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…you, by being dead, are more alive to me than ever.
So here I’ve gone and reframed your painting, the one of the street with its tilted telephone poles, the street that led me into sleep so often now bordered by an eggplant purple, very trendy and advised by the decorator to pick up the purples and greens of other pieces in my room, but it limits it now, limits you, it’s as if you are truly framed, captured, gone with and within this frame. I should have chosen a lighter color, a chalky off-white, something to move the eye outward, not this dark lock. I still get lost in that street, the way I got lost in the exhibit of Plains Indian Ledger Art yesterday, brought up short by the bounding buffalo and sun dance memories painted by Bear’s Heart—shorn of his hair, imprisoned in a fort in Florida — and then the blue-clad troops marching his Cheyenne into a stockade, the warriors standing stiff, two-dimensional against the gridded paper, heading into an unthinkable dark. Oh, everywhere is doom and beauty, ache and ruin, so it almost wasn’t strange the way your friend came up to me, surprised me in the act of looking and brought you, as always, with him: your Van, a lifetime of friendship and art and you there within it. Your paintings live with me, bring me your voice, your antic laugh, your wry, sly glances up from the surfaces of them. There you are working at your easel in the corner of your studio, its tilted frame in your lap, and there I am sitting in a chair across the room, lifting my skirt. Sometimes I think of us as children together, our stories intertwine. You were five, a young Diego filling your father’s freshly painted wall, your crayons recreating the house fire from across the street, a red chaos billowing, sirens raging. I was seven when the teacher spoke to me sharply, so I turned my paper over and drew my home, the rocky drive, the house surrounded by woods, the slender pines that had fallen from snow and crossed my path so I could ride them like the horses I dreamed at night, the black one, the white one, flying me out into sleep among the stars.
i.m. Neil Paul Frankenhauser (1939-2019)
Copyright 2022 Terry Blackhawk