- Mediterranean, and: Choice, and: Cezanne Triptych, and: Picasso Diptych
A bright red boatYellow capsicums
Blue fishing netsOchre fort walls
Sahar's silk blousegold and sheer
Her dark blackkohl-lined lashes
A street child'sbrown fists
holding the rainbowin his small grasp
My lost memorywhite and frozen
now melts colorready to refract [End Page 59]
drawing a breath between eachsentence, trailing closely every word.JAMES HOCH, "Draft" in Miscreants
some things, I knew, were beyond choosing:
didu — grandmother — wilting under cancer's terminus care.
mama — my uncle's — mysterious disappearance — ventilator vibrating, severedsilently, in the hospital's unkempt dark.
an old friend's biting silence — unexplained — promised loyalties melting for profit abandoning long familial presences of trust.
devi's jealous heart misreading emails hacked carefully under cover,her fingernails rippingunformed poems, bloodied, scarred — my diary pages weeping wordlessly —my children aborted, breathless forever.
these are acts that enact themselves, regardless — helpless, as i am,torn asunder permanently, drugged, numbed. [End Page 60]
strange love, this is — a salving: what medics and nurses do.
i live buddha-like, unblinking, a painted vacant smile — one that stores pain and painlessness —someone else's nirvana thrust upon me.
some things I once believed in are beyond my choosing —choosing is a choice unavailable to me.
1. The Skulls
The three gods I worshipare dead. They starefrom the backs of their heads,through the hollowsof their eyes— their visionleaking from every fissureand crack on the cranium.The bone-skin of these skullsshines like the breast sheenof a new-born fish, [End Page 61]
each plate like scalesrestoring memory and genealogy—secrets only fossilskeep alive. Skulls on wood,on carpet, on drapery—studies encrypted likean unwrapped pyramid of bones,mummies waiting to be embalmedin oil and graphite— as I sprinklewater and color on the shrineof my night gods.[Based on Cezanne's series The Skulls, oil on canvas/graphite and watercolor on paper, 1890-1906.]
2. The Cardplayers
The deal was done and stamped on the brown, rough leather
of the parchment. The wooden table's crooked legs hardly held
its own weight, let alone the gravity of
smoke, spirit, and connivance. We held our fists close [End Page 62]
to each other as if in mistrust— stiff cards in hand
like little rectangular blades to cut and bleed our lives away.
The future like the present was dark and unlit, swirling
unsteadily in tobacco stench permanently embedded
in the wood of the walls, the furniture, our clothes,
and our hearts. But at least this was a gamble,
a zone of unsure light, an unpredictability
to hold onto amid all the grey, brown, and blue,
cold, deep blue, and more blue.[Based on Cezanne's Cardplayers, oil on canvas, 47.5 x 57 cm, 1893-96.]
3. Jacket on a Chair
You carelessly tossed the jacket on a chair.The assembly of cloth
collapsed in slow motioninto a heap of cotton— cotton freshly picked [End Page 63]
from the fields— like fleshwithout a spine.
The chair's woodenframe provided a brief skeleton,
but it wasn't enough to renew the coat'sshape, the body's
prior strength,or the muscle to hold its own.
When one peels off one's outer skin,it is difficult
to hidethe true nature of blood.
Wood, wool, stitches, and joints—an epitaph
of a cardplayer'sshuffle, and the history
of my dark faith.[Based on Cezanne's Jacket on a Chair, graphite and watercolor on paper, 47.5 x 30.5 cm, 1890-92.] [End Page 64]
My cranium standsfossilized andtriangulated on theblack "T" of acrucifix. The blueand white crescentand head's hemispheresit askance in theirbone-sharp intentions.It was Breton who hadscripted the line-breaks, and the cell'sown narrative.[Based on Pablo Picasso's Head, paper collage, charcoal, and pencil on card, 1913.]
My imagination is cuppedentirely in...