"Five Tableaux Vivants," Robert Kelly's response to five paintings by Brian Wood



We do not see her but she pours

diverse waters into one small bowl.

Skull craft of Byzantine alchemy

remembered by a drunk Venetian

whose box of chalks ran out of sidewalks

and he sleeps, dreaming of her again

as he always has.  Marco Nolo, ‘I do not

want,’ Carlo Crivelli, most secret of all

painters, I set foot in that lagoon

at my peril.  Alchemy, not art, he said

and I said tauromachy, as in Krete,

slim girl swings over bull horns

by natural dexterity.  Alchemy is water,

art is wine.  O stop trying to sway me,

memory is propaganda enough. She

has heard this stuff for years, likes it

a little, sound the rippling water says

echoing from the cave behind.  Strange

how few birds there are in alchemy,

mummy of a crocodile hung in the roof.

The magpie and the robin and the eagle,

they came along with her and flew away

so now they are ours. And we are hers.

-Robert Kelly