Marine 1–10

A collaboration between Max Blagg and Alex Katz for the Marine Series’ Exhibition Catalogue, Jablonka Gallery, Berlin, 2008. This piece is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Slow Dazzle: Poems & Prose For 23 Artists, published by Sensitive Skin Books, January 2016, containing 23 texts by Max Blagg with 23 different artists, including Larry Clark, Richard Prince, Ralph Gibson, Donald Sultan, James Nares and many more.

1.
A picnic boat glides across the waterway
and when the light hits it turns
into Egyptian gold.
There’s beauty everywhere.
I follow it around like a man
chasing pike in a kayak.
August triggers alarums,
paint won’t dry electricity shuts down
the sun doesn’t move.
Get a jump on the hump of it,
guilt carried off by bicycle to the dump.
Look at the beach
and then look at the beach.

Sharon, painting by Alex Katz, 2007, oil on linen, 48” x 72”
Sharon, painting by Alex Katz, 2007, oil on linen, 48” x 72”

2.
Evening’s velvet darkness softening faces and
voices calling from the garden,
blue moon pulling double duty this month
everything stopped spinning and the stars spoke
as clear a language as they speak to sailors
in the wide ocean night;
“sooner or later, one of us must know”

3.
Teetering between the personal and the universe
or simply unnerved by the crazy beauty
of this green world and by what
miracle I remain under it
enveloped in these garlands
of shivery light.
The clouds were pink as nails tonight
the sun went down a fraction sooner
ocean shining like an insect’s back
or the black diamond light
of limos waiting outside this week’s restaurant.
This is how the dark gets in the door.

Catherine, painting by Alex Katz
Catherine, painting by Alex Katz, 2007, oil on linen 60”x72”

4.
New moon slim as a butcher’s blade
the Chinese stove housed
the flames of a wood fire,
wisp of apple smoke among the maple,
“go up, little smoke”
make me a place in the pagoda Gautama,
I’ll wear my kimono and behave with grace.
August’s equatorial heat makes the yeast rise
before the bread, like art before technique
age before beauty sense before rhyme
the branch knocking at the window
in the night a Morse code message
from under the world.

5.
How do you call that part of the body
that recess formed by the collarbone
connecting to the shoulder
that curving little dip of a cup
from which you could sip a tart aperitif?
Or the place where the body
is attached to the thigh
the place where love turns to heat
and flares go up to warn
boaters of turbulence?
“Blue blue windows behind the stars”
lobster boats rounding the point
into open water, eternity blue sky.

6.
Let what remains of this run shaker life
shine clear as a cut stone a spring stream
tumbling downhill to feed the horses
in the long green meadow.
Affirmative says this note from the future
mapped out in the isosceles triangles
incised by age and karma into my palm.
In the parking lot of bright ideas my
spasm key starts you up and the waves wash the
bateau back into the bay where
a cleansing ionic shower explodes above our heads,
bathyspherical slick-coated moutons
colliding in soft skinned air
a semantic loveboat going down
with all hands, shaking our elasticated garments
like the semaphores of an undiscovered race
a trace element of Vikings with black skin and
golden eyes “dark they were and golden-eyed”
I’ll take that line and this and this
anything I can conjure here or steal,
the eyes out of your head
or a simple sanctified kiss.

7.
The garden in darkness, no moon,
fireflies signaling from the four quarters
hovering over the damp grass
and my glasses catching a flash
of light sent from the deep blue yonder.
Who calls out my name?
What creatures out there
see me in their dreams?
The silence between tracks
knocks against my ears
grass pressing my face
cool as the cat’s fur
coming in from the night
the great joy inside everything
waiting to be tapped out
like sugar from a spoon.

8.
Venus transits the sun but I don’t feel her weight.
the morning light is coming toward me,
there are “fields of corn where Troy once stood”
everything bathed in a wave
the gesture of a hand passing over like a shadow
and gone. Grasp that.
The moons of Saturn danced in the telescope’s glass
as someone stepped onto the dock
pointing to the sky and the mysteries
contained within it.
The first cup of coffee opens the inner eye
but the second one floods the mechanism.

Marine 4.30 pm, painting by Alex Katz
Marine 4.30 pm, painting by Alex Katz, 2007, oil on linen 72” x96”

9.
A summer shower tumbles
like golden coins
into my mouth,
taste the sweetness,
blueberry, violet, aquamarine
tourmaline smooth as
a stone beneath the tongue.
Nerves remain on the inside now,
light pours in from far out in the Atlantic
a righteous light shimmering
like the pearls looped round
your swansong neck.
Some god embedded in it, garden variety
or god of the floating world
shares this sunflower splendor
it pours into the room and you
rush outside into the empty blue air
wishing someone you loved
was waiting there.

10.
Sappho’s fragments force-fed into the text
wafers on the tongue, they melted into the
body of work. Stretch that body on this summer
afternoon, leaves already spinning
from the walnut tree,
a hawk drifting at high altitude
as I stand among flowers, eating figs,
black cat nuzzling bare leg.
Life is good, even with your tongue cut out.
Later, under cover of the night
the sky slides down into the sea.

Marine 1-10, a collaboration between Max Blagg and Alex Katz, from Sensitive Skin 13

Sensitive Skin 13 available here in PDF format here for just $4.95, or get the full-color print version via Amazon and select bookstores.