I have written a chapbook about animal-human transformations in art. I intended to release it in the spring of ’20, but mysterious circumstances prevented me from doing so. I will release it when I’m able! For now, please enjoy this excerpt from my observation of The Boy Hidden in a Fish (the Little Sea Hare), David Hockney, etching and aquatint, 1969

The stones on the sea floor are solemn, and funny in solemnity. This stone here is etched with shadow as if shadow had the stone between thumb and forefinger and turned it quickly, maybe with irritation. There are sea plants like the shoots of yarn you are suprised to see in the braid of a birds’ nest. Across the long floodplain there is dark and sand and silt like college-ruled paper distorting just before it is consumed in flames.

There is a white fish who floats in fish-motion. It is humped as a hill but heads forward neither from its shoulders, as if suspended, nor from its base, as if pulled by a rope. It is most like a puppet zipping along the stage then half-sun out of sight.

The fish’s eye is blank as a Daruma. There is a space along its shoulder where its scales are made invisible by the light shining along the long mound of its side—and then the scales reappear across the boy, like stitching in a gauze bandage. By the fish’s mouth its scales are fine and small, and they grow to pass over the widening fish body, over the boy.

I vividly remember the hush of crying at the sound of rescue. The crying stops like a cat’s ear twitches. This boy seems exhausted to the point of calm. The line of the fish’s plump neck crosses the boy’s face, over the bridge of his nose, touching the tuck of skin beneath his eye, dividing eye land from nose land and mouth land.

The boy’s mouth is like the fish’s: white space delineated by a middle which climbs over the thumb. It has always disturbed me that the boy is so old, ten or eleven, and sucking his thumb. I suppose it’s natural when you’re scared, and moreover invisible and therefore private, to become a littler child.

The boy’s body is a little above the lowest limit of the fish at arm and hand. There is a white country of fish beneath him. I have the impression that the boy was stamped, somewhat crookedly, into the fish like an airport stamp into the square of my passport. At his knee and at the cuff of his bell-bottom the boy is almost flush with the fish’s line.

The boy is curled on his side. His eyes are distant, focussed and cross—not angry but abstracted. He looks angry because people look angry when they are focussed inward. That is how children look when they are tired and that is how adults look when they are praying in earnest. The tussel of scales at the flattening before the fish’s tail is dark because the scales are so close together, like crescent moons cast by leaves during an eclipse. The boy’s toe in the fish’s tail is like a hand in an overlong sleeve.

At last my Covid-delayed copy of Salt Hill’s megaissue has arrived. You can find two of my poems, “Heliostat” and “Gag”, in the black half.

The Hip and the Thigh of the Girl With the Puppy

fragonard puppy for social media

I am working on a chapbook about human-animal transformations in art. This is an excerpt from my observation of Girl with Puppy, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1770, located in the Alte Pinokothek in Munich. Please check back periodically: I hope to have this illustrated chapbook available for purchase this summer (a lot depends on the loosening of COVID restrictions, when I will be able to visit printers in-person).

The canopy is a pod, like any interesting meadow-flower or vegetable. The canopy tilts graciously at the floor, over a crunch of vitamin-red fabric. A dress, maybe, or a dressing-gown, which of course she is not wearing.

Her hand holds her knee up with her wrist. The dog’s head goes down between its paws. The girl and the dog are engaging one another with the same digits of the face that humans use to engage amongst humans, on account of dogs’ and humans’ having co-evolved.

These pornographic Fragonards are nicer up-close: nearby, you see the Manetish oil-sketch strokes, curved, and a friendly Matisseian outlinelessness. All of this is more loveable than the just-washed, still-wet, ugly big blonde boy child of the Neoclassical, all those pink-skinned, leering fascists, which is what you’d think of glancing at the girl’s slick thighs, her calves, heels and toes.

All those giant-headed blonde boy children of my youth, the ubiquitous somebody’s-little-brother, discontent and stupid, preferred by his mother. The dumb limbless trunk of the fascisti, let roll off some giant palm into the river. In the river it gets made bland by the rocks and the currents and everything, smooth as the blade of a wind turbine. Now it is launched off the water into the town where humans and my body live, to bump and slide over us, murderously.

The dog’s coat is roiled like a sphinx cat’s. The girl’s hip is squeezed between her lifted arm and thigh. Her breast, the folds of her nightgown across her ribs. The pack of her hip shines on her nightgown, pleated with drawing-back. Her hip reflects the mustard canopy.

The French seemed to like this type of fat: to me, it signals slightly slow and immature 13-year-old girls, and maybe this was the appeal. Her hip and thigh are an icing sack as they lift toward her abdomen. Pull and roll, sourced at her center and expressed along her back.

Here Comes Your Man for tumblr

This is my Ecce Homo for Good Friday 2020. It is from a soldier’s point of view, but I suppose it could be from Pilate’s as well.

Chapbook excerpt: Dog with Human Mask

dog mask blog photo

I am working on a chapbook about human-animal transformations in art. In this excerpt, I observe Dog with Human Mask, 200 BC-AD 500, Colima, Mexico, a ceramic sculpture painted with red slip. This sculpture is part of the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Please check back periodically: I hope to have this illustrated chapbook available for purchase by the end of spring.

The dog is stuffed full of his own form like a stocking filled with sand. Bouncy musical forelegs, back legs round-boled. His tail is wide and high, a red spout from which you can pour whatever’s in him. He is wearing a mask of a man’s face.

He is ceramic painted with red slip. Across his glossy burnished body, a black patina, black on red like green is on copper. On the swell of his belly, the black is a long polish, as if deliberately spread by the nose of a cloth.

He is fat. Trimly fat, like a duck on water. Thick-necked, the flesh of the neck roundly distinct from body and jaw; a loop of flesh. Deep-eared. And the mask is pleasant, vague.

This dog has put its head in this mask as into a bag of chips. Now it is stuck. It lifts its head and everybody laughs. It is also a child who wants to make the family laugh. It is at the center of the living room. See the family from the child’s vantage, adults’ hands on brown leather chairs: one hand, turned over a thigh, like a pair of socks laid out for tomorrow. Adults looking down at you, with the through-smoke expression of certain people in middle age. These are your relations. They are laughing and it looks a little meager though it’s earnest, black mouth a rectangle between rows of teeth.

The mask has a moon-brow, a wide generous forehead in a soft shelf. It would be almost impossible to climb down that shelf. I see you hanging and dropping from the ridge. The brow extends totally to the ear, decreasing in depth; beyond the corner of the mask’s eye-bone, it is only a raised line that makes a shadow.

I see you on the walk-off of this brow, from a distance going down. I see you on the chair above me. I am coming to meet a person who is entirely a human being, from a very long distance off, a black form who has difficulty descending. I am a child on the floor. I am a dog surrounded by the smell of Lay’s Potato Chips—this smell is a prism of sensation on whose behalf time becomes a pair of scissor-limbs; time is pantographic in the context of this bounty of information.

Chapbook excerpt: Madonna Lactans

fouquet madonna

I am working on 2 ekphrastic chapbooks. Here is an excerpt. This section is about Jean Fouquet’s The Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels, 1452-1458. Please check my blog periodically to receive notice of my chapbooks’ release. I hope to have the first available for purchase by the end of spring.

The woman is on the throne and her dress is open at the breast. The boy is on her cape on her knee. She lowers her chin to look at the boy.

A little girl is looking at the painting. “Why is it so big?” she asks with distrust.

Her mother leans near, sympathetic to the art and her child: “Because she’s nursing the baby.”

“The other one isn’t big.”

“It is. It’s just that her dress is super, super tight—you see, she’s nursing the baby—”

The throne is slick as pietra dura, spotted like salami, various with gradiant pine-green. The cherubim crowd: platelet-red, supernaturally blue. The woman is fashionably white to the point of ugliness, though she is very beautiful. She has a languid humorous air.

The ribbon at her solar plexus is taut and chugging in its eyelets: the heavy, sure and increasing forward motion of locomotives. Her breast bends the white gauze slip. White gauze like the melting edges of ice, a wall-thick ice shrunk by spring, thinner than a human tongue. I remember my childhood: look down through the ground-ice to the black earth it magnifies, wet, wet, grit and herbs.

I have an erotic experience of my own body, indistinguishable from the sensation of a spring breeze, as I observe the wide plane between her shoulder and neck, neck and clavicle. The tops of trees which move like water.

The ends of her fingers are pink as sheep’s mouths. The blue angels’ hands are vulpine in their prayer-shapes. Some animals mature outside the womb: the belly-shaped puppy is red but purple too, and gray, and not yet designated by limits. The workmen move competently and do not rush. I think of the workman on the roof striding. He is smoking without his hands and he lifts lumber and his big-booted feet. The wholesomely blind animal is under way. I see the men doing the newborn animal into completion. But the red of the cherubim is thorough. The cherubim are entire and unlimited.