Self-Portrait, With David Egan
We could not have known
what we were saying then.
If someone had come in
& begun to hammer us back
from distances we traveled,
if someone had come in
& led us back from homelands
we could barely breathe in
in our normal lives, the tapes
would seem all static & clatter.
But here we were in some place
we’d never been before
& might never return to.
Happy as cows chewing cuds,
we’d become something other
than whatever we passed for
in ordinary time. On the inside
we were growing new stomachs,
new hearts, new ways of moving
inside caves we’d just become
& everything we heard
was softened bass & barely
heard percussives trembling
on the edge of melody.
Rothko, OPEN WINDOW AT COLLIOURE, & Bonnard’s Interiors
He sees no place for gods in Bonnard’s rooms, or Matisse’s.
These men are modern Frenchmen, hedonism breathes
in these men’s bones, their gods in the sea, somewhere
outside the window. Old division between outside
and inside is where they live, these men. Their windows
are filled with trees or the blue of skies they live under
every day. These painters know the novenas of cerulean,
the litanies of line. Praises they sing, they sing touching
whatever they see with light. These men pray in languages
out of reach until you find yourself talking back at them
in a tongue you seldom ever speak. Drops of sweat on oil,
a smudge of pigment made just right with a fingernail, rag
lifted from the mess on a nearby bench or table or sill
put to use, near mindlessness brings them to their knees.
What they set out to do begins with building openings
you can walk through. What you find on the other side
is your business. These men have no time to argue.
after Will Turley painting,
The big divisions matter less
than we think they do. The dead
breathe in tandem with the living,
deserts with mountains, plankton
& whale, copperheads, mosquito
hawks & purple martins, & slugs.
We chew on shadowed distances
we are traveling to. Hammered
sound is Beethoven & Bach too
if we have the right ears to hear
the measures in them breathing,
or Shostakovich or Janacek.
Ravel breathes Couperin’s tomb.
His Pavane pour une infant défunt
is 7 minutes of slow, adoring breath,
in Spanish. Mussorsky breathes
remembrance of Hartmann inside
10 movements and a promenade.
Love is division we did not expect
to happen. Hate is too, & the vast
textured in-between. Definitive
line between murky darkness &
hope of light is you inside yourself.
Darrell Bourque is a former Poet Laureate of Louisiana. He is the author of In Ordinary Light, New and Selected Poems, Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie (both ULL Press), and “if you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amédé Ardoin Songbook (Yellow Flag Press). He is the co-director of The Amédé Ardoin Project.