Response to a Painting in the Ulster Museum
I notice how yer man's fading into the landscape
like how those in worship dissolve into a space
that seems to be between our world and another,
but really it's all chemical, a comfort thing,
like the mind warming the body of a drowning man;
maybe yer man found comfort in nature.
I think he's going to jump off a bridge & the title changes
meaning: I thought he was on a hike, like Gilgamesh
or Forrest Gump. I notice a hat tucked under his arm,
& think perhaps it's like not wearing a hat in church
& he has taken it off so whatever god can see.
(I never understood why omnipotent gods had dress codes,
or why they took such an interest in masturbation.)
I think of masturbation. There is no one around
but it's risky, besides the only portraits are of lords
in fields holding guns like standard-bearers, and their horses
grazing in pastures with coats shining like chalices,
or they're all rigid and inert in stuffy old drawing rooms
with pianos & porcelain wives & cherubic children
staring up at their men in reverence or fear.
I look at yer man with his long brown coat & think
perhaps he was on the lam after masturbating
in a public place. Did a spiritual penance seem optional
to a more worldly one? Was he seeking penance at all?
I imagine the lords shouting at him at night,
calling him a disgrace & a heathen & a maverick
while they wave their guns/cocks about, & I see him,
standing there, back turned, smiling though none see.
(on seeing the Jack Yeats painting 'On through the Silent Lands')