Marc Straus: Art Poems
Marc Straus only began writing poetry seriously in 1991 when he joined a workshop at the 92nd Street Y. Within the next year, his poems were accepted to major literary journals including Field, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review and TriQuarterly. In 1993, he was the recipient of a poetry fellowship at Yaddo. Straus has three collections of poetry published by TriQuarterly Books - Northwestern University Press. His play in verse, NOT GOD (2006), was staged Off Broadway. Straus frequently writes about cancer medicine, about the dialogue between patients and health care providers, about ethics, and most importantly, about how information is conveyed and received.
For Tim Rollins
You see a word. It isn’t. It’s
an idea, it’s letters forming a pattern
that may be as incongruous as breadcrumbs,
and there’s the bird that will peck at them
one at a time and miss the confluence, like a baby
sucking at a nipple, a smith striking the metal,
oh, and that eye doctor asking if you can read
the lower line. It means nothing, I think,
until you paint a red flower over some T’s and P’s,
until you ask yourself how you feel when that whale
comes rising up again, two harpoons embedded
in its back and ask yourself what if every page
of every comic book were lined up like soldiers
at Antietam, because you have to realize what you
are shooting at, and when Jesus passed the unleavened
bread on the Passover to his right what were the letters
of the Word, perhaps an Aleph, perhaps Nathanial
Hawthorne might have chosen a different color, perhaps
you are tempted to misread Flaubert, perhaps my angels,
you annihilate the text by drawing a simple X, so then
tell me this my kids, what exactly did Jesus whisper
when he turned to his right, and if you have discovered anything
working in this studio together it’s that we each hear a different
whisper, we each must sort the letters into our own words,
and for me the letters are echoes, it is a timid boy
with an idea, with a paint brush, summoned up
to a high hill and below there is a cacophony, a
murmuring in Birmingham, in Jerusalem, in Brooklyn.
He listens long and then it is Love he hears.
It is Love.
Tim Rollins and K.O.S. The Scarlet Letter: Pearl 1985-88
watercolor, charcoal, bistre and acrylic on book pages mounted on canvas 24 x 36 inches
Anna Leonhardt, Eldridge I, Oil on canvas, 72 x 54”
The sun slants through the windows
tinting the cerulean blue with teal,
sunflower yellow is streaked
with mauve, carmine red
is singed like maple leaves
in late fall. A cacophony of color
here on the Lower Eastside where
seven new languages cascades
over the old tenements
on Eldridge Street. I glance
across to the corner flower shop
on Grand as I press the pigment
across the canvas: shards of raspberry,
edgings of green, maroon, and white.
And white, and more white, on
Anna Leonhardt, Eldridge I, 2016 Oil on canvas, 72 x 54 inches
Stefan Bruggemann, Puddle Painting, 2015
Black spray paint and aluminum paint on canvas, 119 x 78”
It is here I played as a child, I say
to Jorge, as we slowly drive past a vacant lot littered
with discarded clothes and thousands of ripped posters
piled into pyramids. This looks like a burial site
for signs from protests, he points out.
Yes, I say. Mexico City spreads and the air fills with
soot and bird droppings. Privilege is cordoned off
behind walled compounds but these streets remain the same;
wages insufficient to buy a loaf of bread, little boys
peddling drugs, teenagers killing each other, killing
for the right to lord over two blocks of cement and dirt.
So from time-to-time mothers protest. No, they say.
Workers want, grandmother’s lament and in the end
the air becomes more stale, the governor issues
a proclamation and nothing changes.
These signs, I think to myself, are the detritus of hope.
I remember once a boy about my age was lifted onto
his father’s shoulders holding a placard aloft. I only
wish I could recall exactly what it said. The boy was shouting,
on. On. On. On what? I still wonder. On what?
Stefan Brüggemann, Puddle Painting #5, 2015
Acrylic spray and aluminum paint on canvas
118 × 78 inches
Leonardo Drew, 1994
Fabric, plastic, rust, string, wood.
138 x 288 x 12"
Redman’s tenor sax pulses a sorrowful lament─
Moodswing─ from a boom box
on the steps of a five-story walk-up on W. 146th
where Tiny Joe sits casually handing out
little bags of white snow. Two doors down,
in front of my building, lies a discarded queen-size
mattress with the stains of blood and sex
and plenty of heroin. In the tiny kitchen,
the large pot on the stove heats a block of wax.
The dining table is covered with strips of canvas
already charred, shards of wood from discarded boxes,
fragments of mattress, a flannel shirt, a yellow terry robe,
spools of string, an old sweater, and even stuffed animals ─
a brown one with only a single plastic eye.
I build it box-by-box, stuffing secrets into
each one: memories of a meal, of a lover
who walked out, of a boy who died
in a hail of bullets. Some are dreams: a grandmother
whose grandfather was a slave; her first childbirth
in Greensboro. And my dreams: my mother waving
a handkerchief to me from our porch in Tallahassee.
Leonardo Drew, Number 43, 1994, fabric, plastic, rust, string, wood, 11.5 x 24 x 1 feet
Chris Jones: Of Vanished Alphabets, 2016, Book
and magazine images, board, polymer varnish, 76 x 21 x 21"
There were moments in my childhood
I thought it was a dream; how else to fathom
this 16-story building with a single small elevator,
cavernous halls clanging like echo chambers,
an apartment door that opens into a living room
right out of the 15th century with real renaissance
paintings, a turn-of the-century kitchen, a staircase
with gilded balustrades, a washing machine with
with clothing spilled out, a bedroom from a Bogart movie,
and once inside, you could pass through rooms
and rooms, as though never-ending, as though in
a porous universe where excessive wealth leaches
into poverty, where interior staircases climb up and down,
where private is public, where derelicts and diplomats
can converse, and who knew which bathroom
belonged to whom, here a giant screen TV,
there records on an old Victrola, sometimes
playing a Mozart sonata, while almost in reach
might be Mozart himself, tinkering, head down
poised over a sheet of music, making little notes,
deciding so quickly whether a C- Sharp
crescendo, pausing, drawing in a crepitant
breath, blood-tinged, the Tubercle Bacilli multiplying,
the chill draft of air wafting from the next room
in which an old soldier sits demurely remembering
his fallen comrades from World War II.
Chris Jones Of Vanished Alphabets 2016
Book and magazine images, board, polymer varnish 76 x 21 x 21 inches
Paul Pretzer, The Blind Guardian,2011 Oil on canvas; 51.2 X 39.4”
It is Aurora, my granddaughter, ready for the
Cold Spring Halloween parade in a costume
of her own design. No flimsy super-hero outfit
for her; this year you will see a dozen kids as
Spiderman, perhaps eight or nine as Iron-Man.
No sir. She is a prodigious reader and here the silk
brocade gown might be because she has been reading
of late about Phillip the Great, perhaps too she was
thinking of the Infanta’s dress in Las Meninas. But
the face puzzles me, the red-hooded, bunny-eared,
Pinocchio-nosed, toothless grin. And dead-white
eyes. She says she is The Blind Guardian. I see
that was a metal band in Germany, but still…
She stands there ready to go – a two-toothed grin,
so grim, roguish, elegant, and mischievous.
Paul Pretzer, The Blind Guardian, Oil on canvas; 51.2 X 39.4”, 2011