He painted beds without sleepers and sleepers without beds, the recumbent and reclining, his subjects laid out, tipped back, on swings, in boats, in melting snow drifts, in grass and leaves and soil, the flourishing and dying, the trapped and tranced.
Of his early years, he said, I was sick in bed so much of my life...I'd feel the stretch of the bedclothes over the mattress. And pillows always seemed like big mountains to me--interiority as landscape, convalescence as connective tissue in the body of time.
Be sure you look at me in death, his father told him, yet he painted the sleeping Helga nude in his father’s coffin, a kind of hypnagogic transposition he hid for over a decade.
I think there’s more chance of getting motion by stillness than by a thing that has great speed, he said, and decades later, of his mother-in-law’s passing: I felt the whole bed would drift out that front door and down to the river...
But while this strange half-bed stays rooted, does the room approach or recede? Here is the house of dream: simultaneous exposure and concealment; scumble of shadows in suspension; spans of glass and chenille rendered reticent, austere; that astringent northern light a form of indirect address—how many veils of transparency does visible silence require?
Against washes of distressed plaster, sightlines trouble the eye as everything tilts downward to the right, though we would not wish it all fresh, adorned, well-lit. The sojourner at the threshold needs this stripped-down space, the enigma of missing knobs and latches, the accumulated sleep of the other always opening deeper in.
Claire Bateman is the author of eight collections of poetry/prose poetry/flash fiction (Wesleyan University Press, New Issues Poetry & Prose, Etruscan Press, and others), and her forthcoming poetry collection, Wonders of the Invisible World, is in process with 42 Miles Press in Indiana. She has received individual artist fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission, and has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes. She is also a visual abstract artist, with work online, in local exhibitions and galleries, and as book covers. She lives in Greenville, SC.
The Ekphrastic Review
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