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Having Bummed a Smoke Outside of the National Gallery, Though I Have Quit

 

“And if it rains, a closed car at four. And we shall play a game of chess.”

–Eliot

 

The trees stick out

their tongues

at all of us squatting

 

at their trunks while wild onions

fall limp at their tips

like month-old mohawks.

 

Candy-coated tourist

buses park toe to heel.

Yesterday, sushi

 

and a slipped-off

boot and socked foot

in the lap for lunch

 

and noodles and beef alone

in Chinatown last night.

Will another woman ever

 

place her handbag on the grass,

commando-crawl to it, finger

the stalk-eye of her camera,

 

and snap twenty shots

of the Capitol dome

perched upon her slouched

 

purse like a Pope’s mitre?

Would Cézanne study this team

of Segways rolling past

 

with their unmanned eyes

and over-ripened helmets?

Would Rousseau replace

 

the mannered Samoyed

with a jeweled collar and thin

leash and hook up

 

this albino squirrel

begging for a cheese danish

instead, stroking it wild

 

as the boy in a harness

pulling with all his strength

against his mother’s thick strap,

 

the Washington Monument

distending from his hunched back;

Modigliani wouldn’t have

 

to stretch the mother’s face

beyond the long length

it has become.

 

The stoled woman

reckoning a Claesz

in the Gallery

 

asked no one out loud,

“who would eat

a peacock pie,

 

all its feathers

in a vase beside it?”

“And all of those blue eyes

 

flirting with you,”

I responded,

“and I would.”

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Morning at The Met

 

–after Nauman’s Eat/Death, Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), Warhol’s Twenty-Five Colored Marilyns, and Noland’s Bluewald

 

On the fluorescent sign

I try to read as DINER,

 

EAT ripens orange

as coiled eyes

on a stove

 

inside the and H

buttressing DEATH.

 

And piled beside it,

hard candy

like Cabochon-

 

cut jewels

begs us to take

 

and eat this gift

and thus diminish

its ideal weight

 

of 175 pounds.

And we do—

 

first, the woman with rainbows

on her fleece socks

for three butterscotches.

 

Then a bald man fingers

a cinnamon round

 

and whispers a prayer

I am close enough to eat,

and I bow my head

 

and close my eyes with him.

We all eat and eat and eat

 

(the spicy, the sweet)

like what took the artist’s love

from him and wait

 

for the replenished pile

his statement promises.

 

Twenty Marilyns nod and lip

from the next room, lemon hair

tunneling across her foreheads,

 

mint eye shadow

and collars still lingering

 

in the roofs of our mouths.

Oswald, paper-punched seven times,

his body reddening, would curse us as fools

 

of art if the Flag were not

stuffed into his mouth like a gag.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

After Thanksgiving Dinner by Louis Lozowick

 

A stack

of bread

teeters

 

in a loose

shuffle like

 

a loaded deck

of cards. Iris

beards swell

 

from the pot

of soup. The man

 

with an ash-

tray chin and

pool-pocket

 

eyes suspends

his fist over

 

dinner like a sledge.

The other men

in line

 

aren’t thankful

for him.

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

After Matisse’s Studio, Quai Saint-Michel

 

Canvas within

a canvas.

 

He stepped

back

 

from his chair

and easel

 

thus reducing

her,

 

leaving the hip

and thigh

 

charcoaled

close enough

 

to twirl

her hair

 

at the kiss

of her elbow.

 

The ink pot

clutches the table.

 

Beside me,

on the museum bench,

 

a baby screams,

the mother

 

shooing and cooing

the infant

 

then plopping

out a breast.

 

Even the mother

shudders at first.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Overheard Next to deKooning’s Evacuation

 

“You see the figures,

torsos, torsos?”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I guess so.”

 

“Teeth, teeth, typical

deKooning teeth.”

 

“You can’t give them back.”

 

“A horrible head.”

 

“Ah, that ruins it.”

 

“The rice fields ruin it.”

 

“Early Black Period—

one show, his breakthrough.”

 

“See the crack?”

 

“Must be a board.”

 

“And his late work goes back to that.”

 

“Oh, look, a penis,

and that eye, a vagina.”

 

“Rice fields, workers, right.”