"Of shall or ought to be in is," the Lion thought, eating
a kill not his, zebra or Rousseauvian gazelle, the only Lion-
philosopher, and as in a poem slept, something rhymed with "paws."
Contemptible images, anything lifted out of its box, the box forgot
clear tape to hold it shut, bend flaps inside tight-flat to make
illuminable walls you paint with jungle scenes, a French explorer,
bowl-haircutted native with his blowpipe, string of rubber heads
like balls on Pierrot's blouse, total ignorance of geology,
romance of headland, pumice, hidden by the jungle like wallpaper, most exotic
animals and orchids only, man the savage, in a cardboard box, a "show."
Ressentiment retards the rubber stamp in air. The lion sleeps,
the lutanist awake. All the bad poets talking through
the bad painters talk through me. The ones who think branches-
with-night-sky-behind-them gives you Rousseau's "Night Masquerade,"
and saying "leaves" haven't to give themselves the problem of symmetrical
fronds sprouting from a central plain, much more a decision you make
than random coconuts like pom-poms on Pierrot's coat. They
travel as the sun travels, witlessly, explorer in shorts and high socks facing
a stone head topped with stone feathers, intimidating in monstera.
This is the opposite of Keats who, they said, would see Apollo under
a bush, indigenous as vegetables renamed, nasturtia percé.
Our words, our paint annex the howler, toucan, lyre bird.
Any soil anywhere's venereal. The woman singing on the sand (venereal sand)
strums a chord and broken pieces of a plate on carpet reassemble,
as we might say re-as-sem-ble, Chichen savored prior to its Itza.
We visit jungles the way Philip Larkin visits cathedrals,
our phrases rifles. Is, I asked once, the word "exotic" exotic?
My cup of tea darkens on the inside like a glaze. Jungles depopulate savannahs,
lion cub investigating orchid, face owlish under ears like mesoamerican pothandles.
What point is there to a bird of paradise on barkcloth or a dish, Herkules on
krater with his bisque-smashing club, as bad as BREAD on a plate for bread.
Artemis with her animals is, the trick is, in a jungle. Three reeds, the Vietnamese
know, on a bowl is a field. Ornament grows over everything we do.
So what's a god, a field surveyed in hectares left alone, white stag
with antlers pressed into Paul's leather chair back, sound a spider makes
constructing yet another web, Viet bowl's flat flare from such a little base,
a habit of attention, Jen's palms more sensitive than the backs of her hands.
When we attend to gods we always ignore something, paradises with rock
pools and metallic blue butterflies topoi to which we turn, ordinary as
crockery. Water in the palm, quel utensil, quel oasis. The gods
are naked because listening (with all their bodies) to "mundane." So we
paint them on our pots, Hypnos, Morpheus, apotropaismaticalia.
The central plain is an "axis," or would be, a would-be "plane," the choice between
savannah and DC-3, infected the way one wants to be wearing camouflage attire
badly, palm leaf aimed directly toward the spectator, full-frontal frond,
Copyright Gerald Burns 1995-1997