“As the waltz spins we become something like the white | shoulders of egrets when they hold their wings out | to the sun; we are beyond what we have left and not.” ~ David Swanger from “How Does Music Measure Time?”

Helen Frankenthaler Bay Side 1967 acrylic on unprimed canvas
“Bay Side” (1967, acrylic on unprimed canvas)
by Helen Frankenthaler


Two for Tuesday: Colors of Life

Emil Nolde Brown Mountain on a Lake
“Brown Mountain on a Lake” (nd)
by Emil Nolde


for Elissa

There are so many rules
it takes good luck to live
long enough to break them.
To undo the manifestos
profoundly requires, I guess,
more than longevity: style
is the ultimate morality
of the mind, says Whitehead,
as if the mind were a rector
standing austere at the door,
or elegant on the chair’s edge
overhearing this conversation
between you and me. I hope
you will not listen to teachers
who say never paint in black.
Paint in black, bathe in black,
wear black at your wedding,
something so moral it resonates
you into Gothic thunder and
everyone blinks, and cannot
believe anything they knew
before. Send them into the cave
of their hearts, my heart, send
them into the deep deep dark.

~ David Swanger


Georgia O'Keeffe From the River - Pale oil on canvas 1959
“From the River – Pale” (1959, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

Rothko’s Yellow

What I don’t understand is the beauty.
The last attempts of the rain, my shoulders
aching from all afternoon with the ladders
and the hour with her. I watch the rainbow
until I have to focus so hard I seem
to create it. Thinking of her watching
this storm, wanting him. This lightning.
This glut in the gutters. Now only
the yellow left. Now the blue
seeped out. The purple gone. The red
gone. People downstairs playing Bach,
the quiet attenuated Bach. She must
have tried and tried. The holes drilled in.
The small man in the movie who looked
like laughter would kill him. The carnation
farmer who left snared birds for the woman
he loved. Who would hang himself after
stitching her ribbon to his chest.
What I don’t understand is the beauty.
I remember the theatre in Berkeley where
we sat eating cucumbers, watching the colossal
faces played over with colossal loss.
I would get off early and meet her outside,
her hair always wet. All last night
I listened to the students walk by until 3,
only the drunk left, the rebuffed and
suddenly coupled. What did I almost
write down on the pad by my bed
that someone lowered me into my sleep? One morning
when she and I still lived together,
the pad said only, cotton. Cotton.
Sometimes it’s horrible, the things said
outright. But nothing explains the beauty,
not weeping and shivering on that stone bench,
not kneeling by the basement drain.
Not remembering otherwise, that scarf she wore,
the early snow, her opening the door
in the bathing light. She must have tried
and tried. What I don’t understand is the beauty.

~ Dean Young


Music by Jim Oblon, “Where did You Sleep Last Night?” (originally by Leadbelly)