Art Class

- 1951-
Let us begin with a simple line,
Drawn as a child would draw it, 
To indicate the horizon,

More real than the real horizon,
Which is less than line,
Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.

The line ravishes the page with implications
Of white earth, white sky!

The horizon moves as we move, 
Making us feel central.
But the horizon is an empty shell—

Strange radius whose center is peripheral.
As the horizon draws us on, withdrawing, 
The line draws us in, 

Requiring further lines, 
Engendering curves, verticals, diagonals,
Urging shades, shapes, figures…

What should we place, in all good faith,
On the horizon? A stone?
An empty chair? A submarine?

Take your time. Take it easy. 
The horizon will not stop abstracting us.

More by James Galvin

Station

 
1
Somewhere between a bird's nest and a solar system - whom did
the story use to fashion the crown of thorns, and did it prick
them?
     Whom did the story use for judgement?
                                          Whom for betrayal?

The slender silver filament of drool from too much Quaalude tethered
her chin to her shoulder.
                         When I came back she was sitting
on the couch, her hands turned up, her face turned away and down.

Every Annunciation is freaked with doom, flashed in crucifixion.

Because I left home she was allowed to keep pushing her face
through the windshields of collapsing automobiles, as if she
wanted to be born from a speeding car.
                                      All according to plan,
following the story in telling it.
                                  Pilate no more judges Christ
than he judges the air he breathes.
                                   He is nothing.
                                                 He washes
his hands according to plan, another symbol.
                                            It would be like
judging a cloud formation, the Grand Canyon, or an ant.
                                                      Like
washing less than nothing from your hands.
 
2
Its back was leaves that mimed the leaves in back of us, but
the chair was painted white - white as the snow that never
stopped falling in my ears.
                           The white leaves of the chair
that mocked the leaves of the backdrop, making us, for you,
the foredrop, imprinted leaf-prints on my bare back - white
ones.
     I held my gurgling sister in my lap, child whose cloud
I held as well, as the white wrought chair with its white leaves
sped us toward the sanctuary of damage.
                                       Can you, where you are
now, remember the garden chair I held her in for you?
                                                     We make
a crazy Pietà, my newborn sister and I.
                                       You step back.
                                                     In my
lap there rests a cloud of swaddling blankets like a shroud,
and on the cloud a laughing child.
                                  I squint and smile.
                                                     I'm round-
faced as a moon on a string, towheaded, slope-shouldered, vague
as a lamb and shorn like one.
                             The backdrop won't drop back
its ivied wall.
 
3
I was teaching my little sister how to fly when she broke her 
arm.
    I did.
           I lay back in the snow and put my galoshes against
her skinny butt and pushed her into the sky.
                                            Over and over up-
ward into the falling, and the fallen caught her, and her laughter
spilled.
        We got it wrong one time and that was it.
                                                 I said, "Now,
now."
     My mother's white station wagon disappeared into the snow
on its way to the white hospital, and the volume turned up.

Right now a spring snow falls and sublimes.
                                           The snowline retreats
upward like a rising hem of sky.
                                The snow is disappearing toward
me.

Two Horses and a Dog

Without external reference,
The world presents itself
In perfect clarity.

Wherewithal, arrested moments,
The throes of demystification,
Morality as nothing more
Than humility and honesty, a salty measure.

Then it was a cold snap,
Weather turned lethal so it was easier
To feel affinity
With lodgepole stands, rifted aspens,
And grim, tenacious sage.

History accelerates till it misses the turns.
Wars are shorter now
Just to fit into it.

One day you know you are no longer young
Because you've stopped loving your own desperation.
You change life to loneliness in your mind
And, you know, you need to change it back.

Statistics show that
One in every five
Women
Is essential to my survival.
My daughter asks how wide is lightning.
That depends, but I don't know on what.
Probably the dimension of inner hugeness,
As in a speck of dirt.

It was an honor to suffer humiliation and refusal.
Shame was an honor.
It was an honor to freeze your ass horseback
In the year's first blizzard,
Looking for strays that never materialized.

It was an honor to break apart against this,
An honor to fail at well-being
As the high peaks accepted the first snow -
A sigh of relief.
Time stands still
And we things go whizzing past it,
Queasy and lonely,
Wearing dogtags with scripture on them.

Post-Modernism

A pinup of Rita Hayworth was taped
To the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.
The Avant-garde makes me weep with boredom.
Horses are wishes, especially dark ones.

That's why twitches and fences.
That's why switches and spurs.
That's why the idiom of betrayal.
They forgive us.

Their windswayed manes and tails,
Their eyes,
Affront the winterscrubbed prairie
With gentleness.

They live in both worlds and forgive us.
I'll give you a hint: the wind in fits and starts.
Like schoolchildren when the teacher walks in,
The aspens jostle for their places

And fall still.
A delirium of ridges breaks in a blue streak:
A confusion of means
Saved from annihilation

By catastrophe.
A horse gallops up to the gate and stops.
The rider dismounts.
Do I know him?