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Stephen Ratcliffe

Poems from HUMAN / NATURE


egg-shaped granite rock on rectangular white table in lower
left foreground, green passion vine-covered fence below grey-
white sky behind it, golden-crowned sparrow’s two-note oh dear

Greenberg asking “whether Braque has misunderstood himself since
1914,” noting abstract painting’s “effects exclusive to itself”

Cézanne admitting “I was pleased by myself when I discovered
that sunlight, for example, could not be reproduced but that
I had to represent it by something else”
slope of point next to sunlit grey-white cloud in upper left
corner, tree-lined green top of the ridge to the right of it


darker grey clouds moving to the left across grey-white sky
above ridge, house sparrow pecking at birdbath below feeder
in foreground below it, sound of jet passing overhead
across table explaining “I might be showing things at their
best moments, but that’s as real as anything else”
on right noting that when “a piece of white paper gets
its lightness from blue sky, the sky is lighter than
the paper, and yet in another sense the blue is darker”

sunlit slope of sandstone-colored point below blue-white
sky in right corner, line of white water breaking below it


grey whiteness of clouds moving to the right across tree-lined
top of shadowed green ridge, streaked sparrow pecking up seed
from table in foreground below it, sound of waves in channel

man on left noting “colors present themselves in continuous
flux, constantly related to changing neighbors”
                                                  man next
to him wanting reader’s eye to “move down from two pulled
veils in Ma Jolie, for example, and examine the gradient
of shadow across the two rectangles to the left of it”

white tern flapping toward dark green ridge in right
corner, circular green pine on point across from it


grey-white sky in the window opposite the unmade yellow
and blue bed, blue jay screeching on tobacco plant branch
in foreground below it, sound of jet passing overhead
across table noting “hearing music depends on the recognition
of the in-between of the tones, their placing and their spacing”

man on right claiming “no pot ever produced this logical
sequence arranged like the blue, green, and yellow bands
of the spectrum spread out on paper in its natural order”

sunlight slanting across grey-white cloud on the horizon,
shadowed green top of tree-lined ridge to the left of it


red finch perched on feeder in lower left foreground, line
of black pine branch against grey-white sky across from it,
sound of waves breaking in channel
                                     man on left explaining “if
one says ‘red’ and there are 50 people listening, there will be
50 reds in their minds”
                          man across from him thinking “these
points are gray-blue, a related system remains perceptible
in the Blue Landscape, which seems to have been painted
at Fontainebleau in 1905”
                            whiteness of gulls circling
below tree-lined green top of ridge, silver of sunlight
reflecting across grey-white plane to the left of point


silver of sun rising through blue-white sky below black
pine branch in lower left foreground, red finch perched
on feeder across from it, sound of jet passing overhead

man on right wanting “both a way of seeing and a system
of thought, both une optique and une logique
noting “the sun is so terrific here it seems the objects
are silhouetted not only in black and white but blue, red,
brown and violet”
                    oval blue opening in grey-white clouds
across from circular green pine on tip of point, whiteness
of gull perched on triangular orange tip of the GROIN sign


whiteness of clouds in pale blue sky above green plane
of still dark ridge, sparrow pecking up seed from table
in foreground below it, wingspan of jet passing overhead

Bush announcing “in my second term, I will work to deepen
our trans-Atlantic ties with the nations of Europe”
on right claiming “I relish the fact that Clyfford Still
supported Joe McCarthy and that Pollock, in Greenberg’s
opinion, was ‘a Goddamn Stalinist from start to finish’”

silver of sunlight reflecting across blue-green plane
of channel, line of clouds on horizon across from it


silhouette of fox sparrow perched on feeder in right foreground,
line of black pine branch against silver blue-grey whiteness
of sky across from it, sound of waves breaking in channel

Bogart telling Ingrid Bergman “I remember every detail,
the Germans wore grey you wore blue”
recalling “how terrible it was for the Poles during
the uprising, three thousand killed every day, a World
Trade Center every day”
                          horizontal lines of white clouds
slanting across pale blue whiteness of sky above the point,
oval green mouth of wave breaking into foreground below it


line of pink cloud below silhouette of black pine branch
in right foreground, golden-crowned sparrow’s oh dear me,
sound of jet passing overhead
                                man on right explaining “not
all color concepts are the same, e.g. the difference between
‘color of gold’ or ‘color of silver’ and ‘yellow’ or ‘grey’”

man across from him thinking “we can choose from a large
collection of tones, displayed in front of us, and can
thus constantly compare neighboring colors”
whiteness of fog next to sunlit sandstone-colored
point, line of pelicans flapping across toward it


white line of jet trail slanting across pale blue sky
in right corner, hummingbirds chirping from green plane
of cypress tree below it, sound of cars passing in street

man on right noting that “with the invention of gunpowder,
the impregnable place ceased to exist”
for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani adding “what is
happening in Fallujah, Somarra, Latifaya and other
cities in Iraq is a disaster”
                                line of horizontal
orange cloud above right-sloping shoulder of ridge,
silver of sunlight in grey plane of cloud above it

October 2005  |  Jacket 28  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |
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