My boyfriend's eye was shot out by police
in San Francisco, the riots, you remember,
his parents on the Rue de Rivoli knew
nothing. I received the invitation to dinner,
there was a long loaf of bread on the table—
my boyfriend's eye on Dali's gold-rimmed plate.
His parents and the police knew nothing.
It was on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, you see,
nobody thought anything about it in those days.
I was terrified. Dali had a reputation as a bad man,
nobody liked him. The Surrealists threw him out.
Gala sat glaring around the table, you remember
the riots in San Francisco, his eye came right out.
It was the 70's, crazy times. Dali liked
the eye but would not say so. He moved it around,
a chef perfecting a plating. There were men
sleeping with other men's wives,
you know how it was in those days, and men
who wanted to sleep with Dali. The dinner guests
were all very quiet, afraid of Dali and Gala. Finally Gala,
her voice like the wheels of a tumbrel, glared around the table
and said, Well, doesn't anybody have anything to say?
Dali took me into his bedroom, to show me something
he said, but he didn't put cigar ashes on my chest
the way he had the others, just ran his fingers
over my skin as if deciding if he wanted to buy me or not.
He wasn't a very nice man. I thought you might like to know.
— Toni Hanner, Eugene, OR
after Bosch's "The Extraction of the Stone of Madness," 1494
If only it were so simple:
trepanation, that ancient form
of ice fishing into the skull
to pluck the fish of madness,
render the patient whole
Our painter wants us to believe
the excess resides in a flower bulb
rather than a stone, much like his
later compatriots, tulipmania pulsing
in them like flowered avarice
The Tarot Card Fool carries
a flower to show his appreciation
of beauty, and not to make
it all too simple, his dog
represents carnal desire
Modern trepanation seeks
to relieve pressure in the cranium,
one false move and the patient
no longer knows what to call it,
the state of being a fool for love
— Sharon Olson, Lawrenceville, NJ
Each week it got better, the words I brought him
from art class, sfumato, I said, and our lips
tried to do it right but we were laughing so hard,
holding our sides, no wait, I said, morbidezza,
never had so much fun with a boy, kissing
and studying Italian Mannerists, you know,
those twenty-somethings sitting around a table
sick of the Renaissance and Raphael, Madonna
of the cardinal and Madonna of the goldfinch,
how the sweetness unnerved them.
They wanted to paint elongated necks
and twisted limbs, distortion, smokiness
under the eyes, morbidity. All winter we were
kissing and not sure why everything was so funny.
Spring brought the Northern Renaissance,
Rogier van der Weyden and the Hospice de Beaune.
I didn't know my boy was gay, perhaps he didn't either.
He sent me a letter and a plant from the florist.
No more upheaval. No more paroxysms of laughter.
I always considered him the most courtly of lovers.
— Sharon Olson, Lawrenceville, NJ
Drizzle enough to coax the clouds close,
heavy like a hand-me-down cloak,
a hat you can't take off.
Easier to blame the weather,
your own barometer feels the pressure push
inside your chest, constant—this mist
another wan gray you try to see through.
Oh, for billowing fronts to gather
high overhead, slate-violet swollen before a storm,
and after, sun rinsing the storefronts,
the crocuses, the little dogs.
Not this long damp that grabs
at your margins, cold just enough
to turn you back
like a horse with blinders on, hooves clopping
a hollow sound on slick streets
and only one way to go.
— Joanie Stangeland, Seattle, WA
man on the moon:
giddy with lumps of north georgia seas
greased on the crease of my lips
gravity drips from crescent couch-cavities
when tides belch from below —
burst on the water's edge,
earth's bourbon sailors retch in moonshined ripples
trickled blue murder on their crinkled crimes;
raking water wrinkles like a wayward drunk
stuck on sunken bootleggin' dreams.
it's been a long, long time
since I've drowned your hemisphere
for fishing like a moon-raker,
swishing my bait-lines with tobacco
squished in your shallow gums
as you dare to down my air
breathing in this sincere georgia night.
— C.S. Vincent, Youth Poet, Washington, PA
should have been deep in a cedar
clamped to a branch
instead of here in this
grey and blowing sky
again and back always
just too far for no binoculars but
what a wingdance with
then against the wind
tipped into sideslips
over-and-unders and I think
once even a barrel-roll but
no question those vertical dives near-stall
pullouts each with the sense of death
reborn and life reclaimed in
birth on birth of time denied
and in that space one knew
the god of flight
always reappearing creature
has aligned this blinding movement
with the center of any
who ever challenged gravity
or leaned into the wind
every feat of sailing nurtured here
in this brave storm-crazed
sky-made bird who
fled this celebration
into the shadows
never recognized perhaps
nor seen again
but always not forgotten
— Stephen Malin, Westminster, MD