little pins, little papers. Mamma
got engaged at the Cracker Barrel: Polaroid
didn’t really do it justice. I am thinking of the landscapes
he put in the window, that the painting, that this poem
is like a nation – divided but unarranged: One restaurant,
different people. One window, different what? Skies?
On Italian Painters
They forgot to paint
the allegorical figure
of what was nice while it lasted.
I don’t know if that
was a mistake or an accident,
but I do blame them for it
because you can almost always
tell: With all those reckless
ceilings going up above them,
running through a world
where every chair
is a folding chair,
where the weather
is so expensive
you can’t believe Grandma
can afford it,
where even the spiders
have gone to spider heaven—Well,
this might have been
resignation – instead
a way to remember
men shoot bullets
against armor of proof
not to hurt it
but to praise it.
Agnes Martin Painting I Saw at Cravath or
Beautiful Object in Murderous Light
The love between movables and immovables
Has practical effect on the in’ernet of course
But also behind the luxury desks of twit street,
With the crowd behind the bond, the available
Crowd of purchasers, of curators, purveyors
Of secret bedrooms, rented contexts.
Or painful contexts. I felt it was so myself.
Before the lady banker’s oath, some time
And dull soda is served by some early adopters
Of irreflective victory instead of an available
Waitress in battered flats. Imagine my surprise,
While bosses wasted fortitude on muck,
To finally, still contemplating lunch,
Meet a painting like the circles I walk in.
In My Fancy Wallpaper
With much patience, the wrath of design
can do much to make known the design
of mercy – I mean they killed us in our teepees –
it looked easy as a cradle: “Blue represents passion.”
Neil was mysterious and wore buckskin he said
“red represents loyalty.” I was surprised that the colors
meant anything at all – they are good for nobody.
The conquering palms in the portrait hall approach the ceiling,
become gold-flocked sea turtles – they look gentle
as a little mistress, but don’t intend anything by it.
At least there is such a thing as charming senselessness:
I thought my fancy wallpaper wrote a poem
but it wasn’t a good poem. It was an interesting list.
Impatient to Assume
Eight hours studying appliances
Which pay for themselves over time.
Don't laugh: it's one way
To find out which trees grow in the flood.
At first you can't tell because nothing
Drowns slower than trees.
Not at this hour anyway – it’s midnight
But it will soon be lunchtime.
Our favorite citizens churn themselves
Into customers and, meanwhile,
Told the dwarf may represent common sense
or practical understanding, I accept it.
At end of trip, machine makes
Happy whir, screen glimmers
About missing an appointment but
Can’t even sleep without permission –
It’s just personal noises in here now,
Happy whirs for a stranger –
The first to make widely available
An interesting school book, a pimp’s thoughts.
As a volunteer policeman gets wrung up
on charges of larceny by trick,
I make another herniated retort
about not minding any kind of flood.
And it’s “So long, dinner machine!”
I’m off to attend a swelling:
Outside in the grassy picnic sector.
Outside on this cloud-brindled flake.
Outside among varied whirs
And the parades of feminine balustrades,
Where I leap into the fabric bulwarks
Of somebody else’s skirt, the park brightens,
And lunchtime shakes the memory
As a wimp shakes a Mastercard.