Gerald Burns signature    



A Metamorphosis

Actaeon came on a goddess in a wood, his goddess, and knew
that he was doomed. It was summer, cool under the trees.
She was naked, standing by a pool he hadn't known was there,
perhaps a spring pool, each part of her turned slightly from the rest
in torsion to itself the way a model might stand, her lovely shoulders
full front to him, so slim the ribs were visible in dappled light, her
arms so loosely held they might have hung straight down but
actually floated free of her body, poised as if from an excess of life
with a different turn to each forearm and wrist, ending with great
precision in long fingers at angles to their palms; he traced the line
of her right leg, thrust forward from pelvis tucked slightly back
below the flat stomach's dint of navel, the inner thigh a poem
turning in below the knee, swell of calf leading the eye to a graceful
foot, the heel barely touching the ground, her long toes barely resting
on leaves and twigs, the left thigh square on to him, supporting her weight
such as it was (wiry yet muscular), the knee as if with personality looking
at him while talking to what the foot resting flat on the ground was sensing,
and up to the join at the crotch, more separate than most from
being so loosely hung, from arching diaphragm and chest to deeply
modeled clavicle, the neck he thought was swanlike, shelf of chin
you could cup in a hand, counting its points (were there five?) head smaller
than he'd expected, finer-boned, a laughing mouth, assertive nose, and eyes
that looked so directly at him he forgot he was looking at her. He could hear
dogs at a distance and knowing the stories half-raised a hand toward
his forehead as if to feel the bumps that would become antlers, heavy, his
mouth and muzzle thrusting forward, neck thickened, his chest about to grow
barrel-shaped, forearms developing odd bends, foot rising at heel
and lengthening to toes that must fuse solid, hooved, and looked at her
with eyes he knew would soon be animal. The sound of dogs passed by
still at a distance, heading for a deeper part of the forest. He didn't
become a stag, but changed his name to Zeuxis, and painted her
all his life as a variety of beings, Athena, Aphrodite, Arachne,
Briseis and Cybele, all the letters, on walls and panels, sold them too
because of it, and when asked how he rendered them so well told them this.


Tylor's Primitive Religion seemed full of anecdote, unFrench, unlike the Foucault/Blanchot
volume in which friendship is expressed by a quality of thought hampered by celebrity,
each to the other a tribe, the friend's job to purify rather than explain, reason a letter
addressed to the mystery of friendship. Dickens's postcards, the best Mail Art, embody
"message" floating free of everything but the social impulse. Rebecca just called to see if Jim
were up, so she could have the pleasure of waking him, which she has now done. Gertrude Stein
In Words and Pictures in the mail from Sheila Murphy has a note from a publisher in modified
Steinese, more proof it's catching, she in brown corduroy writing, thinking for Coburn's camera, there.
Anthropology then was a dream science like alchemy, transforming sky and water gods
to Germanic tales for children, look up, see water over your head. Glaucus believed
if you can breathe just right salt water will sustain you. The trick is preventing
osmotic difference in salinity from leaching out your fluids, the danger alveolar.
So many theories came to me about how the will is not involved in things --
magic, for instance -- it surprised me that Will to Power came up when
I tried to think about terror and horror. Ann said that in a library she was working at
a small boy came up to her and asked how to spell TERROR. She told him, he
went away, came back, he'd forgot, and she spelled it for him while he wrote it out,

Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997

  back next