David Metzger
Two Poems
Poetics and Order

Anyone (this includes poets) who has slept or never slept
in a motel knows that where there are clowns there never are landscapes.
Mark Rothko suggested a reason for this long before his death: if two ice
cubes of ink - one red, the other blue - are dropped into a rust-colored
tumbler, there is a landscape not a clown.

Clearly, the landscape promises - especially in New Mexico, New Hampshire,
New York, Nova Scotia and in some as yet unsettled parts of Washington,
D.C. - light can be important in the absence of things. If the convex
curtain of things were to peel away (let's say as a result of its proximity
to an unknown heat source designated by the symbol a or a-prime) one could
still hold on to light and color - incarndadine is good - and the surface of
things. For, even if we take away the rounded cheeks, the potato nose, the
hollow eyes and the mudflap ears, there is a clown that, like a landscape,
is immune to things - assuming that both clowns and landscapes are not
hollow for sleeping or for some discursive turn; e.g., clowns never have
our best interests at heart and landscapes seldom do.

Animals do not sleep in landscapes, especially in motels; but housekeepers
do. And so, the dramatic swipe we posit: the existence of animals and
housekeepers who never sleep (even in haiku), a balance of efforts, without
scarcity, making language and land and labor - not so much light - important
in the presence of things.

The Fear of Landscapes

Who knows what one needs to walk among them?
A good pair of shoes - certainly.
Steel-toed boots are nice.
You really don't notice them.
But boots are not landscapes
until they're on your feet, or you trip.
Or you try to walk, or something falls on you.

In medieval China, you only needed three people to see a landscape.
They would roll out the painting on rice paper -
one person on each end of the scroll.
You would have to walk sideways to keep up with the landscape -
unless, as you always insist, you are the emperor.
Now, we look outside car windows for the same effect.

It seems we never have enough
time in our landscapes.
And that's why we don't move them,
Turning over the painter's last gesture,
(Acanthus leaves or a forest of tongues)
slowly tracing the invisible
hairs of each brush stroke.
No wonder landscapes show such patience.

But what if we made all landscapes white?
What if they were all walls?
Then, we could, like them,
refuse to move.
Dressing in large bouquets of tropical fruits,
Waxed and beautiful and tingling,
We could stare and wait for them, finally, to blink.

David Metzger's books include The Lost Cause of Rhetoric: the relation of rhetoric and geometry in Aristotle and Lacan (Southern Illinois UP 1995), Medievalism and Medieval Studies (Boydell & Brewer 1999), Medievalism and Cultural Studies (Boydell & Brewer 2000).
All contents copyright The New Journal, 2002