Selections from

by Burt Kimmelman


8.6.86 Tate Gallery /
      Gaudier-Brzeska's Pound, The Hieratic Head

His eyes look at no one, and looking,
we turn away from the broken, the human passion,
to form in a sublime dream, unreal, apex
in some space somewhere. Whoever walks through

the gallery's high marble archway sees his head, solitary
and solemn, very center of the room and sky through windows;
this is Gaudier's cold aspect, folded skull
at once homeric rigor though something still undone

and possibly dangerous. Is the mountainous forehead
proud? Perhaps. Yet in outright and unforgiving denial
of tenderness, the imperfect, fallible, to find some
remote idea, star, or other imagination: a shape of flesh

covers the alien bone and the seeming lower lip disappears,
we might think bitten softly in contemplation between
invisible teeth, and a hard jaw set thinking the impossible.
We are unforgiven and denied, in our absolute terror

amazed at what arc crosses the absolute stars. There is
a draft of sunlight. A hand passes along and over
a heavenly shape, and as it feels carefully this hand finds
mute stone.


Miró at the Guggenheim 8.13.87

the hair line

the eye, the red sun, these

are the creatures
of the air

who dance and cajole . these things are

to be loved, sight
to which we cling

as precious filaments of

the blue
enormous sky .


The Clocks in the British Museum   8.5.86

We'll probably never know who made
that first clock — this is natural and right — nor when,
precisely. Likely a German or English

exactitude. Huge pendants of a clock hang seemingly still

behind and above it

in its own huge room,
a clock for keeping time, room to keep it, hold it
for how long? Weights keep the clock going,

their balance — it's the old music of the spheres —

as if with a kind of deliberation these cumbersome moments,
the pieces of time held by the planet's
turning, slowly and heavily,

weight on the wheel to feel it. No counting ever
until a human's stops and starts. Out of the bitter

medieval rood these numbers

we agree hold meaning, since Copernicus, earth
turning and falling through the dark heaven and yet

heaven still there to hang our pendant world

on its silver chain.


Musée Picasso 7.28.86

Was this his house?
There is a broad courtyard full of white sun today, and high
stone walls — inside
the paintings and sculptures and scribblings must have been once
collected quite differently, half
women and bulls on canvases stacked
one behind the other, perhaps,
all eyes and breasts, shoulders,
and vaginas: here form

is understood in shattered hours, part icons,
sculptures gathered in
a room, a corner, facing one way
or another from each other yet not facing us
necessarily. Facing facing.

Among them now we read his biography
on the walls and the arranged
art-historical comments. Anyway,
who was this artist? We see
his paroxysm of labor — the work
is everywhere. When

did he ever find the time to fuck
all those women? There were of course
several wives with whom he must have fashioned
a kind of religious love-making, as if

his aching took him, without reason, elsewhere,
to a woman, and they
must have taken each other savagely and with

much care.


Making the Bed for D.

summer country. in the morning the leaves

to the window & fold
the house in . mountains & sun . i fold

the blankets, hand smooth. When
you're here

i know it. The sun crosses

the hand's breadth -

& in your face

the unenterable
image. under

your eyelids
night unfolds. Pull

the blanket over you
and with it

the evening air .

                    Cummington, Massachusetts, August 1988


Doisneau's Ballade pour violoncelle

             But you —how slight — do:

                     — Louis Zukofsky



little hands
that hold mine —

ten months,
now you'll walk.




in the rocking chair, cool wind
3 AM


— above us
the solitary figure,

his instrument,

traversing Brooklyn Bridge


of the real

slight metaphor

in the strings)


listen. there is
the empty street


each step

you turn.

Who's there?


to sleep,

pat my back,
little pats.


The wind, the towering


and cables

engulf the figure —


as if

we're all alone,

each of us.

In sleep
the clear music


                — 1991


The End of Nature

            I tell you death, expect no smile of pride
            from me. I bring you nothing in my empty hands

                        — William Bronk

There are integers, a life's breathing
in and out. The lead story in the paper
reads: "An End To Nature." Inevitable
reports of the known world falling through
the window of faith are said to be
plausible — sure as our hands or eyes.

In the blue clarity of the air
Augustine once read the world as if
it were a book in hand, at arm's length.
This grammar of sinew and bone is
still our only language — a celestial
bell severing the eternal night.

Rodin thought of hands, and shaped them, clasped,
ungrasping, one in the other. The day
folds into night — and then the unfolding
into the bright realm of the day star,
who rules mercilessly and forces
the marriage of earth and the pale moon.

Naked humans, small and frail, reach out
to the lighted world from within their
single certainty, le main de dieu.
This is the sculpted world, held against
the sky — the world in hand. There are counter souls
we think to call to, beloved, other.

Think of Yeats and his Dante. We are
our own hic
  and ille. What can I
name, what story tell my opposite
— unseen, a hand before my face? In
the vast museum I feel for you. Sightless,
we'll go the way alone, hand in hand.



1/31 Moravia, New York

The lily's charm is not
its colors but how it
floats, as if free, upon

the pond's dark surface. We
make our way over his

wooden bridge and then pass
the shrubs and flowers he
planted, arranged just so

to paint. How carefully
the pigment would be placed,

how gradually the world —
its daily businesses —
would become still and deep.



5.2.87 Waiting for Diane at the Klee Show /
      Museum of Modern Art

If in the space
there are 2

lines, let one be
the wild happiness

the edge

measures . And if
there are faces,

we are
their round eyes,

or the hat the foot

the finger   all the lighted

there . If
in the warm

light we must be

them, then we must

them. Let
the o

in oh you

mean we are

any form   .


from Musaics, Spuyten Duyvil Books
© 1992 by Burt Kimmelman

Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry

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