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Friday, 11 September 2015

My Obsession


The Eternal Feminine: Paul Cézanne, 1875-77, oil on canvas, 43.5 x 53.3 cm (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles)

I knew the tune
It was my song
Even before you came along
Yet only then did I perceive its meaning

This you I wished for
This desired Other of whom
I spoke so glowingly in poems
I never knew its name

When I lifted its arms up
I noticed tiny wings
That’s all I knew
The rest was Muselike
Anonymous this “you”

So I guess those poems
Were like phonecalls to the future
I think I had your number
Knew what I was looking for
Even before I found it
In the face directory

And luckiest of all
Your human substance
Was life’s loveliest
Far as I could see

As if I’d placed
Bones and skin
Together in a dream
You were put together that way
But I wouldn’t let it go to my head if I were you

The Bewitched Man [A Scene from El Hechizado por Fuerza]: Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, c. 1798, oil on canvas, 42.5 x 30.8 cm (National Gallery, London)


vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Seductive--all the way to its bewitching end.

tpw said...

Oh, man. Beautiful love poem. I'm glad the future picked up when you called.

Sandra said...

love the intensity that grows...and the spiritual spark!

Wooden Boy said...

As if I'd placed
Bone and skin
Together in a dream

Disarming, the tyranny of love.

The poem's scattered with well hid mines of irony. There's some trepidation about the whole game. The sly play with subject in the last line took a while to sink in (I know, I'm a slow bastard). But a bewitched man is a bewitched man and there's no ready cure as far as I know.

You can see in Cezanne of this period his working toward an ideal, still haunted by Delacroix and the rest. Beautiful ruins, really. Then he learnt to live in the tensions, loosen the grip of the demand for resolution, to love painting as much as the work itself.

Joe Safdie said...

Tom, it must be two years since I've checked your blog, and to be greeted with such a knockout poem and that fabulous Cezanne . . . well, it's a treat.

TC said...

Many thanks to all.

The anachronistic details -- fanciful telephone calls to the future made on actual material telephones existing in a hypothetical present, bizarre conceptions of humans with wings somehow sprouting beneath their arms -- may seem to locate this poem in a previous technological, or prelogical epoch.

The posited approach of the human to a dreamt realm of perfection however appears perhaps a wee bit less fanciful, when it is considered that, had you been there, you too might have experienced the fancy as at least approximately objective; that is to say, I believe it had been, appropriately, shared by others.

Still, sheepish belated admission, it must finally be recognized, indeed every day more so, that that which is dreamt should never be held responsible for the dreaming of it, indeed less so every day as the tempus fugits inexorably on.

On the other hand, an original conception, enforced by a bit of enthusiasm, can work wonders, when it comes to giving the impression of a spark of life, perhaps, or anyway so it seemed, once again, after all these centuries, for a few minutes, sometime around the middle of last week.

Some delusions die hard.

But the bewitched state, that, it seems, can go on practically forever, or at least until, maybe, the middle of this week, with a bit of luck.

The Cézanne is in some ways hard to reckon with, as shown, for example, by a recent monograph of some several hundreds of pages in which it is earnestly and compendiously analysed in terms of art-historical comparative reference, with individual chapters devoted to each of the more than a dozen classic paintings to which it is found, by the monographer, to refer.

You know how the myopic academic study proceeds, as though all artists in all epochs did little more than, for example, tip a Delacroix at a 45 degree angle to the left, cock-up Leda just a bit so that her feather-moult turns into a swan, and so on.

Said study alas loses itself over and over in this forest of putative reference, overlooking or perhaps purposefully neglecting certain unavoidably obvious facts, including Cézanne's notorious avoidance of life models, as well as, centrally, in one humble way of viewing the matter, the fact that, in many ways, the painting is a disaster, left unfinished for good reason.

Can it be that, three quarters of a century before deKooning's even more egregious disasters aka masterpieces in the same area of subject matter, the world was simply not yet ready.

In 1954 the Getty had a retoucher daub white paint over the female subject's bloody red eyes, a gesture intended to render the work suitable for public display.

By 1991 the inevitable historical taste-shift had caused the same august institution to hire another retoucher to put the red back into the eyes.

Who knows, if there is a world twenty years from now, perhaps things like wings, telephones and eyes, as we know them, will be no more than anachronistic details, of interest purely to earnest academicians.

Of those we can be sure there will never be a shortage, even should sea-level relocate the oceans above the Alps.