Poetry Issue 2

   Issue#2: Jan - Mar 2003

Jose Perez Beduya

The Weather of the Painter

      In Magritte's Golconde, the monotony
      of one man multiplied, like rain
      repeating itself in every drop, peoples
      the entire picture: the same Belgian

      pedestrian with the bowler hat,
      stiff as statuary in the black
      overcoat, the leather briefcase beneath
      one arm, the other limb hanging

      close to his side where the free hand
      is either ungloved or warm inside
      the coat pocket, the whole bearing
      so rigid that the sleeves seem stitched

      to his sides. They say it is the figure
      of the artist himself, finding anonymity
      among the depicted. In another
      painting, an apple that would not fall

      eclipses his face. Here, he is
      a multitude, a kind of weather
      that hangs above the brick--
      red roof and in front of

      the chateau with its beige fašade,
      rows of shut windows and drawn
      curtains white and uniform
      as freshly made hospital beds

      awaiting their convalescents.
      Otherwise, the sky is an even
      blue, there are no clouds
      or birds in this version of day.

      The figures are particulars
      of a general idea, individual
      illustrations that likeness need
      not yield to gravity. And yet,

      not merely arbitrary, there is
      order to the arrangement,
      that logic to the light,
      even as its source is not

      shown, which projects it
      in one direction so the figures
      and the chateau behind and below
      them are held together,

      mediated by the shadow one slants
      against the other. A single vanishing
      point governs the perspective,
      against which those bodies placed

      deep inside the picture plane
      are foreshortened and blurred
      to produce the illusion of being
      far away, while conjuring an otherwise

      purely imaginary atmosphere.
      Those meant to be much closer
      are bigger, more defined, and stare
      with discernible faces toward

      the viewer, like men all turned
      toward an elevator door.
      The expression they share matches
      the overcoat, that vacant look

      of those who have waited
      on the horizon all their lives.
      It is easy to picture them separate,
      standing as stiffly as they do

      at intersections for a chance
      to cross or at doorways until
      the rain has stopped, and yet
      they seem to belong there,

      firmly in place in mid-air, their feet
      not dangling but remaining at right angles
      to the ankles, the black leather shoes
      planted close together as though on

      a shoe rack, so the weight of the body
      rests evenly on feet that themselves rest
      on nothing. Together they form a kind
      of grid, a structure keeping them

      equally alone by setting them equally
      apart, each identical man integral
      to another's solitude, a molecule
      in a fixed crystal lattice. The artist

      offers no explanation for this
      phenomenon and the title leads nowhere
      near the scene but to an ancient fortress
      in India, whose vicinity may be inferred

      within the painting as invisible
      tiers that keep the figures from plummeting.
      But then, are they really suspended,
      and is falling the only possible motion?

      The street below lies beyond the frame,
      so it is uncertain whether the figures
      even touch earth, while at the highest
      altitudes, the upper torsos

      have disappeared cleanly into the edges.
      In a photograph, the moving subject
      blurs, leaving a trail of smudged
      light to indicate direction, but here

      the only index are brushstrokes linked
      to the hand of the painter long departed.
      Everything is this coat of paint,
      flat as the day the artist sealed

      the surface with his signature --
      the painting its own answer
      and enigma , a window whose sill is
      the frame keeping the sky this predictable

      pigment, the day with never a night
      behind it. The weather inside
      is perfect despite the unexplained
      presence of these men, the alarming

      absolute absence of birds or flower pots
      on ledges, and those windows
      shut for decades now, from which
      no neighbor, no witness peers out.