HOMAGE TO MATISSE
I am unable to distinguish between the feeling
I have for life and my way of expressing it.
1 NATURE MORTE : THE ROOM
Henri Emile Benoît Matisse je vous salue!
Let me tell you a secret.
Your work goes on.
I'd only seen your things in art books
bite sized. I dreamed there was a bright room
in my head somewhere
which you were making real stroke
by counterpointed stroke
& where I would some day retire
to an armchair in the corner:
the final element of a composition
that perfectly described itself.
& three years later saw the first good
Still Life With Oysters. As expected
it cleared the room. I sat humming in a corner of/
homesick. Others came & sighed round the walls
searching for deep truffles. Outside
nature was dead.
Civic Swiss had combed her hair for press-releases.
Her rigour was bourgeois & precise.
Children clambered upon her in
mid-summer in knee socks.
Come away Master.
At our place we can still snap life
You were one instructor.
2 'fait du premier coup'
When I first gaped my gums to receive the world
you were seventy-seven years old.
Your age didn't show. You exhibited
with Picasso in Brussels.
The day you died I was eight
& I wasn't interested in you.
In 1965 you had rotted eleven years Lyndon
Johnson was in his prime.
By 1967 humus clogged your bones utterly.
I clasped a girl's pale hips
among Motueka tobacco plants.
It was 105° Fahrenheit high summer.
I wasn't much concerned about you
though I'd quoted you to the girl.
& now you've fallen apart through
more than a quarter century.
By that much time again I shall be getting old
& may know something perhaps
about the fact of that first right stroke falling
like a chopper on the block.
We get left behind thank
god. Destruction & success
: two sides of the same blade &
keeping each other honed.
Who needs that kind of death?
When we fail or fall
we can get stoned / go fishing.
twinkle like some vibrant old
men I know whose destructions
will lift up love & wonder from us all.
4 THE LEVER
You have a lot to teach me.
& it should come easier Master:
those endless articulations
eating talking to friends (silence
& listening) & lying
rocking & hunched with women / any-
where when mind spreads to clutch
body when body eats mind
the way embraces of colour passed from your brush,
rhythms flowing out of your fingers, conceived /
the upright of the shaduf rooted
while its bucket swings down & dips
water for dry
animals brings a
stain of rich colour to the dust where
spring's green wash
spreads round the motionless fulcrum /
all rhythm contained there, motionless
rooted in my armchair
Can we begin please here.
5 'une harmonie d'ensemble'
The sun comes up Henri & goes down.
In between is a long split-
legged slow-motion dancer's leap.
Did we break the sound barrier?
I saw cities / chipped stacks of dominoes.
Hah! cried the old crookback
slapping down stakes
shaking the last coins in their vest pockets.
Beyond them was the sea moving/
the clonic hips of a loving woman
& a feathered man falling into
like a deep blue eye. His image
disappeared in its frank distances.
So be it Henri / so
6 'The Dance / 'Music' : 1910
I whip my head
from side to side.
The dance . they dance /
& ahead of me
musicians gape mouths
from which only groans can issue
deep in the throat/
of simple pleasures.
O Old Dead Man /
freed from age by age.
The clouds lurch down Henri /
heavy levers. Billy & Captain America
explode off Saint Michel.
It's all good stuff. Luxe calme et
volupté / the townsfolk leave
for the beach
dance northward lugubriously.
Perhaps the cold will sort out our heads.
Perhaps I'll write a song about it all/
imagining the dark mouths of musicians
open inward upon rooms
of wit & melancholy.
Sometimes it comes down to this:
Ségal plaster people hurtling
underground, or propped around the squares
rigged out in swords & cocked hats.
Watch the articulated ones move.
They do it fast, eyes shut,
e.g. 'art' & 'music' are extras we are bound
to feel grateful for. Rather
thank god for friends Henri,
for the woman who takes you in,
for the good quality of apples,
for untidy neighbourhoods where
these cataleptic protocols get no grip.
I kick up autumn leaves & spend my money.
If I dreamt less & left my room more
I would be good at figures.
My visions clock themselves in on schedule.
I gap my mouth.
I'm lazy & well looked out for.
New place new view
& Rose in the kitchen cooking stew.
Traffic dances past moon comes out.
It's cold. Like you
I sit in a long overcoat
looking at what I must do
& glad to be about to do it.
11 THE RULES
Some double the odds on violence.
Their backs are to the wall.
They become stone / they fall.
The blind explore them with white fingers
imagining all men are scored & bitten
& that flowers pushed up among them
when they lay half buried.
Hearing feet clang
in & out of the museums.
London: Amphedesma Press, 1971.
© Ian Wedde