Self-Portrait, 1864 Self-Portrait, 1896 Self-Portrait


Brick 104

 

I started dragging Cézanne

on Twitter—the bot posting

canvases, no discernible order—

 

about a year back, on his

birthday, which is my birthday,

making us each as earthy, as

 

stubborn, practical, not given

to extravagance, self-reliant,

detached, unfussed by material

 

goods, prone to morbidity,

patient to the point of inertia,

unmothered, emotionally

 

avoidant, driven to infer meaning

from context, overly fond

of a sardine and whites

 

from the sandy Languedoc,

anarcho-syndicalist by nature

though homebodies in the event

 

of actual rioting, affronted

by whiffs of the transcendental,

afraid of dentists, sexually

 

omnivorous, fiscally infantile,

unready to renounce

psychoanalysis in toto

 

while alternatives remain

limited to CBT night classes

and homework, disinclined

 

to afford the benefit of the doubt,

doubtful of benefit, slow to open,

open to indolence, solicitous

 

of others’ esteem in private,

private, piratical in the aesthetic

realm, domestically recursive,

 

allergic to church, interruptions,

and gambling, devoid

of long-term episodic memory

 

rendering sense of the self

chained to the present

tense, gun-shy, importunate

 

in pubs, hyperpareidolic,

ornery, saturnine, vengeful,

glum, and given to huffing

 

the turps as the other, being

capricorns. Though here’s

a thing, we’re on the cusp

 

of aquarius, Paul and me.

You know what that means.

Everything to play for! An open

 

concern in the late ’90s:

immediacy as a poetic practice

might be a reification

 

of the status quo, as in, hey,

friend, I can hold your compact

mirror while you touch up,

 

sing to you from behind your

ovoid reflection, if it’s all the same

to you? I have a screen grab

 

from spring showing Rocks at

Fontainebleau squeezed between

Roma’s De Rossi screaming

 

at Samp and Sontag’s diary

from 4/6/49 below:

“Nothing but humiliation and

 

degradation at the thought of

physical relations with a man.”

Why did you ever go near

 

the human form, Paul? I mean,

your bathers are atrocious,

atrocious in your eyes

 

even as you painted

their buttocks and lumpy torsos

as turnipy, waxen, over-leavened

 

pains de campagne, arranged

their intimacy to exclude

you, us, leaving them talking

 

and damp against the damp

grass and river rock

in cool evening shadow pinks.

 

They pass by periodically

along with Hortense, a few

black suits, men in a bar,

 

a boy in a loincloth, not one

of them fully convincing.

Perhaps you wanted release

 

from the mountain’s chronic

dissembling, the unfinished

trees and outcroppings

 

pounding their dumb note

of mass and relation. Perhaps

you were lonely and knew

 

of no working ameliorative.

Perhaps you were lonely

in the face of stone and bough.

 

Good, though, that a supportive

community has formed now,

so many subject-slices

 

you couldn’t have known

in the south, and Sontag again,

“Last night I said in my drugged

 

post-migraine sleep, ‘I hate

your mind.’” By which I believe

she meant the very weather

 

framing the horse chestnuts

west of Marseille was

the phasing of catastrophe

 

in and out of your filtering

front brain, set up en plein air

three-legged and fingertips

 

made of horsehair. Do we

find ourselves wanting to spit

the chewed pigment over our

 

hands again held over our

heads as the captured do? Crocus

midwinter the very cave wall

 

and canvas and standard

of a crushed comprehension—

another death after the farewell

 

to an idea of a charnel house

we live inside as sentry, nurse,

busker, and tenant. You

 

had me at tree but I’ve lost

me again, back in a tide pool

totting the money in a pinned

 

crab’s purse, the chest plate

folded back on the four or

six discs as the hydraulic

 

peel grab of six legs detached

from a jib leave their impress,

weaken, twitch, and let go.

 

Abject, a cancer would say.

Little fan-and-bubble drama.

Little expiration of walking

 

rock; the mountain never

returns whole from having

been worshipped to pieces.

Brick 104

Ken Babstock’s sixth collection will be published in 2020 by Coach House Books. He lives in Toronto with his son.