Nine Poems Inspired by the Paintings of Giorgio de Chirico by / John Bradley

Nine Poems

Inspired by the Paintings

of

Giorgio de Chirico

Giorgio de Chirico

The Joy of the Return, 1915

 What should we pack for this trip?

The sea is quite old and churlish and sleepless and shifty.

Sometimes the moon wore green surgical gloves, which were found under de Chirico’s bed.

It is not polite to address the rain in the familiar unless one has kissed the origami metronome, in Paris, on a street elongated with elliptical shadows, and the liquid windows begin to [rain appears to have erased the text].

*

Do we need to read the Wikipedia page on Giorgio de Chirico before we begin?

You should not talk about what is dangling from the ceiling while loitering in the kitchen, with a word dangling from your mouth.

Leonardo sketched in his notebooks the hand as a weapon of war.

It appears nails were removed from the head at some point and then re-inserted at a later date.

*

What are your qualifications for taking us on this tour?

There is very little remaining of the left elbow, due to acid rain.

Some of the toes have been broken off by unknown parties for unknown reasons.

The blindfold, it is believed, was added recently, and no one can remember if this was done at the request of the tree surgeon or by someone a bit too familiar with the erotic nature of surgical gloves.

*

Will there be a gift store with de Chirico umbrellas, coffee cups, water bottles, and such?

He forged his birth certificate, which allowed him to forge his paintings, with his shoelaces untied.

Above his bed, he had pinned a photograph of a locomotive, steam coagulating above the smokestack as if a personal insult.  A stolen turnip.  An amputation. 

The morning that he found a large egg in his bed, he packed a suitcase and left his room, with the door unlocked.  Some say he kissed the door [painted a vegetal green by de Chirico] before he turned to leave.

*

Will the tour be recorded, if by some accident we fall asleep?

That’s when his first wife married his second wife, who at the time was engaged to his exiled mannequin, Hannibal, who would not speak in public for seventy-five years.

Even when the tree blurs the blue swirl, swirls in the green blur.

His breath smelled of a burnt easel, said the arresting officer, though this was denied by the accused.  He could not explain why he was carrying a suitcase full of forged de Chiricos.

*

Could we adjust the settings so you speak to us with a British accent?

Some say breathing paint fumes can activate larval eggs deposited in the brain.

He once ate a bowl of cold green pea soup for breakfast, on a train, wearing a silk aubergine suit, and he considered it the most erotic experience of my life.

Using a glass of water, he could record his own voice and then drink the recording, only to play it back later, while asleep.

*

Why did John Ashbery say de Chirico’s painting talent mysteriously evaporated after he consumed a bowl of squid tentacle soup in 1919?

You must choose between the wire coat hanger, the cello, or the wrench.

In 1939, he pulled out all of his teeth with a pair of pliers he made from a clock he found in the Seine.

Ask Picasso why a Russian ballerina would toss ice cubes over a pile of unfinished de Chirico paintings, and he’d say, I’m beginning to understand why the head weighs more than an iron artichoke.

*

Can we visit the gift store now?

It is time to soak the tongue in a special solution of brine, coal dust, and peacock feathers.

Madame Blavatsky called the ladder in de Chirico’s living room a solar temptation.

That renowned portrait by Dürer of the heart as a rhinoceros can explain many things, but the carpet in the hallway remains in the process of being digested by the sea.

The Language of a Child, 1916

If World War I were converted into lead, how much did it weigh in de Chirico’s dreams before and during the war years?

Enigma: One must picture yourself in pajamas flooded with photos of the Earth.

De Chirico: I always wanted to eat a baby made from a Shell gas station, an electrical outlet, a plaster tree with injured wrists.

Enigma: To float above the world as if an immense tibia.

De Chirico: But swimming involves ongoing nudity.  And then someone will say: We can see your enigma scar.

Enigma:  And so we sometimes break to see how broken we are on the inside.

De Chirico: Even now someone with a tongue too large for their mouth takes over.  Makes my mouth say, Take me over.

Enigma: Letting a camera hide in the eye doctor’s eye.

De Chirico: Because a dummy can’t see frauds, buffoons, blissed-out dummies.

Hebdomeros: That was my line, dear friend.

Enigma: For pleasure can only grow on the barbed-wire tree.

De Chirico: Even though you rent a room that contains: Stumble, disorder, stigma, and a biscuit made in Ferrara.

Enigma: A box of stick matches in the brain pan.

De Chirico: Then you forget, in every direction, and an untamed fire begins to laugh.

Melancholia, 1916

Why did de Chirico live in his bathtub for three years and proclaim: Eternal fame is bestowed upon me (in Latin), so that I shall be celebrated always and everywhere.

I’m drawn to circles of water, a few strands of barbed wire in a red vase, a bird made of black leaves.  I’m tired of living inside a mammal living inside a dummy. 

You let me kiss your ankle and then you let me apologize to no end.  Then we all had to designate the person on the right to avoid for the night.  You said you like to watch tropical fish in a cup of tea, a toad in a cup of coffee, an avocado on the roof.

I can remember, on the way home, clothes spilling forth from my side.  Windows pumping in, pumping out.  In the middle of the stage, a rat selling hair from the beard of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  Selling seats for Gavrilo Princip taking a slow shower with crushed glass.

I objected to the roundness of the building, the zero in the center of laughter.  The only sound a mechanical mouse can make.  I see you introducing the glass cutter to the aquarium worker, the violin to the blood on the scalpel.  Eating a plum, writing the history of the Marx brothers on the back of the donkey.  Tired around the ankles.  Immune, immured, almost unmoored. 

Wasn’t that you in Andalusian Dog?  Digging a hole in the earth under the piano with a crow wing?  Now let’s try to sleep on the idle ladder.  Though we still don’t know the third from the fifty-fifth from the ninety-third caesura.  And I don’t, and I do, and I am.

That’s why I’m not afraid of verbs.

The Melancholy of Departure, 1914

Tell us a fact about Giorgio de Chirico that no one else knows.

The one they call de Chirico

was born from the head of a mannequin on a street embedded with railroad tracks.  His mother had 4000 names and all of them said Paprika.  Or perhaps Pandora.  His father was the train, the steam, the station platform, the velocity, the distance between artichoke and car choke.

The one they call de Chirico

conjured WWI in a nameless plaza limping round and round a round red tower.  In the hospital, he married a mannequin that looked like its head had been caught in a narrow window.  One night onstage, he sat on Apollinaire’s hat and refused to apologize.  He repeatedly jumped from the Eifel Tower with an electromagnetic mustard umbrella.

The one they call de Chirico

dueled with Breton wearing surgical gloves and tossing meat pies at ten paces.  He died and woke up inside a radiator.  Breton fell in love with Ariadne, a spider in de Chirico’s pocket, but de Chirico had married her centuries before she was born.  Breton grew jealous of de Chirico’s annual electrical production and had a giraffe named Giorgio electrocuted every night in the Gare du Nord.

The one they call de Chirico

denounced, in 1919, and 1926, and 1945, aching arcades, restless red towers, speechless shadows, faceless mannequins, and most of all, orphan locomotives.  They followed him for 90 years.  He once stepped into an elevator wearing an electric blue suit.  When the door opened, only a burnt blue silence remained.  Never try to pry open an iron artichoke, he said to a banana, unless it’s been properly sedated.

The one they call de Chirico

collected menus from Chinese restaurants and read them at poetry readings.  He sewed pieces of mirror to the tops of his shoes.  Afternoon shadows smell of sex, he would tell Ariadne.  No, Giorgio, she would say, they smell of peacock piss.  After he died, he was stitched into a mannequin and put on the Orient Express.  Some said the mannequin asked for a bas-relief map of the moon and a rubber hammer.

The Double Dream of Spring, 1915

This would be a good time for us to take a nap while you answer some nagging questions.

1.) What is your refund policy?

When grandmother’s tornadic tablecloth turns the color of the sky, father takes off his clothes and sleeps under the dining room table.  In the snowstorm, a boy carries a metal box through a field of wooden automobiles.

2.) What is a double dream?

When the man with a marble egg in his pocket played the fiddle over a sleeping boy with a piece of the moon in his pocket, the boy’s blurred face rises into the sky.  Or did the sky sting the face of the child, depositing its tiny eggs inside his flesh?

3.) If you happen to incapacitate a bothersome dummy in Italy, is it a crime?

Please leave the area at once as the meandering mountain appears ready to engorge itself again.

4.) What is a double dream?

When no one is looking, slip over to the statue in the piazza, kiss its left ankle, and say: I’m beautiful and I’m scary and I’m beautiful.

The Fatal Temple, 1914

If you made a list of the ten most important de Chirico paintings, what would they be, and why are your lips turning green?

1.  Sometimes they’re called The Ten Remediations and other times they’re called a fresh pitcher of global sleep.

2.  I woke curled in your armpit, the rain spilling and spelling the faces of my enemies all around me.

3.  When I saw a print of his painting called ___________ on the gas station bathroom wall.

4.  Unless the tongue is tied to the four directions with red thread. 

5.  Then the wax cast of de Chirico saying: I dreamed the art critics made me a house painter.  So I painted their houses, but in the manner of the Old Masters—Titian, Rubens, Velasquez, Rembrandt.  And they ran out of their homes, weeping.

6.  The babbling, suffocating light from a leather boot once worn by Leonardo.  And I ate of it.  And it ate of me.

7.  I thought you were a piece of seaweed, said Ariadne.  (Note the dry brain of a war pigeon, bits of Latin, bits of Greek, whirling.)

8.  A kind of infinity engine cutting up a glowing manifesto for feral dogs, the inevitable lens of a camera, an extraneous ear. 

9.  I longed to hug an illegal breathing purification machine pulsing in the future.   (Whirling apart in the dry brain.)

9.9559 Watch a bread crumb’s violent effort to become an electric lightbulb.

10.  Rows of people I can’t discuss.  Until the tongue lies once again in the fetal position.

Composition with Self-Portrait, 1926

We hear that de Chirico wrote poetry.  What poem did he fail to write?

In the beginning, blood said: If I were to build a monolith

in the desert, I’d plant it deep in your breath machine

Mata Hari once wrote a song using barbed wire and a wooden

shoe stretcher.  The dummy threw a dead dummy over

the side of the bridge and said: The heart flees; breath

comes and goes.  That night I watched a toothpaste-green

light streak across the sky, knowing I’d marry a tumbleweed

who’d confess she was seaweed.  Purple is a dark root

piercing a collapsed diary.  Then the creosote moon confessed,

I only forge my signature when you watch me in the mirror. 

Tell us about that glowing chunk of a meteor you keep

in a pulsing glove.  Apollinaire once wrote an opera using a piano

dropped from the sky, an egg, and an ice pick.  I tell no one

how you once tortured a cloud using a bicycle tire pump. 

Otherwise, you’d hurt somebody.  A red ant and a green oxygen

tank are mating in your spine.  Because the cloud-calmer works

as a welder during the week.  All this shall I carve into your

collarbone, says the Angel of Ecstatic Dust.  Almost an hour

before my cranium expands through the skylight.  Waxy

and sweet and earthy.  I am the only voice that shall abide,

says the narrator.  Who I know, I know is my mother.

Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure), 1914

What did de Chirico tell Andre Breton that drove him to nail a typhon to the wall?

It is said bananas begin to dissolve once exposed to polar light.

It is said there are five laws of desire, but only one remains, sleeping in the oven under your mother’s coat.

It is said I was locked in your closet at 5:39 and I was seen at the train station at 5:39 with moth dust on my bowler.

It is said you should never apologize with a mouthful of blood.  Or to anyone with a mouthful of blood.

It is said I told you I was addicted to swamp flora.  But there is no swamp underneath the carpet, and no carpet under the swamp.

It is said a hurt book hurts the hand that holds it and the tongue that sways above it.

It is said that number five will survive after the locusts devour the photo of the artichoke.

It is said my left arm was seen last week in a flea market Rhodes.

It is said Apollinaire invented the zipper and the zeppelin and the zero.  But not the fez.

It is said that the bomb found in the palm tree said, There is a river song that destroys all rivers, but I am not a river.

It is said there are eleven words that are afraid of the heartbeat.  And eleven words the heartbeat fears.

It is said the sight of a ladder resting on disturbed dirt produces calm.

It is said I was seen last night in an unlit kitchen holding a match to a glass of milk.

It is said bananas speak a language only the wind-spun can understand.

The Red Tower, 1913

If one were to leave the body and circle de Chirico’s Red Tower for three centuries, three days, three hours, and three minutes, what would happen to the rotation of the earth?

And the red dust swirled, and the red dust shimmied.

And the red dust said, Rest here awhile.  Rest before and after your rest, and your flesh shall drift somewhat quiet, somewhere quite calm.

Yet you wonder, stated the red dust.  Wonder if your flesh shall returnThat I cannot say, but the more it rests, the wider and rounder the sky.

Let it drift, said the red dust. Let your flesh rest in that place you can never follow.

And the red dust swirled, and the red dust clung to face and hand and tongue, and the flesh drifted off and it cannot be said wherever it may linger.

And what’s left behind does not resemble a corporeal body.  Perhaps a bush shaped like a chair, a chair shaped like a kidney, and that was all that remained.

Did I not tell you, said the red dust, that something would remain?  Something more infinite and erotic than what appeared before.

And the red dust shimmied, and the red dust swirled until only a reddish distant tower could be seen.

And then that too could not be seen.  Could not be unseen.

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