• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 11
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Sestina With A Drawing I Dislike, And Agnes Martin’s ‘Flower In the Wind’ (1963)

There are times when I become intemperate
With the representational, as if a mausoleum
In Halicarnassus could be struck up
To hold it all, all the viney putti and lines
The mannerist curvature of the body—
Satyrs, fauns, mirrors, a right thumb trembling.

My bread, my butter, my trembling;
Vitruvius has a theory of which intemperate
Winds make the character of a body,
Spun up in orthogonals, no mausoleum
This, but a living thing, through-lines
JAN VAN EYCK ME FECIT, fecit me up.

There is, in an octagon, no proper up;
Merely an eight-sided tower in Athens, trembling
Horologion, their names. Boreas lines
The mouth with snow, Zephyrus, intemperate
With small white flowers, mausoleum
For the spring in autumn’s lithe body.

Her body, my body, the Sybil’s body
From preserving jars we rise up,
Smelling steeped of ethanol mausoleum.
The scalpel and the pen are prone to trembling,
The hand is easily intemperate,
What is the flesh but lines on lines?


Sestina With A Drawing I Dislike, And Agnes Martin’s ‘Flower In the Wind’ (1963)

It is the lines that catch my eye, the lines
On the soft pink grid, springing one body
Thin up after the other, eager, intemperate
Wild-shy blossoms, coming up and up
Without sway or curve or trembling.
This is not mirror’s mausoleum,

Not face or emulation’s mausoleum;
There is a purity to her lines
That makes me want to absolve myself, trembling
Of the sighted drawn world, of the body,
Of the feeling of the wind coming up
The gentle slope of the hill, intemperate

For summer—ah, fear and trembling,
For the slow days a mausoleum,
For the gods of intemperate-stroked lines,
The shed casing of the old body,
As Thrascias from the north,
Comes, flapping irascible, up.