Mudlark Poster No. 53 (2004)

The Sunlit Studio | Tim Keane

Yellow Fish | Sasha Speaks of Life as Literature | Fait Accompli
Lines on a Lover’s Photo from Holland | In Praise of Our Lady
of the Flowers
| Cascading | The Red Fez

Tim Keane lives in Mt. Vernon, New York. Awards for his writing include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction (2000) and a Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO Award (1997). His poetry has appeared in American Writing, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, International Poetry Review, Modern Painters (UK), South Carolina Review, Sou’wester, Wisconsin Review, and many other magazines. These poems are from his recently completed collection WAKING YELLOW & BLUE. For more information go to

Yellow Fish

      for Carole Maso

label the yellows: yellowfin, banana, morning sun, butter.
fish fritters, a glass of French ale on a windowsill.
sea-breezes change, sending cool, settled winds.
painters dab. violently, with love.
so she says, be generously abstract.
abstract is carnal.
representing is retreat. c’est vrai?
lemonyellow background, evenly canvassed, oui.
feels the heat of yellow in his hands, stroking the color brush across.
God is yellow and unsteady too. Aurora. Canticles.
she said color measures your own ability to live within what is.
Debussy strings yellow. Hear?
love is art. what Shakespeare sonnets: painting in fresh numbers.
so with seeing.
and then: your world goes yellow as the mood settles on you, opens you out to a tone you have never lived with: ghastly in size, soothingly deep, so soon your hand is soaring across the canvas in new time: stroking gentle lapses of buttery yellow in wet lines: the flat definitions of fish, and more: water, speed, aquatic swirls: and living all the while, yourself in motion, pressing out shapes of worlds, dabbing and drizzling morning sun for more: there: a new patch of liquid sun about the fish.

Sasha Speaks of Life As Literature

“your culture’s desire’s been drained,
financing toys, its music is drowned
by your sad eunuchs’ cries for ‘truth,’
failing feeling, you kill art in its crib
I say, rebel by flowers; launch fancy
expand your obsessions to the tiny,
illusive texture of two white ribbons
hardly crossed & barely fastened
onto scallops of lace & trim frenzy:
see sun pouring water-magic on black
colouring my lips uninvented reds;
we’ll re-tool Nietzsche, on dreams,
one lives an interesting life, or none at all:
we’ll regenerate, mimicking Proust,
uncoiling odes to Tantalus
we ‘so-journ’ to the shell cove,
where natives collect sand-thatch
in the nude & unusual currents
blanch the bark of uprooted yew
& we feel, will, beyond evil
laughing at the ‘good’
emboldened by the chaos
of all-we-are — gorgeous
mistakes, we admit delights,
we disavow love-sacraments
in favor of spine-tingling occasions —
the root of energy is emotion-as-fluency,
in gossamer, sepia & the lightening-like
refracted tints, in the turquoise & the ripple
& in the wave, the nova, the fish-scale
& the ring-note, drawn back to the two
white ribbons, linked on the black-water-silk,
translate ‘being born’ into ‘alive-by-chance,’
from ex nihilo, into the sensorial, here to realize
these perpetual re-creations of every thing we are.”

Fait Accompli

in Prague, I disavowed that emptiness
strolling alone through Hradcany
& wondered why, three, four, five times
for years I’d flown across timelines
toward this vacancy. With & without,
already, I knew you as that pale face
wrenching lonely nights from my terrible life.

by Laterna Magika, I stepped inside pages of a living
poem. Six pairs of lady-hands helped me get inside
& the mage there draped his gold scarf over my shoulder.

The wonder in many curious eyes spoke to me —
“This is Bohemia — no statues honor matrimony —
there is no frigid muse, no sins, no mealy obligation
except commit the pen to capture astonishing alternations
of levity, gravity & how, as your body feels itself the score,
the heart’s a metronome to compose you & you will, embody
nouveau-lingua outside the script & walls of what you wish with her —
for what isn’t never was nor will be; be one with the anarchy of free
American-expression, your odes on leaving her grace the air like imported silks
& your erotic sonnets parallel the still-coming light of dead stars
& every moment of silence from those ‘married’ years
will punctuate the joys of a thousand responding lovers.”

Lines on a Lover’s Photo from Holland

she’s lavish: posed, seated, poised:
purple thigh-boots & a gold queen-chair:
polished, vine-embossed arms: two tigers
for armrests: silver teeth-snarls over softness:
her athlete’s elbow: arms & hands: snug & gloved: velvet
black as the night-like hue of her stockings:
“hosiery” (she scribbles in the post-it note)
“is Art’s emblem: Second Skin: you think, yes?”
yes as in s-s sounds, as in lace blooms from her boots,
to the taut garter straps, to a gossamer belt:
& up the blue treacle brassiere: alight, perceiving
even the air: her soul-cycles, painted, rich
amoral elegance challenging the mage in me
to coin this: “her eyes are a holy tryst, a spirit and substance
wedding of water & green” wintergreens gazing
(to wonder, where?) as she shows me her brimming
feathered musketeer’s hat: held long-ways
revealing the challenge of her hair: comb-spun
amber-curls & intricate wisps of honey silks:
& so thoroughly inspirited by seeing her so
I resort to what she’s written in her inscription:
on the back, in blue: “this Picture is my Love
for you (nothing if not, now & always) Imaged
& Embodied in me, these colored
accessories to a better Heaven”

In Praise of Our Lady of the Flowers

      for Jean Genet

in answer to the philosopher,
dress the self in better questions
& breathe your purified anger

why Socrates? why query love
why when fish, shoe & flesh,
white-lilies & anus are enough?

why pedantry instead of extasy?
why history when I’ve stories
which spring from my eyes?

for I filched that tiny diamond
a gypsy-fish hatched; I tricked
the unguarded mercury-pool —

emote, for art is a criminal intention,
not merely an act but always illicit

the way poetry is a Saturday
when the lady of the house,
to clean, puts the mansion’s
red velvet chairs & mirrors
& mahogany table into the nearby meadow
& the nymphs chuckle as a yellow finch
perches on her master-seat & mocks the passing cat —

that dying bitch, clawing through the lawn
faced with the feathered queen, seeks the bliss
of birdsong-ridicule — cruelty restores vitality
in its wounding, lust makes us delirious outcasts —
angels expelled from accepted heavens
rewarded by a perpetual tumble —
this is the falling & impending extinction,
falling further, falling faster,
inebriated by the rush of air
bracing for a bang that never comes


the train channels a swath through the saffron
fields of Bohemia churning toward Germany;

bands of sunlight burnish & copper your hands
as I press a white finger to your lips, to hush us

you touch my sex to flesh out your own —
there aren’t words for the extremity of love

but a cascade — a chattering world surrounds us,
& wave-onto-wave, how it whispers its melodies

giddy, we swim, up & in — we rip into its tributes.

The Red Fez

wake from the literal nightmare of a “simple” life —
this poem’s no daydream, but the shared pleasure
& vers libre of a memory-sequence come to realize
this syntax that directs what was into what is
as you phone to say you found your great grandfather’s red fez
& order me to bring the marvelous supplies
my French easel, strapped on my back, makes
eye-candy for the L-riders & you at your landing
in a gossamer black slip & scarf & the red fez —
flounce is impossible to paint, I say, but not its beauty
as you assure me the stockings are from Nice
& had been saved up for an occasion like this
& that blue divan was a gift from Dutchess
& the setting sun over there (you know) is orange-Horus
by way of the mirrored draw of the fish-rich Hudson,
an artery of earth’s passion — part green, part glass
the red of this fez is drawn richer by its yellow dragons
that festoon its foreground & chase the windy tails of gods
gods of frenzy that must be named after Sanskrit rituals —
you can’t decide how to handle your beautiful hair
& you resort to declaring God isn’t a Daddy,
God makes us only to please Himself

that’s a blunt & brave faith, the divine as failed artist,
approachable as subjects, predicates & self-reflexive objects
like our selves, like Matisse & Bonnard, writing selfishly of the jeweled light
& Tahitian skin of women & maybe, in their next life, studying this blue divan
you nicknamed June; yes & your great grandfather, restless as a typhoon,
part Arab, wholly gypsy, a copper-handed genius & a mage to many
lovely courtesans (I can tell) as you stretch your left (stocking) leg
to tease the shoe-tip’s amethyst: the pose is corresponding so fluidly
with this Indian ink, so sweet & watery as the marigold-greens
of the river-light across the dusty transom of our window —
for we might live here forever now, thanks to this red fez:
its red is a destiny-gift from the ancients to us
Egyptian, Russian & English sojourns contained like scents in its fabric
so I mix Hong with Akako, Japanese red, “child of red” & Persian Gulrang,
American Maroon, Fluvus & Aurleus, Brinley & Ross, until the reds emerge
into a blood-true tint & halo your dark hair like a tribal chant before dusk,
red rain before a festival of torches & red flames before unspeakable love
for it is true (as les trouvères conceived) poetry is love & love’s
an unwritten poem: like painting the unrepentant glow
of your white shoulders & the valentine-mantra of Palestine-eyes
staring as you sit across the studio: eyes of night-years —
darkening planets of incredible promise — your eyes
guide my hand by assuring me with a zodiac-strength,
inspiration is only another face of lust; & the brushstrokes
of red are the actual fez & the love of what
we’d planned for, in silence, standing, for years,
closing in on a high note, before the music, all these summers,
we now finally enact within those passions that we upend —
we listen, as much as we look: every heartbeat is a mimesis
of our art & there we’ve become what we are
marriage of a fragile silence to a dreadful pulse.

Copyright © Mudlark 2004
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