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Three Poems
Rothko’s streak of black paint crosses from left to right
halted by the frame on either side, its linear extension only surmised & dredged up
                          as a cry comes as a sharp cut in air,
all that has happened is passing into aftermath, color coloring sound
                          what is a natural voice
                                                    I can’t even find it when I’m talking out loud no matter the color
                                        of the sky
afterwords not only pages in books          but ones made in air, on canvas
those iridescent black lines
a distant voice calling used to be a bedroom each slept in
                           out there out the window what comes next, birds, crying crows
if nothing in words can be visual, what’s sound on a page
and yet below the black is gray or orange, a kind of silence
                          enigma despite so many colors
like sounds merging, one’s own and a washed-out ventriloquy
liquid moving as balance wavers, a glass of water on an outstretched hand
                          as turning silent in the midst of speaking as hearing voices slipped in
afterwards, no longer able to speak in a loud voice,    sitting in the dark listening
                           to the highly purpled air, streaks of maroon


Magritte: The Kiss #1
Nothing looks the same or walks the same these latter days, this face looking only to
where it’s going, the coffee high, the arching neck, the palm tree cracking the concrete,
once called and called to me, now white clouds cover the surface of what’s moving slowly,
missing milkweed fluttering its orange wings, it seems to have nowhere to go,
to avoid nearing what can’t be there: a face behind twisted cloth facing a lover,
those wrapped-up head-like things, muffled in their winding sheets while behind them
in the upper right corner a detail of the molding. Ordinary, luminous, wry.



Nefés, a Turkish word for breath by Pina Baush

A dancer dragging her arms across the stage, slapping feet through a watery pool
            panting from a bent body,
slamming a body not one’s own yet one’s own against a wall,
            eyes cast into blankness, walled off in a swirling
                      the heave of chest and breath palpable,
you can almost hear it, feel it stretch the sides of the chest, strain the lungs
and again she slams herself into the wall and falls to the floor
            heaped into a pile of skin and pale slip—
you aren’t doing anything except not breathing,
            as unnatural a pose as the way she lifted an awkward heel from the floor
                       lowered it slowly down in limbs not your own,
everything moving faster than air, that space inside the skull that isn’t a space,
            but placed you beyond legs, arms, walls wherever anyone was—
not thinking of it just being it as she does over and over
            that arm overhead, elbow out, down against the cheek, lift of knee,
                       awkward, pliable, thoughtless—
a space conceived as given by some mythic creature,
            whose quicksilver calls forth breath, song, elegy, ode,
                       pushed to the limits of a body
repeated, gathered as if clouds could be brought to heel
            straining against its absences, its fade
                       air dissolving into air out there up there not your own.

Martha Ronk is the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently a book on photographs, Ocular Proof. Her Transfer of Qualities was longlisted for the National Book Award and named an NPR notable book in 2013 (both Omnidawn). Vertigo (Coffee House), influenced by W. G. Sebald’s work of the same name, was selected for the 2007 National Poetry Series. Her forthcoming book from Omnidawn is Silences.