Daily Archives: February 24, 2010

Old Poem, reposted by request…

NOTE:  This is a very old piece that’s been published in at least a couple of anthologies over the years.  I’m reposting it by request of Mike McGee, who has linked to it on his blog here:  http://www.mikemcgee.net/mike-mcgee-ideas-projects/when-is-art-unnecessary-23/

Thanks to Mike for his kind words there, his friendship, and his always thoughtful blog.



a print of “Guernica” hangs on the foyer wall
above the drink table
here are the famous horse and the upraised human face
they’re screaming as the hors d’oeuvres are passed

and on the facing wall
behind the buffet
hang two photographs
carefully chosen for tonight

in this one is a girl we have seen before
running and burning on a road in Vietnam years and years ago
back then she was trying to fly to safety
on the innocent strength rising along her fiery arms

in this one is a man we’ve also seen before
and despite his death in 1890 he also keeps trying
but he’s frozen awkward and insolent in his attempt
to rise from the snow at Wounded Knee

we are making small talk tonight
clicking our tongues at all these pictures
making crestfallen small talk
because we know we should

handing over money
to save Afghani statues from the guns of rapists
handing over fistfuls of green guilt
for the anesthetic of aesthetics

buying permission to posture unflinching
before those who have fallen
permission to shelter in these picturesque memorials
in the hope of receiving from them some kind of prophylactic grace

as we stare at the burning girl
as we sadly regret Wounded Knee and genocide
as we admire the abstraction of that burning Spanish town
we will click our tongues

while marking the skill of the artist at having those faces
seem so stark in their angled black and white
seem so shot through and through
with an undertone of subconscious red

it’s from this we’ve learned how to watch the news
the news that gives us each day our daily dread
a new crop of victims to be cropped and photoshopped
and we know just what to do when we see the faces

we observe
we regret
we remark
we move on

tonight there’s a gallery fundraiser
tomorrow there will be another
we’ll see the burning girl and the rising corpse again
and we’ll make another print of “Guernica”

do we need
all these prints
of “Guernica”?

someday we’ll see
that if we had been changed by all this art
at the first hint of genocide we would smash our cameras
hang our paintbrushes back on the wall

stick our checkbooks back in our pockets
lift the paintings from their frames
and carry them through the streets
to the places of power calling why


if the people inside our work could speak
they would tell us that if witness alone could change the world
the world would be changed by now
and we would have no need to learn

that this picture
of that girl
is not

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Big Ol’ Naked Poem

Screw what the idiots tell you.
Naked looks great
on anyone
at any age.
Don’t be afraid of it.
It’s like smiling
when you’re not from
a country with fine dental care.
You’re admittedly a little crooked
and might even be falling apart,
some things aren’t where they are
supposed to be anymore,
but damn,
it feels good
and it’s necessary
from time to time,
even if the only reason for it
is that you’re in the middle
of a change in your
outwardly somber nature.  You’ll
thank me, eventually,
for having suggested this.
It works.  Shed the stuff
that hides you and light up
a big ol’ naked view of yourself
glowing in your twilight.  Someone
will be glad you did, even if
it’s only the two of us.

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