Vollard Fails Caliban
(Vollard was an agent who furnished supplies to remote artists)
“Monsieur Vollard,” the burning French
primitive beached in a sun’s bleached heat
writes in boldly stroked ink. “Send me
more paint!” He pleads for tubes of white,
carmine lake, emerald green and ochres of red,
yellow and de Ru. He explains “I must work;
my vision will devour paint, but not the terre
verte you so blindly sent. Vollard replies
with color-filled crates. Gauguin creates.
“Monsieur Vollard,” the abandoned son
of Sycorax writes. “Send me more words!”
What can I do with these copular verbs,
this bare-framed language of my obedience
and my curse? I am a sterile, loveless
thing of darkness, only once embraced. Send
me the words with which I can express
the language of sleep and island-given dreams.
Then my art will drown all books. The sentence
of my birth will end. Vollard replies
with word-filled crates. Caliban cracks the spine
of each volume of his new OED and consumes
each word, but the gap between his dreams
and pen remains unabridged.
The Body of Art: Creation Myth
For Leslie Palmer
Seated by his crib, Erato played her lyre
and whispered to him each night.
She held his hand and helped him trace
the alphabet. Before he crawled, he penned
his first sonnet cycle. Poetry given flesh,
he wore out Bics by the hour, but his mind
never went dry. Epics, ballads, odes, lyrics,
verses rhymed and free, poured forth,
but not without great cost, for with each
word set down he grew. Every metaphor
or apt simile, meant he would gain
a fraction of an inch both up and out.
As the syndrome worsened, he paused twice,
once to allow doctors to run their tests
and then again to pose for Botero,
who came to paint the prodigy
as the exposed Adam leaving the Garden,
barely hidden behind a wanting leaf.
But, no man of art or science
ever connected his condition
and gift, so he wrote and grew.
The obese colossus kept creating
even after gravity fell subject to his craft.
At first he hovered—a living Thanksgiving
Parade balloon, tethered by editors
and booksellers, until he grew too large
for them to hold; he slipped into space,
became a satellite beaming down poetry
twenty-four seven to the ignored channels
of small home dishes. Eventually, he folded
in on himself and slid deeper into space,
a tenth planet, where seekers of knowledge
came to explore the surface, hoping to mine
the truth, but they never reached the molten
core where a steady heart still beats
and new poems are still dreamt.