Saturday, November 3, 2012

"great sad artist"

(Alexander Eliot, quoted by Patricia Bosworth in Diane Arbus: A Biography, p. 122)

There are all the stories nobody knows,
every body hears, some hand-me-down tales.
No one knows the truth but her. Diane’s dead
where the Hudson runs below the window
of her ninth-floor Westbeth duplex.
For now a cockatoo whistles hello.
The holes in her soul are all stigmata,
Golgotha somewhere inside her.
Nothing remains before Hiroshima
but her and her daughters and her brother
who flew planes in the war and told stories
in poetry that read like poems sound.
Not like before or until long after
French nanny Mamselle walked her to the edge
of where Central Park’s reservoir once was,
and little Diane befriended in memory
the people down below the place
you look over the edge to see,
the poor. Diane, not eight yet, asked to go
down but Mamselle said no to Hooverville’s
houses of tin a stroll and a fall from
where she lived with unhappy mother and father
who, embarrassed by his son’s profession,
took Howard’s suggestion to say his son
was a man of letters. Poor David Nemerov
married Gertrude, female heir of Russek’s
Fifth Avenue Furs. Yet they gave nothing
to Howard or Diane, who found their own
way of staying alive, free to do art
that made them as happy as they could be.

On the scene the police observe her wrists.
And then the cockatoo warbled goodbye
if a cockatoo whistles or warbles,
if there were a cockatoo at Westbeth.
Among the stories is the Greyhound one.
Certain needs exist to discover more
of every thing you do not know, not yet.
Buy a ticket that will take you away
Ride it long enough to meet strange lovers.
Ride as far as it takes, then hitchhike back.
The City glows like a circus open
for night and the moon, and the people of.
Her firstborn, daughter Doon, protects the lode
of life and art her mother left: If you
don’t know the truth, don’t say it is. That’s her
in Diane’s pregnant belly. Her mother
grasps with one hand one leg of the tripod
the big camera rests on, assessing her breasts,
naked, and below her navel the bulge
that leads beneath her panties, one arm poised
in the mostly nude self-portrait she takes
before her mirror in 1945.
All the truth you need to know and beauty see
is there, lovely and deep, behind and below
her dark eyes that will hold whatever is.

(In addition to Bosworth’s biography, see the Arbus "Self-portrait pregnant, N.Y.C. 1945," in Revelations, p. 15.)

(3 November 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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