Study in Grey
—after the Momart warehouse fire
“This news comes between Iraqi weddings being bombed and people dying
in the Dominican Republic in flash floods—so we have to get it into perspective.
But I’m really gutted.” Tracey Emin
“If the insurers decide the fire is an act of God…that God destroyed Hell…
I will start going to church.” Dinos Chapman
A warehouse is on fire in England. Inside
a hundred works of contemporary British art
are burning. In subsequent days some mourn
multi-media passions gone to ash; others claim
nothing of value was lost. Both are correct.
One creation within the blaze is labeled HELL,
an interactive piece. Sleepwalk around it. Look inside
the glass cases: Nazis scream as they kill one another.
We should have known Hell would never
freeze over. We should have known it would go up in flames.
Even the artist, same day separate interviews, says
“It is only art. It can be replaced” and later
“It is irreplaceable.” His remarks do not contradict themselves.
If we imagine they do, the contradiction
lies—smoldering—within me and you.
Meanwhile, in an alternate, avant-garde life, I sell
my Grandmother’s oil paintings and Lara drops
her black dress to cross the ocean and crash the opening
of that scorched exhibit created by human forces
beyond control. Her hand small on my arm,
what we were alters within the embers of our ad-libbed
performance art—an effigy to no truth
but our own—as fire re-imagined toy Nazis softening,
the little death camp chimney collapsing, the soldiers’ faces running
as grey-uniformed limbs splash into a bubbling morass.*
Back in this still life,
our separate truths wax
and wane: no way to know what is more true--
what had been created, what has been destroyed
* italicized text adapted from The Guardian.
The image above is one of many from the fire and was chosen to accompany the poem by the editor. William's poem was inspired by the fire itself.
This poem first appeared in 3Elements Review.
William Rudolph earned his MFA in Writing from Vermont College where his mentors included Mark Cox, Jody Glading, Leslie Ullman, and Roger Weingarten; he also has studied poetry under Edward Hirsch at Breadloaf and both Jane Mead and Katie Ford at the University of Iowa. His poetry has appeared in Barrow Street, Flint Hills Review, Midwest Review, North Dakota Quarterly, The North American Review, Quarterly West, Rattle, SLANT, Steam Ticket, and many other journals. He coaches student writers at Grinnell College and in GC’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program.
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