Monday, May 11, 2009

Keith Haring at work, above

Another Poem from recent reading at Outwrite Books

This poem was inspired by the photo I posted recently of the Artist Keith Haring, taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair years ago--

discovering keith

struck, i tore a picture of you
out of vanity fair
he one taken by a. l.
in a setting you painted
crouching there on an ottoman arms wide
naked but for paint
on your long body
looking at the lens directly
a simple gaze touched by slight irony
a gaze that said (said)
i am here now, this moment-fully here
look at me, i am here
and i thought, wow, this is beautiful
i knew just a bit about you
dead now, time gilding your life and work
you there looking like an exotic insect or native
from an impossibly remote tribal culture
i remember playful drawings
deceptively simple images
paintings that on closer inspection
teemed with complexities
graphic, exhuberent, alive
tumbling head over heels spilling across paper wood canvas
filled with happiness and life and sex and death
ubiquitous in the 80's
when i was willfully distracted
by the morose palettes and dark interior dramas
of symbolist painters
so i tore you out and put you up
on the bulletin board by the bed-the big one
where everything important or inspiring goes
my visual journal my cork-wood muse
and i looked at you for two months
i didn't read more about you
i didn't look at your art
i only regarded you
the body the face
how you became part of your painting in a.'s photograph
which (let's face it) was clever (a lot of that in the early 90's)
but a well-done cleverness i couldn't ignore
nothing hindering your enigma or daring or vibrancy
allowing you to reach through the past (as photos do)
to me now
more than a visual pun
on your own work
more than a naked man
and i choose the word naked over nude
i think that's what you were in the instance of the photo
when you say with a gaze, again
look, i am here
yes, there, an artist divorced from the nude
nudes are aloof, remote, descended from the classical
nudes manipulate and titillate
but nakedness, the very word i love
say it aloud or under breath and listen: nakedness
something real and human and warm
by turns frail and defiant and yes, so funny (grin)
i think you knew with slight humor in your timebomb body
that no amount of paint
or styling in a studio lights bright then dim then flash
could hide
what you wanted to say
what you lived everywhere you could
in the subways on buildings on t-shirts in your store
every bit of you of you out there
so beautiful-and
to bring me that word in an image so many years later

--Timothy Wright 2009
Please respect the copyright of this work--do not reproduce without express permission.

For more about Keith haring and his work, visit the Keith Haring Foundation.