Cy Twombly, Quattro Stagioni: Primavera (1993-5)
The Twombly Equinox
What season is it, Cy,
when all the birds get dragged back
into the knotted tumbleweeds of their nests,
When plants curl their furry fingers around
their precious clods of earth as if they were eggs,
When the wooden sticks that pass for oars on this filthy ship
start stabbing the newly-thawed waves?
I know, I know; it’s Spring,
the season for scribbling over our mistakes,
for watching the huge purple gobs bloom
across winter’s bleak, blank canvas.
The time of year when lush, generous globules drip sap
and blow puffs of pollen.
When blossoms grow fat with the promise of fruit.
When thorns are loosed like a rain of arrows.
time for us to spin our whirling dervish dance
with our leaves and petals flapping around us.
It’s Spring, and every word is a seed
splattered with turpentine
to become a great tangle of language,
bursting into graffiti creepers
that cover the walls
and shoot their roots
deep into the cracks in the void.
Ode on a Greasy Urn
(for Vic Chesnutt, 1964-2009)
“What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?”
In second grade, our teacher had us slather
elbow macaronis in gold paint, then glue them
to the lids of baby food jars.
We gave them to our moms for Mother’s Day.
My mother filled hers with petroleum jelly.
She put it on her chest of drawers, on a lace doily
next to her baby powder and rosary.
I visited her recently, and saw
that after thirty years the jar
still huddled near the edge of her crowded bureau.
Its insides were now dry and empty
and all the noodles had dropped off,
leaving the lid naked and scarred
with scabs of dried glue.
Though there’s little mystery
to maternal sentimentality, I wondered
why she left the vessel empty
instead of filling it with buttons or beads or Vaseline.
That jar puts me in mind of Vic Chesnutt,
with his penchant for the pedestrian and the pathetic,
penning verses that champion the knickknacks of the heart,
the tchotchkes of the spleen.
Vic who, after so many years spent sitting
close to that big edge, naked and scarred
scraped out one last song,
picked off that final scab
and, empty and transparent, made his escape.
As for the rest of us, we are left to cower
in this slovenly wilderness
with little to comfort us
save for the occasional poignant warble
and of course that magnificently
The cat bats a wire twist tie around,
scrabbles after it across the floorboards.
Earlier, she dropped a moth at your feet.
The insect was still faintly fluttering, its furry body
wet with saliva. The cat looked up at you
with her big, round eyes.
You didn’t want to touch the gift, it made you sick,
but she was so happy, and so proud, and so
you rubbed her between the ears and said good girl,
as something small very slowly died.
Erase the Laysan Teal
A storage unit somewhere is crammed with stacked boxes
of printouts covered with numbers,
evidence of years, days, hours spent
entering figures in this room where
circles and squares of compressed carpet mark the spots
where desks and file cabinets once squatted.
The phone jacks and electrical outlets gape
like tiny mouths stretched wide in surprise.
A couple of monitors huddle in the corner facing one another,
their blank screens reflecting endless depths.
A white dry-erase board hangs on the wall,
blemished with the names of forgotten project managers
scrawled in permanent marker.
On the closet door a calendar displays
a picture of a couple of ducks
flushed from the bracken.
They float so lazily, so sluggishly across the sky;
it’s like they were just begging to be picked off.
You can still hear the rifle reports
echoing through the valley, down the hallway
to the parking lot with its empty spaces
that still read “Reserved,” though the men who used to park there
are gone, their numbers cut down;
the hunters, like their quarries, driven to extinction.
Seann McCollum dropped out of art school to devote his life to holding as many low-paying, menial jobs as possible. He has self-published four books of poetry with two new ones on the way. He also writes prose and is a member of Cat Oars Fiction Collective. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his two cats and numerous regrets.