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Home page > English > Poetry > Exile Poem of the Gallery

In the Portrait of Apollinaire

one eye of the poet is closed like Odin’s

the double chin is lifted to one side of the face

the countenance is a moon blinded by its revolution  Yet this

is not what the Middle East poet sees with both eyes  Chagall has put

Over Vitebsk between the three eyes of the two poets  The year is

1914, when the 19th century ended

and human flight began in Vitebsk

 

In Rodin’s Adam, the absence of divine clay hurts the hands

of prehistory  It is black and heavy   God molding it

in the Age of Iron, with no touch of irony  Instead, you see

the organic unity of Rilke’s sonnet to Orpheus  A pity

that Orpheus is not there with Rodin   Adam

would have been replaced by Eurydice, the woman in ashes

waving her soft hand, disappearing  Rilke, the apprentice,

too timid to suggest it to the master, had to

go to the steppes of Pasternak’s Russia and Chagall’s Vitebsk.

 

"Kiss my lips.  She did."   Whenever I see these words,

 

I run, then I fly, not freely, that is for Chagall, but

in a plane, to look down and see as Picasso

did the canvass, and Gertrude suggested that we should see

all his paintings as if looking down from a plane, since the "war was

the composition of cubism."  Picasso inherits

the earth from the sky, dividing and blending frontiers

And Blake had said: "To create

a little flower is the labour of ages."  This time, Eurydice

descends from the sky to lay her face on the double-mooned

face of the poet in the Gallery’s Picasso  "Kiss my lips over and

over and over again she did."1

 

But I am not talking of this flight, and this 1914

 

First, I have to walk to the biggest hall to wake up my son

sleeping under the legs of the draped female colossus, a Henry Moore

"I have feathers/Gentle fishes."1   And Aba Gertrude is my mother’s title

in heaven  Where I am watching a few Picassos in the

Art Gallery of Ontario  "In the midst of our happiness

we were very pleased."1

 

He sleeps there, the childhood of a long-haired deity

All around him children re-collapse and re-collect their

turbulent games, with parents and instructors

 

frenzied to educate them in the ways of stone and flesh

My son’s dream is an education  Gallery objects wash him

in ether   He has a half-open, half-kissed mouth

His mind gallery crowded with softwares of arcane material

 

And stone is a stone is a stone in Mr. Moore  Here it is, copious,

but not to be copied  And the game goes on Herculean

arms are needed to unhinge these stones, reclining on their

elbows, knees and buttocks  Only a god could give you

a tour of these Moores in the Gallery, by lifting them all

on the tips of his fingers and nursing them by his lips

Male stones of stability cast

in female figures of needless heaviness

each poised, regular or irregular, like a sterile

island of desire, thirsting for passions of hammering rain

Round cavities, peopled by smooth half-shoulders and half-backs,

and single-fingered fists of female nipples, left untouched after

the first touch of their master mason  Silent homes

of human members, each in search of an antediluvian desert

to live happily ever after with the rush of the sand

and the push of the wind  The gigantic magic of curved

slabs rising musically to end in upturned faces

And how hard to say:1

 

"I have feathers. Gentle fishes," in this hall  Carry them all into

open air   The zoo needs a breath of the forest

 

"I am waiting here…I’m tired of standing—Let us fly together"

Chagall must have said these words

watching the uplifted toes of 19th century ballerinas in the next hall

"Ton visage ecarlate ton biplan transformable en hydroplan." 3

Apollinaire must have seen it in Au-dessus de la ville, lovers

flying freely over the city in colours, the spine of the woman

openly made pregnant by buttocks lifted by the insanity of art

to the top  Two arms and only

three elegant shoes  But they are flying and who cares?

I have also seen his La promenade, the horizontal beauty in the air

 

The lonely Chagall in the Art Gallery of Ontario has a date

I have gone through valleys of bronze and marble, and all

pastures of faces and lines and eyes and hips, and I have

noticed this: the epitome of my empathy  This: Over Vitebsk, 1914

The crisis reflected in flight of the doomed and the damned

The borders, as always, are closed

the wars are beginning, the pages of exile

are opening before your very nose  And Chagall

places my hat on the old man’s head, hands him the cane of Oedipus

throws a beggar’s sack on the man’s bent shoulder

And makes him walk in space, over the city of Vitebsk

in Gogol’s Overcoat.

 

We have to change the faces and figures of all coins

all the moneys  And change all the flags  There remain

only three things: the epitomes of our empathy: the "Sketch

for Over Vitebsk, 1914;" "Study for Over Vitebsk" and "Over Vitebsk,

1914."  Three things in all three of them: the man in flight;

the schizophrenic gulf under him; and the city split in half:

the   non-place of exile century

No one has a country

 

And the lonely Chagall in the Gallery keeps the exiled poet focussed,

changing the figures, the notes and the flags

and even languages

Chagall inherits the sky as country

And the sky as language

And the poet looms over the precipice

with a dagger thrust in his throat

with his tongue caught between his teeth

performing the sacred duty

of writing this very poem of exile

 

March-April, 1999, Toronto

1—The quotes come from the poetry of Gertrude Stein, Marc Chagall and Apollinaire

 

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Dear friends of RAHA PEN

Thank you very much for sending me information on your site. I noticed your site by accident, and I thought that you were doing a fine job and I thought I would send you a poem. I found it very difficult to write English from right to left. That is why I am writing you separately. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly.

I wish you the best of luck in your cultural endeavors

Yours

Reza Baraheni

Home page > English > Poetry > Exile Poem of the Gallery


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