japonisme: the road from impressionism to cubism leads directly through ecstasy

23 May 2010

the road from impressionism to cubism leads directly through ecstasy


I’d been traveling all day, driving north
— smaller and smaller roads, clapboard houses
startled awake by the new green
around them —

when I saw three horses in a fenced field
by the narrow highway’s edge: white horses,

two uniformly snowy, the other speckled
as though he’d been rolling in flakes of rust.
They were of graduated sizes — small, medium,

large — and two stood to watch while
the smallest
waded up to his knees in a shallow pond,

tossing his head and taking
— it seemed unmistakable —
delight in the cool water

around his hooves and ankles.
I kept on driving, I went into town

to visit the bookstores and the coffee bar
and looked at the new novels
and the volumes of poetry, but all the time

it was horses I was thinking of,
and when I drove back to find them,

the three companions left off
whatever it was they were playing at
and came nearer the wire fence —

I’d pulled over onto the grassy shoulder
of the highway — to see what I’d
brought them.

Experience is an intact fruit,
core and flesh and rind of it; once cut open,
entered, it can’t be the same, can it?

Though that is the dream of the poem:
as if we could look out

through that moment’s blushed skin.
They wandered toward the fence.
The tallest turned toward me;

I was moved by the verticality of her face,
elongated reach from the tips of her ears

down to white eyelids and lashes,
the pink articulation
of nostrils, wind stirring the strands

of her mane a little to frame the gaze
in which she fixed me. She was the bold one;

the others stood at a slight distance
while she held me in her attention.
Put your tongue to the green-flecked peel

of it, reader, and taste it
from the inside: would you believe me
if I said that beneath them a clear channel

ran from the three horses to the place
they’d come from, the cool womb

of nothing, cave at the heart
of the world, deep and resilient and firmly set
at the core of things? Not emptiness,

not negation, but a generous, cold nothing:
the breathing space out of which new shoots

are propelled to the grazing mouths,
out of which the horses themselves
are tendered
into the new light. The poem wants
the impossible;

the poem wants a name for the kind nothing
at the core of time, out of which the foals

come tumbling: curled, fetal, dreaming,
and into which the old crumple, fetlock
and skull breaking like waves
of foaming milk....

Cold, bracing nothing that mothers forth
mud and mint, hoof and clover, root hair

and horsehair and the accordion bones
of the rust-spotted little one unfolding itself
into the afternoon. You too: you flare

and fall back into the necessary
open space. What could be better than that?

It was the beginning of May,
the black earth nearly steaming,
and a scatter of petals decked the mud

like pearls, everything warm with setting out,
and you could see beneath their hooves
the path they’d traveled up, the horse road

on which they trot into the world, eager
for pleasure
and sunlight, and down which they descend,

in good time, into the source of spring.

Mark Doty

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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