|Joan Mitchell's, La Grande Vallee IX, 1983-84|
The Hidden Valley
A bold impasto muscles in its swatch of joy,
invents an opening where she escapes
the farm chores and his daily blows.
Brush strokes stain the air orange
and amethyst, nail pollen to a martin’s nest
and immolate in rock pools of cool limestone.
White-tailed deer leap among the birches
that watch over her, red poppies lick
charred wood of an old barn, and everywhere
are relics to break a toe on—barrows netted
in burdock, wagon wheels in fallow soil.
Hooves echo in the canebrakes near granite
headstones: those dead unbridled leave
the living to hack out what is green, unsaid.
She sits urchined in summer fruit, breathes
a granary of air, cooler now
as evening settles on the leafy tops
where memory’s wind-flush sleeve is hostage.
A Furry Teacup
Remember? How can I forget?
It was a January morning so cold
it froze my nipples and we were at
|Meret Oppenheim, Object (or Luncheon in Fur), 1936|
the Café du Flore—Pablo, Dora, and I.
None of us had heated studios so
we needed warmth and cheering up.
Pernod helped with that and soon
we were laughing about Duchamp’s
latest prank and agreed “all art is shit.”
As we were leaving, Dora admired
my fur bracelet and Pablo said “Meret,
you could cover everything with fur,
even this cup and saucer.” We laughed,
a little tipsy. Later Breton asked me
to contribute to his exhibition.
I remembered Pablo’s remark
and thought “Why not?”
At the flea market I bought a muff
of Chinese gazelle, cut it up
and glued it to my cup and saucer.
It gave them a nice warm coat,
poor naked things. That piece eclipsed
all my paintings. No one wanted them.
Bellini’s St. Francis in Ecstasy
I thought I would be near you in the cave.
I wear the dark as comfortably as this cassock
|Giovanni Bellini, St. Francis in Ecstasy, 1475–1480|
stained with the five wounds, steeped
in all my mortal smells.
I thought here the flame burns
that melted the cliffside rocks, but no,
what burns in darkness is my emptiness,
old terrors, a mind shackled to its knives.
I begged to know your will and waited
for my second death.
You brought me a donkey that brays
at clouds, spring lambs grazing
on wild thyme, a heron stretching
its long neck towards the water spout,
a fat rabbit tempting me to break my fast,
all calling me to join them
in the laurel-scented air, to feel
Tuscany’s hard pebbles under my bare soles,
to fill my lungs and sing you canticles of praise.
Lisa Mullenneaux is a Manhattan-based writer and the founder of this blog. When she's not writing, she teaches writing for the University of Maryland UC.