Friday, February 15, 2013

The Street

Philip Guston, The Street, 1977 -Metropolitan Museum of Art

Two warriors, two severed heads scuffle 
in the street. One is sheathed
in a battered helmet, topped with bottles,
from its scalp sprout arms like gorgon dreadlocks,
each ending in a fist
that clutches a shield
fashioned from a garbage can lid.
Its adversary is naked and unarmed,
with a furrowed brow of knotted knees
and hairy legs, its chin and jaw patched
with a cobbled mass of shoe heels.
Between them, heedless of the tumult,
two spiders haul themselves up
from the sticky tar, only to be clubbed
-accidentally, perhaps- by a shield
slicing through the crowded pink sky.
Collateral damage, innocents caught
In the crossfire.
I’ve been standing on the sidelines,
witnessing this fray for decades,
trying to untangle 
the violent blur of knotted body parts,
and I still haven't grown weary of it,
still haven’t figured out what it’s
all about. Its mystery feels
timelessly indecipherable,
like a Della Francesca skirmish
fed through the meat grinder
of the 20th Century.
There’s nowhere I’d rather sit, though,
on this bench, this front row seat
to the painted carnage. This is my bloody home, 
this city, this gallery, this battlefield, this street.

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