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Aesthetic Conjectures

by Francis Raven

Framed Solicitation - Francis Raven

Framed Solicitation

What if your will could not be a guide and paintings just appeared 
skirmishing in the mountains? 
Their bluffs washed out from behind the preference
that someone is busily explaining, rapidly
losing his audience to force. 
This is dance after all
it can’t mean like I can mean
an empty room can mean
a girl touching a lady’s hat can mean
(she is friendly but we can’t afford to be friendly). 
However, without the will
vistas appear: reflections of your own choices
as if you were standing
under a woman
with a parasol
slightly to her left. 
She is taller in perception 
than the flowers we use for money
than the gates we use for money. 
That is, somehow the girl’s dress is blown
to the left: 
her cover is blown
The cliff can’t quite mind its own business
realistically you squint realistically
trying to find 
the square you were born with. 
That is, were they points or merely small strokes? 
Which guard watches while gossiping on the phone
throughout other women
setting other tables
beside others
that are too dark 
at least within this light
but we must be careful 
of damage
we must be careful of damaging
ourselves? (Finally, to ask.) 
That is, now the parasol is turning
is waiting 
for three distinctive days
of light within
aren’t they foreign? 
Aren’t they foreign within? 
Those are the leaves over which
we have praised our friends for leaving
for living their lives
we do not want their lives
their hay is not our bread. 
when one slab
soaks into the river
it is raining but not for metaphysics: 
the top of his paper
for blinking
still wet
a hundred years
they are still trying to dry the idea of perception
it’s not enough to leave it unfinished. 
The famous apples still betray the table
you could never have seen. 
You are not quite that scene. 
You are small 
behind a cow
while they speak. 
They are too loud for speech. 
It is screaming in the main hall. 
The acoustics are all wrong for passion. 
Passion itself is all wrong for these frames. 

Lucio's Balcony - Francis Raven

Lucio's Balcony

            after Antonio López García

As a vanquished door is held open, glass
slowly closes;
             the reflection finally eases
             into itself
as poles are connected via the horizon
of friends 
who no longer
live in the same building.

Thus, because years have mended, extended,
canvases must be stitched, hammered rather
(for it is painted on wood) as development’s stare
finally leads to the penthouse
above which these final strokes were executed
although no one you know
lives there any longer. We know they were final
because it’s hanging, finally.

The Execution of Maximilian - Francis Raven

The Execution of Maximilian


We see the arrows; they are shooting.
But they are shooting guns. 
This is happening in modern times. 
The arrows are in the mind: fixed by an original act of naming, 
Baptism. It is flooding, testing the political will of what we will be. 
We will be covered but we (the “referent”) will 
Have a precise relationship with a name, it will be a bridge. 
The bridge will go unfunded until 
Another state receives money for a floodwall. 
That state, it should be said, wishes to prevent
Names from washing
They have too many
And many of those 
Are unpronounceable
Causing cranes 
To crash
Into neighboring buildings; 
Causing the city’s buildings commissioner, Patricia Lancaster
To resign. She must not have understood
How to balance the market and safety concerns

                       regulation and expansion. 

A dual mission brings hand into eye’s focus:
Everything we build 
Must be believed in tomorrow and further
We see revolutions, distance, things in perspective. 
Words are always towards. Those were shots
From an historical perspective. 

It takes years to wash this sort of dirt down the drain: 
First you have to have some dirt
(You have to have something to say; 
Some reason to be shot.) 
Then you have to turn the water on 
Then some goes down
But some is always left
Then you have to repeat
Until finally the small amount of sludge
Can be removed using a rag. 
It is this point in history
That I am desperately searching for. 
Searching, however, implies rubble
And it’s true that things, various things, have fallen. 
They’re quoted as saying, 
            “Nearly every building boasted at least one crane.” 
Just replace “building” with another word, a more metaphysical word
And then you’ll have something deep, something metaphysical. 
This is where we move into the paste of postmodernity
Confronting the fact that
Things happen. 

There is a collage, a meaning of pasted execution squads
Peeling from larger photographs. Look, Napoleon just announced
That Maximilian would be President
And then he just announced
That the French would be leaving Mexico. 

That is power, to be able to announce something 
And then for that thing to really happen. 
If you’re really powerful 
Every constative becomes a performative. 
(Or maybe he was just kidding. 
This is always the danger: 
How do we verify a baptism? 
How do we know that that word still means that? 
And if we can’t 
Then I can’t know 
That you continue to be you: a troubling thought.) 

It could have been a painting of anything. 
Well, not anything but

And it is this but that theory narrowly rests upon: 
We see the hat, the firing, the gun resting, the spontaneous
Conflicting conclusion 
Of historical accuracy: 

Gunsmoke obscuring
Individual motive and grace; 
Leaving society’s pictorial determinism
Guiltily framed and overexplained.

Francis Raven is a poet who lives in Washington DC.

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