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LILIES IN NEW YORK, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: A drawing: smudged shadow, deep worked areas of graphite
Last Line: Open. And who could hope to draw that?
Subject(s): Flowers; Lilies; New York City; Manhattan; New York, New York; The Big Apple

A drawing: smudged shadow, deep worked areas of graphite
rendering exactly a paper-wrapped pot's particular folds, then
each spiculate leaf, their complex spiraling movement up the
stem, and the shining black nodes-seeds?-mounted at the
intersection of stalk and leaf: a work of attention all the way up
to the merest suggestion of the three flowers,

a few rough unmodulated lines...
what's this about? Why,
up here where trumpeting
crowns all this darkness,
has the artist given up?
Exhaustion, since he's made such
a density of strokes below?
This page moves from deep,
pressured rendering
toward these slight gestures,
the flower merely sketched,
barely represented. Is it that
he wants us to think, This is a drawing,
not a flower and so reminds us
that the power of his illusion,
alive below the lily's neck,
is trickery? A formal joke,
airy fragility over such a field of marks,
warring masses, particulate suspensions
(lead, black chalk, charred-coal?
smoothed or scribbled or crosshatched everywhere,
a made night): art's dialectic, the done
and undone, dirty worked spaces
and the clean blank gaze of the unfinished,
with all its airy invitations? Or is it
too much for him, to render that delicacy,
to bring the white throat out
of white paper, no hope of accuracy,
and so he makes this humble gesture
to acknowledge his own limitations,
because the lilies are perfect,
is that it, and what version
of their splendor would come any closer
than this wavering, errant line?
Or is he indifferent to flowering,
to culmination and resolution?
Would he rather remain with the push
of areas of darkness, hustle
and dash of line, cacophony of pot
and stem, roiling swoops and scrawls
like clashing swathes of twilight,
furious? As if the frame
were filled with colliding expanses
of noise (traffic, sirens, some engine
hammering into the street below,
barking, air brakes expelling their huge
mechanical tribute to longing,
arc of a train's passage and descent
below the river), as if charcoal
were a medium of solidified sound,
is that it, which allowed the grind
and pull of this city to render itself,
to pour through his hand
into its own representation
-which does not hobble our apprehension
of the thing but honors it, since it is
of the moment only, a singular
clarity, and we understand, don't we,
that stasis is always a lie?
These only appear to be lilies,
this conflation of smudges,
but isn't the ruse lovely,
matter got up in costume as itself?
Isn't the dark carved now,
a moment, around the body
of the flower? New York's
a clutch in which these lilies
are held, let's say the drawing's
subject is Manhattan's grip,
the instant in which the city
constellates itself
around this vertical stroke
risen from a blur of florist's paper:
doesn't all of New York lean
into the hard black lines defining
stalk and leaf, a field of pressure
and distortion, a storm
billowing and forming itself
now around these shapes?
Isn't the city flower and collision?
Trumpet, trumpet, and trumpet:
now New York's a smear
and chaos of lilies, a seized whir,
burr and diminishment, a greased dark
clank of lilies which contains in itself
snowy throat and black crosshatched
field of atmosphere, scent
and explosion, tenderness
and history, all that's leaning
down into the delicate, nearly human skin,
pressing with its impossible weight,
despite which the mouth of the flower
-quick and temporary as
any gesture made by desire-
remains open. Lustrous,
blackening, open as if
about to speak. Open-
is that it? Out of these negotiations
arises a sketchy, possible
bloom, about to, going to,
going to be, becoming
open. And who could hope to draw that?

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