Compact little essays from a stay-at-home tourist.

Mental Notes


This morning behind a small parking lot
On Warren Street I chanced to see a new view
of old lofts from the back, aligned in a minimal row.
What a terrific painting it would make I thought,
noting the vertical bars of gray, blue-gray,
white, black, and a strange dull yellow like tallow.
Later the same day, at the Whitney Museum,
I saw similar bands of ochre, white, gray and black
bars that were houses too, and, in truth, even in
the same backdrop composition. The painting
I had in mind of color-bar buildings, forsooth,
has already been done by Charles Demuth!
Through the windows of an overloaded bus sliding
incrementally across 72nd Street at rush hour,
the part of Park I am able to see between packages,
profiles and elbows is a dim sort of tarnished green,
indicating what? Oh, of course, the start of spring.
The bus creeps along in the developing dusk
and the failing light. Images disappear from view
like a chemical tray in reverse. Slowly we scroll
past a dense calligraphy of hoary trees, barbed
nests, scratchy mezzotints, charred kindling–
a dense monochrome like a Seurat drawing.
Suddenly, at a remote height, and easily missed,
a tiny figure strolls, or rather wafts, square
in his coat like a silver gilding leaf, mote
of ash, paper scrap, some gaff-rigged sail
or manta-ray kite–a sort of rhombus
in a sketchy field: white on graphite.

Categories: General

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  1. Claudia says:

    Loved your “Mental Notes.” Was unfamiliar with the works of Demuth. You always teach me something new! Upon “googling” him, I was amazed at the colors in his painting, “Incense of a New Church.” Was it strictly coincidental that they match those you describe in Part 1? Also, needed to remark on your many descriptions of the distant figure in Part 2. Fantastic! As a former sign painter, I was stuck on the silver gilding leaf. You are wonderful.