Saturday, April 2, 2011
My darling, up in the aerie after a jaunt a few miles down the road to the local international arts colony for a gallery opening and hors d'oeuvres, not necessarily in that order. As it turned out there were no delectibles to be had and only warm not-great Australian chardonnay. There were perhaps a dozen canvases on the walls of the very room where the Four Quartets discussion had transpired a couple of weeks ago. I walked into the exhibit space, people were milling about of course, including a small group clustered around a seated figure in the middle of the room. I glanced. Oh! John Ashbery, the local internationally famous poet. My - what a surprise. I left the room to gather myself and get a glass of wine, returned and perused the paintings. No one seemed to be paying them any mind, the eminence grise seemed to be the focal point, and why not? I liked the paintings, I did, though all I can think to say about them now is "colorful" and "well-executed." One of them was possibly reminiscent of an updated Chagall with romantic figures about to kiss, along with the head of a steer, crisply rendered.
Mr. Ashbery is in his eighties and was seated in a plastic chair, holding a steel walking stick. He has eagle eyes that observe everything, miss nothing, and as I orbited the room looking at the canvases I took a couple of peeks at him whenever there was a break in the cloud of familiars surrounding him. Through one of these chinks I peered and he peered right back. At another juncture I peeked again - by this time my mind was just racing - and ended up half-smiling at him, shyly. He half-smiled back. I left the room, having viewed the paintings and gotten a load of the very big fish, and figured (though I'd been there all of five minutes) that I would leave, but again, my mind was racing and so I strolled the length of the visitors center, considering what to do, gathering myself, considering... I returned to the gallery space and hovered on the outer edges of the inner circle emanating around his eminence, and then there was a break in the clouds again and something in the meanwhile had been stirring in me and I knew I just had to force myself to say something to him. But I was simultaneously feeling very anxious, trembling (also I had been feeling cold, shivering). And I thought, no I have to say something, I can't just - under my particular circumstances - leave without greeting him.
Within a moment an opportunity presented itself and there I stood in front of him. Of course I recognize you, I said. He grinned widely at me and graciously offered his hand which I lightly shook. Then I said, I once mashed a poem of yours with a poem of T.S. Eliot's. Oh? his facial expression queried, puzzlingly. Yes - it came out really great - Love Song of the Erotic Double - meshingly well! I gestured, weaving my fingers together before him. He looked perplexed, which poem of whose with his - what? Oh - I continued, - and just yesterday I read an interview of yours. Oh? Yes, about your new translation of Rimbaud's Illuminations. Which interview? He had me there. Oh, oh, I sputtered, I don't remember, it was online - the interviewer was a Claude somebody maybe? Mr. Ashbery considered for a moment, then said the name, raintaxi or some such. Yeah, that's it!, I chirped. And I read it just yesterday morning, Mr. Ashbery, so imagine my astonishment walking in here...
My love, do you still want to kiss me after all that nonsense?
Well, I know I want to kiss you.
David True, Act Two: Princess Xperix and Matador José Find Love, mixed media on canvas, 44 x30 inches (detail)
Trevor Winkfield, Shrine, 2009, acrylic on linen, 27 1/4 x 22 inches (detail)