Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mustaches of Slaughtered Heroes (William Doreski)

Framed in expressive black oak, your watercolors stick to the wall like leeches. Frost hikes its skirts at the pond’s edge where geese chat about flying to Kentucky. Do I hear a drumroll enter
your small conversation? Do stones at the bottom of the pond expect to testify? Other events squeeze from the tubes of paint arranged by hue and cry. Brushes become mustaches of slaughtered heroes.
In gusts of small talk you project the naked retorts of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. Half mind, half sun, you’re anything but flesh now that flesh has lost its fashion. Your horizons sport crows and jays
to herd away the geese that spangle your lawn with gray wet droppings. Yet the bird wars occur mainly in literature you’re too proud to read. I prop myself against a wall and wait for the pond to freeze with tingling
and cries of pain. Your husband plans to stay up all night and whisper your fetishes to the stars. Why should you care? Sparks roughed from visiting boulders tender light and heat enough to ease you
into those last gestures artists require for their celestial fame. Your water colors resist you just enough to cling to three or four dimensions, honoring or more likely blaming you.

I’ve always been interested in the intersections of diverse media, particularly painting and poetry. But while I’ve written my share of ekphrastic poems, I prefer to explore the ways in which these media differ: particularly in the ways that technique enables or defers certain kinds of exploration. Some of the ancient Chinese poets wrote poems that subtly but specifically exploit the advantages poetry has over painting: e.g., the ability to narrate and convey motion. This poem challenges a painter to enter the world of language to supplement her aesthetic vision. In the end, it argues that to the extent that she honors the autonomy of her art it will reward or punish her with a world view that isn’t necessarily her own. Of course poems do the same, so those mustaches of slaughtered heroes represent the sacrifice of self we all make to our chosen art.

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