Andare, Partire, Tornare


Paolo Uccello

If somebody can tell me the author of this poem, I'd be appreciative - I have a copy of it but it's mysteriously missing an attribution.

Paolo Uccello

...would spend the whole night at his drawing-board working to find the rules of perspective, and when his wife tried calling him to bed, he would call back, "Oh, how sweet is this perspective!" - Vasari's _Lives_

It's not so much an argument is taking place - the argument becomes
the place, takes over: and their arbor-tenders' plaited straw hut is
filled like a mold, by invective and defensiveness. He's
right, she is a maggot-riddled lemon-puss. And she's right, it's
in urgent, earned response to his abusive fists. They're both
right, that the other's wrong; the luscious citrus sun of the Medicis
sets, and each sleeps in a corner so emotionally cold they could be
Ant-and Artic polar caps - though we don't know the world is round,

In Florence, in 1456. And even so...It's night, and
by his oil's buttery puddle of light, Paolo Uccello, 2 generations
in front of Columbus, is venturing to the horizon.
Whistling. Lost in it. making his paint go
dozens of green miles deep. Sleep floats the bickering couple
over their grapes...the palace sentry nods...the tavern whore
hicks into a doze...But here in the clutter-dumped workshop
in the Piazza San Giovanni, The Battle of San Romano

Rears and charges and blows the lathery snot of excitement
out of its manifold nostrils. Where the Florentine and Sienese
forces' horses clash, their trappings clink in one unbroken
golden flow across the right-hand foreground. Every leaf
is veined. Each blossom lifts its petals for inspection.
Trees bear oranges as substantial as pawnshop balls.
The armor, hinged; the bridles, incised;the broken lances mouth
their splintered grain; and everything says here.There,

though - and lovely - in the upper third, in the terra verde
fields of receding, detail fades. It's far. The hedges,
smooth; the soldiers' faces, small denomination of faces.
This is Paolo Uccello's passion. These are the endlessly long
green stems for which the battle is only the gaudy bouquet.
And where the stems converge...Whistling. Lost in it.

So far now the stems are threads. He's taking them back
to the knot, the node, the navel, behind the picture plane. And in back

of a painting of battle is a battle: real, bone juts out
from shredding flesh and the faces of the dead are blue and rot.
In back of that there will always be stories. In this one,
a man named Bendetti, a Florentine, betrayed his city.
One night under the umber roofs he sold some information and
the next day troops were ambushed. This is only one of the stories lined up behind any story, like Paolo Ucccello's
distance-system of grids. For instance, in World War II

a man named Avrom Murmel betrayed the Jews of his ghetto,
in Molnsk, in occupied Poland. This was what they called
The Unspeakable Days. 12 people slept in a room; there were no sewers,
which was good: that winter they burned their shit. A shift
was 14 hours: so many bundles, a cup of soup; no bundles
no soup - and most of the childrens' ribs pushed out like rakes.
The Gangs even took some children, and some of the old
-to "rest farms." Maybe. This is where Murmel comes in,

Around the time the sacks of bone meal start appearing. And so
an effort was made to hide the young, the old, "the fertilizer ones"
- so street talk had it. Murmel sold their location. Maybe
they would have been found out anyway. Probably; who knows?
He did this a few times. Once, at a rumor of riot, the Gangs
threw something into a crowd: a 6-month-old
with a lit stick of dynamite shoved through its anus. This
became a symbol for Murmel's collaboration. And he,

of course, refuted any connection between that ghastliness and
his pay. As for the "rest farms," they were likely real; go
ahead, prove otherwise. The hidden Jews would have been discovered
other ways, surely - and then with drastic reprucussions his
intervention precluded. Besides, a handfull here or there, but hundreds
of heatlthy adult workers were saved that way - he, Murmel,
saved them! You live, you have your own wife and child to think of,
things hurt you but you try your best. Anyway, that was his perspective.

10:57 a.m. - 2003-01-06


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