Bust of Camille

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I am exhausted, can’t you see it,
How my eyes are so ripe with lassitude,

And you call them beautiful.

What is yet unborn wells up in me
And disturbs the symmetry of my charm.

And you think I have become so secretive,
But what could I now say?

The things that I fashion grow so frightening,

And speak on my behalf with
Distorted mouths.

And see my hand,
What you once so fondly called

The coil of my creation,
See how monstrous it has grown,

And it already shapes my famed madness,
And it is as though I was no more than hand,

Brutal instrument of my genius
That would one day smother us.

But then you remember my lips,
Which have always been so childlike,

Fragile,

A sensuality wholly reserved for me alone
And waiting to break.

The Separation of Camille and Rodin

Auguste Rodin

No, let me turn now and go away
From your too complete fierceness.
Until you the women I loved
Remained encased in my art,
Figures I could bend in plaster, bronze,
With violence, with tenderness.

But then you burst forth,
And refusing this clay immortality
All men offer,
Deigned from the beginning
To create.

And I loved you,
Because to my sensuality you offered this
Savagery,
Female vehemence.
What in me had grown too smooth, yielding,
Discovered suddenly, in you,
A disheveled beauty that far outstripped me,
And my art became frightening.

From you I learned the craft of agony,
The torn open garden of your female genius,
That is now mine.
And what I create is ugly and essential,
The breasts of my women are inhuman,
The loins of my men collapse the world,
And those who look upon my art
Spit at its feet and turn away in contempt.

You have given me this triumph,
Returned to me stone and soil.
But I want myself back,
My languid hurt.
Your too full madness imprisons me,
And I don’t know what my art means,

For it surpasses us both
And annihilates our purpose.
No, let me turn now and go away
From your perfect love.

Night Poem XI

We get drunk and play with fires.
Faces burn like sparklers
under falling cinders.
In and out of shadow,
life explodes
in a certainty of ashes,
and nobody heeds the warnings
on fireworks boxes.
Everywhere we abandon
the salt, the sun,
and leave lovers to their sorrows,
beauties to their games,
death in a suitcase with the dead.
Tonight, we burn the sky with an
irreverent flame,
we paint in circles and eights,
our bright hearts in the dark.

Roads

Some people can see the path laid out, smooth,
paved with marble lobbies and licorice sex.
Even better if someone has already laid it out for them.

Me, sometimes I only see streets
with well-manicured flowerbed roundabouts,
and those same self-satisfied birds that wait at the verge
for the man with the fabulous toupee to come,
throw them scraps of stale bread.

I’ve heard that there are radiant highways
that lead away from the sea,
that immense end to all our conversations.
Turn your back on it, go up,

up toward the smiling towers, the places with lawns
where there are no more thought terrorists,
where corn on the cob aprons smother impotent fear,
where there’s a pill for every night-intruder.

I’ve heard that in those places nothing can blow your mind.
If that’s the case, I’ll take the next exit south, back to the beach.
There, the foam is taking pains,
is deconstructing parades of plastic animals,
and paring flawless wives to their bones.

There, the sea, with a single thunder of salt,
carries off the porcelain and the closets and the perfected hedges,
and I watch them all sailing by in pools with grey-green kelp
and bright little crabs that think of nothing at all.
And I feel calm and collected,
and I know where all the roads eventually lead.

Out Walking After the Storm

Walking along the river tonight

after the typhoon

I notice the newness of everything.

The sky seems closer,

as if it had come down

to inspect the fresh earth.

The moon too leans in,

face still raw

from the lashes of the wind.

Everything wears this new sheen

from the storm

which passed over like a mop,

washing off the mud

and the iniquity

of the bruising summer.

And the elephant clouds,

stragglers of the whirlwind armies,

lumber through the

clear pools of night,

dipping their white trunks.

Even the river rushes on

more quickly now,

flushed of all the junk

from the men and the mountains

that clung to his old hide.

There are turtles, backs glistening,

clasped to his swifter mane,

heading for the sea

and the gleaming plankton fields.

And on the blue bank

and the still reeling grass,

plundered by the fierce palms,

the old tree,

shadow of tendrils and leaves,

damp, creaking trunk,

strengthened by the

ordeal with the murderous rain,

exhales through his pores

the dark, calm scent

of the defeated storm.

Nature’s ancient capacity

for renewal spreads everywhere tonight.

And when we’ve, in our own turn,

laid her low

with our own catastrophes,

when we ourselves are amber

in her deep soil,

there will be dark, galloping mares,

ferocious rivers, silent moons,

purer than anything we’ve dreamed,

that know nothing of our capital.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

A Failed God

He dwelt here for a while,

once for a week, some say,

thirty years another time,

 

and walked, tramped,

hitchhiked through the dirt,

the grit, the orgasms,

the commerce, the sorrow, the hate,

 

the creaking mortality

that we’ve dug up

for the fertile sun.

 

And perhaps he puzzled over

how to set it right,

 

but found such beauty

in the way the sunflowers

and the giraffes

bow their heads and die.

 

And so he left,

that brooding god,

and I don’t think he’s been back.

 

Out there, beyond the

vast black of all the eyelids

closed in prayer, he wanders,

 

sowing galaxies that just

bloom more solitude,

casting new worlds

that always fail:

 

this one too barren or too fecund,

or too much ice or too much fire,

this one’s buckled rings,

 

this one’s moons will collide

in one billion years.

 

With calloused hands

he pulls them from the mold,

with potter’s hands,

sets them spinning,

 

dreaming one day

he’ll get it right.

 

Copyright, Ricky Barrow 2014