On “Phantasmagorique #15,” a Painting by Kathy Goodell
An initial, fine-grained impulse is to claim an anagoge,
The pure image not enough in its ochres and rouge
For us who, like Ariadne, long to weave its spackled ore
Within our sight without retreat to the ovoid view of Mars
We would recall from the probe’s first aching photos
Showing us as much of absence as any articulation
Of what an alien language might say with its discolorations
Along the risen seafloor face of a mountain, barren of blessing,
Garneted with Pompeian lavas and eddyings
Predicted to evanesce under our mesmeric gaze.
We retreat from witness of its charnal blooms,
Our own premonitions of decay, but the eternal itself,
Balanced on its white stool, elephantine oval,
Baroque bruisings of loss, dorsal of earth,
Clawing nail of Cimabue trapped within
The splintered, shit-colored rot of the Cross
No one regrets having disavowed,
Still rises in our guileless dreaming,
Pure blood from our yellow bones,
A quail’s pure egg speckled in splashes of sleep.
Copyright © 2022 by Garrett Hongo. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
“The painter Kathy Goodell asked me to write something on one of her artworks for a one-woman retrospective she had late last spring. I chose ‘Phantasmagorique #15,’ a captivating and complex image on an oval canvas that had a plethora of textures and features. The overall shape suggested an egg with an irregular, reticulated surface. It inspired a rhythm of seeing free of allusions to any kind of narrative and yet seemed to imply an intuitive language of looking that I thought I’d try to render. This was a challenge for me as I write so much narrative poetry. The result was this poem.”