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.

The Visionaries (For the Children of the Documentary, Born into Brothels)

Sometimes things force us to see
this life’s intolerable enchantment,
and how far we still fall short
of its primordial command
to be everything,
to be all things.

I’ve seen something that
opened me,
like a blade of sun
slicing the unready fruit,
that glistened in its pain anyway.

I’ve seen children, in the ferocity of their small lives,
clutching at cheap cameras,
showing us how much we could still be,
how young time is, even in us.

I mean the children of the ghettos of Calcutta,
of the sunless streets that
narrow the heart,
and the dead ends like so many short lives.

I mean how, against the defeated wind,
they too find a brief time to bloom
in an explosion of arrogant youth.
Suddenly this trepidation,
the ancient, anticipated song,
the shutter that falls before a fearless eye.

Each one will show us something new.
Each with their camera, their lens,
and the rudiments of vision,
goes out into their broken world
to find its unsought beauty.

And there in their images,
the depth of poverty’s heart,
the dignity of each sudden colour,
unearthed by its children.

How we feel shaken
by these brutal eyes of hope,
how we feel like all things,
like everything in their lens.

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.

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

To a Young Poetess

Young poetess,

your words lie in wait,

mute for so long,

harnessed for so long.

Now make of your pencil

an enraged mouth,

let the sentences,

crowded and tossed together,

boiled in cauldrons

of restless sleep,

fly from you

faster than the

pain and meaning

that forged them.

Yes defeat will come,

like and anvil.

There will be nights,

black nights,

when your pen will

lie upon its cold,

un-responding stone,

an alien, wounding thing,

its ink the dark clot

in your throat.

Take heart.

Even the lioness

falters in her gorgeous chase.

The anvil too, is a message,

to be received, transformed,

passed on to break others.

Beat from it arrows

of crystalline pain.

Young word-sayer,

unleash your quiver

across my surrendered page,

tear fissures through which

I might, at last,

receive your searing,

wind-flung, reborn voice.

 

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014