Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Notes on Picasso

This poem I wrote in responce to Picasso's famous depiction of the bombing of Guernica. Unable to write only of destruction without putting it into a context, I paired the painting with another of Picasso's; the Blue Nude, a painting from his earlier, blue phase. The links made themselves clear to me, the contrast of the beautiful crouching woman of the Bluenude and the grotesque deformed crouchinh woman in Guernica. To my mind they were the same woman and the poem follows her through her relationship with Picasso, who ends up using her.

There are a great many references in the poem to Picasso's process of painting, for example the 'Ruby tear of blood' refers to the fact that originally Picasso painted a red tear on the cheek of the crouching woman in Guernica. But he painted over it, deciding that black and white was more striking.

For me, the message of the poem was the irony that scholars have spent hours trying to find meaning in the painting, while their efforts to save real lives are non-existant.

Blue Nude and Guernica

Blue nude

I am the woman weeping without tears.

I wore the forest walk for you,
The petals you drew across my lips
Die now as you tread them
Out of pink beneath your hoofed feet.

I wore the ocean’s jewels for you,
The pearls you softened into silk beneath your brush.
But your words spilled on them
Tawny ink spreading into rust.

So I wore grey for you,
The wind’s hair woven into cloth
That kept me cold.
But that you tore in two
When you saw that beauty groweth old.

When I wore black for you
You bought me a ruby tear of blood
But stole it back.
For tears are a gift I cannot have.


You handed me an infant made of ears,
And bid me mourn him to a sky of squares.
My hands you tied with rope as sharp as lines
Until they swelled to white.

You showered me in the glow of light-bulbs
Each would aim, click
break and split to shards
That cut my back.
Ribbons through the canvas painted blue
Now black with bruise,
And torn to flesh
With blunt and broken fingernails.

For it’s there you dig to find what you are seeking,
Peel back the skin and find your precious meaning,
But did you dig for me, or listen for my breathing?
Or is it easier to strip me into art
And then consider
I am sixteen thousand people
Robbed of years.

I am the weeping woman without tears

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sad Young Man on a Train

Man was lonely, he started smoking.
So God put him on a train.
On the platform, Man waited.
Woman came down the concrete steps.
God gave Man words, so he could tell Woman that she was indescribable.
Man stood alone in the moving dark. If he had wished to, he could have lifted his gaze from the floor to the window and watched the young creation rushing past. Instead, with his head still bowed he raised a cigarette to his lips and inhaled.
Man exhaled, and the train jolted. The off-white cloud expanded. The young Sun yellowed it as it tried to find an open window to escape. There was none, so the rusty fog hung stale in the air, collecting yellow. If he had wished to, Man could have watched the sun perform tricks for him through the window. He might have seen the full perfection of Gods work, the composition of unshaven hills and soundless waters embellished blue.
Instead, Man watched his cigarette ash fall to the floor, grey joining brown.

He raised his eyes slightly to watch his next foggy breath break away from his lips, grazing them as it passed. The off-white cloud expanded.
Was it carefree or laborious? Either, neither, whichever, whatever.

If he had wished to, Man might have used his young mind to grapple several problems. God had left them lying around, deliberately unanswered to give Man something to think about. Man was being moved without moving. God thought he’d enjoy that one.

Cigarette to lips, breathe in, breathe out. Off-white cloud expanding. Limbs swing as balance trips from one foot to the next, and back again. You’d think God would have laid straight tracks.
With a mouth full of stale ochre Man flirted with the second puzzle, unsuccessfully.
The empty carriage was filling with smoke, crowding him. Not enough. He could extend his fingertips and connect with the window sill. Cold.
He could lift his eyes to the rushing mountains, sky and sun.
His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, awkward and unsubtle. The sun only warms his limbs.
Something should be there, on the tip of his tongue, that wasn’t.
His lips twitched and he lit another fag.
The train slowed to a halt. Man stepped forward and opened the carriage door. The accumulation of off-white clouds ambled out, the sky was a passive smoker who never coughed.
Man remained motionless and looked at the new world through the open door. The initial reaction hadn’t worn off, as the sun died again on the horizon.
It bled orange into the sky and baptized him in terracotta.

He had arrived at an unfamiliar place, made of sharp lines and frigid grey. It didn’t look like God’s handiwork, but the decaying sun redeemed it. Man stepped lightly down of the train, curiosity getting the better of him. He walked the length of the platform,
hating the even surface beneath his feet.
After a time he sat down on the surface and lit another cigarette. Before him was a flight of stairs, made of the same harsh grey. He could not see where they lead to, as the top was in shadow beneath the thin roof. Man felt he should not ascend, but wait.
God never kept him in the dark too long.

He was looking down the length of the platform, peering into the becoming dark when he heard the first slap of flesh on the top stair. He looked up and was confused, then frightened, then undone. He waited. A second slap followed smoothly after, and he was sure. It was a foot, now feet. Smaller and younger than his, unhardened by rough surfaces. Toe by toe they came down.

Then Man saw ankles, slender, pale. Knees and thighs, white stones blushing. Hips came slowly out of the shadows and man stopped breathing. His cigarette flared up in the cold. Man saw a marble-pink waist, then breasts, then shoulders honey-glazed with long hair.
Only the cigarette was breathing.
Woman leaned her head down and peaked at the figure below her.
She looked out from behind her hair...
and it was good.

Man stood up, clumsily, enraptured. Woman reached the last step and stopped.
The final light of the sixth day powdered her skin a final shade of peach.
Then Man asked God for words.

'Words will come, Beloved. First, take her hand and lead her to the grass.'

Not first drafts

I always used to be a first draft writer. This was mainly because I am plauged by laziness. This laziness manifests itself in my writing and was the main reason I used to write more poetry than prose. Poetry is short and you can care about the thing you write about for a minute and then go and watch television. Bliss.

Now I write more prose for the simple reason that I like telling stories more than taking snapshots. Don't get me wrong, the fact that right now, the sea is wearing the plumage of clouds is something that makes my insides tingle. But I want to tell the story, explain that the sea took her plumage from a man fallen in battle. The only man who ever cried salt-less tears.

So now I write second drafts. Third drafts? No, the aforementioned plauge still keeps me from being so... sensible.

Here is my second draft...