The Estate of Ideas
(after Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends at the MoMA, on until September 17)
Clean out the attic and the garage and find obsessions
with accumulation, our historical romance novels called
Collecting and Discarding. Rip the pages, erase, and smear
ink black palm presses and fingertip licks on the places
we clothe and disrobe from. There is never enough; there
is always too much. If Manet reflected the trappings
of modern society and Rothko trembled in the reverb
shell-shock of post-war disillusionment, Rauschenberg
is unique in his connection to consumerism and postmodern
culture. He is environmentalist, idea man, repurposed social
media star, and collector all in one. This week on American
Hoarders, we inhale the stink of trash heaps and exhale
sequined spray paint like cologne or perfume on the shores
of any ocean you can’t swim beneath or live near.
The problems with accumulation are everywhere. Even trying
to erase a masterpiece is erased from this collection. Footprints,
like the prayer in your preacher landlord’s dense rock garden
out in front of a pink house renovated from a disco. This is before
Jeff Koons drives cars out there in suburbia and finds reflecting balls
of inspiration. The prayer of heel-toe prints in sand is a reminder
to the garbage men on Wednesdays to please take our worries
away. They’re hell on our sciatica. God used to deliver things
way back then. Now we just hope the universe comes and takes
them all away.
What's embedded beneath the relationship of things?
The untitled double Rauschenberg recalls exposed
blue point paper. We only waited 1,000 years to circle back
to hieroglyphics. Just ask your next social network
connection to get creative with emojis. They’re photos
of drawings someone else created with no one particular
in mind (with everyone they ever loved in mind). Jasper Johns
is here. And there’s Cy rolling in the hay. No one escapes
the memory of negatives. A yard sale means next year’s
millionaires found a shoebox packed with discards.
Mother of God! A road map that blotted out the sun?
The shadows alone would reassemble armageddon.
Against this backdrop of backgrips and spine bumps
collapsing after everything is over, the lily white secrets
we didn't keep are misremembered. Jasper and I
swapped Ideas until no one could think of the word
You can appreciate the lovers you stole from
and still move toward something else
Every road trip you ever took was predicted
by Bob’s tire print-- a painting of America
retracing Jackson Pollock’s footfalls. Empty
the dumpsters of shards from glasses, the booze
bottles and perfume atomizers cast down
in frustration, and suffering is in the past.
We’ve all heard of tongues and inhales,
last drops and stale fabric scents, but who
can handle the blood and neglect and empty
graves required to mix in with scattered
telephone wires to create an impermanent
crucifiction with everything you need to look at
on your newsfeed today?
The pressing desire, or Pollock throwing streams
of paint against the landscape. And then Bob
pressing against the sacred skin of black
in a symphony of junk cars
One Christmas my mother begged
for a framed print of Klimt without
a mistress. We remember his love;
forget his soaked-through infidelities.
The air conditioner repair service
didn’t perform preventative maintenance
this year and in the basement there are
sodden lovers turned on their side
and swimming. That same print:
An untitled gold painting warped
in its wooden frame. My stepfather’s
Illusions after he swore off drinking.
Find the Poland Springs water bottles
scattered inside his upstairs studio
repurposed into thin plastic vodka
livers. He sipped and lied until the day
he broke and lay there-- his variations
on a theme by Gustav at the bottom
of the landing. He left a clump of blood
and hair. The helicopter delivered rotor
surges that the fan ducts and air registers
seeped and swelled for before the hospital
and the morgue. We weep at breaking
and contain keepsakes of art history
in dusty storage down deep at the lowest
part of throat and stomach and silence.
A recycle bin is the contemporary portrait
of everyone you meet.
Short Circuit and the words predict Basquiat--
more Bob as sideshow fortune teller at the edges
of a ghost town. Short Circuit, as flags and dots
and rotting photos of Americans we hold car sales
to commemorate. For the commercial breaks,
don't decorate a dance, make something we can
dance through, like curtains disguised at sheets
flipped and swooped on top of a bed the two of us
lurk and creep near. Every mattress we hang
on walls is part warning and part testimony
in an excruciating rape trial. Exhibit A should explain
Degas to jurors, looming madness from retelling
the stories of those around you, like with Interior
from 1868 and 1869. In a mirror, which every
painting and collage evolves to, the parentheticals
switch to bold and disfigured exteriors. Watch out
for your record collection: Are you the needles now,
an absentminded melody you hum and measure
breaths to, or the music circle twists contain?
Everywhere there are subtle reminiscences
about the power of Jasper's dreams of flags
And the bird held the pillow
like what's heavier, a pound of retreat,
an ounce of prevention, or the regret
of feathers after nightmares?
There are noises we tie to nooses
in canyons, and only Bob projects movies
on the floor so the docents won't let you
step in, or on, and through to the next thing
and the next thing after. Films share
sheens of floorboards and they mouth
soundlessly, Remember? Don’t go.
Please don’t ever forget me.
There's a fire bell in the middle
in warning of the emergencies
we neglect and ignore. Everything
Bob stole and reflected on later--
the street signs and debris-- ask
and beg forgiveness. But can you
steal something that has already been
abandoned? How about the lovers
you haven’t left yet? Shore yourself
up at the next exit sign and be careful
to verify you’re no longer following
people you don’t believe in
Kurt Cole Eidsvig
Kurt Cole Eidsvig been published in journals like Slipstream, Hanging Loose, Borderlands, Main Street Rag and The Southeast Review. A former featured columnist for Big Red and Shiny, his work has earned awards from the Warhol Foundation / Creative Capital, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the South Boston Literary Gazette, and The University of Montana. A visual artist as well as a poet, Kurt has taught courses in Writing, Art, and Art History at UMASS Boston, The University of Montana, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. He maintains a website at www.EidsvigArt.com.
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