Thursday, September 20, 2012

Manhattan Prayer

Manhattan Prayer

O window washers, who descend
a wall of glass with buckets
and squeegees, a few floors
each day: Come down as far

as my room today. Scrape clean my view.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

He Who Stretches His Line

He Who Stretches His Line

In 1551, aged eighty-one,
the painter Wen Zhengmin
sketched eight views in ink
of the “Garden of the Inept Administrator,”
each one including a poem
of immaculate resignation
executed in flashing brushstrokes:

...You must know that he who stretches hs line,
Is not one who desires to catch fish.

Another Ming painter
of a little later, Xu Wei,
depicted grapes and melons and
in a style of inksplash freshness,
suffered severe mental breakdown,
killed his second wife, and
after getting out of jail,
lived out his seventy-two years
in poverty, sickness, and solitude.

Neither man achieved his first ambition.
Wen failed the local
civil service exam ten times,
Xu got past the county
test and then failed at the provincial
level eight times in a row.

From the haze around these far-off
Chinese gentlemen
I seem to step out clearly:
hardly an inept administrator, or
not often, but one whose early
promise was exploded by psychosis
—it is a time to speak only plainly—
the decades since
a picking up and dropping again
of the pieces I could salvage
in a swamp between water and dry land.

I am not quite at my wit’s end.
But now neither time nor health is on my side.
Now I will need the good fortune
of long life
to even hope to sketch my vision,
to reach the white stone
and jadelike pool
where I may lower my dry line.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Self-Obliterating Infinity Net: Yayoi Kusama 2012

Self-Obliterating Infinity Net: Yayoi Kusama 2012

In the asylum
of her studio
across from the asylum
she has lived
in voluntarily
since 1977

Yayoi Kusama
prepares a fresh
canvas, a new chance
to obliterate herself
by accumulating
brightly coloured

flowers, eyes, tubes,
sprouting seed-like shapes,
and, as ever,
stretching perhaps back to her birth
in Matsumoto, Japan
in 1929