“The calling. Speaking of mystery through mystery. Is this not the content? Is it not the conscious or unconscious goal of the urgent creative impetus? Woe betide anyone who has the power to put the necessary words in the mouth of art and does not do so. Woe betide anyone who turns the ear of his soul away from the mouth of art. Man speaks to the man of the superhuman—the tongue of art.” ~ Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky Improvisation 19 1911
“Improvisation 19” (1911, oil on canvas)
by Wassily Kandinsky


Two for Tuesday: Mystery

Wassily Kandinsky Autumn Study near Oberau 1908 oil on cardboard
“Autumn Study near Oberau” (1908, oil on cardboard)
byt Wassily Kandinsky

“Phantom Haiku/Silent Film” 

Friends part
forever—wild geese
lost in cloud ~ Bashō

I don’t write haiku. I’m no good at silence,
Which may be why I crave those movies so much.
Though someone told me it’s the silver nitrate,
The way is so luxuriates in light
Than anything relinquished to its lunar reach
Becomes a kind of parable of incandescence—
Take a scene in a night-club in war-torn France:
The smoke, the silverware, the sequined dress,
The bubbles orbiting a long-stemmed glass,

Who would interrupt them with a voice?
And then there’s what happens to a face.
I wonder if I could get some silver nitrate
To take what I have to say and give it back
With a little of that luminescent silence. . . .
Not that I’d show a close-up of my face
Or anything that might be used as evidence;
There’s not a single thing I wouldn’t leave out.
But in silent movies when the screen goes black

It still feels as if there’s something there
Maybe it’s the pervading threat of fire.
That’s why they don’t use silver nitrate anymore,
It’s so flammable—that, and the cost of silver—
But in this case, I’d want it to explode.
In fact, clumsy as it is, it’s my metaphor.
I admire Bashō, but I just can’t buy
That bit about the wild geese and the cloud.
Unless he meant to float the possibility

That, after a season or two, the geese return.
It might even be implicit in the Japanese,
Which names a graceful but predictable species
Famous for going back to the same location.
You get to invent a poem in translation;
Only what isn’t said is accurate.
For my haiku about friends that part,
I’d need the Japanese for silver nitrate,
A catchall character for luminous and burn.

~ Jacqueline Osherow


Wassily Kandinsky Improvisation 26 paren Oars 1912 oil on canvas
“Improvisation 26 (Oars)” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Wassily Kandinsky


How struck I was by that face, years ago, in the church mural:
Eve, being led by Christ through the broken gates of Hell.

She’s been nominated for the position of Featured Saint
on the Icon of Belief, up against the dark horse candidate—

me: fever-ridden and delirious, a child in Vellore, unfolding
the packet around my neck that I was ordered not to open.

Inside, a folk cure, painted delicately in saffron.
Letters that I could not read.

Why I feel qualified for the position
based on letters I could not read amounts to this:

Neither you nor I can pronounce the difference
between the broken gates and the forbidden letters.

So what reason do we need to believe in icons or saints?
How might we otherwise remember—

without an image to fasten in that lonely place—
the rock on which a Prophet flung himself into fever?

Without an icon or church, spell “gates of Hell.”
Spell “those years ago unfolding.”

Recite to me please all the letters you are not able to read.
Spell “fling yourself skyward.”

Spell “fever.”

~ Kazim Ali


Music by Gem Club, “Braid”


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